Marantz AV8003 Preamp/Processor and MM8003 Multichannel Power Amplifier Real-World Performance

Real-World Performance
This is where the AV8003/MM8003 really shined. The combo did exactly what quality components should do—allow music to breath without any interference or coloring of the sound. As I've always said, high-end audio components only bring out the existing musicality and detail of any recording. If it happens to be a flawed recording, this becomes all the more apparent. The goal is absolute purity, and the Marantz is the best I have heard in a while.

I was recently introduced to the amazing 24-bit/96kHz recordings from AIX Records. All artists are recorded in natural settings such as jazz clubs, small auditoriums, and intimate studios, then mixed in 5.1 surround. The Marantz system demonstrated exceptional transparency on the track "Cold Outside" from the duo Lowen & Navarro on an AIX sampler mastered to DVD using Dolby Digital. The multichannel mix was wonderfully revealing with a fullness that was enveloping without being overbearing or unnatural.

The British singer/songwriter Gwenyth Herbert is this month's featured artist at the B&W Music Club. All albums in the Club are recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World studios at 16-bit/44.1kHz PCM. The tracks "Lorelie" and "My Mini and Me" from the album Ten Lives are only in stereo with minimal instrumentation (vocal, percussion, acoustic bass, and slide guitar), but there is a resounding strength and larger-than-life imagery in these recordings that is spine-tingling. The low bass notes resonated with remarkable clarity and depth.

To test the AV8003's ability to decode Dolby TrueHD, I set the Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player to output an audio bitstream and popped in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. The pre/pro exhibited much more presence and transparency compared to the Samsung's decoding of the same material. I even had to turn down the volume considerably. The difference in clarity, detail, and tonal accuracy was easily heard.

Next, I compared the lossy and lossless soundtrack on Pirates. This was not to prove that the Marantz components provided better performance with the uncompressed versions. Obviously, the uncompressed soundtrack was stellar, and if I had a larger room, I'm certain they could have easily achieved THX reference levels without a hint of stress.

Instead, I wanted to see how well the Marantz system reproduced the compressed soundtrack of this film. It was dynamic and bright without the denseness and muffled quality I detect when comparing the two audio formats on lesser A/V components. A high-resolution lossless audio track is the better option by far if you have such a choice. However, DVDs without an uncompressed audio track will greatly benefit from the exceptional audio presentation of these Marantz products.

Of course, I also played the uncompressed audio track, which was spacious with clearly defined channel separation and coherency, producing a more immersive and three-dimensional effect than I've experienced with most products. There was exceptional definition between the various film elements (dialog, music, and effects), and the center channel was full and robust with extremely crisp, clear, and highly intelligible dialog. There is plenty of power from the MM8003 for the most demanding movie soundtracks.

Whether I was viewing Gone in Sixty Seconds on Blu-ray or experiencing the thrill of virtual racing with Gran Turismo: Prologue on the PS3, the realistic engine growls, crunching metal, and squealing tires were about as close to those lifelike sounds as I care to get. If the audio from this Marantz combo was any more natural or surrounding (pardon the pun), I would have been jumping out of my seat.

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