Review: Marantz AV8805 Digital Pre-amp/Processor

A look at the latest product atop the Marantz throne.
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Kudos: Terrific build quality; reference quality, highly detailed sound; handles all 3D audio formats; HEOS integration.

Concerns: At this price/performance I’d love to see Roon, Qobuz, and MQA support.

Marantz_AV8805

While receiver manufacturers typically update and refresh their lineups every 12 to 18 months, the life cycle of pre-amp/processors is typically much longer. This is likely due to the R&D involved in one-upping your past flagship, higher manufacturing and retail costs, and fewer units sold. Whatever the reason, the product sitting atop a manufacturer’s processor pyramid generally has a fairly lengthy reign, and often isn’t replaced just to add some new bell or whistle.

Marantz launched its flagship 880x series back in 2012 with the 8801. It followed this up in 2015 with the 8802 (which received a rolling line change to the 8802a with upgrades for HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2). Now, three years later, the latest product atop the Marantz throne arrives: the AV8805.

From a strictly “new features” standpoint, the 8805’s standout items are its ability to connect up to 15.2 channels, with 13.2-channel simultaneous processing, allowing Dolby Atmos configurations up to 7.2.6 or 9.2.4, plus HEOS streaming integration. However, the 8805 is far more about the sum of its parts; more than 1900 of which have been changed out for sonic improvements over the 8802a. These upgrades include faster DSP processors, upgraded video boards, new volume control integrated circuits, new Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Modules (HDAMs) with shortened signal paths, better wiring, a solid aluminum base between transformer and chassis to reduce vibration, and, like 1000 more things. Together these changes improve signal-to-noise ratio, lower noise floor, and improve imaging, making it faster, more transparent, and more dynamic.

The AV8805 arrives in a carton emblazoned with so many badges and logos it looks a bit like it belongs in NASCAR. Fortunately, restraint is shown on the unit itself, with no gawdy stickers, badges, or logos to mar its clean appearance. At over 30 pounds, the 8805 outweighs many amplifiers and feels like a premium product. Before racking it, flip the 8805 over and have a glimpse at its gorgeous copper chassis.

From the front, the 8805 is essentially identical to the 8802a, retaining Marantz’s curved design and clean, “port hole” look with only a power button, volume, and source selector dial visible. The majority of buttons, larger LCD display, and connections — including an HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 connection — are concealed behind a flip-down door.

At first glance, the 8805’s back panel appears pretty similar to the 8802a. One noticeable change is that the Ethernet and USB connections have been relocated to the left side of the 8805. Another change is the abandoning of the Zone 2 component video output, and the rearranging of the RCA pre-outs. The biggest noticeable external change is the addition of an extra set of XLR outputs along the bottom labeled Height 4/Front Wide.

If you count, you’ll see there are 15.2 unbalanced XLR outputs neatly arrayed along the bottom. (There are an equal number of RCA outputs as well.) While the 8805 can only process 13.2 channels at once, these additional connections allow for different speaker configurations, such as a full 7.2.6 Atmos layout, plus adding a center height and Voice of God channel for Auro-3D. (Auro decoding is included at no charge.) The 8805 is also one of the first IMAX Enhanced certified products, and if IMAX:DTS home mixes ever support a true center height channel — as commercial 12-channel IMAX audio mixes do — this would be another connection possibility. (The 8805 cleverly knows to switch to the correct channel output depending on which surround decoder is selected.)

Related: First IMAX Enhanced Disc Reviewed

Also of note are seven full HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 connections along with two main zone outputs, one eARC capable to support advanced audio formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and a Zone2 HDMI output that is also 4K/60 capable. Additionally, there are two WiFi and Bluetooth antennas, four digital inputs (two each optical and coax), six RCA analog inputs, a MM phono input, a 7.1-channel analog input, zone 2/3 outputs, 4x2 composite video, and 3x1 component video. Connection-wise, the 8805 stands ready to support any legacy install and bring the system to the 21 century.

On the control front, the 8805 is Control4 and Crestron Connected certified, and works with Josh.ai, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Siri. Further, the 8805 has both RS-232 serial IR input for more basic setups, along with two independent 12-volt trigger outputs. Marantz also offers a free iOS and Android app. The app has been upgraded since the 8802a, and I found the new app terrific for system control. I especially liked the ability to quickly tweak channel level settings per input and adjust volume in .5 dB increments. This is great for, say, nudging a bit of bass or height channel info for movies or games, but dialing it back for music, letting you get exactly the sound you want on every source.

While the 8805 features Audyssey’s Platinum suite with MultEQ XT32 processing, it is no longer “Pro Calibration” capable. Rather, it supports the new Audyssey MultEQ Editor app ($19.95 for both iOS and Android) that allows customization of target curves and selecting the frequency range to apply correction. I am a fan of Audyssey, and felt the app offered some nice enhancements, plus performance improvements.

On the streaming front, the 8805 is part of the HEOS ecosystem. I’ll be honest, my previous experience with HEOS was pretty limited and I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I found the app extremely user friendly and intuitive, and if a customer wanted to build a housewide HEOS music system around the 8805, I daresay they would be very pleased. HEOS supports all the major streaming services, including Pandora, Spotify, SiriusXM, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Tidal, and Amazon Music. Additionally, it can play music stored on the iOS or Android device, from a connected USB drive, or NAS drive. The 8805 handles high-res files up to 192/24 resolution, as well DSD files up to 5.6 MHz. You can also beam music to it via Bluetooth (blech!) or Apple AirPlay2.

While my nits with the 8805 are very few indeed — and certainly none pertaining to performance — it’s some current omissions in its streaming capabilities that hold my quibbles. First off, HEOS currently doesn’t support AIFF files, and it just so happens that a majority of my high-res music is in AIFF. It also doesn’t support MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) files, of which there is an increasing number available from Tidal. It also isn’t Roon ready, another fantastic music management solution. Finally, it doesn’t support the new high-res streaming platform Quboz. For a flagship pre-amp that has gone to such lengths to deliver a stunning 2-channel listening experience, these are some features I’d love the 8805 to have. Now, you’ll note I said “current” omissions, as I confirmed the 8805 is 100 percent capable of handling all of these items, so it is a question of if Marantz engineering will deem them worthy of inclusion in a future update.

Review: Sony HT-Z9F Dolby Atmos/DTS:X Soundbar

Besides how great the 8805 sounds, one thing I really appreciated was just how stable and reliable operation was. In the months it has been in service I’ve never had an operational issue or glitch. I have multiple 4K sources in my system — Kaleidescape Strato, Apple 4K TV, Dish Hopper 3, Xbox One S, Samsung UHD Blu-ray — and I used to get all kinds of HDMI handshake issues when changing sources, or going from 1080 to 4K or back; nearly every time I’d change inputs I’d get a screen full of static and have to do this input back-and-forth dance to get things back in sync. This has not happened even once with the 8805, and if that was literally the only improvement made, it would be worth the upgrade.

I can tell how much I’m loving a review component when it has me going through my library of content wanting to hear how certain scenes or songs sound. In all cases, the 8805 delivered audio that was tremendously detailed with pinpoint accuracy. If something is recorded to sound just left or right of center, the 8805 places it there precisely. I also felt that going to six height speakers added a more immersive canopy of sound, with the height audio information more cohesively traveling from the front of the room to the back. Whether it was the jarring rumbling of tank treads and cannon fire in Fury, the swirling overhead phantom voices in Mad Max: Fury Road, the many multi-layered sounds from Ready Player One, or the creepy ambience that fills the house on Neibolt Street from IT, the 8805 made everything I watched more alive and exciting. Married with good speakers and subwoofers, the 8805 delivers audio that would crush virtually any commercial cinema.

Two-channel listening was also reference caliber, with airy, open, detailed sound. The 8805 lets you close your eyes and picture each performer on stage, or just sit back and enjoy the experience.

What can I say? I frickin’ loved the AV8805. I’m a movie nut — especially Dolby Atmos/DTS:X soundtracks — and the 8805 delivered a serious performance kick in the butt to my system. But the 8805 also handles music like a boss, meaning it isn’t a this-or-that proposition. Also, Marantz has said that when HDMI 2.1 becomes available, the 8805 will be eligible for an upgrade (cost unknown) so you can install this knowing it is ready for the future.

201.762.6500 / US.MARANTZ.com

Product Specs

  • 15.2-channel AV pre-amp/processor (13.1-channel processing, 7.1.6 or 9.1.4)
  • Supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro-3D; IMAX Enhanced certified
  • Audyssey Platinum Suite (MultEQ XT32 processing, Sub EQ HT for dual subwoofer setups) and compatible with Audyssey MultEQ editor app
  • 8 full bandwidth 4K 60 Hz 4:4:4 HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 inputs; 3 HDMI outputs, including dual main-zone and discrete second zone; Dolby Vision compatible; eARC
  • High-resolution 192 kHz/32-bit DACs on all channels
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect
  • Integrated HEOS multiroom streaming including 192/24 FLAC and DSD 2.8/5.6 MHz
  • Balanced XLR and gold-plated unbalanced RCA jacks for all 15.2 audio outputs
  • Dimensions: 7.3 x 17.3 x 16.1-inches (HxWxD); Weight 30.2 pounds

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