The Marantz SR8012 is a beast of an AV receiver that controls 11 channels, a first for the brand. Made for surround on higher level, but according Marantz also best audiophile.
Marantz SR8012 – introduction
A while back we put the SR7012 on the rack. That is a particularly capable receiver that is suitable for better surround setups in living rooms, but nothing compared to the latest top model from Marantz. This SR8012 is the first 11.2 receiver of the Japanese brand, with support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro 3D. And as you would expect from a flagship, it has many inputs, many options, HEOS streaming, integration options and especially baking power. It is not just a slight upgrade compared to the SR7012, but a device that is better equipped in terms of power and components. Marantz itself states that the Marantz SR8012 has its own unique architecture (most brands work with ‘platforms’ on which different receiver models are built). The receiver has been given a price tag of 2,999 euros.
It is undoubtedly a device intended for those who want to enjoy surround in a more than casual way. We have been able to test the Marantz SR8012 for a while in tandem with the SR7012, so you will sometimes encounter comparisons in this review. It may therefore be interesting to also review the test of the slightly lower Marantz.
Many surround possibilities
Why you would opt for a receiver of this price class, while for one sixth of the price can already get a boarding device? The answer is partly the amplifier hatch, partly the immensely wide functionality. The Marantz SR8012 is a ‘real’ 11.2 receiver, with each channel separately amplified. You do not have to dust extra amplifiers to control those height channels, which is sometimes the case with lower receivers. Each channel can count on 205 watts of power on paper, which at first sight is perhaps only a little bit more than with cheaper receivers. But as we observed in previous receiver tests, you often read in marketing material from entry level suppliers about a power that is only achieved when a single channel is taxed. With a realistic multichannel load, that power of about 150 watts is found to be a few dozen watts per channel.
The Marantz SR8012 is a lot more muscular, a plus if you have insensitive speakers (and that can also be more compact bookshelf speakers or centers) around control. If we look under the bonnet, you also see an impressive build-up than with an entry-level receiver. Our eye is immediately drawn through a large toroidal transformer surrounded by two large cooling fins. The SR8012 has a power supply that should be very stable, important if you show soundtracks with large dynamic jumps – and that’s almost all action movies. It is also striking that the eleven channels are identical in terms of amplification, which again is important in a full-fledged home cinema where you place around identical speakers. That the Marantz SR8012 really draws the map of music, that you will read more often in this review. Technically, certain choices have been made for this. That the SR8012 HDAM modules occur, for example, though that will not surprise since Marantz is a big fan of this print-based alternative to opamp ICs. Marantz also makes many of the DACs that are present in the SR8012, although we do miss some information in that area. You might also wonder on which plane the SR8012 differs from the Denon flagship AVR-X8500? You will mainly discover this in the future review of that beast of a receiver, but we already predict that a certain difference is sound. Sound United has already stated on several occasions that Denon and Marantz have to use their own sound identity even more.
With its eleven speaker outputs you can use the SR8012 in different directions: build a 7.2.4 setup for an extended Dolby Atmos -, Auro 3D – or DTS:X experience or opt for a more modest surround system in combination with a second or third zone. As you would expect from a Marantz at this price point, you have quite a few options, including choices that make music lovers and demanding surround lovers happy. For example, you can build a 5.1 setup that is bi-amped on all channels or a 9.1 with bi-amping for the stereo channels. Or even more interesting for audiophiles: compose a 5.1 based on a surround package and provide a second pair of front floor uprights that are only used for music reproduction. It is also possible to set a fifth height speaker (a ‘voice of god’ for Auro 3D recordings) by using the SUB2 output.
It looks like every scenario is thought of, especially if you know that you can adjust quite a bit for each possible setup. You just have to understand the logic. For example, if you want a simple 5.1 set-up quickly, then select 9.2 + ZONE2 and choose for ‘5-can’ and ‘none’ for the height speakers.
The back of the Marantz SR8012 is particularly well dressed. In addition to 7 HDMI inputs (HDMI 2.0a, and HDCP 2.2) you have three HDMI outputs for three video zones. Practical for example to watch TV in the kitchen or if you have an arrangement with a TV and a projector. The main HDMI output is ARC compatible and would receive eARC support in a later phase via a firmware update. This is necessary if you want to watch a movie with Dolby Atmos via a streaming service like Netflix and want the full Atmos experience. The standard ARC can only transmit stereo or compressed surround. In terms of HDR standards HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision are provided, as you would expect from a 2018 receiver. Whether there is anything else required for HDR10 + is currently unclear.
You can also expect a lot of analogue audio inputs that you can assign yourself and pre-outs that you can use for a larger surround setup with poweramps. Personally, we find it superfluous, but Marantz still provides many legacy video inputs. Of course no harm.
The front of the SR8012 is as familiar as it is iconic. All Marantz receivers look almost the same, with a centrally placed porthole screen that is flanked by two large rotary knobs and surrounded by blue light. Very minimalistic and retro, although you can discover many more buttons and a second display when you open a large lid. The SR8012 is a bit higher than a typical receiver, something to be reckoned with if you want to put it in a closet. In that case do not forget the ventilation, because there is some heat from it. As usual, the SR8012 is available in silver gold and black.
The interface of the SR8012 is of course no stranger to us. Not only because we recently tested the Marantz SR7012, but also because a lot of Denon receivers have been reviewed in the past few months. Apart from the color choice, the interfaces for both brands are virtually identical. That is not strange, since Denon and Marantz are part of the same holding, and even a very positive thing. The interface on the TV is very good and knows how to combine user-friendliness with power. It works easily and if you need it, you discover quite a few extra options. Small request, again: we would like to see this interface in a higher resolution, preferably native or upscaled 4K. If you invest 3,000 euros in a receiver you probably also have a large Ultra HD TV or projector, right?
A big plus of the Marantz interface is the extremely helpful set-up procedure. It is unlikely very clear and extensive. Although we think that this asset is less important with a receiver like the SR8012, because this is not a device that would buy a total layman in surround. We assume that most SR8012 owners can set up a loudspeaker and connect sources.
Nevertheless, that helpful side of the interface is a real strength, for example to get a view on the connection diagram for a less conventional loudspeaker setup. Please note that Marantz online provides a very good manual that you can also call directly from the Marantz app. In our opinion, the interface of the SR8012 works very smoothly, even compared to lower models such as the SR7012. Is there a slightly faster processor? It could be.
Also on the remote you notice that the SR8012 is intended as a premium model. In the box is the RC038SR, an extended zapper with a small illuminated display at the top. It is a bit more spacious than the box on the SR7012, although that little screen does not really matter in practice. More important is that the remote control is solid and very complete. The screen is in our opinion especially useful if you want to operate multiple zones, because without looking at the receiver you can see which zone you are controlling.
Actually, we mainly looked at the accompanying Marantz 2016 AVR app. This could be improved in a few ways, for example by making the deeper receiver settings fully in-app accessible. But on the whole it is well organized and it is responsive. Especially on a tablet then. Things like changing the sound mode and operating connected devices (such as a Blu-ray player) we found just a lot more convenient via the app than via the remote. You will also see an icon in the Marantz app that refers to HEOS. Tap this and you will be taken to the HEOS app. Visually, the app looks completely different, but in itself that is not a disaster. We will immediately tell you more about it, under the heading ‘HEOS on board’.
With a high-end receiver, we think it is important that in terms of operation, integration is also considered. You may want to build a home cinema with the SR8012, where you can let the projector screen roll out, start up the projector and receiver, and the lights dim at the touch of a button. A dream scenario like that requires integration with some home automation system, something that is possible with the SR8012. The list of integration options is quite extensive: you can get started yourself via IP-control (including WiFi, which is rarer), there is RS-232C port, trigger outputs (handy for your projector) and the receiver is Crestron-compatible.
In addition, you can operate the SR8012 with voice commands via Alexa. Marantz remains very silent about that – perhaps because Dutch is not yet supported – but the skill is available for the Amazon assistant. And it works perfectly, as we discovered when we added the skill to our Alexa profile. Not everything is possible, but we could easily switch the receiver on / off, adjust volume and select inputs. A list of available commands can be found below. The main thing we miss is being able to select music via Spotify, but that would come with a firmware update. For the time being, Alexa can only be used in English, German or French, and requires some improvisation to get it working.
HEOS on board
Since this model year, HEOS is a feature on Marantz receivers and almost all AV receivers from Denon. This is quite interesting, because it brings two big advantages to the SR8012. To begin with, there is the ‘multiroom’ aspect, which means that you can play music on the receiver and on wireless HEOS speakers. Useful if you want to hear a playlist in the living room and in the kitchen for example. HEOS is very mature in that area, and allows you to play different songs in different zones and link zones ad hoc. That goes very smoothly via the HEOS app. In the HEOS app, the SR8012 appears as a single device with three zones that you can switch on and off separately. It is not possible to listen to anything else in each of those SR8012 zones, we hope to see that.
Perhaps equally important is that HEOS is a much better way to bundle all streaming options. then how that happened before. Through the HEOS app you can select your own music files (on USB storage or a NAS), internet radio or music via a streaming service. Spotify, Deezer and Tidal are supported. The app also allows you to select the physical inputs on the receiver. In some cases you can sometimes stream the sound that comes through an input to a HEOS speaker. For example, a movie soundtrack from an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc can not be shared.
Marantz has been smart enough not to make streaming accessible exclusively via the HEOS app. Sometimes there are times when your phone or tablet is in a different room or has to deal with an empty battery. At the remote you then press the HEOS button, after which you can select music via the interface on the television.
The support for file formats on the SR8012 is very good. MP3 and AAC are of course no problem, but also more difficult formats such as ALAC and FLAC (in high-res ). DSD can also play. The only test formats that refuse to play are classical surround recordings purchased via Qobuz (ALAC, FLAC and WAV) and 2-channel AIFF. These are also typical of the sizes that a receiver test fails, Marantz is certainly not an outside leg.
Besides HEOS you also have streaming options. Airplay is present, the SR8012 is Spotify Connect compatible, there is internet radio, and it can also receive streams via Bluetooth. You can not send it via Bluetooth, we regret it because it can be handy to have a Bluetooth headset at night.
Sophisticated yet powerful
An AV receiver in this class should not only be very strong are stoneware in surround mode, but also in stereo mode. And – do not blame us – that must certainly be the case when the label ‘Marantz’ is displayed on that receiver. Anyone who purchases a Marantz simply expects a good music reproduction. We suspect that some of the people who choose a Marantz receiver at the top of the competing brands (including sister brand Denon) do so because they consider the audiophile aspect important. We can be wrong, but we do not think so.
We were fortunate enough to have the SR8012 tested for a relatively long time, so we could use it for a lot of different scenarios. Gaming, for example, a kind of content that mixes music with large dynamic peaks – and that on all channels. With a racing game such as ‘Project Cars 2’ on an Xbox One X, that is less the case, but for example at the front at ‘Battlefield 1’ the SR8012 had to process a bit. If we turn the volume open in this game, you can come up with situations where an entry receiver (like the Denon AVR-X2400H) gets a little more difficult.
Another piece of content that The Blu-ray of the ‘Through the Never’-tour of Metallica, with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Metallica being Metallica, this disk is bursting with explosive numbers where the double bass drum from Lars Ulrich comes to you like a machine gun, covered by Kirk Hammet’s finger-playing guitar playing. It is a disc where you have fun turning the volume knob all the way, something that the Marantz SR8012 willingly allows. Again: it has reserves that do not have cheaper receivers, which makes music sound musical, even for the neighbor. ‘Enter Sandman’ is a highlight, where you seem to be in the middle of the roaring public. Minus the sweaty smell happy, but you jump a hole in the air when the fireworks (literally) erupts on the stage. Spoileralert: the act consists of the stage collapsing, including roadies that catch fire and rigs falling from the sky, so that the band members can return to an ‘intimate’ (nuja) smaller stage and their early thrash metal hits. Just before that apocalyptic moment, with a lot of chaos in the image and the sound, the SR8012 impressed by ‘Enter Sandman’ very refined and rich in detail.
Luc Bessons ‘Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets’ (much) criticism and it certainly is not a second ‘Fifth Element’, but we still find Valerian on Ultra HD Blu-ray a nice addition to our test library. The film may have two of the stiffest protagonists ever, it also has a very well-produced surround soundtrack. You will notice this during the first tones of David Bowie’s ‘Major Tom’ during the intro on the film, when the musical character of the Marantz SR8012 proves to be a trump card. But also later when Major Valerian and his sidekick Laureline land in their spaceship on their next mission, tracking down a target in a virtual market filled with thousands of aliens. This includes a rich and complex surround field, which displays the Marantz SR8012 very nuanced and with depth. It is a result that comes partly because the receiver has a lot to offer, but also because we have been able to fine-tune the room measurement through the (optional) Audyssey MultEQ Editor app. It is a comment that we have already made with previous Denon and Marantz reviews: this app is worth the extra extra expenditure of 20 euros, because it offers access to many advanced settings that you can not otherwise manipulate. It is also a real asset for the two brands, because only receivers with Dirac Live support or high-end processors give you more possibilities in terms of room / speaker tuning. We are therefore a big fan of the Audyssey app mainly because we think the tuning of the Marantz receiver is ‘friendly’ after the standard measurement. The musical takes precedence, but sometimes you want a bit rawer and more messy in games and action movies. Via the app you can then quickly load another profile.
The ability of the Marantz to make strong dynamic jumps is also noticeable when we use the magisterial ‘Dunkirk’ (on Ultra HD Blu-ray ) by Christopher Nolan. It is a very unconventional war film that in terms of atmosphere is most reminiscent of ‘Thin Red Line’, but what did you expect from the director of ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar’? Just like with this SF movie, a threatening music soundtrack plays a continuous role here, with very fast heartbeat sounds, for example, at exciting moments. Your subwoofer is put to the test, we promise you, including in the pieces with the air fights and with the shelling on Dunkirk Mole. This is a pre-eminent film that shows how a sophisticated sound design can set the mood and tone, provided it is displayed properly. The control of the Marantz SR8012 makes that possible. The surround sound at Dunkirk was so good that we watched this film in one go, while we actually had to look at more film fragments in the context of testing.
Marantz SR8012 – Conclusion
The Marantz SR8012 is a very powerful and good sounding AV receiver that will satisfy even the most demanding surround enthusiast. The combination of 11.2 channels and a flexible interface means that you can use the device for very many scenarios. That the Marantz SR8012 also has all the musical assets that you would expect from a high-end Marantz, then the real big added value. The HEOS function, an excellent interface and a lot of power are of course also very welcome.