REVIEW: MARANTZ SR8012 11.2 CHANNEL AV AMPLIFIER
One year after Sound United's new ownership of Denon and Marantz, good things are emerging. The latest product from the Marantz stable is the flagship SR8012 11.2 channel AV amplifier. We take a closer look.
11.2 Channel Surround AV Amplifier
In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s been quite a lot of buzz at StereoNET lately for all things Marantz. Granted, a slew of new products always sends us into a frenzy of activity, but Marantz’s new line has caused a bit of a stir.
If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, grab yourself a coffee and get comfortable so we can talk about what’s happening in Marantz’s corner of the world, and take a close look at their new flagship SR8012 AV amplifier.
In March 2017, we announced exclusively that Sound United had acquired D+M (Denon & Marantz) Group. It was a big deal, literally. With the acquisition completed, Sound United, already the parent company to Definitive Technology and Polk Audio added Boston Acoustics, Denon, HEOS and Marantz to the Sound United family.
Sound United’s mandate of ‘sound comes first’ rings out in stark contrast to a market heavily focused on value and features. With the acquisition, Sound United now had a considerable pool of talent at their disposal to make this a reality.
12 months later, Marantz is releasing flagship AVR’s that are reminiscent of Denon’s monstrous and much-touted AV Receivers of ten or so years ago.
The subject of this review is Marantz’s new SR8012 AV Amplifier which sells in Australia for $5,740 RRP.
In producing the SR8012, Marantz have merged good old-fashioned build quality with cutting edge technology to provide one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful surround amplifiers.
Built in Japan, the SR8012’s chassis houses 11 High Dynamic Amplifier Modules, or HDAM’s rated at 175 watts per channel (175 x11). At its heart is a substantial toroidal transformer, which along with high current capacitors have been purpose-built for Marantz.
The shielded toroidal transformer and the monolithic amplifiers have been separated from the pre-amp section to keep the sound as pure as possible. Inspired by their own Reference Series amplifiers, the Marantz SR8012’s extra-rigid, copper coated chassis reduces unwanted vibrations to maintain sound purity.
With 11 channels of amplification, the SR8012 will power a full 7.2.4 configuration, consisting of: 2 front speakers, 1 centre speaker, 2 rear speakers, 2 rear back speakers, 4 overhead speakers and 2 powered subwoofers, without the need to add external amplification.
If like me, you don’t need 11 channels of amplification, there’s the option to use the extra channels for separate zones of audio or to bi-amp your speakers. Speaking of which, there’s an option in the setup menu to bi-amp all the speakers in a 5.1 configuration.
As to be expected, the SR8012 will happily decode pretty much anything you care to send its way including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro 3D courtesy of its four Sharc DSP chips.
Eight HDCP 2.2 HDMI inputs support 4K/60 Hz pass through with 4.4.4 colour resolution, HDR, BT. 2020 and are compatible with Dolby Vision. We're told that support for Hybrid Log Gamma, more commonly known as ‘HLG’ will be added via a future firmware update. HD and SD sources can also be scaled to 4K via the SR8012’s internal scaler.
With HEOS Wireless Multi-Room Audio Technology, AirPlay, Bluetooth, Internet Radio, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer and network audio streaming, the SR-8012 can become the hub of a Multi-Room Audio system.
High-resolution audio playback is supported, with the SR8012 capable of decoding up to 24-bit/192-kHz FLAC, ALAC and WAV files. The SR8012 will play DSD 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz tracks from its front USB port and network sources.
Unlike the SR8012 released in the US, the Australian model doesn’t include an AM/FM tuner. This makes the Australian delivered SR8012 an 'AV Amplifier' rather than a traditional AV Receiver as mentioned here.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
There’s no mistaking the SR8012 for anything but a serious piece of AV equipment.
Standing 185mm tall, the SR8012 shares the same dimensions as the SR7012. However, it weighs 3.2kg more than its smaller brother, presumably, due to its oversized toroidal transformer and extra channels of amplification.
From its curved sides to its ‘porthole’ display, there’s an unmistakably retro look to the SR8012. In keeping with its retro styling, front panel controls are kept to a minimum, with the only visible control being the volume/source selection dials and the on/off button.
Opening the front pull-down cover reveals a comprehensive range of controls and a larger, more informative LCD display. Here you will also find a headphone jack, Audyssey mic. input, USB port, HDMI input and composite video/audio input.
The back of the SR8012 stands as testimony to the big Marantz’s build quality. All inputs are gold plated, and its 11 colour-coded speaker binding posts are very solidly built.
Befitting a flagship AVR, the SR8012 has a large range of inputs including; seven HDCP 2.2 HDMI inputs (eight including the front), 3 HDMI outputs, 6 analogue audio inputs, 7.1 channel inputs, 11.2 channel pre-outs, 2 sub outputs, 4 composite video inputs, 2 composite video outputs, 3 component video inputs, 1 component video output, phono input and signal ground, 2 coaxial audio inputs, 2 optical audio inputs, 2 12v triggers, an RS232 port and Ethernet input.
The SR8012 is equipped with Audyssey’s top tier XT32 room correction software, including Audyssey LFC, Sub EQ, Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ.
The overall build quality of the SR8012 is nothing short of superb.
The included remote control is functional although the buttons are a tad on the small side. I would have preferred the LCD screen was eschewed, in favour of larger buttons. Although functional, the remote is a little lacking in comparison to the SR8012's build quality.
The SR8012 also ships with an Audyssey microphone, cardboard microphone stand, cable labels, quick start guide, rabbit ears for wireless networking and a power cord.
Given that Denon and Marantz have long been partners, naturally, there’s going to be some similarities. If you’ve owned a Denon AVR in the past, you’re going to be quite at home navigating its onscreen menus.
Not that having experience with Denon or Marantz AVR’s is necessary, as the SR8012 will guide you easily through the setup process. In this regard, Denon and Marantz are light-years ahead of the competition, with detailed yet easy to follow instructions.
Connect the SR8012 to your projector or television's HDMI input, power on the unit and follow the prompts. Nothing’s left to chance here, the SR8012 showing you how to wire your speakers, connect your components and even complete the Audyssey calibration.
Interestingly, the SR8012 and Audyssey XT32 correctly identified my speakers as ‘small’ and was reasonably accurate at setting the cross-overs. This is one of a handful of times that Audyssey has not set my speakers as ‘large’.
The SR8012 and Audyssey XT32 applied individual levels and distances to each of my subs and then correctly EQ’d the simultaneous signal from both subs.
I started by tasking the big Marantz with powering my 5.2.2 home theatre system, consisting of Sonique Diamond 5.5 SE’s front speakers, a Sonique Centaur centre speaker, Sonique DB1 surrounds, Sonique Slim 3 ceiling speakers and twin Sonique Thunderbox subs.
Action/thriller American Assassin features both an excellent Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD Soundtrack. The SR8012 produced a very smooth and detailed sound, that was effective, yet didn’t call unwanted attention to itself.
The smooth sound that the SR8012 produced, however, caught me off guard. Automatic gunfire shattered an otherwise tranquil day on the beach in American Assassin as the SR8012’s high dynamic amplifier modules kicked into action, providing the gunfire with plenty of unexpected 'slam'.
Not only powerful, the SR8012 proved itself to be extremely agile, producing fast, punchy dynamics capable of disappearing as quickly as they had arrived. Gunfire and explosions were underlined by fast, clean and taught bass.
Watching Iron Fist on Netflix also produced the same smooth, yet detailed sound I was becoming accustomed to. The SR8012 offered immense detail that was both natural and had an excellent sense of placement within sound-field.
So natural sounding and well-placed in my listening room were background noises, that I often found myself pausing Iron Fist, thinking someone was calling out to me, or that my young daughter was bursting into my home theatre room.
The accurate and realistic placement of effects was helped by the SR8012 and Audyssey’s XT32’s ability to give my speakers a sense of cohesiveness. This cohesiveness produced some of the most convincing front to back pans I have heard from any AV receiver/amplifier.
Wanting to see how the SR8012 would compare to with my own Denon X4300H and Rotel RMB-1075 power amplifier combination, I compared the two with Blade Runner 2049. With a dedicated power amplifier, dynamics were naturally better, but not by as much as I would have expected.
My own Denon/Rotel combination did produce a slightly larger soundstage. However, the difference was marginal. The most notable difference was that my combo sounded a little ‘harsh’ by comparison!
Even after bi-amping my Sonique Diamond speakers, I still hadn’t come close to making use of all of the SR8012’s amplifier modules.
Fortunately, our friends at VAF Research came to the rescue, lending us their 7.2.4 reference system for the day. Their reference system consists of I-93 MK11 front speakers, I-93CC centre speaker, I-66 MK11 surrounds, four DC-3 Atmos speakers and two Gravitas subwoofers.
With the SR-8012 connected to the big VAF speakers, the SR8012 demonstrated it was able to drive VAF’s 7.2.4 reference system with ease. I drove the SR8012 to very loud output levels, and with no signs of stress, it remained in complete control.
The SR8012 has a very detailed and smooth sound and is one of the more musical AV amplifiers that I’ve heard. However, don’t be fooled into thinking the SR8012 can’t deliver the sonic slam that a good home theatre experience demands, for at its heart is some very serious power.
Not only did the SR8012 turn in a powerful performance, it was able to bring out the dynamics of Hollywood blockbusters both swiftly and cleanly.
Coupled with the latest technology, the Marantz SR8012 is not only a powerhouse but it's clearly capable of being the heart of a very serious home theatre system.
If you’ve invested in decent speakers and are looking for a ‘one box solution’, do both yourself and your speakers a favour and audition the Marantz SR8012.
Not only will an AVR (or AV Amplifier in this case) of this calibre show you what your speakers are truly capable of, the SR8012 will demonstrate just why there's a real buzz around Marantz and Denon right now.
For more information visit Marantz.
AUDYSSEY MULTEQ EDITOR APP
If there’s been an area that Audyssey has drawn criticism, it would have to be its lack of customisation. While other PC based EQ systems have allowed users to customise anything from curves to EQ filters, traditionally there has been very little that could be changed with Audyssey.
The release of the Audyssey MultEQ Editor app has changed all of this. Compatible with all seven-channel network AVRs launched in 2016 and after, the app can be purchased for $20 US from both the App and Google Play Stores.
Designed for enthusiasts and professionals alike, the MultEQ App was created by Audyssey Laboratories and D+M Holdings. The MultEQ app replaces the costlier Audyssey Pro software, which has been discontinued.
After downloading the Audyssey MultEQ Editor app and locating a compatible Denon or Marantz AVR on your network, the MultEQ app essentially controls your AVR. Except for controlling the calibration from a smart device, the process remains largely unchanged, with the mic supplied with your AVR still needed for measurements.
With the calibration completed, data is sent from the AVR to your mobile device, where it’s stored until you’re ready to upload it to your AVR. As I discovered, it’s best to save the initial calibration as a base and make a copy to work from.
It’s now possible to view and customise the speaker detection results, high-frequency roll-off, Midrange Compensation, EQ curve and the MultEQ Filter Frequency Range. If you’re not happy with the changes, there’s no need to run a new calibration. Simply revert to your saved copy and go from there.
Much of this is not going be anything new to ARC and Dirac users. However, it does give Audyssey a much-needed overhaul and pulls it more closely in line with its competitors.
Granted, it’s generally easier to work with a PC interface. However, it’s hard to beat the convenience of an app. The downside, of course, is that it leads to more tinkering!
If you’re not looking for this level of customisation, there’s no need to purchase the app, as Audyssey can be used to calibrate your speakers directly from your AVR without the additional customisation.
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.
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