Introduction to Processor Reviews

When the term processor is used, it is very often part of a discussion about audio/video separates. While a receiver is really a pre-amplifier and amplifier in one, the processor came about by separating the pre-amplifier and amplifier into multiple audio components. The theory behind this was that having separate components would allow for greater fidelity by allowing for more choice of amplification and componentry at various price points. It was also intended to alleviate the expense of replacing amplifiers whenever the processing side of the receiver had to change. Like the receiver, today’s audio/video processors are at the heart of any home theater system. The processor connects all the devices in your home theater including your television, Blu-ray and DVD players, cable and satellite boxes, gaming systems, media servers, and even old legacy devices like CD players. Besides offering all that connectivity, the processor is first and foremost a pre-amplifier (or pre-amp) which serves to process and decode everything from two-channel stereo up to 11.2 channels of immersive 3-D surround for formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro:3D. The processor is also responsible for routing the video signals from each source device to your television. While some processors are still able to handle legacy analog video inputs, the trend is to support the latest HDMI formats with support for HDCP2.2 and 4K UHD video codecs. Today’s processors support a wide range of speaker configurations, from stereo and traditional 5.1 and 7.1 surround systems, up to the latest 11 channel systems with multiple pairs of height channels and multiple subwoofers. External amplifiers must be purchased for use with a processor, but this is also part of the fun since amplifiers are an entire product category with lots of options. Like a receiver, the processor has often included a tuner for AM/FM radio, but todays’ processors can now include such things as an HD Radio tuner, room correction, multi-media connectivity, multi-room and multi-zone connectivity, and control apps for your favorite phone or tablet. Our reviews and bench tests cover the full range of processors and offer insight into product design, setup, operation, the features and functionality that matter most, and of course how the processor performed and sounded in our home theaters. Our processor reviews will help you decide which processor is right for your home theater and your budget.


Marantz AV8802 11.2 Surround Sound Processor (SSP) Review

The Marantz AV8802 defines what it means to be a flagship A/V processor and preamp. Featuring support for up to 11.2 channels of immersive sound, the AV8802 includes Dolby Atmos, Dolby Surround, and the complete Audyssey Platinum suite. It can be optionally software upgraded to support Auro-3D and even the hardware can be updated to the latest HDMI 2.0a standard so the AV8802 is ready for the future of 4K and HDR video content.

Classé Sigma SSP, Sigma Amp2 and Sigma Amp5 Review

The Sigma SSP is Classé's newest 7.1 channel surround sound processor. Classé optimized it for two-channel music playback and gave it extensive customization features. Included in this review are the Classé Sigma Amp2 two-channel amplifier and Sigma Amp5 five-channel amplifier. The combination of the Sigma SSP, Amp2 and Amp5 produces exceptional sound quality for both music and movies.


Marantz AV7702 Surround Sound Processor Review

Today, there are more SSP options on the market, but few of them are as up-to-date as the AV7702. Considering the AV7702's hardware and feature upgrades from the AV7701, I am impressed Marantz managed to keep the price so close to the old AV7701's.


Bryston SP3 7.1 Surround Sound Processor Review

Bryston is a great example of a company that takes component choice and design to heart. The SP3 7.1 Surround Sound Processor (SSP) does not strive to keep up with every mass-market product feature. Instead, it delivers on a singular goal of delivering outstanding sound quality for both two-channel stereo and multi-channel music and movies alike.


Yamaha CX-A5000 11.1 SSP (Surround Sound Processor)

Suddenly the ESS SABRE DAC is showing up everywhere. At first it was only in high-end audio products like the Oppo BDP-95 and BDP-105 Blu-ray players. Now we have seen it in the Pioneer SC-79 receiver and in a pair of SSPs (Surround Sound Processors): The Krell Foundation and the Yamaha CX-A5000. From bench test numbers to listening tests, the SABRE offers up performance that is at the top of the DAC chain. Many of us just assumed we wouldn't see it in a processor or receiver due to the price. The Yamaha CX-A5000 11.1 SSP uses a pair of ESS SABRE 9016 DACs to support its 11 channels. A step down from the 9018, the SABRE should provide the Yamaha with superior jitter reduction, less tonal noise floor, and slightly greater dynamic range compared to the other DACs at its price. Is the rest of the CX-A5000 engineered around the SABRE up to the task?


Marantz AV8801 11.2 Surround Sound Processor (SSP)

While Marantz was showing off their new AV7701 preamplifier at CEDIA 2012 last September, there were already quiet rumors at the show that something else was in the works. I remember being at the show wondering why Marantz wasn't showing any products with the latest Audyssey room correction while their partners over at Denon were offering new products with Audyssey MultEQ XT32 functionality. Just two months later, Marantz put the rumors to rest by officially announcing the AV8801 AV preamplifier/processor. The AV8801 features support for 11.2 channels and includes the latest Audyssey MultEQ XT32 processing. The AV8801 enters the market at a price point which is still well below the premium processors on the market while offering a wide array of functionality. Let's take a closer look at the features of the AV8801 and see how well Marantz's flagship processor performs.


Marantz AV7701 7.2 A/V Preamp/Processor

Marantz came out with their AV7005 processor a few years ago, which contains almost all of the high-end processing and features that people wanted, but at a lower price-point than almost any processor out there. Now Marantz has some back with the AV7701, a replacement for the AV7005 that brings it up to date with the modern streaming functions of current receivers and processors, and adds a few nice other touches as well while keeping that aggressive price-point. Has this update let Marantz keep this little niche to themselves again? I swapped the AV7701 in for my AV7005 to see if I could tell a difference between the two.


Classe SSP-800 Surround Sound Processor

Classé is considered one of the finest audio product manufacturers in North America. They market preamplifiers, power amplifiers, and surround sound processors (SSPs). The SSP-800 is their current processor. It's been around for awhile, and they have no plans to replace it with a new model in the near future, but there have been some firmware updates along the way. So, I decided that Secrets should have a look and listen to what I was sure would be a fine product. Was I right?


NAD T 187 7.1 A/V Processor & T 975 Seven-Channel Power Amplifier

NAD, which stands for New Acoustic Dimension, was founded in 1972 with one simple goal: to reproduce sound as faithfully as possible. Eschewing bells and whistles, NAD products are all about simplicity, value and performance. From their earliest components, like the legendary 3020 integrated amplifier, to today's multi-channel amps and preamps, they have never wavered from this mantra. Here, we review separates: the NAD T 187 7.1 A/V SSP and the T 975 seven-channel power amplifier.