I have put together an HT system with both stereo and HT audio performance
as primary considerations because I also have a two-channel system that consists
of Audio Research amplification, Martin Logan reQuest speakers, a REL Storm III
subwoofer, and a Bryston BDA-1 DAC with a Simaudio Moon Nova CD player
performing as a transport. So for me, an AV pre-pro with exceptional video
processing capability was not an important requirement for the HT system.
My HT system had consisted of a Simaudio Moon Stargate AV pre-pro, an Aragon
five-channel power amplifier that was THX Ultra2 certified at delivering 200 WPC
with all channels driven, Focal-JMLab Cobalt front and surround speakers, a Martin Logan Fresco i center speaker, a Velodyne Optimum 12 subwoofer and a Marantz BD8002 Blu-ray player. Several months ago, I began looking into upgrading my HT system's AV pre-pro to one that decoded the current HD audio formats. I listened to a number of AV pre-pros including the Cary Cinema 11a and Marantz AV8003. I heard the Marantz AV8003 in a number of retail showrooms and was not immediately impressed with its audio performance when compared to the Cary Cinema 11a.
In those showrooms, the Marantz AV8003 was usually paired with an eight-channel Marantz MM8003 amplifier, a non-THX certified unit that lacks the detail, dynamics and power of the Aragon five-channel amplifier, and included speakers that I considered not as neutral, detailed and dynamic sounding as the Cobalt/Fresco i speaker combination. However, I purchased a Marantz AV8003 anyway because it was at the end of its production run, and I was able to purchase a brand new one from an authorized Marantz dealer for $1500--which was $1100 less than the list price. A posting at an online forum stated that the Marantz AV8003 audio performance could be influenced
by cables--particularly HDMI cables. I experimented with a number of various interconnects and HDMI cables and found that the Marantz AV8003 audio performance could indeed be altered by cable selection. I found that its audio performance was significantly improved in my HT system with interconnects from Siltech and HDMI cables from DH labs. As a result, the Marantz AV8003 audio performance in terms of detail, dynamics, transparency and soundstaging exceeded my expectations in my HT system--and sounded significantly superior to what I had heard in every retail showroom where I had listened previously. I also concluded that its audio performance was considerably better than that of the Simaudio Moon Stargate AV pre-pro that it replaced in my HT systeman AV pre-pro that retailed at $5K. Moreover, the Marantz AV8003 stereo performance in my system--particularly in the Pure Direct mode--was nothing short of stellar. I concluded that the Marantz AV8003 was a better match with the components in my particular system than with those that I had heard in previous systems--proving once again that the ultimate performance of any component in any particular system is highly depended on the synergistic relationship between that component and the rest of the system.