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October 2013
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Senseless Ramblings
Thought streams plus mini review of the Marantz SR7008 and Colorfly's C4 Pro PMP.
Article By Steven R. Rochlin

 

  During this very busy month filled with R&D have barely had time to get my reviewer hat on. A few months back the new Marantz SR7008 9.2-channel 125 wpc networked home theater receiver with AirPlay arrived at my doorstep and immediately replaced the Onkyo TX-SR607 90 wpc receiver that was baking its way to an early death. With word from Enjoy the Music.com's own Dr. Bill Gaw how his Onkyo unit, only a small handful of years old, had imploded a board and Onkyo could not fix it due to that circuit board no longer being available, it made sense to never choose an Onkyo unit if they can not fix a unit only a few years old. Makes no sense buying a $XXXX unit if it will have the service life of a gnat. So looking over the audio landscape I debated a variety of things from going all-in and getting a complete and politically correct McIntosh Labs setup at highish $XX,XXX to going 'backwards' to a super minimal stereo rig that probably would cost around the same price.

Going all McIntosh makes sense for prestige, quality, and of course the façade of bragging rights. When I saw what the final price would be, and whilst great investing is always fun, the more down-to-Earth guy who lived out his car for months on end felt there must be a good value for the dollar out there... and there is! Since McIntosh is owned by D+M Group, who owns such companies as Boston Acoustic, Denon, Marantz, Sumiko, sonos faber, Wadia and others, perhaps the same company uses their tech team for other units? Being a reviewer who travels to shows, during the High End 2013 show in Munich and T.H.E. Show Newport Beach I asked around and got quite a bit of inside info. You know, that delicious stuff most people never get to find out 'in the wild'. Secret whispers, hidden jewels, and of course the ability to speak directly with equipment designers.

 

Enter The Marantz SR7008
Marantz SR7008Since D+M Group makes McIntosh, but looking for something that would be less painful to one's wallet, Marantz made perfect sense. Let us just say I heard from some mythical person that certain units are probably around 95-ish% of the Mc gear, yet less costly. Makes sense as the same applies within many industries including exotic cars versus the Nissan GT-R or the solid 'daily beater' Bell & Ross mechanical watch versus a Patek 5167 Aquanaut. Like a chemist, getting those last few percentages of purity can become very expensive; perhaps prohibitably so for some given the current state of the economy. Looking at the technology within the Marantz SR7008 plus the ability to bi-amp like I did with the Onkyo drew in my attention. It has a plethora of inputs and pre outs too for added flexibility.

Let me say here and now this is a mini review, as to even try and discuss all the technology within the Marantz SR7008 9.2-channel networked home theater receiver with AirPlay in detail would take easily over 10,000 words. So why the SR7008 you ask? Well, could care less about surround sound other than yes I have plenty of speakers here to do it, but hate the possible phase and timing anomalies when you have so many speakers feeding a room. For me, four carefully chosen speakers, two front and two rear, do the trick for surround sound. Maybe one day I'll throw up two more for height effects. Being the top-of-the-line in receivers for Marantz, the SR7008 has more computer processing power than the lower models plus you can play with the very important Audyssey's MultEQ XT32 features. Yes the Audyssey MultEQ Pro kit is here, yet have been too busy to dive deeply with it; though plan to the first spare day on my calendar. As I said this is a mini review and thus am sure some audiophiles are scratching their head wondering what I am yammering on about.

Marantz SR7008After reading this mini review, please take a look at the technology you can get in a $2000 receiver like the SR7008. Oh, and it includes an app for Android and iApple devices. Basically said, the SR7008 has digital EQ, room correction, handles the usual network music duties and handles pretty much every music format except DSD/SACD via network, USB or HDMI. There is 7.1-channel analog in via RCA jacks for multi-channel DSD, but that kinda defeats the purpose of high quality sound and the immense on-board digital processing of the SR7008 imho. With that said, there is so much right going on within the unit technology-wise for $2000 that it was hard to resist grabbing a review sample.

 

SR7008: The Sound
It sounds very impressive for the money, as the same parent company makes McIntosh plus their Denon line is about as close to electronic inbreeding as it gets without direct cloning. Bi-amp'ing the Dunlavy SC-IV with 125 wpc, thus using two amplification channels of the receiver per side, there was an immediate improvement in sound quality over the same setup bi-amped with the Onkyo. Another reason I chose Marantz is for the company's 'family sound'. A teeny tiny touch on the dry side mind you, but never annoying analytical. If you love the sheer richness of triode vacuum tubes then step right up the D+M Group's McIntosh gear and open that wallet very wide. The sound of the SR7008 is quite accurate for the money and my only main quibble is it could use more transparency. That gripe aside, let me tell you briefly about the great stuff this baby does, as for $2000 you get a technological feast you can tweak to your heart's content!

Being a modern-day receiver, there is an abundance of HDMI inputs (with selectable pass-though), digital and analog inputs, front panel headphone jack, etc. The Marantz SR7008 handles all the usual digital formats in the digital domain you can throw at it except DSD/SACD, which is a multi-channel affair. The SR7008 includes enough processing power to easily handle room correction, EQ, and surround sound effects. Furthermore, the included calibration microphone works with Audyssey's wonderful MultEQ XT32. If you have not looked into this technology, check it out online as this is a mini-review. If you want to really dig deeply and have fun, get the Audyssey Pro Installer kit for only $500 and hook your computer to the receiver to deeply tweak things to the Nth degree. If you're a tech geek like me, this should give you hour after hour of fun and exploration. In a sense, your audio system becomes an experiment as you try different settings and hear the results.

Getting back to the sound, being a digital-controlled unit you can choose a normal soundstage, or medium wide, or ultra-wide. All this and much, much more are just a few clicks away. For me, part of the fun is in making changes from album to album, as we all know some recordings leave a bit to be desired so you can 'fix it in the mix'. In Pure Direct mode, so as not to skew things, I was rewarded with a great soundstage and solid imaging. Depth was very good, though perhaps not the last word. Bass was very solid and far better defined than the Onkyo ever was even on its best day to my ears in my system. Midrange was a bit dryer than the Onkyo yet had more detail and was more balanced within the overall frequency spectrum. Moving up to the highs is a delight as they are very extended and aurally rewarding. My wife Heather also agrees the Marantz unit is leagues ahead of the previous Onkyo unit, with some sounds during movies so close to real even she was questing if they came from the movie or were actual sounds originating within our home. Perhaps there is a bit of that musical magic within Marantz's Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Module (HDAM) circuitry? Who knows? Frankly, who cares when for only $2000 you get so very much to love and so many ways to tweak it all once you move out of the Pure Direct mode and start having fun tuning things digitally. Since the Dunlavy speakers are time and phase accurate, unlike many other speakers, you really can easily and quickly hear any changes you make.

Yes I can hear audiophiles screaming at me "But Steven, you were the $90,000 triode guy with the Audio Note Ongaku before anyone really latched on to triode tube amps. Steven, you also loved hornspeakers and now you're using Dunlavys?" Well, soon the Dunlavy's may go for a new set of Avantgarde Duos, but for now am having far too much fun experimenting with digital technology to go back to a 'pure' minimal system. I'm a geek like that. Once I get the Audyssey Pro Installer kit going full-force the fun will continue unabated. For those of you who have not checked out all the possibilities of the new digitally-controlled systems available, which even the likes of Linn is now widely embracing, you really should at least give yourself an hour to study it with an open mind.

Of course i did try the preamp outputs to feed a tube and a solid state-amp that are here and must say i came away quite impressed. Still, it was not the ultimate reference level mind you, yet it was excellent and fun to experiment with different amps whenever i chose. Nice to have flexibility, with the ability to upgrade the amplification as desired to achieve higher performance or if you have speakers that are inefficient amplification power current hogs. Then again that means you paid good money for amplification within the SR7008 that is just sitting idly by. Then again, again, since i came away impressed with the sound for such reasonable money, this indeed did make me wonder about Marantz's upper line AV8801 11.2 channel A/V pre-amp/processor that'll set you back $3600. Sure this is a big difference in cost as compared to the $2000 SR 7008 and the AV8801 lacks any amplification, though such is the law of diminishing returns as one seeks the Nth degree of performance plus not everyone will want to have, or have physical rack space for, more black boxes.

 

Conclusion: The Law Of Diminishing Returns
As for my overall impression of the Marantz SR7008, for $2000 you get a heck of a lot to love, though in the back of my mind can't help but wonder if the AV8801 11.2 channel A/V pre-amp/processor for $3600 may have been a better choice. A little birdie told me it the AV8801 is probably 95% of the equivalent D+M Group's McIntosh equivalent. Goodness knows there are plenty of amplifiers in my basement that could be brought upstairs to drive the speakers. Or one could mate the AV8801 with the company's $2400 MM8077 7-channel @ 150 watts per for a grand total of $6000. But that is three times the investment into the $2000 SR7008, and part of this experiment was what one could achieve with a relatively modest budget. Did i mention there is so much to love and learn from the SR7008 that many who have not toyed with such technologies can get their groove on without breaking their bank account. Add in $500 for the Audyssey Pro Installer Kit and it is still a bargain in my eyes. For those with deeper wallets, the AV8801/MM8077/Audyssey Pro Installer Kit could be a brilliant trip to Happiville.

Sadly, I may never know as am moving on from this experiment to other things. And yes, am buying the SR7008 because the price is so attractive considering the performance and experimentation possibilities it delivers. If you have not kept up with modern tech as it pertains to high fidelity audio production/reproduction, i implore you to learn about Audyssey's MultEQ XT32 and other technologies within the SR7008, even if it is only to satisfy your own curiosity versus wanting to invest in such things... even if you love turntables and vacuum tubes driving single-driver full-range speakers. Hey, it got my attention enough to actually spend time to analyze and review the Marantz SR7008 and write this review.

Keep in mind during the past two years i may have reviewed perhaps only three components, so there are reasons for this review and felt it would be good to share them with you. Am not saying the SR7008 is the end-all be-all or the very last word in resolution and transparency, yet for $2000 you sure do get plenty of modern technology aimed at achieving the best sound for the money within your listening room and/or home theater system. If you want to invest more, Marantz can fulfill your desires. If you are a soundstage freak, the SR7008 has enough ways to achieve the width and depth you desire provided you have a decent setup. Within my system, i could place the orchestra so far back that i was waiting for the neighbors to complain about the band playing in their livingroom. If you do nothing else, at least read about the tech inside the Marantz SR7008, then decide a course of action, or non-action as that case may be, which is also an action. 

 

Colorfly C4 Pro PMP
Colorfly C4 Pro PMPPMP is the sorta newish acronym for Portable Media Player, which during a Facebook posting seems some were not familiar with that terminology. The previously review by Yours Truly Astell&Kern AK120 is a great example of this type of device. What initially drew me to the Colorfly C4 Pro was the way it looked and its ability to play 192/24 files, S/PDIF in and out, etc. The mere 32GB of internal storage did not faze me much as there is a microSD card slot that handles 64GB cards. Being into Steampunk only made me thirst more to get my hands on a review sample. Sadly, the looks are not backed up by results during actual daily use and the unit is quite large. Yes the Colorfly C4 Pro sounds impressive, very impressive. Articulate bass, accurate to perhaps a touch warm mids and really nicely extended highs. Channel separation is seriously good, most impressive! PRAT was also good and funk music had a nice groove going to it. Based solely on sound quality, this is a wonderful piece of kit that brought hour after hour of enjoyable music to my ears.

Alas, the not so user-friendly wonky UI (user interface), lack of user-adjustable EQ and other bits during actual use left me perplexed... and I'm a tech geek! Mr. and Mrs. Normal Consumer wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of using this device and finding it intuitive and easy to use right out of the box. I'd especially like a unit that handles DSD and has Wi-Fi with on-board app or three for wireless streaming so that effectively eliminates any internal storage concerns. Did I mention the unit is quite large, overly so imho and this is not due to a proper touchscreen as found in the Astell&Kern AK120. Truly did want to love the Coloryfly C4 when I first saw it online, but sometimes your dreams and reality diverge in unexpected and undesirable ways. I'd write more about the Colorfly C4 Pro, but at this point in time the Colorfly C4 Pro has perhaps reached its expiration date. Guess the only thing to love about it, for me, is the visual styling. Sorry and all, these things happen as technology marches forward. Sometimes technology does these types of things. Happens all the time as not many people are using Windows 3.1 For Workgroups. Heck, many don't use Linux simply because of the user-interface. The Colorfly C4Pro really does sound very good, impressively so! Really did want to love it too and if this review was in 2009 the Colorfly C4 Pro would have been heralded as a state-of-the-art modern miracle player with amazing capabilities. Yet today, Q3 2013, for $600 I'd look elsewhere in this fast-paced, growing marketplace of PMPs.

 

Senseless Rambling Crazy Idea Number One
When first reviewing the Z-System's digital equalizer way back in 1998 one of my ideas still has yet to reach the commercial market. Mainly because back then the technology of implementation was not available. So I challenge designers to create a unit that can detect a song and thus implement a user-set that includes EQ and other parameters. Since we all know there are some albums needs tweaking, I see no reason that a unit can not link digital track information to a user-set. Thus users can tweak the recording to sound best in their system and said component remembers these settings and will change the unit to those settings when the song/album is played. Have not forgotten you analog/vinyl guys, as first felt RFID/NFC may be the way to go, but that means you'll have to scan said RFID, then store your parameters like normal. Since there are online services such as SoundHound that can detect a song and then know what that song is to then implement the user's chosen settings that could be a more user-friendly way to go about it. Alas, given today's SoundHound's lack of speed in song detection, thus the user setting implementation during replay could be delayed by 10 seconds into the song. Hmm, perhaps RFID/NFC is a good way to go for now.

 

Over-The-Edge Crazy Idea Number Two
While discussing MIDI with my wife Heather it hit me like a ton of bricks. You see, I recall in the 80's having a private studio meeting where the industry first introduced us to MIDI. Relatively soon thereafter you could walk into a musical instrument store and hear the newest Cars album Heatbeat City being played on the actual instruments. Thus via MIDI computer signals sent to the actual instruments, what you heard was not 'CD sound quality' but the actual music itself! So this ultra-crazy idea is... why are we trying to reproduce pre-recorded music in full @ 192/24 instead of using far higher resolution emulation to produce within our listening space the actual music itself? Forget 192/24, think of far higher resolution emulation, thus instead of 192/24 for the entire band we have each instrument emulated. In this day and age of plug-ins and recording studios being digital, perhaps we should take the same route that many piano companies currently offer. And that is to record the actual movements/inputs from the musicians themselves, think Microsoft Kinect but moreso, to eventually be emulated within our homes. As for vocals, sure they can have their own dedicated 192/24 channel and it is so very easy to time sync it all up with hyper-accuracy today. Besides the obvious sound quality benefit, if said album creator chooses to unlock their song file you could be just like a studio and make changes to any parameter you so choose (reverb, EQ, level, effect settings, the instrument being emulated, etc). Ok, maybe this is too crazy an idea. Remember, this is "Senseless Ramblings". It costs very little to capture the actions/inputs of all musicians right now to then decide how to handle the data in the future, which is basically free to store forever. This way we have said data for possible implementation into emulation when, not if, it becomes available widely to consumers.

As always, in the end what really matters is that you...

 

Enjoy the Music,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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