The AV8802 is Marantz's flagship AV processor and is the successor to the AV8801 that we favorably reviewed in 2014. At first glance, the AV8802 looks a lot like the AV8801: the chassis is similar, the feature set is similar, and so on. I wondered if Marantz simply added a couple new surround sound formats and features and called it good. However, a more thorough review of the AV8802 revealed that Marantz not only added more bells and whistles, but some serious performance upgrades, as well.
The AV8802 retails for $3,999, which is $400 more than the AV8801--which was (and still is) an extremely capable AV processor. As an audio consumer, I'd rather not see prices go up. However, I do not mind paying more if I am getting something additional for my hard-earned dollars. The AV8802 has several new features, including: built in Wi-Fi, Dolby Atmos capability, Auro-3D support (paid upgrade required), DTS:X (via a free firmware update that's coming later this year), HDMI with HDCP 2.2 (the current units ship with the HDCP 2.2 boards, while older units may be upgraded at no charge other than one-way shipping), and gapless playback support for DSD, ALAC, FLAC, and WAV. The AV8802 also supports 24/192 playback of AIFF and FLAC, plus 24/96 ALAC files.
The AV8802 is also loaded down with just about every other feature one could want from a AV processor, such as 11.2 channels of processing, configurable 13.2-channel outputs (all of which are fully balanced), Audyssey's full Platinum suite (which is Audyssey Pro capable), eight HDMI inputs, three zones, 4K Ultra HD support, ISF calibration, Spotify Connect, SiriusXM, Flickr, Pandora, a phono input, a headphone output, and of course a control app for iOS and Android devices. The above recitation only touches on the AV8802's feature set; for further information on the AV8802's current features and capabilities, please see the Marantz website.
In addition to the updated feature set, Marantz made a bunch of changes to the components that affect the performance of the AV8802. While these updates do not jump out on the spec sheet, they are every bit as important as all of those new features. The toroidal power supply has been upgraded with four 10,000μF capacitors. This doubles the power reserves of the AV8801. Four DSP chips supply ample computing power to handle 11.2 channels for any of the new surround sound codecs, including Dolby Atmos, Auro-3D, DTS Neo:X 11.1, or DTS:X, along with the concurrent Audyssey signal processing. The AV8801 and AV8802 both have 32-bit/192-kHz DACs; however, the AV8802 DACs have been upgraded to seven of the AKM AK4490 DACs, along with other chipset upgrades. Marantz uses a new version of its proprietary HDAM modules from its Reference Series in the AV8802, which use a Current Feedback topology (as opposed to voltage feedback) and fully discrete circuitry. All of these revisions are reported to provide reduced jitter, increased dynamic range, faster response times, and a lower noise floor.
Even though most of the press releases and news blurbs I read about the AV8802 while I was waiting for it to arrive focused on the updated feature set, especially the Dolby Atmos and Auro-3D capabilities, the performance upgrades that I just touched upon are of greater interest to me--the quality of performance remains important over the years, keeping gear relevant and enjoyable even when it does not have the very latest surround sound codec or newest feature set.
I have never been one for the "unwrapping" or "opening the box" videos that one can find in YouTube reviews; however, as I was opening the Marantz AV8802's package, there were some things I noted as being nice first impressions. The packaging was pretty traditional, with a heavy cardboard box, Styrofoam inserts, and a thin sheet of foam wrapped around the processor. As review samples eventually need to be sent back, I try to take special care not to damage the packaging materials. For Marantz, the most fragile piece has been the thin sheets of foam wrap, which the company has used for the past few years. This was the first time I noticed a manufacturer folding back the tape ends to make the unwrapping process easier. I know that this has absolutely no impact on the product or its performance, but it is a nod toward enhancing the customer experience. Another first for me was an adjustable microphone stand made out of heavy cardstock to hold the Audyssey microphone during the measurement process.
The Marantz AV8802 replaced my Marantz AV8801 in my reference theater system. In addition to the Marantz processors, I have also been using an Anthem D2V processor. Sources included the Oppo BDP-95 and a PS Audio PerfectWave DirectStream DAC. I used two different speaker systems during my review of the AV8802. My primary reference speaker system consists of B&W 800 Diamonds up front with the HTM2 Diamond in the center position and 805 Diamonds in the back. Like the AV8801, the AV8802 is dual subwoofer capable, so I used a Paradigm Sub25 along with the B&W DB-1 subwoofer. The second speaker system was a GoldenEar system featuring the SuperCinema 3D Array XL sound bar up front, SuperSat 3s in the rear, and a ForceField 5 subwoofer (look for my SuperCinema 3D Array XL review soon). GoldenEar was also kind enough to send over some Invisa HTR-7000 in-ceiling speakers, which I will use to review the Dolby Atmos performance as soon as I can get them installed.
I mated the AV8802 with two different amplifiers: my reference Krell Theater Amplifier Standard and Marantz's companion amplifier, the MM8077. Both amplifiers were up to the task with the GoldenEar speakers, but the B&Ws preferred the extra power of the Krell. Cabling was Kimber for all multichannel connections, and I used both Kimber Select and Transparent Ultra for the balanced stereo connections between the source components and the AV8802.
Connecting the AV8002 was quite simple. The biggest connection changes between the AV8801 and AV8802 involve network connections. The AV8802 is missing the four-port Ethernet switch that was included with its predecessor, but it adds built-in Wi-Fi. Marantz continues to make improvements with the user interface, and the Setup Assistant on the AV8802 was intuitive and easy to use. The microphone tower stand assisted with the Audyssey MultEQ XT32 setup process, as I no longer needed to find something to hold the Audyssey microphone in the proper positions.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...