My only quibble was a slightly thin, hollow sound from my center channel speaker. After contacting Marantz and a conversation with one of their representatives, I re-ran the Audyssey setup using six measuring points. I started with one measuring point in the center of my main listening area, one point a foot to the right of this point and another one foot to the left of my first measuring point. I then duplicated this same pattern, one foot closer to the center speaker. After this, the sound was much improved and blended much more naturally with my other speakers. Why this made a difference I do not know, but it was something with the Audyssey software, and not the preamp itself.
Next up, was Angelina Jolie's blockbuster flop, Salt, on Blu-ray disc (Sony). While the film may have left a lot to be desired the disc itself possesses stunning visuals and a dynamic soundtrack. The AV7005 handled the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack beautifully, putting me right into the action of the film; once again placing me square within an incredibility detailed and engrossing soundstage.
In terms of video, the AV7005 simply passed the video through to my projector without any strange artifacts on 1080p and 720p sources. Salt had stunningly sharp and detailed video throughout the film. Good video in, good video out. Those with a need to tweak, Marantz provides adjustments for contrast, brightness, chroma level, hue, dynamic noise reduction as well as an enhancer setting that can be used to emphasize contours in the video. All adjustments are made to each video input and are stored independently of each other which is a very cool feature if you're trying to extract more performance from say an older DVD player but don't wish to alter the video signal on your Blu-ray player.
I was also happy to note that even after more than two hours of running at reference levels the AV7005 was barely warm to the touch, a huge advantage over many AV Receivers in its class but to be fair the AV7005 lacks internal amplification, which is why it's able to run cooler than its receiver counterparts.
As mentioned earlier, the AV7005 includes Anchor Bay's 10-bit Video Processor/Scaler. This processing chip made my DVD collection look almost HD. During my quick viewing of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (20th Century Fox), I noticed a big improvement in both detail and sharpness. DVDs projected onto a 92-inch screen can be brutal when compared to Blu-ray, but I thought the ABT2015 processing chip made a noticeable improvement over standard unprocessed 480p video. The video was sharper but there was not over sharpening of the edges of objects or over enhanced compression artifices or noise. While this was not a Blu-ray video presentation, it certainly looked much better than I expected-much better than what I believed possible from a meager DVD. Running my daughter's Wii into the component connection offered a similar improvements. Again, it was clearly not the same video quality I would expect to come from an XBOX 360 or PS3, but the upscaled 480p video wasn't too bad.
Music with the AV7005 required a bit of reading. Being a musician, I am picky when it comes to music. I know what instruments sound like live and the nuances in sound from within a live ensemble. With the Audyssey EQ engaged, I didn't get that full, wide, engaging sound stage like you do with a live performance. While the music was detailed, the sound was a bit cold and thin. I changed every parameter that I could find and finally, turned the EQ off. After a few manual EQ tweaks, I heard a renewed sound quality and presentation that totally blew away any AV receiver that I have ever owned.
Miles Davis' Seven Steps To Heaven (Columbia), was just that; warm, open and airy only begin to describe what I was hearing. Granted Miles' muted trumpet can be quite harsh on some systems, I never thought it was through the AV7005 while connected to my Pioneer Elite universal player.
Brian Bromberg is a virtuoso on acoustic jazz bass and his 2006 re-issue Wood (Artistry Music), is a fantastic recording. Jazz bass is one of the few instruments that I feel can make you system sound great or a big muddy mess. Granted, some of it has to do with speakers but if your processor has inferior DACs or other internal processing components, an upright bass can sound boomy, muddy and void of sonic detail. I was blown away with how tight and resonate Bromberg's instrument sounded. Bromberg doesn't just sit back and play the bass part of the ensemble-he takes center stage. Even during times where he is playing a flurry of notes, the sound was clear and full of harmonics that would've been easily lost on inferior equipment.
Streaming with the AV7005 was extremely simple. After connecting the Ethernet cable to the rear panel, the preamp quickly connected itself to my home network. Navigating to my media server was a breeze. I was able to stream MP3s, JPEG photos and even FLAC audio files. Pandora was also as simple as changing the source and entering my username and password. The use of the DMAX2 Dynamic Audio eXpander really helped to restore some of the dynamics and high frequencies that are typically lost with MP3 compression. Out of the box, the AV7005 does not support Apple's AIFF audio files. I found this a bit strange but a firmware download can be purchased for $49.99 that will make this piece AirPlay compatible. An optional module, the RX101, will allow you to stream from any Bluetooth capable source.
Comparison and Competition
At $1,499, the AV7005 has very little competition in its price category. The Integra DHC-40.2 retails for $1,200 and offers a few things that the Marantz does not-mainly THX Ultra 2 Plus certification and Faroudja's DCDi Cinema video processing chip. Though I find the Anchor Bay chip to be more desirable. Hey, if the Anchor Bay chip is good enough for OPPO then it's good enough for me.
Other preamps for comparison are the Integra DHC-80.2, which really just gives you 9.2 surround sound processing and Audyssey's MultEQ XT32 all for $2,300.
Beyond Integra you begin to jump up in price to the $6,000-$10,000 mark with the Anthem D2v, Arcam FMJ AV888 and the Classe' SSP-800 all of which offer similar performance and features but obviously at a much higher price point, which may be worth it to some buyers but for me the AV7005 is all the AV preamp I require and for its asking price it has little competition.
The Marantz AV7005 has a ton going for it. It has a deep feature set that may take some users a good deal of experimentation to get everything to their liking. I like the Audyssey setup feature but I feel it robs two-channel music of its essence, however for movies I feel it does a great job of taming unruly room conditions.
The remote is really well laid out and solid feeling in my hand, however I still recommend a third party, programmable, remote for daily use. To be fair, I don't know many $10,000 AV preamps that have a remote good enough to run an entire home theater system like a top universal remote control.Conclusion