One of the biggest benefits of HomeTheaterReview.com's experiment with affiliate links over the past year is that it gives us some valuable insight into what sorts of products our readers are actually buying--not individually, mind you, but as a group. One of the most surprising insights is that our readers are almost a hivemind when it comes to purchasing AV receivers. By a staggering margin, most of you opt for either the Denon or Marantz at roughly the $1,500 price point. This year, that would be the recently reviewed Denon AVR-X4500H or Marantz's semi-equivalent SR6013.
In other words, if we reviewed those two models alone out of the current slate of AVRs, we would be covering the needs for the vast (and I do mean vast) majority of our readership. Seriously, though, what fun would that be? Sometimes you just want to pull out the big guns.
The high-caliber offering in Marantz's current lineup of AV receivers is the SR8012, an 11.2-channel beast machine that boasts 140 watts of power per channel (into an 8-ohm load, 20Hz to 20kHz, 0.05 percent THD, two channels driven). With a 780-watt toroidal power supply onboard, it doesn't take much math to realize that the SR8012 can't deliver that kind of output with all eleven channels driven at once, but still, it's an impressive powerhouse that should be sufficient to fill even moderately large-sized rooms with sound, depending, of course, on the sensitivity of your speakers.
All told, the SR8012 features seven back-panel HDMI 2.0 inputs with support for HDCP 2.2 copy protection, Dolby Vision, HDR10, and Hybrid Log Gamma, along with one additional (and identically spec'd) HDMI input around front. There's also a trio of HDMI outputs: two main zone (one with ARC) and one second zone. The receiver also supports two key features from the upcoming HDMI 2.1 spec: eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode). So, unless you'll accept nothing less than 10K/120fps video passthrough, the SR8012 is current on the relevant video standards. The receiver has also been updated to include IMAX Enhanced support, and decodes all of the latest audio formats, including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro-3D.
In terms of legacy connectivity, it features 7.1-channel analog audio inputs, three component video inputs and one output, six line-level stereo analog audio inputs (RCA), two optical and two coaxial digital audio inputs (assignable), and a phono input with a signal ground. There's also a pair of 12v trigger outputs, a 3.5mm IR input, RS-232, and of course an RJ45 port for network connectivity and IP control. The package also comes with screw-in external antennas for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Granted, all of the above reads remarkably similar to Denon's AVR-X6500H, give or take a few ins and outs. Dig under the hood, though, and there are some significant differences, including the SR8012's reliance on Marantz's proprietary HDAM (Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Modules) circuitry, a beefier toroidal power supply, more rigid construction, a stronger chassis, and better capacitors, just to name a few.
Like the X6500H, though, the SR8012 supports voice control via Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Josh.ai, and Siri, as well streaming features like Apple AirPlay 2 and of course Sound United's wireless multiroom streaming ecosystem, HEOS.
I'm fully aware of the fact that I'm starting to sound like a broken record on this subject, but the first thing you notice about the SR8012 when you turn it around or crawl behind it to set it up is the long row of translucent, horizontally arrayed binding posts stretching from side to side at the bottom of the chassis. With the binding post pairs lying side-by-side instead of stacked atop one another, it's simply much easier to get to them to connect speaker cable to them, whether you're using bare wire or banana clips.
This ease of connectivity is aided by the fact that there's a wide stretch of real estate between the speaker connections on the bottom and the HDMI ports up top, which for most people will constitute the bulk of wiring and cabling connected to the receiver. (The likeliest exception being the subwoofer outputs, which are right in the middle of the back panel, amidst the 11.2-channel preamp outs, and set apart by their black coloration). In other words, even for someone with big front paws like me, there's a lot of room to work with here, and that boils down to intelligent arrangement of the various inputs and outputs, despite how many there are.
Likewise, the onscreen setup wizard for the SR8012 strikes a beautiful balance between holding the hands of those who are newer to the home theater setup process, and not frustrating those who could set up an Atmos system with their eyes closed. The initial setup screens give you the option of walking through each step of the process one at a time--"Do you have a center speaker? Okay, here's how to connect it. Do you have a subwoofer? One or two? Okay, connect them here, etc."--or simply skipping any bits you may feel comfortable enough to handle without the hand-holding.
The one instance in which I would like to see Marantz's setup wizard be a little more hands-on is in the area of speaker measurement and room correction. It would be nice if there were a clearer message to the effect of, "Hey, we can run you through this now, but if you'd like, you can download the Audyssey MultEQ Editor app and do it later. If you go through the setup process now and decide you want to use the app, you'll be starting over at square one."
And trust me: you do. Want to use the app, that is. MultEQ Editor gives you a lot more control over the room correction process, including things like allowing you to set a maximum filter frequency, so that Audyssey can work on the frequencies it tames best--the bass and lower midrange--while leaving alone higher frequencies. That's assuming your room is at least somewhat decently treated to avoid highly reflective surfaces, at least near your first reflections. If you want a deeper understanding of why this is important, check out my updated primer on the subject: Room Correction Revisited.
The good news is, whether I relied on the onscreen menus or the MultEQ editor app for speaker calibration, Audyssey nailed the delays and crossover settings for my speakers with dead-on balls accuracy. This would have blown my mind right out the back of my skull just a few years ago, but I'm honestly starting to take for granted as the norm rather than the exception.
Throughout my testing, I employed the SR8012 in several different configurations, including a 5.2.4 setup with RSL's new CG5 speaker system and pair of RSL Speedwoofer 10S subs as the bed, with a quartet of GoldenEar SuperSat 3 satellite speakers hook-mounted to the ceiling temporarily. I did the bulk of my listening relying simply on the aforementioned RSL 5.2-channel system, and also set up the SR8012 right next to Denon's AVR-X4500H in the same room, both connected to a pair of RSL CG5 bookshelves positioned side-by-side, for the purposes of direct comparison (levels matched, of course). I ended my evaluation with the Marantz powering a simple stereo pair of Paradigm Studio 100 v5 towers.
Sources for this review included my Oppo UHD-205 UHD Blu-ray player, a Roku Ultra, a new Amazon Fire TV Stick that I'm currently reviewing, my Control4 entertainment and automation controller, and a Dish Network DVR for a bit until I finally joined the modern world and dumped that subscription halfway through this review process (more on that decision in another article).
The final step of the setup process involved re-programming my Control4 system to work with the SR8012, which took no time at all since Marantz supports Control4 SDDP, which means that the driver is automatically loaded into the Composer Pro programming software as soon as the receiver is identified on the network. The way that Control4 identifies the receiver is via MAC address, not IP, so you don't have to set a static address to maintain rock-solid and reliable IP control of the receiver, even during power outages, nor do you have to worry about DHCP reservations.
I began my evaluation of the Marantz SR8012 by putting its UHD upscaling prowess to the test using Spears & Munsil's High Definition Benchmark Blu-ray, as well as a few key tests from my old HQV Benchmark DVD. Unsurprisingly, given my recent experience with a variety of Sound United AVRS and preamps, the receiver's upscaling proved to be far superior to that of my TV, but the real-world proof of these capabilities is the fact that I found broadcast television positively watchable even at sizes up to 75 inches.
With that out of the way, I dug right into Our Planet, the new David Attenborough-narrated Netflix nature documentary--something of a spiritual successor to his beloved docs like Blue Planet and Planet Earth and their sequels. With the exception of a few seconds here and there in the second episode, in which a slight bit of banding appeared in a few deep ocean sequences (not the fault of the Marantz; I confirmed as much), the series is absolutely reference-quality home theater material. In fact, it's one of the most stunning video demos I've seen on any format, and its aggressive Dolby Atmos soundtrack (Dolby Digital+) is at times a fantastic torture test for any sound system.
In the first episode, "One Planet," about forty-five minutes in there's a scene that captures the crumbling of glaciers on the coast of Greenland, and I took this sequence as an opportunity to push the SR8012 to its limits. Or, at least, I tried. Honestly, I ended up having to wuss out and dial the volume back down a bit, but at the point where I reached my limits, and where the RSL speakers started to struggle, the receiver still had a solid 10 decibels of headroom left.
This, by the way, was in a 1,560 cubic-foot secondary listening room with 87dB sensitive speakers. In a smaller room or a system with more sensitive speakers, I would have no doubt left a lot more room on the right end of the dial. Even in my larger, 2,646 cubic-foot main media room, the SR8012 proved more than sufficient to deliver a wholly satisfying listening experience, though of course that's with the benefit of hybrid powered GoldenEar Technology towers all the way 'round.
At any rate, throughout all of that torture, Our Planet's score sounded rich and nuanced, and the sounds of the crashing ice rang through with utter authority. And it wasn't until I came pretty close to my pain threshold that the inimitable timbres of Attenborough's voice started to show any sign of stress (which I think was due to the speakers reaching their output limits more than anything to do with the receiver).
A run-through of my standard battery of audio reference material didn't reveal anything to contradict my initial impressions of the SR8012's performance. At this point, those of you who regularly read my reviews know this laundry list of titles: The Last Jedi, Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition, The Amazing Spider-Man, etc. With Fellowship in particular, I was especially impressed by the SR8012's ability to absolutely rock out at reference levels without the slightest loss in dialogue intelligibility.
I also threw more new material into the mix, including the UHD Blu-ray release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which boasts one of the few big-blockbuster-action-movie Atmos mixes that I don't find wholly distracting and kitschy.
To do this film justice, an AVR really needs to be capable of some truly athletic dynamic swings, and the SR8012 never faltered, even during the film's chaotic climax.
With this film, as with all others, I could really hear the differences that the SR8012's Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction makes, especially in its ability to tame bass without robbing it of any authority or impact. But just as importantly, due to the fact that I could set max filter frequencies to account for the fact that my listening room is pretty well treated to avoid bright reflections, the room correction did nothing to change the voice of the speakers, nor rob the soundstage of any width or depth.
Before switching to some seriously analytical music listening, I swapped out the Atmos setup for a stereo setup and configured the SR8012 in the same room right next to Denon's AVR-X4500H (which I haven't returned just yet), with both receivers connected to identical pairs of RSL bookshelves placed side-by-side. I level-matched the receivers just a weensy bit below reference levels so as not to get too close to the Denon's output limits, then ran through some of the same key movie demo scenes again.
The differences... well, they honestly weren't as significant as I might expected, at least not with movies. And the reasons for this started to reveal themselves when I switched over to music. There's this perception out there--and make no mistake about it: I've contributed to this perception--that Marantz receivers are "warmer" than the semi-equivalent Denons. I'm starting to see a problem with this description, though. "Warmth" indicates or at least connotes a difference in tonal balance, and that's really not what I heard here. At least not to any appreciable degree. But I think there's a good reason that we tend to think of Marantz receivers as potentially being a better buy for folks who use an AV receiver for music listening: the differences I heard really need to be described in terms that we apply to music more than movies. Really, it boils down to two words: attack and decay.
Chesky's The Ultimate Demonstration Disc has a great cut, near the end of the disc, that really shines a light on the most significant differences between the two. Track 29 is an extended drum solo that should replace the definition of "dynamic" in the OED. It runs the gamut from soft brushing to high-impact fills, all of which ring through as more natural, more nuanced, less edgy via the Marantz. And the natural room reverberation, especially in relation to the harder impacts, struck my ears as more lifelike throughout.
These differences became even more pronounced when I swapped out the RSLs for a pair of larger Paradigm Studio 100 v5 tower speakers (two pairs, actually; one for each receiver). The Marantz simply seemed to have more control over the speaker, especially when it came to attack, decay, and reverberation.
Lest you think that this sort of thing is really only audible on snooty audiophile demo material, I also queued up one of my all-time favorite pieces of movie music: "Augie's Great Municipal Band and End Credits" from John Williams' criminally underrated score for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. (Taken in this case from the CD release of Star Wars: The Ultimate Soundtrack Collection.) Where the SR8012 really shines is with those punctuated horn blasts (which, for those of you keeping score at home, are primarily a major-key riff on the Emperor's Theme from Return of the Jedi.) But it also handles the staccato drum riffs of "Augie's Great Municipal Band" with utter finesse and control, combined with utterly startling dynamics. One thing that really stood out here is the fact that the Marantz doesn't roll off or soften high-frequencies, as the company's products have been accused at times of doing; instead, due to the amps' more refined handling of transients and high frequencies in general, your attention is simply drawn less to the upper registers of the audible range, so they don't seem as perceptually pronounced.
So, in short, the overall recommendation is still valid: if you do a lot of two-channel music listening in your surround sound setup, the Marantz is worth the extra scratch, in my opinion. It's simply a little surprising to me to discover that the reasons why this is the case don't necessarily comport with conventional wisdom.
I don't want to repeat myself too much here as pertains to IMAX Enhanced, because there isn't much more to say about it than I said in my review of the Denon AVR-X4500H, so see that review for further thoughts on this nascent platform. TL;DR? Don't buy the SR8012 for IMAX Enhanced alone. Heck, don't buy any receiver for IMAX Enhanced alone. At least not right now. That could change down the road, however.
A more significant consideration, in my opinion--and let me stress again that this is a consideration, not a criticism--is that the SR8012 runs hotter than Satan's nether regions. Even after a few hours of casual TV watching with the volume set at moderate levels, the top of the chassis was literally painful to the touch. And seriously, no joke, after just a few hours the temperature in the room was a solid four degrees warmer than the adjacent bedrooms.
With that said, I absolutely must stress that the SR8012 appears to have been built with heat dissipation in mind. Its heat sinks are substantial and well-positioned, and the receiver doesn't appear to me to be compromised in any way in terms of airflow. Just the opposite, in fact.
In other words, I don't want to give you the impression that this AVR is in any danger of cooking itself. It does a great job of getting rid of its heat. But that heat is measured in metric buttloads, and as such you shouldn't even think about installing the SR8012 in an enclosed shelf with poor airflow. This puppy needs room to breathe. It should also come packed with a recipe for Eggs Florentine.
Competition and Comparison
As mentioned above, the Marantz SR8012 is in many respects remarkably similar to Denon's AVR-X6500H. There are a few key I/O differences worth nothing, though. For one thing, the Marantz has an extra component video input. It also boasts 7.1-channel analog audio inputs, which may be important if you have a legacy SACD or DVD-Audio player that lacks HDMI connectivity (or whose DAC you simply prefer). Internally, the differences are a little more noteworthy. In addition to the Marantz' reliance on proprietary HDAM circuitry, there are all of the other internal differences that I mentioned in the intro above. These differences result in an $800 difference in MSRP ($2,199 vs. $2,999).
If you don't need quite as many channels of output or quite as much power per channel, the Marantz SR7013 is worth considering, for sure. It's nearly a year newer than the SR8012, but Marantz has done such a good job of keeping the SR8012 current that there's really not much to talk about in that respect. The main differences between then, as best I can tell, boil down to the fact that the 7013 is a 9.2-channel receiver with 125wpc output, which means it's good to go for a 5.2.4 setup in most reasonably sized media rooms.
If you're looking to step up to something with arguably a little more audiophile street cred, I don't think it would be out of line to compare the SR8012 to something like Anthem's $3,499 MRX 1120. The Anthem doesn't feature multichannel analog audio inputs, and only five of its eleven speaker-level outputs deliver full rated power (140 watts into 8 ohms), with the rest delivering 60wpc via Class D amps. But it does benefit from Anthem Room Correction, which is in my experience one of the top two room EQ systems you can get your paws on yourself.
Despite being an itsy bit over a year old at this point, Marantz has done a great job of keeping the SR8012 fully up to date with the addition of AirPlay 2, IMAX Enhanced, and other features via firmware. As it stands, it's one of the most compelling high-performance AV receivers on the big-box market, and the only features that you could likely want for that it lacks are features that no other AVR at the moment has: namely, support for the full impending HDMI 2.1 spec. And as mentioned above, the SR8012 already supports the most relevant features of that spec.
All in all, it's tough to imagine what more you might need from a surround sound system, unless room size or speakers pretty much necessitate a preamp and separate power amps in your media room or home theater. And with 11.2-channel pre-amp outs, the SR8012 is a pretty damned compelling preamp in its own right.
True, the SR8012 is a step up from what most of you are buying these days, and its price reflects that. But we don't live in a one-size-fits-all world, and some of you simply need more in terms of power or channels. What's reassuring is that Marantz is able to deliver that without compromising in terms of fidelity, especially for those of you who do a lot of two-channel listening via your surround sound rig.
Add an excellent wireless multiroom music streaming platform to the mix, and there really just isn't anything to complain about here. Marantz has an undeniable winner on its hands in the SR8012.
• Visit the Marantz website for additional specs and information.
• Visit our AV Receivers category page to read reviews of similar products.
•Marantz AV8805 AV Preamp Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.