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The Pinnacle of The Electrostatic Sound

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Home Theater Review!
Marantz SR7005 7.1 Channel
A/V Surround Sound Receiver



Brevis...
Price: $1,599
Likes: superb sound, features, easy to use;
Dislikes: absolutely nothing
More info: Marantz SR7005


by John Gatski

When I tested the Marantz AV8003 7.1 A/V preamp last year I marveled at its superb performance at the $2,500 price point. The SR7005 receiver tested here continues that performance/feature pedigree — yet brings it in at under $1,600 on the street.

Features
The manufactured-in-Japan SR7005 is a full-featured receiver that includes content streaming, a full array of connection and zone options, 125 wpc in all channels, the latest generation of D/A converters and lossless surround decoding. Design features include Marantz’s HDAM (Hyper-Dynamic Amplifier Module) circuits, Current Feedback topology, and the seven fully-discrete, 125 watt amplifiers. The receiver even has a current-feedback MM phono input for those who still love the sound of vinyl.
The SR7005 handles the latest surround sound formats: Dolby TrueHD, Digital Plus, Pro Logic IIz, IIx, II, Virtual Speaker, and Dolby Headphone. The DTS formats include HD Master Audio, High Resolution Audio, ES Discete6.1, Matrix6.1, Neo:6, 96/24, Express, and Neural Surround.
The SR7005 also includes Marantz’s M-DAX 2, an updated version of the original Marantz Dynamic Audio eXpander useful for improving the sound of compressed audio formats, such as Mp3 or WMA. The processing algorithm is said to calculate the amount of high frequency information that typical file compression formats remove. It then restores the high frequency for better fidelity. The SR7005 fully supports the latest HDMI 1.4a version with six total inputs (one of them on the front panel) and two outputs. The HDMI capability, of course, means 3D playback, audio return channel, and standby pass-through.

Renowned recording engineer Tom Jung, now a contributor to the Everything Audio Network, conducted a long listen session with our test SR7005 and marveled at the quality of the amp section.

The SR7005’s Ethernet connection is DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) 1.5 and Windows 7 compliant, allowing access to digital music from a PC. The SR7005 easily connects to a home network, interfacing with other connected components. You can utilize third-party I/P control systems, perform remote maintenance, and get those necessary firmware updates
As home theater components become media capable, the SR7005 offers internet streaming media functions through various user interfaces and software. Music can be streamed through Rhapsody, Napster, and Pandora. You can even stream audio from your iPod or iPad via the SR7005‘s Bluetooth wireless audio option.
The Marantz is easy to use with its uncluttered, intuitive front-panel function knobs and color GUI (Graphical User Interface)/on-screen display. I did not have to read the manual to do the setup, and the menus, such as bass management, allow flexible adjustable options for various speaker setups.
In addition to the main information display centered on the front panel, there are more adjustment options behind the panel’s drop-down door. This display shows menu choices for custom setup and other data.
The SR7005 setup options include multi-zone operation; you can select different audio sources for Zones 2 and 3, and even add a different composite or component video source for Zone 2.
The SR7005 is not lacking in inputs and outputs. Along with the ample HDMI connections, the receiver includes 7.1 analog input, 7.1 preamp outputs with a second subwoofer output and numerous other I/Os for audio and video, including a front-panel iPod input.


With 24-bit/192 kHz converters onboard, the SR7005 makes good use of digital audio connectivity with four inputs (two optical, two coax) and two optical outputs. However, no coax digital output.
Nestled behind the convenient swing out front panel door are jacks that allow easy connection without reaching behind the receiver. They include an optical digital output (no coax output), HDMI port, headphone jack, Audyssey set-up mic jack, and a set of analog stereo inputs and composite video input for a VCR.
The SR7005 contains speaker binding post outputs for front, center, front-wide, surround and surround back. The posts are well-spaced and my MIT cables fit just fine.
For such a full-featured receiver, it is not that large nor is it overly heavy – at just under 30 pounds. Its ultra-modern look with the centered GUI makes for an attractive A/V product.

The setup
I used the SR7005 primarily as a home cinema amp/preamp, connecting it to several Blu-ray players and a FIOS high-definition content feed. Sources players included an Oppo BDP-83SE, Sony BDP-55, and the venerable flagship Pioneer BDP-09FD.
The receiver was configured in a 5.1 speaker system: Westlake Lc 8.1 L/R, Westlake LC6.75 center, NHT One surround L/R and the magnificent Paradigm Reference Sub 15 subwoofer. The BD players were linked to the SR7005 with WireWorld HDMI cables. Alpha-Core solid silver output cables connected the BD player analog outputs to the receiver preamp inputs. MIT speaker cables linked the SR7005 to the transducers. All components were plugged into an Essential Sound Products Essence power strip.
My Sony XBR-4 LCD was connected to the receiver’s HDMI output via WireWorld solid conductor HDMI cable. I also ran a second separate HDMI cable from the BD player to the LCD for video comparison purposes.
Although the SR7005 includes the Audyssey Dynamic EQ/Dynamic Volume software, I used my own BD test tone discs and an AudioControl SA-3050 real-time audio analyzer to make manual level, delay, and crossover adjustments to optimize the Marantz to my speakers. The auto-setup Audyssey measurement adjustment is good for the no-fuss guy who doesn’t want to delve into the manual setup, but I like to adjust my own EQ parameters, if necessary. With most speakers, my room is fairly flat — without the need for EQ correction.

The SR7005 is a perfect AVR to showcase the Blu-ray The Incredibles BD. The myriad of surround effects, dynamic soundtrack and subwoofer effects revealed a receiver that is quite high-end in its A/V presentation.

A major plus for any A/V receiver/preamp I review is the ability to do a basic setup of speaker parameters, input configurations and level matching — without having to read the manual. I can say with confidence that the SR7005 is quite easy to set up. And with the excellent onboard graphic screen, you can even set up without turning on the TV.
There are a lot of adjustment parameters, but they are logically applied via the software. I like the bass management parameters, which include*the various the LFE options and variable filters.

The audition
After connecting all the components and making sure everything worked, I turned on the Pioneer BDP-09FD BD player. My first audition disc was the BD version of the 2004 animated movie, The Incredibles. Even on DVD and the lossy Dolby Digital, this disc’s soundtrack was exemplary. On Blu-ray and lossless DTS Master, the sound is even better!
The SR7005 is a perfect AVR to showcase the The Incredibles BD. The myriad of surround effects, dynamic soundtrack and subwoofer effects revealed a receiver that is quite high-end in its A/V presentation. On this disc and many others, the SR7005 had a smoothness in music playback that I usually hear in separates costing more than double the price.
Through numerous BDs, the multichannel mix revealed surround effects that were spacious in width and depth, and the 125 watt-per-channel amp provided plenty of power in my home cinema room.
Even compared to my AudioControl Maestro 3 preamp and Carver amps, the SR7005 was no slouch. In direct comparison, the more expensive separates provide a bit more dynamic range and width and depth, but at the price point, 99 percent of the end-users will need nothing more than Marantz. It is that good.
I also set up the SR7005 as a preamp, routing the audio to my Carver amps. Its line-level performance sound, again, did not disappoint, providing quality audio to my amps. My 250-wpc amps have more oomph for extremely loud levels in larger rooms. From what I remembered from last year’s best buy AV-8003 preamp, the SR7005‘s preamp section is very similar in its sonic signature.
The video performance of the 1080P scaler is top-quality in the SR7005 and of course, the pass-through mode lets you rout the direct sources straight to the screen without any upconversion.
If you like to listen to music, the SR7005 becomes a budget audiophile preamp/amp. Streaming audio showcased the Marantz’s conversion and playback of lossy formats, such as MP3, but I wanted to hear how it handled the good stuff, such as Blu-ray music, SACDs and DVD-As. Using the Oppo BDP-83SE as the source and engaging the direct mode that turns off the video processor, I listened to several SACDs including Elton JohnCaptain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. I first listened through the analog inputs and then via bitstreaming of the DSD signal from the Oppo to the Marantz, which then decoded it to analog.
The playback quality was very good. I could hear the improved resolution the SACD has over the CD with extra space in between the layered tracks, including the backing vocal on the Elton John SACD’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” This extra resolution is what you hear with high-end separates.

Other companies have succumbed to lowering performance and overall quality — as they reduce the price. Yet Marantz has managed to maintain sonic performance and build quality, while still making them more affordable.

For you folks who like a bit more use out of traditional components, the phono preamp works well with magnetic phono cartridges. I connected my Rotel RP-950 and played a few direct-to-disc jazz LPs. It sounded terrific, with nice transients and tight bass.
And the headphone amp gives you flexibility for listening to your favorite music in private. The headphone amp was fairly smooth and had plenty of drive for difficult-to-drive headphones, such as my AKG K701/702s.
By the way, the M-Dax dynamic range processor, does improve the sound of MP3 music. It restores a bit of width and depth to the resolution of the heavily compressed MP3, which makes it much more listenable. It is nice to see that audio manufacturers recognize how some of these formats need some enhancement to make them listenable.
In terms of ergonomics, the SR7005 was easy to use. The front panel buttons offer a lot of adjustment and control — without having to go into the menus. The remote is nothing fancy, but all functions are accessible and it can be programmed for universal duty.
I had no real complaints about the Marantz SR7005; it does run pretty warm, which might be a cause for concern for long-term reliability. If it had a internal fan, I could not hear it. But in fairness to Marantz, most receivers and preamps made these days are packed with heat-inducing video and audio amplifier sections in a compact chassis.
One other thing. I applaud Marantz for sticking with well-designed audio components, even though they look for ways to reduce the price. Other companies have succumbed to lowering performance and overall quality — as they reduce the price. Yet Marantz has managed to maintain sonic performance and build quality, while still making them more affordable.
By the way, longtime recording engineer Tom Jung, now a contributor to Everything Audio Network, conducted a long-term listening session with our test SR7005 and marveled at the quality of the amp section. He was doing a home theater test in his home setup and wanted to use only the preamp section. Mr. Jung was so impressed with the smoothness of the amplifiers that he decided to forgo his own amps and utilize it as a full receiver.

The verdict
The SR7005 is a best-buy receiver that Marantz managed to squeeze out the same high quality sound that cost $2,500 on the last generation model. Throw in numerous usable features, including a headphone amp, 3-D compatibility, streaming, and ease of control — and you’ve got yourself one fine A/V receiver. Stellar Sound Award? But of course.

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