As some of you may know, Iíve been using a Pioneer VSX-AX4ASi AVR, which Iíve only had for around 12 months. I hadnít anticipated upgrading so soon, but a combination of a desire to decode DTS-HD MA, as well as to find a more satisfactory sound overall and a general itchiness to get something new, lead me to move it on and commence the hunt for a replacement.
My key requirements were as follows:
ē Audio quality (2ch as well as HT)
ē Audio quality
ē Audio quality
ē HDMI v1.3a and decoding for all the new audio formats
ē 2 HDMI outputs (for a future projector purchase)
ē Bug-free operation! Meaning I donít want something with known issues
ē DC Trigger outputs and of course 7.1 pre-outs
All of which I needed to achieve within a relatively modest budget (under $2.5k). The RRP of the Marantz SR7002 is $2599 and it comes with a 3 year warranty. Its available in silver or black.
After spending probably too much time reading up on specs and other peoples opinions, I decided to do some auditioning, and so after approaching my local HiFi specialist to unfortunately find they had no plans to get the Marantz in, I ended up at Harvey Norman of all places! Iíve never been to HN Chadstone before, but they actually have some great gear set-up in their demo room, including a Sony TADA9000ES and Marantz SR9600. More importantly for me though they had the main 3 I was looking into:
ē Yamaha (1800)
ē Onkyo (805)
ē Marantz (7002)
The Marantz had only just arrived, but the guys there were only too happy to quickly set it all up for me. I listened to all 3, mostly on 2ch music fed by a Pioneer DV989 Ė a very capable universal player and one Iím personally quite familiar with.
I should at this point clarify that Iím no audiophile! I do however know what I like and have found my tastes have developed and become more discerning in the last few years, particularly as Iíve been exposed to some sensational set-ups (alebonauís and Spearmintís being the most notable) and started paying more attention to mine in an effort to better understand sound quality in general. So I feel like I know enough to get me by, although possibly I know just enough to be dangerous!
Back to business, first to be culled was the Onkyo, which I felt was a bit all over the place with its imaging and lacking midrange clarity. The Yamaha and the Marantz I found much harder to pick between, as both were excellent with midrange and bass, however the Marantz I felt had the edge, particularly on the vocals, with a much sweeter soundstage. This was all down to preference though of course, and I think I could have also been happy with the Yamaha. With the decision made, I handed over the plastic and eagerly headed for home.
Note: I did consider briefly the SR8002, but felt the additional features were not going to be worth if for me. I will be using a power amp, so donít think I would get the benefit of the improved torodial transformer, Iím not fussed about zone 2 video, IR input/output and donít think Iíd be able to hear $1000 worth of difference with the copper chassis.
Unpacking and set-up:
As one would expect, the Marantz comes securely packaged, double-boxed, wrapped in soft covering and nestled in polystyrene. All accessories are neatly bagged and taped to the soft protective covering of the AVR itself.
Whats in the box?
- Marantz SR7002
- RC8001SR (main remote control)
- RC101 (second zone remote)
- 5 x AAA batteries (3 for the RC8001 and 2 for the RC101)
- AM loop antenna
- FM antenna
- Audyssey microphone
- Front auxillary input cover
- Power cable (both Aus and US type)
- User guide (a full inch thick!)
Unpacking 1 Unpacking 2
One of the first things that struck me when I lifted it out was its size, or rather, lack of. With the SR7002/8002, Marantz boast a ďnew compact chassisĒ, which for me is around a 9cm (depth) saving over my previous AVR. It also weighs in 1.4kg less.
Full dimensions are:
- W: 440mm
- H: 184mm
- D: 376mm (incl. binding posts)
- Weight: 15kg
Power consumption is a healthy 770w. Full specs can be found at marantz.com
Looking inside through the vents, I noticed the circuit boards are stacked almost to the top of the chassis, which is very different to the layout of AVRís Iíve had in the past, which seemed to have bucket loads of space inside. Despite this, the unit doesnít get particularly hot at all, and after a solid workout, isnít too hot to leave your hand on. There are also vents on both sides, so (like all amps really) you will still want to ensure there is plenty of space all round for ventilation. Top vents
The second thing that struck me was how good it looks! Highly subjective and a matter of personal taste I know, but the simple, uncluttered design, along with the gold text over black, looks a treat in my opinion, and had me wondering why I ever strayed from black HT equipment in the first placeÖIn place
With the 7002 in place and AV rack pulled out, I went about the task of connecting it all up. I used the following connections:
- Toshiba HD-XE1 via HDMI
- Beyonwiz DP-S1 via HDMI
- Sony PS3 via HDMI
- Sonly SLV-X822AS (VHS player) via Composite
- Sony SCD-XA3000ES (SACD player) via stereo analogue RCA
- Hitachi Plasma via HDMI (using HDMI monitor output 1)
- And of course the 5 speakers and sub
Like most AVRís these days, the speaker posts are quite close together, making feeding bare wire in a bit of a pain (mental note, buy banana plugs). The section around the binding posts is covered by a plastic shield to prevent contact with the chassis and one thing I really liked was that there is a separate set of binding posts that can be used for powered second zone speakers or bi-amping. There is a small switch on the back to change between multi-zone and bi-amp. Iím not using this at the moment, but probably will in future.
With connections in place, it was time to hit the GO buttonÖ
Configuration and settings:
Firstly let me comment about the Marantz menu systemÖ The good thing is it works over HDMI, the bad is that its, well, basic. Actually, it reminds me a little of a Commodore 64 I once hadÖ. But importantly it does the job, although I do think they could have tried a little harder in this area, I mean, my 6 year old Samsung mobile had a nice colour GUI, so how hard could it be? Oh dear...
Anyway, the menu system has six options at the top level, covering all the usual business. I didnít find the menu/set-up particularly intuitive and did have to refer to the manual on a number of occasions. Fortunately the manual is fairly easy to follow and provides the info you need.
A few points on set-up:
ē There are 8 available inputs in total (TV, DVD, VCR1, DSS, AUX1, TAPE, CD/R, AUX2). They are all fully configurable to any combination of HDMI, Digital (coax/optical), Component and Composite/S-Video you want Ė with the exception of AUX1, which for some reason you cant assign Composite/S-Video to. This means of course you could use all 8 for video inputs if you wanted. If 8 isnt enough, you can also share an input, by say assigning it HDMI and Component (for example) and switching it to ďAUTOĒ. The input will then auto detect which input is receiving a signal and use that. In the instance where both were sending a signal, it uses HDMI first, then Component, then S-Video/Composite.
ē The inputs can be renamed to anything you want, up to 10 characters. So if you are using say, TAPE for a HD-DVD player on HDMI, you could rename it "HD-DVD". One small ďbugĒ I noticed was that it reverts to the original name on the AVRís front display, when you press mute. For example I renamed the ďDSSĒ input ďPS3Ē and while it displays ďPS3Ē during normal operation, when I press mute it says ďDSS: MUTEĒ.
ē The Audyssey auto-set-up and calibration was easy to use and only took around 10 minutes to set-up 3 listening positions (you can set up to 6 in total). I donít personally have a great deal of confidence in auto set-up systems, so got out the trusty old tape measure and SPL meter to make a number of adjustments to the Audyssey settings.
ē Whilst the 7002 boasts an OSD, it only works with composite based sources, either when output as composite or up-converted to HDMI etc. I did connect a composite monitor out cable to have a quick look at it and its about as easy on the eye as the menu system itself, so no big loss in my opinion. Here is what it looks like. Presumably this would normally be overlaid on the video source.
ē There is a lip-sync setting, that can be manually set at 10ms increments from 0ms Ė 200ms. As far as I can tell, this applies the delay to all inputs, however there is a lip-sync button on the remote, so presumably it can be turned off/on via that and could be set in a macro. There is also an auto lip-sync feature, but be aware this is a feature of HDMI 1.3a, so requires a compatible HDMI 1.3a, auto lip-sync enabled display to work. I havent had any sync issues, so havent used this feature.
I really like how Marantz have kept the video processing side of this AVR to the absolute minimum. Personally, I donít put much stock in the video (scaling etc) capabilities of most AVRís today and would rather add a dedicated video processor if I want to go down that path.
Note: THERE IS NO SCALER IN THIS RECEIVER, that is to say, it cannot up-scale anything to a higher resolution. Basically what comes in goes out. What it can do is the following:
ē De-interlace a 576i or 480i signal. (needed as not all displays can accept 576i/480i)
ē Up-convert composite/S-Video to Component or HDMI, or Component to HDMI.
Thatís it! Also, both these options, along with the OSD, can be switched off, if you want no video processing whatsoever.
The front display of the AVR itself, has a number of indicators etc as to inputs, what signal its receiving etc etc, all the usual stuff. There is however only 1 main line of text on the display, but you can cycle through a number of options via the remote. The only real difference for me with my last AVR was that input and surround mode are no longer displayed at the same time, meaning you have to cycle the display. This has turned out to be no issue at all as I donít really need constant reminding of what input Iím using and find leaving it on the surround mode works for me. The display can also be turned completely off, which conveniently also turns off the blue lights above the source and volume dials. Pic with display off
One other point of note, while there are 2 HDMI outputs, only 1 can be used at a time, meaning you cant output simultaneously to both. You can however flick between the 2 on the remote.
As per the specs, the 7002 decodes all the main surround formats, including DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. ProLogicIIx, DTS Neo:6 & 26/24, CSII, Dolby Virtual Speaker, Dolby Headphone, THX and Neural Surround are also present, so plenty of options. Probably the only one it does have that I would like is Logic7, but then you need a Harman Kardon or Lexicon for that. DSD and HDCD are listed in the manual, so presumably these are both accommodated.
I watched a few HD-DVDís and Blu-Rayís, utilising both bitstream output as well as PCM. All worked perfectly and sounded great (including DTS-HD MA).
There is a SOURCE DIRECT mode, that bypasses the tone control circuit, acoustic EQ and bass management. There is also a PURE DIRECT mode that in addition, switches off the video outputs and turns off the display, including all front lights, with the exception of the PURE DIRECT blue light.
**Note: all acoustic EQ modes (incl. Audyssey) are disabled when you bitstream Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus or DTS-HD (MA).
edit: it also may be worth noting that Marantz use Audyssey MultiEQ in the 7002/8002, which is basically the version below the MultiEQ XT used in most comparable offerings from Denon, Onkyo, Integra and Nad. According to the Audyssey website, it seems the key difference is that it uses lower filter resolution and can only store up to 6 positions, vs up to 32 for MultiEQ XT. a list of what receiver has what Audyssey version can be found here.
As mentioned, there are 2 remotes included. I havenít used the second zone remote, but have been using the main one. The main one (RC8001) looks pretty much exactly like the RC1400 on the Marantz website. The RC101 is also on there if you want to see what it looks like. There are 13 pages in the manual dedicated to the RC8001 and 6 for the RC101. Iíve only glanced at this section of the manual, but basically both are fully programmable and the RC8001 looks like it has a lot of potential, including of course macros.
I personally didnít like the RC8001 at first and found it hard to use. I have however warmed to it over the week and can see it does have potential as a universal remote, however I feel its not as user friendly as my Harmony 880 (and certainly has none of the WAF of the Harmony), so have relegated it to the remote drawer. One tip with the remote, you have to press the AMP button in the bottom right hand corner for it to control the AVR (volume etc). If you donít, youíll be pressing the buttons to no effect, as I was initially!
Regarding the Harmony, the database has the 7002 and did set-up the basics. I do now of course need to put aside a few hours to fine tune it (groan).
edit: iv'e since noticed the IR receiver angle is fairly limited compared to my other components.
Its very early days, so Iíll keep my comments brief and add more when its had a chance to run-in fully.
Movies: I have watched 3 movies and parts of a few others so far. Audio wise I have been very happy, with meaty, detailed LFE, clear dialogue and excellent steering of surround effects. Iíve had (touch wood) no lip-sync or HDMI issues so far and really everything has worked perfectly.
TV: Iím still playing around with the surround modes to find the one Iím going to settle on. I like the CSII and ProLogicII (music), one of which Iíll probably stick with. Again, happy with performance so far, and like with movies, Iíve been particularly impressed with improvements on dialogue. I think the Marantz does a noticeably better job of driving my centre speaker.
Music: This is where for me I find it much easier to tell the difference between the 7002 and my old Pioneer and in this case the differences are not subtle. Key improvements Iíve noticed have been in the bass, which is clearer, sharper and sounds more powerful (I do like a bit of extra bite in the bass, so this suits me nicely), soundstage imaging, which is considerably improved and not ďveiledĒ in any noticeable way and the midrange overall, which is much more detailed and revealing.
My 2ch listening was done in PURE DIRECT mode and overall Iím really chuffed with the 7002. I had high expectations of the Marantz musically and it hasnít disappointed. I cant honestly say its as good as my old Musical Fidelity A3.5 stereo amp, but it is much better than any AVR Iíve heard before, especially my old Pioneer. I think this will tide me over quite nicely while I save for a separate 2ch pre-pwr combo.
So far Iím really very pleased with this upgrade. I havenít found anything about it yet that I donít like (well, except maybe the menu, but how often do you use that once its set-up?). In going with the Marantz I did ďforegoĒ some of the bells and whistles of the competition, but Iím pleased to say that to me its been worth it and the sound improvement more than makes up for it.
I do have an Elektra power amp on the way, and will report on my opinion on the change that makes and the suitability of the 7002 as a pre-pro in due course. My expectation is that it will make a fine pre-pro and the Elektra will take the sound up another notch.
Anyway, if you have made it this far, thanks for reading and please feel free to ask any questions or correct me on anything you think I may have got wrong.
DG, happy Marantz owner.
Edited by D.G., 09 June 2008 - 01:44 PM.