Marantz AV8003 Preamp/Processor and MM8003 Multichannel Power Amplifier Comparisons & Conclusion
I can't compare the AV8003/MM8003 combination with anything I have reviewed recently, since most of my work has been with A/V receivers. The AV8003 is probably best compared with the Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro reviewed by David Vaughn in March 2008.
The Onkyo retails for $800 less than the AV8003 and provides onboard video processing that upconverts all incoming signals to the display's native resolution whether the signal is being fed via HDMI or analog. The Onkyo video processing did not perform perfectly in all cases, though it passed all the jaggies tests with flying colors when converting a 480i signal to 1080p. The Onkyo uses the Silicon Optix Reon HQV chip, whereas the AV8003 is equipped with an Anchor Bay Technologies chip.
If you fit the profile that Marantz is targeting with this product, the onboard video processing is probably not that important. In terms of value, I'm just pointing out that there are other processors that do offer quality onboard video processing while actually costing less.
Separates still offer a special quality that is rare in AVRs. From the instant I connected the Marantz components, my reference system came alive with greater depth, increased detail, and killer dynamics. The heightened sense of air was palpable. The MM8003 delivers clean, undistorted power, and coupled with the AV8003, music and 5.1 soundtracks were expansive and involving.
This not the kind of difference that offers a high return on your investment, unless you seriously value such characteristics. Feature for feature (except balanced I/O), there are many AVRs that provide many of the same bells and whistles, including more advanced video processing, for considerably less money. On the other hand, there is a premium for nuance, which these Marantz separates deliver in spades. The duo's greatest strength is certainly its highly musical performance.
Based on my tests, the video processor is largely unnecessary. I appreciate Marantz taking a purist approach in the design of the AV8003, and I think it should have just stuck with that concept from beginning to end. Offering only upconversion and deinterlacing of standard-definition sources would have been fine if they had been exceptional, but they are not much better than what you probably already have in your DVD player and/or projector, so there was little point in them including the additional circuitry. On the other hand, transcoding analog to HDMI is essential to simplify the connection to the display.
The remote is too complex. Based on all the detailed descriptions and diagrams, this one looks like it could be a monster to program. Even though I love this stuff, I like setup to be easy and simple to understand. Complexity does not fill my life with purpose.
Aside from my comments about the remote and the video processor, I enjoyed the Marantz AV8003 and MM8003 tremendously. Not every product is capable of rising to the highest levels of audio performance, but when I find one that does, it is a wonderful experience that I savor for as long as the manufacturer allows me to use its equipment.
Soon, I will be on to the next new product, but the Marantz AV8003 and MM8003 will be greatly missed, and I won't be forgetting their exceptional sonic characteristics any time soon.
Exceptional sonic performance
Excellent surround decoder
Simple setup with Audyssey MultEQ
4 HDMI inputs & 2 HDMI outputs
Transcode from any analog video source to HDMI
Powerful and clean amplification
Inadequate video processing
Complex remote-control programming
Expensive but not out of line for separates