Help w/ preamp


Hey guys!

A while back I posted about my search for an amp...I got a ton of great suggestions and had decided on demo'ing Parasound and Anthem. I found a local Parasound dealer here in Pasadena, and I was FLOORED. I have been using a Marantz SR 7011, connected to a full Martin Logan setup: Ethos fronts, motif x center, motion 40 rears. I felt like I had never really heard my speakers once they cranked up the Parasound. I told them my budget and they introduced me to the KRELL CHORUS 5200....man, oh man. They had a floor model for sale, as they were making room for a new 7 channel. The sound was similar, but I felt like the bass had more punch, and they made me an amazing deal - something I have yet to find online (lucky me I suppose).  So, after that long story...here's a few questions:

1. I am currently using RCA instead of XLR, as the Marantz AVR doesn't have both. I am sure I am losing some audio quality here correct?
2. I am thinking about adding the Martin Logan AFX (atmos) speakers soon - but since the Krell is 5 channels, I would have to run them through the Marantz - is that a "bad" idea?
3. The store I bought the Krell from recommended I swap to the Marantz 8802 as a pre, and use a 2 channel amp to power the atmos - something like a Parasound A23, which I see fairly cheap on here. Or, I could just sell my 5200, and buy a 7200 (there's a good one on here).

I guess, my main concerns - will the sound seem "different" or "uneven" getting amplified from different sources? Whether it be Krell + Marantz, or Krell + Parasound. And, would I be losing quality running anything through the AVR (I know they are just atmos speakers, but still) as opposed to using a dedicated power amp?

Any and all advice is appreciated. [email protected]

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I think your Marantz SR 7011 is definitely the weak link here. The Marantz 8802a is significantly better in all areas. It doesn’t waste power supply on amplifier boards (since it’s a preamp/processor only). It does actually have true balanced outputs. Technically speaking, the 8802 is single-ended from the DAC chips to the DAC I/V stage. The I/V uses op amps, but the 8802a has fully discrete analog circuits for the output buffer. These analog output circuits actually convert the single-ended signal from the DAC to a fully balanced/differential signal, so the XLR cables on this unit will definitely be superior.

I suppose you could consider the Marantz 7703 if you wanted the new bells & whistles (like HEOS), but you’d be losing some sound quality over the 8802a.

As far as matching amplifier for your Atmos height speakers, I don’t think it’s so critical. In my opinion, the most critical speakers that need to be exactly matched are left/center/right. I actually have completely different speakers for surround (I use B&W Diamond for l/c/r and some Focal speakers for surround). As long as the resolution/character are similar enough, you should be fine.  Of course, you wouldn't want to pair something like a McIntosh or tube amp for height speakers.  The Parasound A23 should be fine.

@auxinput, thanks for the response. The 7011 does HEOS, but I don't use it really, so I'm not too worried about that. Budget wise, after buying the Krell and doing other upgrades, the 7703 is more in my range right now....of course, I could wait. What would be the main difference between the 7703 and 8802? 

And would switching over from the 7011 even make a substantial difference? Or is not even worth the trouble of selling my unit and buying another, installing, etc? Thanks again!

Looking at the AV8802a:

https://www.marantz.co.uk/assets/images/products/av8802/top_inside.jpg

https://www.marantz.co.uk/assets/images/products/av8802/av8802_hdam_board.jpg

The 8802a has a much better power supply. You can see it also has the 13 individual discrete analog channel boards in the chassis from left-to-right.

Inside the AV7703:

http://onecall.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/m/a/marantz-av7703-pre-amp-processor-guts.jpg

The 7703 still has 13 analog channels, and they are still fully balanced/differential. However, they are all mounted on one board and the analog circuits are trimmed down. Think of the 7703 as a trimmed down 8802. You can see that there’s a lot of empty space in the 7703 when compared to 8802a.

Subjectively speaking, the 7703 is probably around 90-95% of the sound quality of the 8802a. I would put your SR7011 receiver at around 70-80% of the 8802a. It all comes down to how soon you feel you need to do an upgrade, and whether you feel you can live with what you have now. If it were me, I would skip the 7703 and go for the 8802 sound quality, even if it meant waiting for 6-12 months. I wouldn’t want to skimp since were dealing with the high resolution Krell Chorus. Would you consider a used 8802a? They are going for around $2600 nowadays.

I always try to use XLR cable runs - if short and not much elec. noise near them then RCAs will be fine.

I like a good ARC tube pre with a SS amp...

Marantz makes good products but an upgrade may make sense - listen before paying (buy from a place that allows returns).

Speakers & Room Treatments are the most important parts of improved sound.
@auxinput, yes, I would consider used. would just need to sell my 7011 as well :) 

@randy-11, i have a very short cable run - the AVR is one shelf above the Krell - so I could be okay w/ RCA?

i am thinking of doing some room treatment - its a living room w/ all wooden floors and several big windows...though, they're typically covered by drapes when watchign movies. i am thinking a good first addition would be a floor rug. think that would help at all?

I’ve always had better results with XLR cable, even if it’s just 3 feet. Since the AV7703 and AV8802a are both fully balanced/differential internally, I would think the XLR balanced cables would be superior when compared to RCA cables of the same quality/level. You could certainly use your existing RCA cables until you have time/funds to switch to XLR.

A large area rug is definitely a good thing here.  Once beyond that, use room treatments conservatively because you can definitely over-damp the room and the highs become dead.  I use a combination of  Owens 703 FRK for the front/back walls because it has a metal foil foil layer that reflects mids/highs.

@auxinput, I've heard that too and have no problem using them. But that will come when/if I swap to a pre instead of AVR. Which is my big dilemma. Maybe a more immediate fix would be cabling and adding a rug? I'm using AQ rocket 44 cabling that I got from Magnolia.. 
@auxinput, I have also considered switching to the Anthem AVM 60. Do you have thoughts on that pre? I have seen nothing but stellar reviews, but when I demo'd their power amp, I wasn't blown away. Granted, this would not be doing what the amp was supposed to do.

I have honestly had some 4K pass through issues w/ the 7011, which is partially why I also want to upgrade/swap. For some reason, NONE of the rear HDMI inputs will support 4K from my Oppo 203 or PS4 Pro. When I use the front HDMI port, it works. But on the PS4, it only allows one of the 4K resolution types to display...its quite odd. Neither Marantz nor Sony has an answer. I figured upgrading to a pre that solely focuses on video could alleviate the problem. 

Sorry for all the questions - I almost bought an Anthem a while back, but I have no way to demo it....

First thing, I am not a 4K expert. I only know that if you want to support 4K with all the new features, you need to go with one of the big company items (i.e. Sony, Marantz, Anthem). There are some boutique companies supporting 4K, like Krell, Theta, McIntosh, but they all have additional quirks and cost issues. (i.e. Krell Foundation has no Atmos, Theta is insanely expensive, McIntosh is buggy firmware with no support). I don’t know what to say about your issue other than it sounds like a firmware issue with regards to certain 4K standards. One thing you could try is getting a different HDMI cable. The higher bandwidth used for 4K can be a problem if the HDMI cable cannot charge/discharge fast enough for the digital square wave pulses at that speed. This could translate into communications between source/processor glitching and lost data. Maybe try a Wire World HDMI cable?

I have taken a quick look at the AVM 60. I have not heard it, but I would place it -probably- as equal to the Emotiva XMC-1. It is probably very nice sounding, but there are definitely better. Anthem is more of a boutique company and the AVM 60 comes in at $3k. Whereas Marantz company (D&M) has over 200 R&D engineers for their product development and has a huge reseller market. The Marantz is going to give you more per dollar than any boutique item. I think Anthem had a lot of success with their $9k D2 processor, so they took the software and put it in a very trimmed down platform so that they could sell it at a lower $3k price. My gut says that the 8802 (and possibly even the 7703) are going to sound better. But again, I have not listened to it.

Subjectively again, there are boutique processors that will beat the 8802a. The $9k Classe SSP-800 sounds better than the $4k Marantz 8802a, but Classe doesn’t support 4K, atmos, etc. And it’s $5k more expensive. The ~$6-7k Krell Foundation may or may not be better -- it’s controversial (some say it’s better, some say it’s not). Marantz 8802a is not as good as $12k McIntosh MX151, but it’s close.

There is a huge amount of positive reviews on AVM 60, but remember it’s all relative. For the money, the AVM 60 give you a whole heck of a lot. Many people love the Anthem room correction system. But like I said, it’s all relative and it’s a great product at the $3k level.

I auditioned the Emotiva XMC-1, which also had a huge amount of positive reviews (like stating that this thing is just awesome sounding). What I found was that the XMC was very very good for the money spent ($2k at the time), but it would not beat out my 15 year old Krell HTS, even when the XMC was playing hi-res through HDMI.  The Emotiva had a somewhat closed-in sound (common on their preamps/dacs) and did not have the "separation-of-instruments" clarity I wanted. The XMC-1 will soon be at the $3k level because of new features (HDMI2.0/4K support, Dolby Atmos, DTX:S, Dirac Live room correction).

A note on HDMI cables.  I had been using a low cost cable that was supposed to be "Premium Certified" for 4K / 18Gbs bandwidth.  It was the lower cost Belden FE HDMI cables from Blue Jean Cable.  What I found was that it was smearing the sound (audio data) from different sources.  I wasn't even using 4K bandwidth.  This smearing occurred even on just 108i with normal old compressed Dolby Digital 5.1.  As an experiment, I went back to my old Neotech NEHH-4200 HDMI cables and the sound significantly improved. 

http://audiosensibility.com/blog/products-2/digital-cables-occ-copper-and-occ-silver/#!/Neotech-NEHH-4200-HDMI-1-4-Cable/p/17895256/category=4059160

I had originally switched to the Beldon because the Neotech cables weren't even HDMI 2.0 / 4K certified, but I found that there were transmission problems with the Beldon (probably charge/discharge speed and jitter).  All my HDMI cables are 6 feet, so I don't have the "short cable reflection" problems.  Supposedly, the Wire World cables are even better for bandwidth because of their DNA Helix architecture (The Wire World Starlight 7 HDMI is said to have bandwidth of 28 gbs).  My Neotech cables are just excellent, so I don't have any immediate reason to move (and they are only just HDMI 1.4 certified!).

Bored today...so I did more research (and looking up stuff I already read).

In trying to compare AVM60 to the 8802a, here are some comments:

http://www.avsforum.com/forum/90-receivers-amps-processors/2004562-official-anthem-avm-60-thread-107.html#post51099217

One of the things that stood out was the AVM60 could be bright/thin and cause listening fatigue. In my R&D experience with analog circuits, this tells me they are using inadequate power supply capacitance and/or cheap quality capacitors than can resonate and be bright.

Other comments have stated Marantz 8802a is superior for 2-channel music. However, if you want/need room correction, it appears AVM60 Anthem Room Correction is superior over the Audessey in the Marantz. Other comments state Marantz is on the warm side when compared to AVM 60.

One thing I know is Marantz puts a significant amount into power supply. Looking here:

http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=521905&d=1422970676

The 8802a main power supply has 4 x 10,000uf capacitance, which is huge for a processor like this. Looking at the DAC board:

http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=530641&d=1423259930

We can see that they support the DAC circuits with a very good number of capacitors. This ensures that the DAC chips as well as the DAC I/V op amps have very good local capacitance to pull on for fast transients and a large reservoir in the main power supply for bass/midbass power.

The op amps used in the 8802 I/V section (above the DAC chips) are NJM8080G:

http://www.avsforum.com/forum/90-receivers-amps-processors/1535197-marantz-av8802-13-2-xlr-pre-pro-official-thread-54.html#post32165305

These have a very slow slew rate (5V/us) when compared to the typical op amp in analog circuits. This could be used on purpose to give the Marantz its slightly warm sonic signature. In my R&D, 20V/us is about the perfect slew rate for audio. It’s fast enough for high frequency response, but not so fast that it loses bass/mid-bass power. This is probably the only negative thing I see about the Marantz design. This slew rate could also be the reason some people say Marantz is warm compared to AVM 60. But it could also be that Marantz has so much in power supply that you are hearing a full bass/midbass sound instead of a lean / bright sound.

Another point between AV7702 and AV8802a is the main power supply. The 7702 is half the size with only 2 x 10,000 uf capacitors. Also:

http://www.avsforum.com/forum/90-receivers-amps-processors/1535197-marantz-av8802-13-2-xlr-pre-pro-official-thread-46.html#post31643465

It appears that 7702 only provide +/-10.5V to analog circuits instead of +/-12V of the 8802. This is a very small difference, but a difference none the less.

@auxinput, wow thanks for all the info! You are much more versed than I could ever pretend to be! 

I have axfuallt turned away from the avm60 because it doesn't have the USB or hdmi ports on front - which I actually use quite often. 

In my research, a few people gave mentioned the McIntosh MX-122. Looks amazing, but obviously a much higher price point. That would be something much further down the road, as I have already invested a ton of money in a relatively short time.

 I love the sound from marantz, and I had actually actually swapped to denon a few months because of the previous 4k issue I mentioned. Well, that lasted 2 weeks. Missed the marantz warmth I was used to. So I swapped back and never looked back.

I'm wondering if upgrading to the 8802 from 7011 would provide a noticeable difference in sound? I know it's always a good idea to have better components whenever possible, but I'm curious if I would clearly be able to tell the sound apart? Thanks again!