- Written by Chris Heinonen
- Published on 14 February 2011
Now that everything was configured, I finally got a chance to see what the Marantz could do. One of the first things I wanted to do was try out the iOS application and the network streaming for audio. I have a Squeezebox Touch and absolutely love it, but sometimes I find it annoying to need to use multiple devices just to listen to an Internet radio stream. I'll be very direct that while the Squeezebox is still a better streaming device than the AV7005, this is the first receiver/processor implementation that I could actually live with. Streaming Internet Radio was easy, and adding my preferred stations to my favorites was very simple to do. Browsing was pretty quick with the on screen display, though not quite as easy with the iOS application. Similarly, browsing my large networked library of music was actually easy to do for the first time and playback of mp3's and FLAC files were perfect with no skipping during my testing. The previous Marantz had an issue with GIF vs. JPEG images for album cover art, but I didn't see that same issue popping up this time. I think if Marantz can make a couple of tweaks to the iOS application and how it browses, then this would be a great music streaming device for a lot of people.
As much as I love the music streaming, most people probably care more about the audio quality of the Marantz. For one of my tests, I put on Diana Krall - Live in Paris and played it back at levels that would drive my wife crazy. The Marantz did a fantastic job here, with a wide, open soundstage, great detail, and a very black background. When I used a receiver as a preamp in the past, in quiet passages of music, or with nothing playing, I could always hear a bit of static noise since the amplifier section would bleed into the preouts inside of the receiver. With the Marantz this was dead silent even over the unbalanced outputs, letting me hear the smaller details in the music better. Of course Diana Krall almost always sounds wonderful, and her voice was particularly wonderful through the Marantz.
Another good test of a processor or receiver for music is putting on an album that I know is poorly recorded and seeing how it sounds. With the better equipment that I've listened to, I want to stop listening quickly as the sound is too harsh and abrasive, just grating at my ears. On lesser components, there's a fog obscuring some of the details, which helps to hide this harshness and let you listen more easily. It seems strange to suggest that certain music should be listened to on lower quality components, but with lower quality recordings I can find that to be true.
Listening to "High Violet" from The National, I was reminded how poor the album sounds when I really pay attention. The music and lyrics are wonderful, and I've listened to it countless times this year, but when you turn it up and sit down, the recording just shouts at you without a break. I had to either give up listening to the album or just have it on as background music as the Marantz was ruthless in resolving the detail, not sparing my ears at all. I've since resolved that most modern rock recordings I'll have to acquire on vinyl now and rip them myself, as the vinyl versions don't suffer from this malady, and you get far greater dynamic range in the recordings.
The Marantz won't do DSD over HDMI for my SACD collection, but when combined with my Sony 5400ES SACD player, it will accept those multichannel recordings as 24/176.4 PCM and apply room correction, which should still provide a fantastic experience. With Brothers in Arms from Dire Straits, I don't believe that I was lacking anything at all from this compromise. There are very, very few components out there that can do room correction to DSD without first converting it to PCM, so if you plan to use room correction this issue is really a moot point. With So Far Away, the drums that open the track came from all around, moving not just around my head, but closer and further away in depth in the soundstage as well. Unlike earlier albums that didn't understand how to use surround for audio, Brothers in Arms pulls you into the music and makes it a much more immersing experience, without feeling like a cheap trick. I lost myself in the album, and here Audyssey really seemed to help out as the bass wasn't boomy, and there was seemingly no gap between the front and surround speakers.
While I sometimes will listen to films at reference volume when my wife and son are away, often I'm going to be listening to things at 25-30 db below reference. As most people know, often you'll have surround effects, or even dialogue, that isn't mixed to be easily heard at that level and so you miss out on many of the audio cues in films and on television. The AV7005 includes Audyssey Dynamic Volume, which is designed to correct for this issue while also taking into account the acoustics of your room that were determined by Audyssey room correction. My prior experiences with volume equalization systems were less than stellar, as they seemed to put everything at the exact same level, much like compressing the dynamics of a modern recording. With Audyssey I seemed to gain the extra information I was missing in these channels before, but without totally squeezing the dynamic range down to almost nothing.
Just watching football on TV became more immersing as the ambiance of the crowd was suddenly more prevalent, but it didn't overwhelm the sounds of the quarterback barking the snap count, or a big hit from a linebacker. Instead it just brought those effects up to a level where you were aware of them, but without totally compromising the surround mix. Since I think most people don't listen to films at reference level, at least not all of the time, I think Dynamic Volume is a feature that I'd probably enable, but each individual can determine that for themselves.
There are a couple of things on the AV7005 that bother me, but they could all possibly be addressed by firmware or other means. The most pressing issue is that the IR sensor on my unit seems to have an exceptionally poor field of view. Components that I don't have to insert media into live inside of my Salamander Synergy rack with perforated metal doors and so far nothing has had issues with the remote. However, the AV7005 often missed commands from the Harmony and didn't turn on, frustrating myself and my family when it did so. I'm going to purchase an IR repeater to fix it, and asking online has only found one other person with the issue so it might just be a bad sensor in a couple units, but it's something to be aware of.
The other issue I had was relatively minor. When you mute the volume, you get a solid grey box on the screen with text that says MUTE in there. Most plasma sets, including mine, are pretty good about image retention now but it would still be best if this item flashed on the screen instead of remaining solid, or you had the option to disable it in the settings.