Bookmark and Share

6527948817_ace4721f6b_mFunny (short) story: I wasn’t actually ready to step up to the AV7005, but our Denon receiver in the library was “gifted” with some cat vomit through the top cooling vents; I didn’t know it had happened, because the back of the receiver was through-wall and sort of invisible inside a closet on the other side of that wall. So the Denon just kept on working until eventually, the acid in the vomit actually ate through some of its wiring. Nice, eh? Silly cat.

So the Denon went downstairs into my shop, where it will likely sit until the weather warms up (our basement is cold!) and I”m willing to sit there, rip it apart and fix it. My Sony 7.1 receiver then moved from our home theater to our library (and I built an anti-cat cover for the unit, there will be no more “vomit surprises”), and then I picked up the Marantz AV7005 and some MA-700 amplifiers to serve in our home theater — I’d been eying this specific unit for a while, and well, as I told She Who Must Be Obeyed, “the cat made me do it.” I can’t say I’m depressed over the upgrade, but this wasn’t exactly how I thought it would come about.

So, the AV7005 is a 9.1* / 7.1 / 5.1 / 4.1 / 3.1 / 2.1 / 2 channel preamp-processor. It’s really pretty if you like gear with rounded corners, and I have to say that with the secondary panel open, the controls are well thought out and work well — even without a monitor on to show you the menu settings. That’s true until you get to network streaming, where not enough information is shown… then you really need a video monitor running.

*When I say the unit is a 9-channel processor, I say that because it has the right number of outputs for this, but you should be aware that internally, it is 7.1 at the most, so if you elect, for instance, to use “high fronts”, you’ll have to give up another pair of speakers (not sure which ones as this isn’t a useful configuration for me, but I just thought I’d mention it.) The extra two sets of outputs can also be used to drive different audio zones, and that, I *do* find useful.

The AV7005 offers USB, XPort, six HDMI inputs, two HDMI outputs, four component inputs, two component outputs, five composite inputs, three composite outputs, two coaxial audio inputs, two optical audio inputs, an optical audio output for recording, a 7.1 channel “aux” input, AM, FM, HD/AM and HD/FM, Internet radio, Pandora client, upnp/DLNA media client, Rhapsody client, iPod/iPad client, a Sirius satellite radio interface, an Apple Airplay client, USB media client, balanced and unbalanced outputs, D-Bus remote control, RS-232 remote control for automation, and 12v trigger in and out for things like screen drop/retract automation, dual front panel displays (one may be hidden), and an illuminated learning remote.

Audio outputs are available in both balanced (Euro connections, watch out for US configured XLR cables) and unbalanced RCA versions. If your cables are short, RCA will be fine. If not, try to take advantage of the XLR connections, as they do offer superior noise resistance. All audio inputs are RCA, unless digital, in which case you can choose between coaxial and optical, and of course some HDMI connections carry digital audio.

Of those many connections, a good array of them are available on the front of the unit, which is wonderful: HDMI, optical audio, analog audio, USB, headphone, and composite. It also has a jack for the Audyssey microphone, which puts the unit into Audyssey calibration mode the moment you plug the specialized microphone in (but see my following remarks about Audyssey, please.)

While the manual only refers to the iPod, I had no trouble at all using it with an iPad 1. It brought up my music right away, and it sounds great. It’s nice to be able to navigate the iPad’s music library with the Marantz remote. The AV7005 does NOT support video from the iPad; it shows a still image (a thumbnail, I think) and that’s all. Maybe the “AV-next” will support streaming video.

It also hooked easily to my flickr account and provided some useful and fun interaction there.

The Pre-Pro pulls about 60 watts maximum, or 0.2 watts on standby, and uses a linear power supply that eliminates the many RFI problems associated with switching power supplies. This is a big deal if you do any (analog) radio listening at all. HD radio tends to be unaffected when strong, but if the station is weak, a lousy power supply can wipe over-the-air HD stations out completely, always the bane of digitally encoded radio and television, so Marantz’s choice of a linear supply here is well worth mentioning.

The AV7005 uses a wired Ethernet connection for its network functions, which may be configured for DHCP or static network connections, and can be remote controlled from a web page provided by an on-board web server, or via a telnet connection if you want to handle things programatically. Both full-page and iPod sized web control systems are provided. I’ve used the web page via my iPad, and I found it a little bit obscure, but once learned, generally powerful enough. I appreciate that they provided this feature as it allows me to control the unit from our loft bedroom, among other advantages. There is one downside to the initial configuration, and that is, if you put the AV7005 in standby, its built-in webserver goes dark, so you can’t power it up again except with the IR remote. To fix this, go to the options and network settings, and turn on network standby.

There is an RS-232 connection for pro audio control as well. I didn’t try it.

The unit can drive two video zones and three audio zones. The audio zones are straightforward, easy to use and offer no untoward surprises. The video zones have the usual devil’s restrictions that HDMI/HDCP have forced upon us; zone one is HDMI, zone two is component, the unit will *not* down-convert HDMI to component, so zone two is severely crippled in that none of your HDMI video sources can be utilized there. Ouch. But as I say, this is par for the course these days.

There is a bit of relief for this in that the unit has two HDMI outputs; it can drive either one from any HDMI source and will switch from one to the other using the remote. I use this to drive a 17″ LCD monitor when using the network functions, so as to not have to turn out the lights, fire up the whole projection system and burn time on the bulb just so I can see the system menus. You could use this second monitor to run zone two video, as long as you’re content having zone one’s video output off at the time. Not perfect, but better than nothing, I say — and I don’t blame Marantz for this; the HDMI/HDCP mess is the result of anti-consumer moves made by music and movie publishing interests, and we should always remember that as they play the unskippable, highly insulting (and completely pointless) “we’ll jail you” notices at the front of every DVD and BD we purchase.

A nice feature is the unit’s ability to take audio via the HDMI return channel from a television. So if your TV supports this, you can enjoy audio from the Marantz while you channel-surf your over-the-air broadcasts. This only works on HDMI connection one.

The unit features Audyssey room measurement and compensation, along with by-mode and by-input channel level, tone and equalization. All I’m going to say about this is that (a) I am not in the least impressed, and (b) I agree with many other reviews online that the Audyssey system results in deficient bass response, and (c) after setting it up, I turned it off within minutes and don’t have any further interest in it at all.

The AV7005 also has a built-in high end headphone amp (very useful on a unit that has no main amplifiers.) It sounds good — to my ears — in stereo, just as I would expect. Having said that, I don’t do much headphone listening. I haven’t tried using the Dolby channel synthesis headphone feature, it really doesn’t interest me either.

Unlike other home theater systems I’ve owned, the AV7005 doesn’t offer a very wide range of sound processing such as “stadium”, “jazz club” and the like where delay and channel level synthesis is used to emulate different sized venues. I don’t miss this, really, I was just surprised it wasn’t there, as literally everything else I’ve owned has supported such things.

With regard to decoding, the unit provides DTS: [HD Master & High Res. Audio/ES/96/24/Discrete&Matrix6.1/Neo:6/Express] Dolby: [True HD/Digital Plus&EX/Pro Logic IIz, IIx, and II/Virtual Speaker/Headphone].

It also offers “direct”, which is stereo plus subwoofer, and “true direct”, which is stereo with all the video processing killed, displays off, etc. These work fine.

With 192 KHz / 24-bit D/A and A/D conversion, the unit is higher end than your ears are, and that’s the end of that. Any “audiophile” nitpicking can safely be ignored — if the unit has any deficiencies in sound handling, you’ll never, ever hear them.

Frequency response is 10 Hz-100 KHz +1/-3 dB which again is far beyond your ability to hear (and far, far below the normal variations of even high-end speakers.) Technically, it’s capable of about as close to perfect sound reproduction as you’re ever going to experience.

FM mono reception can attain 78 dB s/n. FM stereo, less as is normal, comes in at 68 dB s/n, still not bad. No other FM specifications are published, probably because — to be honest — they aren’t very good. It’s been a long time since any manufacturer put serious effort into an FM tuner, and very, very few indeed *ever* did so for AM.

HD radio (AM or FM) 85 dB s/n, which is very, very nice. Not CD quality, but close.

Component video response is 5 Hz-60 MHz, +0/-3 dB. While this is an excellent spec, do keep in mind that unlike HDMI, component can easily be degraded by poor cables, bad cable runs, and component video processors that don’t do as good a job as they need to. Use good cables, keep them as short as possible, don’t split them, don’t process them, and you’ll most likely get excellent results. If you don’t, though, it won’t be the AV7005′s fault, I assure you.

Unboxed, the Pre-Pro weighs in at 22 lbs, which is enough to feel substantial on the shelf, yet light enough to make it very easy to install. That’s a direct consequence of not stuffing amplifiers in the same chassis.

A very useful feature that is undocumented anywhere I could find — even on Marantz’s site — is that the AV7005 supports Marantz’s legacy remote control “D-Bus” protocol and connectivity, so that older Marantz monoblocks like the MA500 and MA700 may be used with it without any trickery or funny wiring.

I really, really appreciate this, as it allows a much higher end configuration than the all-in-one 5-channel amplifier (plus 2-channel units until 7 or nine channels are reached) Marantz is currently selling, and a comparable one to the very, very expensive true monoblocks they offer these days. MA700′s are 200 watts RMS into 8 ohms, 300 RMS into 4 ohms, and can even be bridged for 600 watts into 8 ohms. MA500s are less powerful, but are also awesome monoblocks with similar features.

Marantz provides a 3-year warranty for the unit, but only to the original purchaser. Keep that in mind if you’re considering second hand: there’s no warranty in that case. Period!

An optional add-on, the RX101, allows the AV7005 to serve as a bluetooth client, at which point it supports streaming music from your phone, iPod or iPad wirelessly. This is something to seriously consider; every time you plug a USB cable into the unit, you are increasing the odds of an ESD (elector static discharge), basically a static shock that can damage the receiver. Wireless streaming means no shocks or static, which is entirely a good thing. Music quality will vary with the streaming rate and the distance you are from the receiver, just as it always does with bluetooth.

System firmware upgrades are done via Ethernet, and take about five minutes on my 30 Mb/sec connection. When I installed my unit, an upgrade was ready; I installed it with no problems at all.

There are some bugs in the unit’s operation. I wouldn’t class them as critical, but you should be aware that (a) they are there, and (b) although I provided the details to Marantz, they have been unresponsive thus far. I’ll update this review if that changes.

The first bug is that if an Internet stream (in your favorites or directly selected) fails (or becomes, or is, unavailable) while you are listening to it or when you select it, the receiver switches to the next available stream, but forgets how it got there and refuses to back out of the station using the normal procedure described in the manual. What you have to do to work around this is exit the Network/USB mode entirely, switch to the radio tuner, then switch back to Network/USB, whereupon no station is selected.

The second bug actually kind of works for you, but is a very unfriendly thing for Internet stream providers. If you select an Internet stream, say 1rockfm, for listening, then switch to (for instance) the PS3 to play a game or watch a BD, the AV7005 does not disconnect the stream. Hours later, when you come back to the Internet/USB setting, you’ll see that the stream is still connected and you just burned hours of streaming time for the station — and those people pay for every user, so this is VERY bad indeed for them. From your perspective as a user, the stream is instantly there, which I have to admit is very convenient, but from the stream provider’s perspective, this is a serious problem.

My last observation on the Internet radio / streaming front is that while the unit does provide a wide range of sources, more are coming online at all times (for instance, Amazon’s stream from the cloud) and you are likely to want that support. I have asked Marantz about this as well, but have not received any answer. Again, I will update the review if and when they do.

With the unit, you get a really crummy FM antenna, a barely adequate AM antenna, an Audyssey calibration microphone, and a dense, but useful manual in multiple languages. The manual is about 3/4ths of an inch thick and you will spend some time with it, I assure you, although the unit is easy enough to set up. This is because many of the features are not obvious just snooping around through the menus. There is also a simplified manual on the outlaw audio website that I suggest you obtain; that provides a useful overview, though it is in fact missing a lot of the information in the Marantz manual.

You also get a learning and pre-programmed remote. I found that the remote knew about my Sony CD/MD player, which was very nice, and was able to use the learning feature with the remote for my Sanyo 17″ monitor (which I have connected to HDMI2.) Anything that reduces the number of remotes I have to reach for is good by me, and I have to say as far as I’ve gone with the Marantz remote, all went perfectly smoothly.

Now, all the buttons on the remote are backlit, which is wonderful, but the bad news is that almost every button on the remote has a 2nd function, which is printed on the remote’s surface but *not* backlit. So you will either be turning the lights on, or learning the remote layout very carefully. And yes, some of those functions are used quite regularly, such as assigning what decoding mode you want, setting channel level, turning sound enhancements on and off and so on.

The remote allows one press on a connected device such as the CD player to put the remote in “talk-to-that-device” mode, but without switching the AV7005 actual input to that unit. I found this a little surprising at first, and resented the extra press to select an input, until I began to *use* the feature to control this and that while the AV7005 was doing something else. Now I’m a huge fan of it. So don’t be put off by that double-press, there’s a very good reason for it and you’ll almost certainly find it quite handy, as I have.

Amazon shipped the AV7005 to me in 2 days under the Amazon prime program. It was in the manufacturer’s sealed carton, and very well packed in there, which was a good thing, because Amazon put *that* box inside another, larger box, along with a token (and completely useless) hunk of paper so that the Marantz box got to bounce around in there pretty good. No harm done, but… hmmm.

I was a little nervous purchasing the AV7005 at the end of a year and just before CES, but having lived with it for a while now, I feel much better about the whole thing. It’s really pretty fabulous, and even if there is a new unit with more features, I’ll probably still be exploring this one for some time to come. If you’re ready to step up to a Pre-Pro (or want to move to Marantz), come on in, the water is fine.

FYI, I’m an electronic and audio engineer, a musician, and a movie buff. My ears are good, not great (too much very loud rock and roll), but my test instrumentation and theater space are primo and I generally know what I’m doing pretty well when it comes to almost any aspect of home theater. I hope you find this review useful, and I wish you luck if you join the ranks of AV7005 owners.