Marantz SR8002 A/V Receiver Real-World Performance

Real-World Performance
Shane Buettner never mentioned this in his review of the Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD player, and I didn't even come around to this way of thinking until the Marantz showed up, but the XA2 is at least as good as the best-sounding CD transport I've had in my home theater. Many believe that "bits is bits," but the combination of the XA2 and the Marantz had that elusive jump factor you seldom get from audio equipment.

The Bill Holman Band's "Lightnin'" from the first JVC XRCD Sampler CD has layered horns and a tight rhythm section that comes through exceptionally well over the Marantz. Zoot Sims' Quietly There CD (also on JVC's XRCD label) and Steamin' with the Miles Davis Quintet (CD, Mobile Fidelity/Prestige 7200) were just two more of the many jazz selections that sounded absolutely majestic over the Martin Logans. The Marantz provided a powerful presentation, not at all dynamically shy or compressed. Tonally, the sound was precise and very analog-like, though I don't mean artificially sweet. Instruments had body and presence and left me feeling quite satisfied.

Turning to more subtle fare, the piano on Chopin's Greatest Hits (CD, Pro Arte) was pitch perfect, sounding every bit like a real piano. Even jumping up to something larger scale, like Claudio Arrau playing Beethoven sonatas, the SR8002 cast a magical spell over the room°excitingly dynamic and warm, but without any upper-frequency limiting. Only track 17 of Puccini's La Boheme (Erato ECD 75450) brought on a hint of strain.

To break in my recently purchased Sony PS3, I put on Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live at Radio City, a fine Blu-ray title with a 1080p/24 video presentation and a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack (96kHz/24-bit) that sounds great. For one thing, the instruments are sensibly placed in the front channels, so don't expect much other than crowd noise from the surrounds. The song "Gravedigger" comes closest to capturing the feel of a couple of guys with guitars and a story to tell, and the Marantz carried the emotion well. Unfortunately, I couldn't let the Marantz do the Dolby TrueHD decoding because the PS3 won't pass TrueHD as a bitstream over HDMI.

Watching movies with the SR8002 convinced me that modern receiver design needn't compromise audio quality in pursuit of the latest technology. The Marantz had the best sounding amplification of any receiver I've had in for review.

The opening horn blast of the ferry carrying sailors to their untimely death in Dj Vu on Blu-ray is just the beginning salvo in a richly mixed, uncompressed PCM soundtrack (5.1 channel, 48kHz/16-bit) replete with subtle details. The Marantz easily poured on the film's thick orchestration while still letting me hear the practically inaudible click of Denzel Washington's cell phone when he flips it open. From the cry of seagulls to the clang of sea bells somewhere down river, the SR8002 was a vested accomplice in this underrated film.

One of my favorite movies is Christopher Nolan's first big hit, Memento. It's out on Blu-ray with an uncompressed PCM soundtrack (5.1 channel, 48kHz, bits unspecified, but likely 16). You might think that a score based on the repetition of a three-step chord progression would become tedious after a time, but it really drives the movie at key moments. When I heard it from the Marantz, it filled me with anticipation in true Pavlovian fashion. On top of that, the clarity of the center channel is chilling in the Memento mix. Voices are rich, incisive, and weighty, and the SR8002's sound is the opposite of sterile, providing a listening experience that's right up there with the best I've heard, but at a price that is within reach of most readers.

Regarding the power capabilities of the SR8002, it had no problem driving my four large Martin Logan electrostatic speakers full range at levels that shook the room. With nary a hint of compression, the Marantz is certainly powerful enough to drive most speakers to realistic theater levels, and then some.

I had no call to use the built-in deinterlacer, but I did let the Marantz cross-convert the component video output of my Xbox 360 to HDMI, and it did an excellent job with a steady diet of Mass Effect and Call of Duty 4. I was able to quickly switch my plasma from its component to HDMI input to see if the cross-conversion caused any artifacts, and I'd be hard pressed to say I saw any difference. The game sound was immersive and totally impressive. With its four HDMI inputs, the SR8002 guarantees your console a seat at the home theater table.