Review of the Marantz AV 8003 tuner pre/pro

It was time to change my Rotel 1098 for something more up to date.  The Rotel unit, now four years old, had no HDMI facilities, and of course did not contain the new loss less codecs.  Also even after to going to a lot of trouble, it was impossible to make the unit totally impervious to RF interference from SCR light dimmers.  So on deciding to add Blue Ray, as there are increasing number of opera BD disc it was time for a change.

I decided on the Marantz AV8003, because it had the corps functions I wanted, especially a Neural 6 decoder, as MPR are now broadcasting the live Friday night Minnesota Orchestra broadcasts in 5-2-5 neural six.  Also the signal to noise ratio was excellent at 105 db.

I did do some measurements on the unit.

In pure direct mode, at 1 Volt output I measured the signal to noise at 106.2 db A unweighted.  I should stress this is at the limit or beyond of my older test gear.  However I think it shows that his unit is superior in the regard.

The unit has a clipping indicator for the analog inputs.  I had to use the 6 Volt out terminals of my Quad 44 preamp and crank it to get the indicator to light!

So I measured the head room.  This is a really important aspect of audio gear, and not enough attention paid to it.  The specs for the line inputs are 400 mv for I volt out at the unbalanced outputs and 2 volts out at the balanced outputs.

It took 15 volts in the clip the line in preamp and 14 volts out from the unbalanced connector before distortion was evidentb on the scope.  This is a very superior performance.

The order of the low pass LFE crossover is not stated.  The low pass crossover is fourth order.  I did not measure the high pass crossovers since I don’t use them.  My system requires the low pass crossover to be set to 60 Hz.  At 60 Hz the LFE output is 6 db down compared to a reference signal at 30 Hz.  At 120 Hz it is 30 db down.  I have not idea why manufacturers choose to hide such vital information from the prospective user.  That is irritating to say the least.

The unit is impervious to SCR noise, and is exceptionally quiet in use.

The unit is well constructed.  I did not remove the case, so as not to void the three year warranty.  However a large toroidal power transformer is visible.  The boards are stacked in logical fashion close to the inputs and outputs.  There appears to be no crowding, and I would think service would not be a nightmare.

Installation: -

I purchased the optional rack mounting brackets, which gave me one of those “what do I do now moments,” at the start of installation.

The standard practice for 19″ rack mounted equipment is to mount from the front.  The front mounting is 19″, but the space through which the equipment goes is 17.5″.  Now the main body of the case will fit the 17.5″ width.  However the case bells out at the front because of the fascia, and the brackets bell out as well, so it will not go all the way in.  So the unit has to be mounted from the back instead of the front.  Now the mounting brackets were slightly too wide to go into my rack from the back.  I think it would have gone if the rack had been fabricated of steel.  However because if humidity/rust issues I fabricated the racks from aluminum, which requires a greater thickness of metal.  So I had to take off exactly 3/32″ from each bracket with a JET band saw in my shop.

Fortunately the inside width of the mounting brackets when mounted is 17.5″, and the inside rack spacing of my racks is precisely 17.5″.  So I was able to make a cosmetically acceptable job of the installation.  As you can see, because of the need for rear mounting the inside metal edge of the rack is exposed, which it would not be with the usual front mounting.

Here is a frontal view of the mounting.

Set up: -

I took the opportunity to fully revise the some aspects of the installation as the LFE crossover is different.  I revised the active crossovers that send the the low pass output to the upper 10″ driver in the large bass lines, to improve the diffraction compensation to the 7″ drivers in the bass mid line.  The SEAS ecal drivers are a challenge to say the least.  I modified the crossovers to better compensate for the rising response of those drivers above 200 Hz.

The unbalanced LFE output goes to the lower 10″ driver.  I added an ATI L200 buffer amp, replacing my buffer amp to send the LFE signal to the upper 10″ driver also.  This requires a mono sum buffer amp, as the diffraction signal has to be stereo and the LFE is mono.  Without buffering the diffraction compensation would be mono.  The ATI L200 was connected to the balanced LFE output of the AV 8003.

Other connections were quick and straightforward, as I can get behind my equipment in the studio mechanical chase.

Doing Audio, speaker, input and video set up was quick and straight forward.

I should add that the instruction manual is poorly written, sufficiently poor that it would give the novice a lot of difficulty.  There is a lot of “Pigeon English” in the manual which is unacceptable in a unit of this quality and price.

Functionality is good.  You can can use digital and analog inputs of the same label.   If a digital signal is resented it will use that.  If an analog one is presented it will use that.  No need to go back to the menu.  That is a nice touch.

As far as recording, only an analog input selected is presented at the analog tape out.  So you can not record from the analog outs and listen and or watch something else.  That is inconvenient.  The Rotel had this covered.

I did a vet careful manual set up, before experimenting with Audyssey.  My review of Audyssey is a separate review.

The unit is easy to use.  There is a left control knob for changing inputs.  I use this the most, as you need to be at the equipment to switch units.  It is faster than using the remote.  The right knob is for volume.  The knobs are on plastic shafts and have a little wobble.  I think this was done to stop static on the fingers transmitting to the electronics and cause failure and damage.  With the Rotel, it would lock up if you touched a knob without discharging yourself first.  This unit does not require you discharge yourself.  The rack mounting by the way securely bonds the unit to the robust studio star cluster ground plane.  The power cord is two pin with no grounding prong.

There is a pull down panel to get to the other front panel controls.  The most frequently used front panel controls are the button to select the7.1 channel analog inputs, and the selector for direct and pure direct modes.  The Direct mode, by passes everything except volume, and the pure direct in addition switches off the video circuits.

Audio modes such as Dolby Plx stereo etc are best switched from the remote.  They can be changed quickly on the fly.

I have not got into file sharing yet, but I might.  I have no difficulty sending any audio file from a file my audio workstation via its RME Fireface 800, in SPDIF digital or analog.

Performance in use: -

So far the unit has performed flawlessly.  Both sound and video are beyond reproach.  In pure direct it is literally a wire with gain.

I did not have much expectation that the FM tuner would be of high caliber.  However I was wrong.  It is a first class FM tuner.  It is every bit the equal of my quad FM 4 which I hold in high regard, as do numerous others.  The unit also comes with the iBuquity HD radio system.  This unit did not endear me to that system any more than the little Sony unit I bought to evaluate that system.  An analog FM is significantly better in all aspects except dynamic range.

The only issue I have is this.   I have found is that it decodes SACD discs incorrectly from PCM via HDMI.  The rear channels in SACD should go to the center backs.  The Marantz sends them to the surrounds, which is not what should happen at all.  So I’m glad I kept my Marantz player in the rack, as I have to still use the external analog inputs for five channel SACD.

I have reviewed this recently and find that the speaker and monitoring arrangements for SACD in the US and Europe are different.  Since all my SACDS are from Europe, I have to use the 7.1 analog inputs for SACD playback.

The unit has a power draw of 60 watts and makes significant heat.  This further reinforces my view that complex processors like this should not be in the same case as power amplifiers.

So I have to say that I would recommend this unit who has need of a pre/pro for AV.

I purchased the unit from my local dealer Hi-Fi sound of Minneapolis.  I have had good relationship with them for over a quarter century.  They gave me a discount.  I purchased the unit with mounting brackets for a little over $2300.  I could not be more pleased.

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