Good sound is not free, and that goes for your home theater as well. Although there are many brilliant and cheap home theater amplifiers that really proves why you should go for a home theater with separate components, it becomes something completely different when you move up to the heavyweight class.
Marantz AV8801 & MM8077
Sound Quality - 91%
Features - 98%
Ease of Use - 90%
Build Quality - 96%
By splitting the home theater amplifier into two components it becomes more flexible. In this case, the sound quality is exceptional. Especially the AV8801 processor from Marantz shines. This is not cheap entertainment, but quality costs!
Room correction is one of the better.
Can play loud.
Somewhat simple remote app.
Streaming interface could have been better.
Lacks a bit of dynamic contrast.
The most obvious is more muscle and thus a more hard-hitting sound. But the biggest weakness of cheap, integrated home theater amplifiers is that they normally do not play music as well as a dedicated stereo amplifier. Home theater amplifiers have more complex circuits, with many components in the processor and amplification section, which affects the sound signal while it is still in the low level stadium and therefore very vulnerable to interference. It provides a less than optimal condition for sound quality, so it may be a good idea to divide the processor and power amplifier in two different units.
Another clear advantage of splitting the amplifier into two parts is that it provides flexibility. Then it is easy to replace the power amplifier later on, or add more power amplifiers and bi-amping any channels you may want. And would you rather use active speakers, you are better off with just the processor.
The AV8801 Processor
The biggest impact on the audio signal is often done in the processor. This is where the digital signal is processed and distributed in god knows how many channels, and it is also where the video circuitry sits. A modern processor must also make estimates of the acoustics of the room using a microphone to set the speakers optimally, and it should have good video processing. My advice is therefore to not go for the cheapest processor.
Marantz AV8801 decodes 11 audio channels plus two independent subwoofer channels. It gives you an opportunity to fill the living room with how many speakers you want, including extra width and height speakers at the front and rear. It also makes it easy to expand your stereo or home theater systems in other rooms (multi-room) if you are not utilizing all the channels in your main room. AV8801 can supply up to two additional zones of stereo audio. In addition, a TV in a fourth zone get picture and sound via HDMI. It´s nice that the processor has three HDMI outputs, then!
The processor has automatic room correction of type Audyssey MultEQ XT32. It is Audysseys most advanced room correction for the consumer market and compensate for the acoustics by measuring and calculating up to eight seats in the room. And with 32-bit resolution.
Note that all channels have both balanced and unbalanced outputs. Three HDMI outputs goes a long way. And we like phono inputs!
In addition to the digital audio and video via HDMI and other cables (there's even phono input) AV8801 has a built-in DLNA networking feature. That means it can be connected to a network cable and then stream music directly from a network computer. Many music formats are supported, including Apple Lossless, FLAC, MP3 and WAV. It also features AirPlay and can play music wirelessly directly from an iPhone or iPad in lossless quality.
Spotify is also built-in. We recommend that you download the Marantz Remote App for iOS or Android, and using a smart phone or tablet device as a remote control and search engine to find the music in Spotify's huge music library.
The MM8077 Power Amplifier
Now, there won´t be much sound with only the processor. In order to drive the speakers you´ll need power, and that’s where the power amp comes into play. Marantz MM8077 is a 7-channel power amplifier. If you want to use the processors all 11 channels, then you must add more power amplifiers or powered speakers to use the remaining channels.
The effect of 7 x 150 watts into 8 ohms is specified with two channels operating simultaneously. I would have liked a measurement with all channels driven at the same time, but you can also look at the power consumption. At maximum load the amplifier draws 880 watts from the power supply, which may correspond to just under 100 watts per channel after we accounted for heat loss. That´s still more than most cheap receivers can dream of.
Both the processor and power amplifier can choose between unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR on all channels. We know from experience that the XLR usually sound better because it minimizes interference. This is especially true if you have long cables and is therefore useful if you have multiroom zones.
The MM8077 power amp has seven amplifiers that can all be connected using RCA or XLR. 150 watts per channel should be enough for most.
Hooking up a separated amplifier combination is not much more difficult than hooking up a normal home theater receiver. Just make sure to connect all the outputs of the processor to the corresponding inputs of the power amplifier, and the speaker outputs to the correct speakers.
During testing, we used Oppo's brilliant BDP-105D blu-ray player, which is connected with a HDMI cable. The AV8801 processor handles all the signal processing, both audio and video.
The Menu System
Marantz has focused on a clear and simple on-screen display in list form rather than impressive graphics and other kinds of frippery. As with most surround products, there are a lot of features to familiarize with, but if you are in a hurry to get started, you'll come a long way by plugging in the measuring microphone and run the automatic calibration. When it is finished, the Audysseys sound mode is enabled by default. If you want to adjust any EQ settings you can do so in the menu system afterwards. I must admit I think the remote is a little lacking and have too few direct functions. It should be possible to turn off Audyssey with a direct button. There is a remote app for Android and Apple phones that provide better overview, but that is also a little too stripped down for my taste.
In our room, Audyssey gives a boost in sound, even with our lavish THX speaker system from Procella. It provided a better tonal cohesion between channels.
A Capella In Surround
The 2L-release "Song" with Uranienborg Vocal Ensemble is an amazing sounding a capella recording on blu-ray. The soundstage is big and the sound from Uranienborg church hovers like a gas around the listener. This recording utilizes multichannel sound very well, with perfect phase. The recording calls for the whole frequency range and a phase correct channel separation.
With the Marantz as a conductor, music sounds big, airy and encircling. The illusion works very well, when I close my eyes, I believe I'm sitting in a church. A couple of extra height speakers in the front works well as an extension of a traditional 5.1 system and provides a three dimensional feel.
The AV8801 has full control of the phase and it makes the 15-inch Procella P15 subwoofer do its best. Because even if the subwoofer does most of the job on its own, with a built-in amp of 2 x 350 watts - a channel for each of the 15-inches! - it's important to have a clean signal to get a tight and resolved bass. The bass lines in the chorus sounds like an integral part of the whole with Marantz, instead of sounding separate from the rest.
The resolution is also very good, both baritones and sopranos will fit in the mix. The only thing I think could have been improved even more is in terms of dynamics. The soundstage is too smooth for my personal taste, and the contrasts of the sound image could have been better resolved. In that area the Marantz combination is beaten by some slightly cheaper combinations I’ve listened to.
Marantz VS Marantz
I do feel a tad disappointed because it was just contrasts and subjectively rapid start and stop times that surprised me so much when I listened to Marantz PM-11S3 Integrated Stereo Amplifier a while ago. It sounded like a Marantz on steroids. The multi-channel combination I have before me now sounds more like the Marantz I’m used to. Do not misunderstand me, it is not lacking power at all and everything sounds pretty amazing. But compared to the stereo amplifier for ~$5000, and with both amplifiers connected in stereo, it feels like driving a potent car with the hand brake somewhat engaged, if you understand what I mean. However, one must not forget that the whole amp combination costs ~$6000, which is significantly cheaper per channel than the stereo amplifier.
Movies In Surround
Most people who buy this kind of multi-channel amplifier combination will use it primarily for movies (and video games). And in that discipline, the Marantz really excels.
The modern classic movie ‘Inception‘ with Leonardo DiCaprio in the leading role has an impressive soundtrack. The soundstage is wide and consistent, where more extreme sound effects sound more integrated than in many other movies in the category of “explosive action”. And Marantz reproduces the sound track very naturally. Resolution is world class and you´re almost moved into the action physically. When Cobb (DiCaprio) explains to Ariadne (Ellen Page) how dreams work, only to reveal that they are in a dream, the sound image is hovering and encircling, while a synthetic heartbeat pounds gently in the bass register. The beats are becoming more and more intense and when Ariadne loses control and fruit boxes explode, the subwoofer is put in full throttle. This whole sequence sounds so damn natural with the Marantz combination that I was drawn into the story in an almost hypnotic way.
When I watch the movie I do not miss more intense dynamics in the same way as when I listen to music.
Another Power Amplifier
This applies until the power amplifier is replaced. I want to confirm that it is the power amplifier that is holding the combo back, and I do so by plugging in a much more potent (and expensive) amplifier.
It is of course quite another experience. The soundstage has a greater calm, a blacker background that makes the contrasts stand out more. And it is obvious that also movies has much to gain by maximizing the sound of the power amplifier.
Music In Stereo
This also applies to music in stereo. For example, Daft Punk’s album ‘Random Access Memories‘, an exceedingly well produced electro funk record with a good portion of dynamics preserved, with juicy, cool bass rythms. With a better amplifier, there are significantly larger contrasts in the sound image and better control in the bass range than with the Marantz MM8077 that sounds flatter. Even when the multi-channel amplifier is bi-amped with two channels to each speaker, the sound is presented differently in comparison with the more expensive stereo amp. I say this not to slag the MM8077 off, but it´s obvious that a stereo power amp at ten times the price plays the sh*t out of a multi-channel amp.
I just want to bring out and emphasize the quality of the processor. AV8801 is quite exquisite and decodes audio signals in a masterly manner.
Speaking of music in stereo, streaming music will probably be a major application for the Marantz combination. The processor allows you to easily stream music from your computer network and it becomes perhaps even easier with the remote app for smart phones (iOS and Android). But the installation is pretty basic, and so is the app. That means you are not able to make playlists directly, but must load the ones you already have on your computer. The same goes with Spotify. This is something that can become annoying when you get friends to visit and want to change playlists quickly. The interface of the AV8801 can not measure up to the Sonos, Blue Sound, Simple Audio, to name just a few.
There is much to gain by splitting the home theater amplifier into two parts. It's far easier to upgrade, but more important is that the sound is better if you have a separate processor. The Marantz combination of the AV8801 and MM8077 gives a completely different listening experience than an integrated solution.
In this test, the processor AV8801 is the big winner. It decodes the audio signals in a brilliant way and is an excellent starting point for brilliant sound. Thanks to the signal for 11.2 channels, it is also flexible. It has everything you need in terms of inputs and outputs, including three HDMI outputs and seven inputs. Phono Input is in place, and streaming too. And the automatic room correction with Audyssey MultEQ XT32 works like a dream.
The 7-channel power amp MM8077 is also very good. It is definitely sturdy enough, and with its seven channels, it can drive an extra pair of speakers or height speakers, or bi-amping the front speakers. Even so, it may find itself being the weakest link in this combination. It definitely has enough muscle and paints a stable and neat sound, but compared to more expensive and better amplifiers, it is too soft and mellow for my personal taste. The contrasts in the sound image does not appear correctly, and it also lacks a little depth when listening to music in stereo.
|Number of Channels||11.2 Channels|
|Audyssey||Audyssey MultEQXT32, SubEQHT, DSX, Dynamic EQ Dynamic Volume|
|DTS||DTS HD Master Audio, HD High Resolution, DTS-Neo:X, ES Discrete/Matrix, 96/24|
|Dolby||Dolby TrueHD, Digital, Digital Plus, Pro Logic IIz, EX|
|Current Feedback Topology||Preamplifier Stage|
|Digital Signal Processing||Analog Devices ADSP21487 x 3|
|Video Off (Pure Direct)||Yes|
|Chassis||Copper Plated, Full Size|
|Video Up-conversion||Yes (Analog Composite/Component Video to HDMI)|
|Auto Calibration by MIC||Audyssey MultEQXT32 (upgradeable to Pro by Installer)|
|Satellite Radio Ready||SiriusXM StreamingNetwork|
|Lip-sync (digital audio delay)||Yes|
|Software Upgradable||Yes (via Internet)|VIDEO
|HDMI In||7 (including front HDMI input)|
|HDMI Out||3 (2 x Simultaneous, 1 x Zone 4)|
|Component Out||2/Incl. Zone 2 output|
|Composite Out||3/Incl. Zone 2 output|
|Analog L&R In||8/Including 1 x XLR|
|Pre-Amplifier Out||11.2 (RCA & XLR)|
|Multi-Room Audio Out||Zone 2 & Zone 3 Preout (Variable)|
|Multi-Room Video Out||Zone 4 HDMI, Zone 2 Component and Composite|
|Multi-Room Speaker Out||Yes (Selectable)|
|Networking||AirPlay, DLNA 1.5 certified Audio/Photo Streaming, Internet Radio, Streaming service capability (Spotify/Pandora/SiriusXM/flickr)|
|SetUp Wizard||Yes (Setup Assistant)|
|External control||RS-232C / IP|
|D-Bus Remote (RC-5) In/Out||Yes|
|Flasher In/IR Receiver In/Emitter out||1/-/-|
|Front Panel A/V Inputs||Front HDMI, USB and A/V inputs|
|AC Outlets (Switched/Unswitched)||-/-|AUDIO SECTION
TUNER SECTION FM
|Freq. Response (Analog In)||10Hz - 100kHz (+/- 3 dB)|
|Frequency Range||87.5 - 107.9MHz|
TUNER SECTION AM
|S/N Ratio (Mono/Stereo)||78/68 dB, HD: 85dB|
|Frequency Range||530 - 1710kHz|
|Video Freq. Response (Component)||5Hz - 60MHz|
|Video Freq. Response (Composit, S-Video)||5Hz - 10MHz|
|Front Panel||Aluminum / Glass-reinforced resin|
|Remote Control||Backlit, LCD, Learning, Pre-code System Remote Controller|
|Power Requirement||AC120V 60Hz|
|Power Consumption||90W (Standby 0.2W)|
|Dimensions W x H x D (Inchs)||17.32' x 7.28" x 15.33"|
MULTI CHANNEL/SURROUNDSOUND ENHANCEMENTS
|Current Feedback Topology||Yes|
|Main Amplifier In||Balanced & Unbalanced: 7ch (Exclusive use by a selector switch.)|
|D-Bus Remote (RC-5) In/Out||1 In /1 Out|
|Flasher In/IR Receiver In/Emitter out||1/0/0|AUDIO SECTION
|Power Output||150W (20Hz - 20kHz, 0.08%)|
|Freq. Response (Analog In)||8Hz - 100kHz (+/- 3dB)|
|Front Panel||Aluminum/Glass-reinforced resin|
|Power Requirement||AC 120 V, 60 Hz|
|Power Consumption||800W (Standby: 0.4W)|
|Dimensions W x H x D (Inchs)||17.32" x 7.29" x 15.1"|