Marantz’s introduction of the AV10 and AMP10 represented something of a pivotal upgrade in their AV flagship series last year. The preceding AV-8805A processor had been through several minor internal iterations and the MM8807 power amps had remained in the lineup for a decade. Our trusted trade focused reviewer Richard Stevenson has a look and a listen.

The AV10 and AMP10 broke cover with a funky new exterior design, new internals, and a move to Class-D amplification to integrate 16 channels of 200W in the power amp. This new generation promises to maintain Marantz’s revered audio engineering heritage, ticks all the boxes for AV features and is packed with custom integration goodness. Just as well as the boisterous new product tags of £6,000 a-piece places them firmly up against some premium dedicated CI electronics.

While specification and features lists are longer than War and Peace, the headlines include 15.4 channel processing across up to three discrete zones, full Dolby, DTS and Auro 3D processing, IMAX Enhanced video, 8K Ultra HD compatibility and both Airplay and HEOS built-in streaming. Connectivity is outstanding, save perhaps the lack of front AV inputs and the ability to have four discrete subwoofers is bang on trend.

It comes with Audyssey MultEQ XT32 as standard, with upgrade options for MultEQ-X and the full suite of Dirac options from the basic bandwidth-limited Live version up to Full Bandwidth Live with Bass Control Multi-Sub. These licenses will set the end-user back $199 for Audyssey MultEQ-X and up to $799 for the full-fat Dirac implementation, plus calibrated mics if the end-user wants to own those. For integrators, MultEQ-XT Pro offers the ability to inventory and resell licenses and Dirac’s soon-to-launched partner program offers demo licenses and commission on license sales.

The AMP10 is even more radically different from its predecessor, whose seven channels meant most installations, mine included, needed two of them. The shift to Class D power has allowed channels of amplification, enhanced with Marantz’s HDAM-SA2 amp technology. Each channel offers balanced and RCA input, with the option of bi-amping or bridging any channel pairs. We set up as a typical 7.x.4 installation, using 11 channels for cinema and bridging two pairs for additional stereo speakers.

Both units offer LAN control, DC triggers, remote in/out and RS232 interfaces for installation, plus a unique Marantz Amp Control link between the two that syncs power, standby and lighting controls between units. Terminals are gold plated, well positioned and super-robust throughout both units, although getting 32 bare wire or large spade speaker terminals into the AMP10s 16-pairs of monster binding posts clustered across just 44cm width will be a challenge. Banana plugs are absolutely the way to go here.

Installed, the new cosmetic features the lovely VU meter on the AV10 (measuring only Amp Channel 1) and lighting in white, blue or ‘off’ behind the protruding centre section of the fascia. Switching between colours involves holding the Pure Direct and MDAX buttons at the same time for a few seconds… a tip that escaped V1 of the AV10 manual. Off is probably the best bet for in room installation as the illumination casts quite a swathe of light to either side in a darkened room. This luxurious pre-power systems system is wrapped up with a smart new back-lit remote and the Marantz App, both of which are very useable and informative.

Out of the box, the Marantz duo set out their stall as detailed, neutrally balanced and refined cinema sound performers. Driving my Dali Phantom S-Series 7.x.4 Atmos set up and both B&W DB1D and MA Anthara W15 subs, Audyssey’s MultEQ-XT32 further improved on that sonic roster after its eight-point measurement. The LF from the boisterous S280 front speakers, in particular, was brought under tight control, revealing yet more nuance in each soundtrack.

Yet the limitations of the on-board MultEQ system mean the subwoofer channel isn’t EQ managed and there is little or no tweaking of the result. It’s Reference, Flat or Off. Having recently packed away the sonic powerhouse that is the Denon AVC-A1H integrated, the Marantz was all a little, well, ‘safe’.

First, upgrading to MultEQ-X and re-running the eight-point set-up offered a more vigorous balance with a much tighter and better-integrated low and midrange along with snappier dialogue. A few tweaks to the curves in the Audyssey PC-based app later and we had some fire and passion to go with its otherwise subtle and detailed charms. There are plenty of options to play with across the filters and graphs on display, but it’s not a fire-and-forget solution for every room – you have to work it.

The real magic happened after getting in touch with Dirac and obtaining the full Dirac Live Full bandwidth and Multi-Sub EQ package demo license. OK, 17-point measurement across 14+ channels is PITA-central, but the results were nothing short of revolutionary in my room. The Marantz pair came alive with energy and power, punching out emotional drama and fast-paced action with equal measure. The AVC-A1H still has the Marantz Pre-Power for raw passion and sheer energy with action, but the AV1/AMP10 with full Dirac is the all-around movie fan’s reference for its revealing intensity with every genre.

That notion is equally born out of using the AV10 as a stereo pre-amp (EQ disabled / Pure Direct mode) to drive bridged channels on the AMP10 into high-end stereo speakers. The Marantz simply oozes audiophile reference, revealing subtle recording nuances while keeping a fine tempo with pacier tracks. For customers wanting to combine AV systems with a discrete, audiophile stereo speaker system, perhaps in another zone, the AV10/AMP10 can easily offer the best of both worlds from one controlling hub, with one app to control it all.

For custom integrators in the home cinema market, the Marantz AV10 and AMP10 offer a blend of advanced features, flexible installation options and refined audio performance for multichannel AV and second or third-zone stereo. The 8K chops, high-spec HDMI implementation, sophisticated GUI, all the key AV processing formats and the option to choose between two of the biggest EQ systems on the planet, make it an appealing choice to specify.

Add in Marantz’s enviable brand reputation, the new fetching good looks compared to some of the slab-faced CI-pro competition and a very slick user app, and this new pre-power offers a lot of end-user attraction to close the deal too.

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