Exclusive! First Look at the New Marantz AV-8801 and MM-8807 Combo

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I’ve been a fan of Marantz products for a while now for two big reasons.

One: The stuff has great sound and build quality and hits that sweet spot between middling receiver performance and the truly insane gear found at the high-end. (I’m looking at you, Meridian, Krell, Lexicon, ADA, and Theta!)

Two: Kevin Zarow – VP of sales at D&M (Marantz, Denon and Boston Acoustics) – is an incredibly cool guy that has always been a real straight shooter with me and I not only respect him, but like working with him.

So, several years ago when I updated my home’s reference system, I replaced my existing Denon AVR-4802 receiver with the brand new Marantz separates; the AV-8003 pre-pro and MM-8003 amplifier. I loved the copper chassis build quality of the pieces and could immediately tell a huge improvement in audio performance over the (admittedly aged) Denon receiver.

When Marantz released the new version of its pre-pro – the AV-7005 – about 18 months ago, I jumped on board. I loved the new “porthole” design and the updated network streaming features and the improved Audyssey processing. But from the momen I laid hands on it, it was immediately clear the unit was not in the same league build-quality wise as the AV-8003. Whereas the 8003 was THX Ultra2 certified and weighed in at 25.6 pounds and felt incredibly solid, the AV-7005 lacked THX certification, weighed 3 pounds less and just didn’t feel the same.

Also, the AV-7005 was sorely missing two key features that I really wanted, nay, NEEDED to have! While it has processing for Audyssey DSX, it could only support one set of additional channels at a time. That meant I couldn’t enjoy surround back AND front height simultaneously for a true 9.1 experience. (Clearly a tragedy of Greek proportions…) Second, it didn’t support the latest, most powerful version of Audyssey’s room-correction processing, XT32, which improved by an order of magnitude the correction applied, especially to those pesky, hard-to-tame bass notes.

So, ever since installing the 7005, I knew that it would only be a matter of time before I replaced it whenever Marantz decided to remake a flagship, 8000-series pre-pro to take its rightful place as heir apparent at the top of the line.

At CEDIA this year, I sought out Marantz and ran into Jeffrey Cowan, the VP of Training and Customer Insight. (Here’s a video of me talking to Jeffrey at the show.) I mentioned the tragedy which was my life without XT32 and 9-channels of audio and asked if the new Marantz pre-pro would do the trick. He looked at the new AV-7701 for a moment; sitting there on gleaming black a white, linen covered tablecloth ready for it’s primetime unveiling to the world. Took a deep breath and then said, “No…”

After a conspiratorial pause, he said, “But, we are working on something that WILL give you exactly what you need.” After a quick huddle with the PR team to see what information I could be trusted with, Jeffrey — under strict embargo — went on to give me the outlines of what would become the true flagship AV-8003 replacement, the new AV-8801.

This weekend I got my hands on the VERY FIRST AV-8801 and MM-8807 combo to leave the US warehouse! Click here to see tons of pics and read about my first thoughts on this 11.2 channel audiophile powerhouse!

Continue reading at [Sciacca Writes: Exclusive First Look! Marantz AV-8801/MM-8077]

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