As audio video enthusiasts, we all love the term ‘flagship’. Don’t we? Flagship models deliver cutting edge performance, pack the most power, offer the latest connections and usually have some nifty features. What’s not to like about that? The topic of this review is the Marantz SR8002 AV surround receiver, the crème de la crème from the company’s receiver line-up. It used to be that flagship AV receivers cost several thousand dollars; some still do. But at $2200, the SR8002 is reasonably priced considering that it’s simply the best Marantz receiver available today.
The SR8002 is a THX Select2-certified receiver that’s capable of delivering 125 watts (into 8 ohms) of continuous power to each of its seven channels. It provides on-board decoding of all of the latest audio formats including Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and DTS-HD High Resolution Audio. This is an important feature now that the latest HD disc players can send the bitstream of these audio formats to receivers for decoding. A vast number of video inputs are provided including: 4 HDMI (version 1.3a), 4 component, 3 S-video and 5 composite. Audio inputs include: 7.1-channel analogue, 4 optical, 3 coaxial and 7 L/R analogue. Okay, so most of these features and connections are expected from a receiver of this price but here’s something unexpected: 2 HDMI and 2 component video outputs. If you’ve ever dreamt of setting up a flat panel TV and a projector in the same room, this receiver’s dual video outputs will let you do it! Thanks to this receiver’s HDMI 1.3a connectivity, SACD players can be connected to it via HDMI instead of using several analogue cables. DeepColor and xvYCC are also supported in video by this version of HDMI. Audyssey’s MultiEQ auto calibration improves the listening characteristics of the room in which the receiver is set up. A feature called M-DAX, short for Marantz Dynamic Audio eXpander, adds life back to compressed digital audio files played through the receiver. Other mentionable features include a second zone audio/video output, a third zone audio output, HDCD decoding and an XM radio connection (with XM-HD support). The SR8002 de-interlaces 480i signals (fed to any of its video inputs) to 480p and outputs them via HDMI. This enables display devices which do not accept 480i to accept signals from sources such as early DVD players and VCRs. While scaling to 1080p is increasingly common in receivers, I don’t feel that it’s a needed feature since scaling is available in most sources and displays. In my opinion, up-scaling in a receiver is a feature that adds undue cost. The only feature that this receiver lacks is a phono input for turntables, which would have been nice to see. Included in the box with the receiver are the main remote, which has an LCD screen and is fully backlit, and a second simpler multi-room remote. A removable power cord is also provided, which is great for those who wish to upgrade in the future. The SR8002 has a chassis that less than 16 inches deep which makes it ideal for tighter spots where other receivers wouldn’t fit.
As I set up this receiver, I was reminded of the Marantz SR8500 receiver that I evaluated a couple of years back. It has been at the top of the list of my favourite sounding receivers to date. Would the SR8002 follow in its footsteps? I had to put my bias aside to give this receiver a fair evaluation. I tested the SR8002 receiver with my reference KEF iQ speakers and used a variety of sources. With the remote in one hand and a cup of cappuccino in the other, I was ready to roll.
Since the most likely application for the SR8002 will be to provide multi-channel sound while watching movies, I decided to warm things up with the wacky space flick, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. My source of choice was a Pioneer Elite BDP-94HD Blu-ray player. The mish-mash of laser blasters, spaceship engines and alien world sounds created an immersive soundscape in my home theatre. When called upon, the SR8002 was able to create a very large and three dimensional soundfield. Sound effects traveled seamlessly between the channels. Then, I reached for the Children of Men DVD. This action-packed movie was great for demonstrating the brute force that the SR8002 was capable of producing. The loudness of the gunshots and explosions, accompanied by the soft eerie soundtrack, created a chilling atmosphere in my home theatre. The SR8002 had clean, tight power, and lots of it. These dynamic passages were also handled with the utmost control by the SR8002. The loud parts did not obscure the details of the softer sounds. The vocal intelligibility was also just right; I didn’t have to adjust the volume at all because the dialogue always came clearly from the centre channel. But this wouldn’t have been a real test until I put on a movie with a high resolution soundtrack like Casino Royale. The improvement of sound was undeniable thanks to the uncompressed soundtrack. Everything sounded more natural: Voices gained extra realism, rain drops sounded wetter and footsteps in the sand sounded crispier. I also noticed that the gunshots zipping through the channels had an additional amount of air. The SR8002 quickly proved to be excellent for movie watching.
Next I used the ARCAM DiVA CD73 CD player to determine the musicality of the SR8002. I placed my recently purchased Holst, The Planets XRCD (performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conducted by Zubin Mehta) on the disc tray. I engaged the Pure Direct listening mode on the receiver, which turns off all of the video circuitry, and skipped right to my favourite track, “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity”. The SR8002 presented me with a wide and fairly deep soundstage. The highs sounded crisp and the mids were very clean. When required, the low frequencies hit with lots of impact but also sounded tight. The SR8002 handled the dynamics of the performances on this album without a hitch. I found these initial findings to be consistent after listening to other two-channel selections.
But listening to two channel music on the SR8002 seemed like I wasn’t using it to its full potential. Perhaps Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis on Blu-ray could help me here. The richness of the frequency range on this disc’s Dolby True HD soundtrack was just awesome. The voices and instruments sounded natural, I felt their presence as if I was in the same room as the performance. The imaging of the instruments across the stage was precise and the vocals were clear. Regrettably, I wasn’t able to test out the decoding of the latest audio formats inside the SR8002 because my Pioneer player doesn’t send the bitstream audio of these formats to the receiver (it decodes them inside the player only). To finish off the music session, I hooked up my Pioneer Elite DV-46AV universal player to the SR8002’s analogue inputs and listened to a few discs including the awesome Beatles Love DVD-Audio disc. Listening to my favourite tracks, I instantly got a natural high from the fantastic surround mixes. After numerous other two- and multi-channel music selections, I came to a conclusion that the SR8002 pronounced the same sound characteristics that I enjoyed so much about the SR8500 two years ago. It had the musical warmth that stimulated my hearing sense.
So how do the multiple video outputs of the SR8002 work? The receiver outputs video via one of the switchable HDMI outputs at a time which can be selected from the setup menu. Marantz provides discrete codes for all of the SR8002’s features so a universal remote or other control device can be programmed to automatically switch to the appropriate HDMI output for the desired activity. The two component video outputs on the other hand, are both live. Video can also be simultaneously output through HDMI and component video. The main remote supplied with the SR8002 is the same remote that came with the SR8500, which was perfectly responsive and had a very helpful backlight. However, the two buttons that engage the backlight are inconveniently located at the very bottom of the remote and required the use of my second hand.
I’ve used the Audyssey MultEQ auto calibration with a number of receivers in the past and it worked as expected. It produced a noticeable audio improvement in my room and I recommend using it during setup.
If you fancy a high performance receiver, without spending a fortune, the SR8002 is an excellent choice. For $2200, this receiver has all of the features that will keep it current for years to come such as HDMI 1.3a connections and high resolution surround audio decoding. With all of its component and HDMI video outputs, it’s one of the most expandable receivers that I have come across and is ideal for two display setups. As always before choosing any audio product, make sure to give it a listen before you buy. What matters the most is that it sounds great to your own ears. To my ears, the SR8002 is a clear winner.
Marantz America Inc.
Marantz SR8002 AV Surround Receiver
Price (MSRP): $2200 CAD