I've had the good fortune to review several of Marantz's top-tier AV preamps in recent years, from the AV8802 to the more recent, feature-laden AV7703. The AV7703 had a feature set the older AV8802 could not match, but the AV8802 sounded better. At first glance the AV8805 appears to be a combination of the AV8802 and AV7703, taking the performance level of the AV8802 and incorporating the AV7703's feature set, while coming in at only slightly more than the prior-generation AV8802 at $4,499.
The AV8805 is a goodie-packed 13.2 channel processor that supports the latest in immersive, multi-channel audio formats, including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and even Auro-3D straight out of the box. It reportedly shares a good bit of circuitry with the AVR-X8500H that my colleague Bob Barrett recently reviewed and loved. Each of the 8805's HDMI inputs features 4K/60Hz capabilities; Dolby Vision, HDR10, and Hybrid Log Gamma pass-through; BT.2020 support; accommodations for 21:9 and 3D video; HDCP 2.2 compliance and ISF certification. IMAX Enhanced is another standout feature of the preamp, but given the newness of this collaboration with IMAX and DTS and the fact that the first discs supporting the format won't be released until right around the time we go to print, I was unable to evaluate it.
The AV8805 also comes with Smart TV connectivity through CEC in addition to enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC), which was enabled in a recent firmware update. The only thing missing is MHL, a feature I know I would rarely use but our own Dennis Burger is a fan of. Before we move off of HDMI, I know many people are rightfully concerned about spending a lot of money on an AV Processor with HDMI 2.0, given that 2.1 is on the way. Marantz has designed the AV8805's HDMI board to be replaced with a HDMI 2.1 board, which will support 8K video when HDMI 2.1 is available.
Even though the AV8805 has just about every type of audio and video input, except S-Video (which I doubt anyone will miss), I suspect most people will be using HDMI and network audio inputs more than anything else. Eight HDMI inputs and three HDMI outputs should accommodate just about any system. The AV8805 can connect to your network via dual band WiFi or Ethernet, and is also Bluetooth and AirPlay 2 capable. In addition to accessing your own audio files, including FLAC, ALAC, and WAV up to 192 kHz/24 bit (and DSD 2.8/5.6 MHz), other network audio options include: Tidal, Pandora, Spotify, Napster, SiriusXM, Amazon Prime Music, Deezer, and more. It is not a Roon compliant (yet), but its AirPlay compatibility lets it function as a Roon endpoint for those of you who use Roon. The network connectivity also allows for Smart Remote Management in addition to IR, IP, and RS-232 control.
All of the above can be controlled with the LCD-screened, multi-device remote that comes in the box, or a free Marantz app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. The AV8805 also works with Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and Josh.ai voice control. You can't have your AV preamp to be feature-shamed by your $600 soundbar can you?
While the free Marantz AVR remote app makes it easy to access all of the services built into the AV8805, the network audio feature I liked the most was the built-in HEOS functionality. The Marantz AVR app worked fine for most functions, but the HEOS app made it very easy to access my source of choice and search my multi-terabyte collection of audio files. It was a night-and-day difference from using the Marantz AVR app to search for and play audio files. The addition of HEOS is one of the most significant feature upgrades from the 8802.
Although the AV8805 shares the same porthole industrial design as the rest of Marantz's current lineup, Kevin Zarow of Sound United, the parent company of Marantz, explained that there are over one thousand changes between the AV8802 and AV8805. Many of these changes were no doubt made to incorporate the new features or improved manufacturing processes, but others were to improve performance. These include better transformer vibration isolation; cleaner signal paths; increased rigidity and shielding. AKM's audiophile grade AKM4490 192kHz/32-bit D/A converters are featured on all channels, as is Marantz's HDAM current feedback circuitry.
Taking the AV8805 out of the box, I immediately noticed its additional weight as compared to the AV7703. The AV8805 felt extremely solid as I placed it in my theater's equipment rack. I connected most sources and my display via HDMI.
The AV8805 has both balanced and single-ended outputs for 15.2 channels (yes, 15.2 channel outputs, despite the preamp's 13.2 channels of processing). The extra channels provide setup flexibility for those looking to take full advantage of the available three-dimensional surround formats. The AV8805's manual does a good job displaying the differences between speaker setups optimized for Atmos as opposed to Auro-3D. The extra two channels of output allow you to have the ability to change two of your height speakers when going back and forth between Auro-3D and Atmos/DTS:X. While I did not use more than one zone for this review, the second and third zones have analog or component video and analog stereo outputs; Zone two adds a HDMI output as well.
The AV8805 industrial design will be immediately familiar to anyone who has perused the current Marantz lineup, with large knobs for volume and source flanking a small porthole display. A drop-down panel hides a second display along with some additional controls on the bottom half of the center panel. The panel also hides connections for headphones, Audyssey setup microphone, USB input, HDMI, and analog A/V inputs.
I connected my DirecTV satellite receiver and Oppo UDP-203 UHD Blu-ray player via HDMI, as well as a PS Audio DirectStream DAC and Network player via balanced audio cables. Connections to the amplifiers were made with balanced audio cables with a Marantz MM8077 driving the four height channels in my 5.2.4 system and a Krell Theater Amplifier Standard driving the front, center, and surround channels. The included color coordinated stickers leftover from my AV7703 install made it very easy to identify each channel. (The AV8805 also comes with similar stickers.) All connections (except the Ethernet cable) were made with Kimber Cable Select Series cables for the interconnects and 8TC for the speaker connections. I also connected the 12-volt trigger outputs to the external amplifiers. The projector in my reference theater room is only 1080p, so I needed to move the AV8805 to my family room and connect it to a pretty new-school Sony 4K OLED set to test out the video separately.
For speakers I used MartinLogan Summits and the matching MartinLogan Stage center channel. Golden Ear Invisa Home Theater Reference 7000 ceiling speakers and Canton bookshelf rear speakers rounded out the full-range speaker compliment. A beefy Paradigm Signature SUB25 took up the challenge of the LFE channel in this object-based surround sound configuration.
The Marantz setup wizard walks you through the configuration process and prompts you to logon and/or configure the streaming services you want to use. The most tedious part was manipulating the on-screen keyboard to enter my HEOS login and password, although to be fair, this can be done though the HEOS app, as can user names and inputs for all of the various streaming services supported by the platform.
When it came time in the setup process to configure the speakers, I used the optional Audyssey MultEQ App. I already had the app, but if you don't it's available for both the iOS and Android platforms for $19.95. It's well worth the small expenditure. Combine the power of the app with the MultEQ XT32 processing onboard the AV8805, and you have the makings of a very robust room correction system that approaches the quality (though not the complexity) of Dirac.
The Audyssey MultEQ App allows you to use your mobile device to control and tweak the speaker calibration process. The app shows you the Audyssey speaker detection results and lets you modify the setup--drawing your own target curve if you choose, tweaking settings like the BBC Dip, and more importantly setting a maximum filter frequency--but my favorite thing about the app is that it also provides graphs of before and after processing, which is helpful to see what your room is doing and what changes have been made.
You can also make multiple copies of the results and make different tweaks to each of them. The curves can then be uploaded from your mobile device to the preamp so you can try different settings then easily go back to your favorite. This may sound complicated, but in actual use was very easy to do. Nonetheless, if you want to keep it simple, the traditional Audyssey setup utilizing the Marantz remote is always an available option.
[Editor's Note: Another thing worth pointing out in terms of the AV8805's control feature set is that it's supported by a wonderful SDDP (Simple Device Discovery Protocol) driver for Control4 systems. What this means for you Control4 homeowners in the audience is that your dealer will spend less time installing and programming the preamp, since the Composer Pro software automatically recognizes it as soon as it's attached to the network, and identifies it by MAC address, not IP address, so you don't have to worry about assigning a static IP. In addition, there's also a HEOS network module, as well as a HEOS endpoint driver and individual music service modules for Control4 systems that effectively make the AV8805 part of a whole-home distributed music system that doesn't require you to pull out your phone if you don't want to. All told, the AV8805 offers a level of automation integration that most preamps in its class simply don't.--Dennis Burger]
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...
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