The 9 Year old Marantz SR8001 7.1 A/V Receiver Gets Better Over Time

Meet our newest reviewer, 17 year old Caleb Attaway. Caleb lives northwest of Atlanta, Georgia and is going into his senior year of high school at Living Science Home Studies, Inc., which is half home school and half private school. In the future Caleb will review records and new audio gear.

Caleb recently at QRP pressing plant in Salina, KS, where he spent some time working for Chad Kassem at Acoustic Sounds. (Photo: Chad Kassem)

In his own words: “I have been an audiophile for about 4 years and have been collecting records for about two and a half. I have always thought records were cool from seeing them in movies and cartoons, but now I like them more than ever! I played piano for four years, dropped that and moved to guitar for about five. I still play guitar and I now play percussion in a concert band and snare drum in a marching band. Regardless, hi-fi audio and records remain my number one interest!”

The Marantz SR8001 7.1 Channel Receiver

There is actually a bit of a story behind how I got this Marantz receiver and how I fixed it. I was a Servant Leader at my school helping load some dissection equipment onto a trailer for a week long field trip to a location approximately 346 miles away from the school, which is actually a house with a basement where of this all took place.

While moving some of the apparatus I noticed a large receiver tucked away on the floor behind a bunch of plastic storage bins. I am kind of obsessed with going to Goodwill and looking for audio equipment, so this shiny specimen definitely caught my eye.

When I bent down to get a closer look at it, I knew I had found something good. Everything about the unit screamed “high end”: the gold-plated connectors, the toroid transformer, the smooth metal knobs, the thick brushed aluminum faceplate, and the overall sleek look accomplished by hiding all of the buttons behind a hinged metal door.

None of these features are unique in good hi-fi equipment but this was solid gold compared to cheaper-built, poor condition thrift store offerings. It was quite dusty, so I assumed it hadn’t been used in a while. I asked one of the staff —who was basically the school technician/handyman—if it was going to be used in the future for anything. He said, “I don’t remember if it works or not, but you can have it if you want.”

He knew I was highly interested in audio equipment and was planning to take the audio tech class he taught so he pretty much knew that I was asking if I could keep it. I was already amped up (funny!-ed). from getting the unit for free so I couldn’t wait to get picked up from school and get home so I could go online and see its retail price. When I found out it retailed in 2006 for a whopping $1,999, I almost fainted (sadly, I can’t find the remote anywhere, but I’m not complaining).

I got home, plugged it in, started listening to music and then, after an hour, decide to watch a movie. About ten minutes in, “click click”: the audio stops, the video disappears and the standby light is blinking red. I press the power button and think the unit is powering back on, but instead the display reads “CHECK POW5” and then again shuts off. I tried this to no avail two more times, which resulted in probably the most disappointing moment of my life.

Fast forward a little over two years. I meet Robin Wyatt at the New York Audio Show (2018), he gets me in contact with Michael Fremer and I tell Michael about this broken receiver I have and what is wrong with it and he tells me that he can contact Marantz and get me a service manual for it so I can fix it, which he did.

I had already figured out that the power supply caps needed replacing, but the thing is so jam packed with wires that need to be unplugged to get to them, I knew I needed something else to help me more than just pictures I took on my phone. So, with a few hours of looking inside the amp and scrolling through hundreds of pages of the service manual, I finally got the thing taken apart to where I could actually see on the caps the information I needed to know what to buy. A few weeks of “high-speed priority shipping” go by and Voila! The parts are at the door. I install them and I am almost ready to power the unit on. I stand as far away as possible with my arm outstretched seemingly beyond its limit, hit the power button, and…… Success!

Now that I’ve spent some time with the Marantz SR8001 7.1 channel receiver, I can with authority say that if you are looking for a hefty receiver and are comfortable ignoring the constantly changing surround sound movie formats and you don’t care about 4K, Dolby Atmos, or Dolby Vision, but just want good sonic performance and long list of useful features, this might be a great buy for you. With used prices on ebay ranging from $49.99 (for parts) all the way to $299 (working), the price to performance ratio is almost unparalleled. If you read some of the online reviews from nine years ago you’ll read complaints about some features, but recognition that the 8001 sounds great.

Overview and Build

Weighing in at 33.1lbs, for a receiver the build quality is very good. It is well damped and was non-resonant despite the plastic feet, though the stamped metal top cover when tapped rings to where it could be used as a cymbal. However, when loud music plays it does not vibrate because Marantz installed tiny strips of felt between the top cover and the chassis. It also has two nicely machined aluminum knobs on the front, (which a lot of new receivers do not) one for volume and one to select the input. The power supply transformer is a toroid placed in a resin-filled metal housing. Based on my experience with the 8001 I think anyone getting into audio on a tight budget should find a receiver online or from a thrift store instead of buying new. Here is one reason why: with its multiple inputs and outputs this receiver has Swiss Army Knife versatility. The only thing missing is a second subwoofer output. The amp outputs 140 watts into 8 ohms and the built-in DAC is a Crystal 192/24 bit device. However, since this receiver is from the "vinyl is dead" era, it does not include a built-in phono preamp, so I used the Denon's for this review and for now it's what I'm using.

Listening

I am not going to go over all of the specific inputs, outputs and features of this receiver, which I reviewed and use as an integrated amplifier in 2 channel “SOURCE DIRECT” mode, which bypasses all of the possible DSP processing functionality and turns off all but the front L and R channel amps but leaves on the “subwoofer out”.

I am going to come clean… I started my listening with Spotify but only for speed’s sake, so I could switch as fast as possible between the Marantz and my previous receiver—a Denon AVR-2802. I know there are people out there who believe in just installing the new equipment, giving it time to settle in, and letting the differences show over time. I would follow this method but my system (see below) does not have the resolving power of big budget reviewer systems and I felt this method would yield more reliable results.

The first song I listened to was "Tango Jalousie" by Jacob Gade, Sakari Oramo, and the Vienna Philharmonic. The first thing I noticed was a greater sense of space, which made the speakers disappear a bit more. The sound was a little less two dimensional than before with wailing French horns bringing loads of emotion and soul into the recording. I also noticed much greater high frequency extension that made me think the amp was a little bright. But further listening changed my mind into thinking my previous Denon was warm, with slightly exaggerated and colored bass and a more washed out soundstage.

“Fly Me To The Moon” by Jean-Willy Kunz and André Moisan on the album Impressions (still Spotify) greeted me with a smooth sounding trombone and pipe organ that sounded improvised before the rest of the band joined in. Again, the Marantz delivered a more spacious, more detailed, and more midrange and treble articulate version compared to the Denon. After the improv ended there was a loud whack on the floor tom that revealed to me how much more dynamic this amp was compared to the Denon. The Marantz continued to impress me throughout the song in all audio parameters.

Vinyl, Finally

Yes I know, I kind of gave all the review away while rambling about the differences between the two receivers while listening to digital. Before listening I didn’t think there would be as much of a difference between the two receivers. Everything I said about listening to digital was also true listening to vinyl, only amplified. One thing the receiver did with vinyl that it didn’t do with digital was present a larger, more powerful soundstage, which increased somewhat the sense of space.

A few things that aren't so great about this amp: I found it highly sensitive to the condition/cleanliness of the AC line. It's not unlistenable on a bad day, but on those there’s definitely a noticeable let-down. A borrowed Monster power conditioner only made things worse (I forget the model of the conditioner), by severely constricting dynamics and completely collapsing the soundstage.

Somehow the conditioner added an objectionable amount of treble grain and brittleness coupled with flat (and not in the good sense) bass.

The amp’s other major shortcoming—power conditioner or not—was its high noisefloor. My speakers are 90dB efficient (@1W/1M) and while with nothing playing you can’t hear hissing, when music is playing the noise affects instrumental separation and diminishes the desired “black backgrounds”.

Harry James and His Big Band, The King James Version (Lab 3)

This is one of my top 3 favorite records. The album presents a huge sounding band that will really show off a system’s “rhythm’n’pacing” abilities, which is something mine does best. I mentioned this Marantz receiver was more dynamic than the Denon and that statement was really well demonstrated on the album track “Don’t Be That Way”. The band gets really quiet towards the end of the track, almost as if the arranger wants to trick you into thinking the song is ending. But oooh no! After that, the drummer goes to town on the snare and scares the crap out of you if you don’t know the song or if you are half asleep—kind of like the end of the “1812 Overture”, but that’ll be a story for another day.

On this record the Marantz presented the midrange snappy and quick but not over-emphasized. Having become used to the Denon’s somewhat soft and slugging transient presentation, during the trumpet solo the Marantz’s treble transient response was surprising. Despite all of the positive sonic qualities I’ve described about this amp, I would never keep it if these came at the expense of body, soul, and emotion. I grow tired of typical audio show sound at the audio shows I have been to that have anything but. Anyway….

Conclusion

Could you find a better amplifier for the money that has higher build quality and a more reliable design? Of course! But this receiver brings value to tinkerers like me who constantly acquire used gear to play with and repair. The price is right when the receiver no longer works and needs fixing.

The Marantz SR 8001 receiver is a very well-rounded product. It brings everything you might need in a two channel receiver and of course a lot more (including many extra channels you won’t be using in stereo), but it also has some drawbacks. You get a dizzying number of inputs and outputs, good build quality, impressive sound and one of the best looking HT receivers around. But, you also get a higher chance of reliability issues due to the number of parts and circuit complexity, and of course build and sound quality suffer compared to a two channel power amplifier due to superfluous parts costs.

Nonetheless, because home theater video requirements (4K, ATMOS etc.) change so often, these older receivers are considered “obsolete” and so the used prices sink far further than some vintage 2 channel integrated amps and recievers. True, I got mine for free and the cost for the repair was minimal because I did it myself, but used working 8001s on Ebay go for under $300. So, yes as the price of the Marantz 8001drops, the better it gets over time—as long as it works!

Associated Equipment

Turntable: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC
Cartridge: Ortofon 2M Red
Phono Preamp: the one in the Denon, sadly.
DAC: Emotiva XDA-2 Gen 1 (Spotify Premium [Ogg Vorbis format])
Amplifier: Denon AVR-2802
Subwoofer: Paradigm PS-1000 V1
Speakers: JBL ARC1000
Cables: (IEC, Interconnects, and Speaker) Generic 10% Oxygen

COMMENTS
rshak47's picture

and story. Hope to hear more from you on these pages.

JTH's picture

Love the articles and reviews from different voices - keep up the great work and keep at it.

galacticz00's picture

Keep it up we need some new blood.

Jim Tavegia's picture

I spend more time doing recording work now, but have been into music for over 65 years starting playing 78's for my Dad who had polio. Old does not mean obsolete.

I still use my old Pioneer VSX-21 mostly in two channel, but it is 5.1 and still sounds great and I only had to replace the volume decoder once. You are right in that the Denon sound is softer, but still pleasing in a tube kind of way as I also have their 397 receiver in another room and use it for LPs and digital and for replaying recordings as another tool just like the Pioneer. I also find the DAC in the Pioneer acceptable and little different than a newer CD/DVD player or my newer USB DAC that can do 24192.

Glad you are aboard as a fellow Atlantan.

GAAudioLVR's picture

Congrats on your free amp find and especially for bringing it back to life. This AVR suffers from what most of them do and that is the video section. Even though you mention a toroidal power supply (which is normally a good thing) it has to power not only the amps but also all of the video processing, decoding, digital source switching etc. You would be surprised at how much that power goes into video processing (robbing it from the amp section) that sadly, you can't switch off. Be patient and keep hitting up your local Goodwill and thrift stores. I bet you will eventually find a dedicated two-channel preamp and power amp which I bet you will find to be more sonically pleasing for your music system. Until that time, enjoy what you have and keep on repairing and reviewing.

JEB-42's picture

A great review and even better background and story. A pleasure to read. Thank you. For myself and my friends that's where it all started. Tinkering and playing. Goodwill and Value Village can be a treasure trove for both gear and music! Happy digging and welcome!

JEB-42's picture

A great review and even better background and story. A pleasure to read. Thank you. For myself and my friends that's where it all started. Tinkering and playing. Goodwill and Value Village can be a treasure trove for both gear and music! Happy digging and welcome!

Ortofan's picture

... insisted that their service manuals be removed from the sites that generally provide such information at no cost - especially for the long obsolete models.
IMO, this makes their products less desirable on the second-hand market, because it's not possible to review the schematics prior to purchase and it's necessary to purchase a manual if one wants to properly perform a service or repair job.

AnalogJ's picture

I really liked following your story; and it seems like you have a good set of ears feeding your brain. Congrats!

mraudioguru's picture

...you have assembled! Love that DAC. I still have one I don't use any longer, but kept it because it's so damn good.

McFaden's picture

Those were the first speakers I ever purchased. Got them from a Costco when I was 18 years old, 1998. They pack a PUNCH, the neighbors would agree. Welcome to the Planet.

Chemguy's picture

You’re a natural! Enjoy the hobby!

Mile High Music's picture

Thank you for the interesting and informative review Caleb. Nice system. Welcome and well done!

MalachiLui's picture

Keep up the great work man!

barfle's picture

While I’m almost as enamored by the latest state-of-the-art toys as any junkie, I also love my vintage gear, some of which I picked up when I was just a few years older than Caleb.

I’m always heartened to hear about people who like to fix things instead of just tossing them out and buying new. Great job, Caleb, and just one piece of advice from an old guy - protect your ears!

hunterca's picture

good to see marantz getting better over the years.
i got a sr8002 which seems not outputing surrounds with optical input from TV. Would you like to share some insights on what could go wrong? i have tried many things.
TV is a LG 55OLEDb7p.

cattaway07's picture

I would love to help you. There is a great number of things that could be causing this issue, probably somewhere in the TV or the receiver's settings. Since this would be far too difficult to troubleshoot in the comments, I can give you my phone number if you email me at cattaway07@gmail.com Thanks!

cattaway07's picture

I am posting this comment again because I realized I didn't actually click "reply" on your comment the first time.

I would love to help you. There is a great number of things that could be causing this issue, probably somewhere in the TV or the receiver's settings. Since this would be far too difficult to troubleshoot in the comments, I can give you my phone number if you email me at cattaway07@gmail.com Thanks!

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