The AV7703 is Marantz's latest and most full-featured AV processor. At $2,199 it is just over half the price of the flagship AV8802A, yet it has several features not found on the flagship processor. The AV7703 is an 11.2-channel processor with a full feature list that includes: Dolby Atmos and DTS:X; lots of connectivity options (including WiFi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet); built-in hi-res streaming capabilities (including TIDAL, Pandora, AirPlay, Spotify, SiriusXM, and more); built-in HD Radio and AM/FM tuners; 32-bit/192-kHz D/A converters on all channels; Audyssey MultEQ32; eight HDMI 2.0a inputs with HDCP 2.2 that support pass-through of HDR and BT.2020 color; and ISF certification.
Although the majority of users will have a myriad of the devices connected through HDMI, the AV7703 has many other inputs, including 5.1 analog inputs, composite and component video, and an MM phono input. The main zone has both XLR and single-ended outputs, including dual subwoofer outputs. The second zone has HDMI and stereo outputs, and the third zone has stereo audio. All of the above can be controlled through the LCD screen, the supplied multi-device remote, or the free Marantz control app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. While I left off the myriad of control connections and options that can be found on the Marantz website, I saved one of the best features for last: built-in HEOS, the wireless multi-room music network system first developed by sister company Denon.
In addition to everything that comes standard on the AV7703, there are a couple of optional features. The first is the Audyssey MultEQ Editor App available from either the Apple or Google Store for $19.95, and the second is Auro-3D processing. I sprung the money for the MultEQ app and will discuss it below. If you have Auro-3D software and the appropriate speaker setup, I would encourage you to get this upgrade, as my experience with Auro-3D has been that it produces a very nice and natural-sounding experience.
That the AV7703 has such a robust list of features comes as a bit of a surprise for me, since Marantz has had a reputation for focusing on performance over features. I was a bit nervous that this priority might have changed with the latest generation of AV products. My fears were put to rest when I read that the AV7703 utilized Marantz's newest HDAM circuitry and high-performance DACs with not only high-resolution capability but DSD (2.8/5.6MHz) capability.
I've been using Marantz's flagship AV8802 as my reference processor for a while now, and I was curious to see what performance decisions were made in designing a processor that has more features yet costs just over half that of the AV8802. From what I can discern, the AV7703 differs from the AV8802 in that it does not use the reference-grade balanced circuitry, including the fully discrete current feedback HDAM-SA2 modules, the low-noise toroidal power transformer, and some of the other power supply components found in the AV8802. Also, the AV8802 is built like a tank, with its copper-plated chassis. How much of a difference do these differences make, if any?
Opening the box I found the AV7703 to have the same industrial design as other recent Marantz AV components, with a brushed-black front panel with a porthole-style display. Source and volume knobs are at the outer edges of the center panel, where it transitions on each side to curved panels that make for a clean and modern-looking unit. A second display, along with some additional controls, is hidden behind a drop-down panel on the bottom half of the center panel. The panel also hides connections for headphones, the Audyssey setup microphone, a USB input, and an HDMI and analog A/V input. The rear panel is logically laid out and, as I already detailed, has a plethora of AV and control connections.
Before I placed the AV7703 in my rack, I connected the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi antennas. I connected my DirecTV DVR and Oppo UDP-203 via HDMI, as well as my PS Audio DirectStream DAC and network player via single-ended analog audio cables. Connections to the amplifiers were made with balanced audio cables, with a Marantz MM8077 driving the four height channels and a Krell Theater Amplifier Standard driving the front, center, and surround channels. Marantz thoughtfully includes color-coordinated stickers to identify each channel. All connections (except the Ethernet cable) were made with Kimber Cable products: Select Series cables were used for the interconnects and 8TC for the speaker connections. I used two different projectors for my video display, including Sony's VPL-VW675ES 4K projector. I also connected the 12v trigger outputs to the external amplifiers.
For speakers I used MartinLogan Expression 13As and the complementary ESL34A center channel. Later in my listening sessions I used a pair of Revel Performa3 F208s (with no center) as my front speakers. A Paradigm Signature SUB25 subwoofer remained in the system throughout all my listening.
Once I had the AV7703 connected and placed in my rack, I powered it up. The updated Marantz GUI made setup a breeze. I configured the streaming services I wanted to use and created a HEOS account so that I could test that feature. My initial speaker setup and calibration were made with the included Audyssey microphone and stand. For this initial round, I did it the traditional way with the remote to advance the process after measuring each of the eight positions. Later on, I tried the setup process with the optional Audyssey MultEQ App, which allows you to use your mobile device to control the setup process. I liked this, as I prefer to step outside the room when the tones are played, and using the app allowed me to leave the room and close the door before starting the tones started. If that were the only benefit, I would say to skip the app, but it has a bunch of other features that show you on nice graphs what Audyssey is doing and lets you take control of some parameters so that you can adjust the processing to suit your tastes. The app shows you the Audyssey speaker detection results and lets you modify the setup. This came in handy for correcting the subwoofer distance. The app also provides graphs of before and after processing, which is helpful to see what your room is doing and what changes have been made. If you do not like the Audyssey target curves or the roll-off curves, you can change them, decide whether or not to enable midrange compensation, and save your calibration results.
The app crashed during the middle of the speaker measurement process when I received a call on my iPhone, but otherwise it ran smoothly. I liked having the additional control options available to me; however, if you are the set-and-forget type of person, the traditional Audyssey setup and control is still available to you without spending an extra $20.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...