Marantz SR7012 Review
Marantz is not just focusing on movie sound effects like other AV receiver company. Marantz has always emphasized both movies and music effects, bringing the best visual-audio experiences to the customer. Marantz SR7012 Receiver continues this fine tradition. It does not need to turn on the volume aloud and can easily show excellent spatial sound effects. Listening to music quietly at night can naturally show high-resolution and detailed sound quality.
In the past few years, Marantz AV receivers are flagships as long as they are 7 series or 8 series. And an essential point: the flagship always has an outstanding cost-performance. Marantz SR7012 is a 9.2 channel surround amplifier. If you are planning a multi-channel system and originally planned to install 5.1.4 or 7.1.2 channel speakers, the SR7012 is very appropriate. And its built-in surround decoding front-end circuit can handle up to 11.2 channels. Therefore, as long as a two-channel rear stage is added, the number of speaker channels can be increased to 7.1.4 or 7.2.4 channels.
eARC Capability with Built-in Auro-3D
Marantz receiver has maintained the same design for many years. The center of the panel is made of aluminum alloy, and the use of metal can increase the weight of the equipment and effectively suppress vibration. SR7012 maintains this design and elegant appearance, but its new functions are more advanced than most other receivers on the market.
The HDMI, I/O interface, is compatible with 4K/60p video transmission and has also been upgraded to “eARC.” In this way, when watching online movies such as Netflix, the Dolby Atmos multi-channel audio signal can be sent back from the TV to the eARC-supported SR7012, allowing users to enjoy three-dimensional spatial sound effects.
What is eARC
eARC stands for Enhanced Audio Return Channel, a new standard feature of HDMI 2.1, designed to provide the best audio resolution through the TV. The new configuration requires eARC support for the TV and audio equipment. That means that both devices must support HDMI 2.1. The older HDMI version does not support eARC. You also need an HDMI cable that supports Ethernet, such as the newer ultra-high-speed HDMI cable.
With eARC, full-resolution sound signals (including 3D surround sound formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X) can be transmitted back and forth between your TV and audio system, whether from wireless broadcasts or directly connected to Blu-ray of eARC-enabled TV or game console.
Previously, to decode high-bit-rate audio like Dolby Atmos, it was usually necessary to plug the source device directly into a compatible AV receiver, such as a soundbar or active speaker. Because most TVs were limited to outputting compressed surround sound or even stereo audio. With eARC, you will be able to plug HDMI devices directly into the TV, and the TV will send uncompressed high-quality audio directly from the eARC port to the soundbar, receiver or amplifier.
Another advanced feature is that the SR7012 supports Amazon’s Alexa voice control. Users only need to purchase an Amazon Echo to enable this feature and turn the SR7012 into a smart surround receiver.
Support USB Drive
Marantz SR7012 receiver has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modules and can listen to TuneIn Internet radio and Spotify when connected to the Internet. It also has a HEOS multi-room music streaming function and supports playback of NAS, PC, and portable devices through the network Music files, including WMA, MP3, WAV, MPEG-4 AAC, FLAC, Apple Lossless and DSD. Users can also insert a USB storage device to play music files stored in it. The file types supported by the USB storage device for playback are the same as those for network streaming. The highest format supported is 192kHz/24bit. DSD is compatible with DSF and DFF, and the most top format supported is DSD128 (5.6MHz sampling).
The manual states that the USB devices supported by the SR7012 are in FAT16/FAT32 format, but according to my actual test results, NTFS format USB hard drives can also be supported. Use this method to play music files from a USB storage device. You can directly use the remote control to select music without relying on a tablet or mobile phone to install an App for control, even if there is no Internet connection at home.
SR7012 back panel is equipped with 7 inputs and 3 outputs HDMI terminals, compatible with HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision, and can support eARC. SR7012 and Phono terminals can be connected to vinyl turntables. It has a complete 11.2 channel preamp output. Two sets of subwoofer outputs can be set independently, allowing players who use two subwoofers to adopt an asymmetrical configuration according to the conditions of the space environment.
Circuit Characteristics of SR7012
In SR7012, the power supply circuit is placed on the leftmost side in most machines. The rear part of the cabinet is the decoding front-end circuit. The 9-channel AB power amplifier circuit is divided into two parts: the front 4 channels and the rear five channels.
Since Marantz began to launch a surround sound amplifier that supports Dolby Atmos, its flagship machine is equipped with 4 DSP chips for multi-channel audio decoding. Sufficient computing power can be used for Audyssey’s highest level MultEQ XT32 automatic sound field correction. Marantz’s design has always paid great attention to noise suppression. You can see from the picture that the cables are shielded by metal tape.
Power Circuit Made for Low Noise
An enormous EI transformer powers the audio circuit of this unit, and after rectification, it uses two 15,000μF/71V filter capacitors customized by Nichicon.
Analog, digital circuit separation power supply is now a prevalent design for surround amplifiers. That can prevent the digital circuit’s noise from polluting the analog circuit through the power supply circuit. The difference lies in the design of the switching power supply. The operating frequency of SMPS power boards used by Marantz is about 100kHz. Although SMPS releases noise, the noise frequency is 5 times that of 20kHz, which is farther away from the sound frequency range that human ears can hear, so the sound quality will not be affected.
Noise Solving Technique
Marantz rarely explained the design concept of its surround receiver. Still, audiophiles all know that this veteran manufacturer of Hi-Fi audio for more than 60 years will pay attention to sound quality, especially music performance. They have soft power (accumulated sound tuning experience over the years) and hard work (original circuit design and implementation). During the development of the new machine, R&D personnel will carefully measure the strength of electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI) in each part of the device with instruments, and use this as a basis for circuit configuration and shielding, to minimize interference.
The circuit configuration of SR7012 is similar to that of most surround receivers. The digital motherboard is located at the top of the previous circuit. The HEOS wireless module specially made for music streaming is assembled in the center of the digital circuit motherboard. Multi-channel audio processing is equipped with 4 Analog Devices SHARC DSP chips “ADSP21487” to perform multi-channel decoding with powerful computing performance. At the same time, it is equalized with Audyssey’s highest-level MultEQ XT32 high-precision processing.
What is Audyssey and what is Audyssey MultEQ XT32
Most of the EQ functions of the AV receiver are from Audyssey MultEQ. Why should the power amplifier prepare for automatic EQ? Because the speakers are tested in the laboratory, the frequency response must be flat. Once the speaker is placed in an indoor environment, the frequency response will become distorted due to the superposition of various sound reflections. Therefore, we need to use the automatic EQ function of the power amplifier to correct the frequency response problem caused by the environment.
Audyssey MultEQ is such a frequency response automatic calibration system. The latest version is Audyssey MultEQ XT32.
Uniquie DAC Circuit Board Design
Usually, low-end receivers will install all channel DAC chips on the digital motherboard. The high-end receiver uses the DAC circuit as a separate circuit board to reduce noise interference, as does the SR7012.
However, the installation position of the SR7012 DAC circuit board is different. Most products install this circuit board horizontally under the digital motherboard, while the SR7012 puts the DAC circuit board upright. The upper end of the DAC circuit board is connected to the digital motherboard, and the lower connection includes the signal source, Audio control, and audio pre-stage circuit board. This approach is equivalent to allowing the DAC circuit board to connect the signal between the circuit boards, shorten the signal transmission path, and make the circuit after the DAC farther away from the digital motherboard and reduce noise interference.
Marantz SR7012 is equipped with two AKM AK4458VN 32-bit 8-channel DAC chips.
In the pre-amplification circuit part, this machine adopts HDAM (High Dynamic Amplification Module) developed by Marantz. This module is a transistor amplifier circuit composed of SMD independent components. Its slew rate is about 10 times higher than that of OP Amp for the general audio amplifier (fast speed), and it has a full frequency response characteristic (good high-frequency extension). Marantz wants to use these designs to make this machine have an advantage in “high resolution performance”. In the power amplifier circuit part, the output stage of each channel of this machine is push-pull output by a pair of Darlington crystals (2SB1647/2SD2560) with a current output capacity of 15A.
The agility and high-resolution characteristics of music
I tested with a two-channel music file, first comparing Stereo (2.1-channel speaker sound) and Pure Direct mode (using Pioneer S-1EX floor speaker). It can be heard that the bass feeling of the SR7012 automatically adjusted is moderate, and it is not as exaggerated as many surround receivers. Therefore, listening to music with 2.1 channels is still very balanced.
In Pure Direct mode without a subwoofer to assist in low-frequency sound production, this unit drives Pioneer S-1EX with a full frequency band, and the bass appears stable and comprehensive. The high frequency is gorgeous, the medium frequency is warm and delicate, and it is natural. The smoothness and excellent sound make Marantz SR7012 not like a regular AV receiver, but like a high-end Hi-Fi amplifier.
Although the SR7012 has a strong ability to drive speakers, it has a characteristic that most audiophiles can hear: the background is quieter than most high-priced models. Listen to music at a comfortable volume or a lower volume, and the music can still penetrate gently and clearly. The SR7012 is sensitive to the tone changes caused by the strength of the piano keys and the rich levels of the violin strings. The sound is bright and vivid, allowing people to hear the subtle components. There is no need to increase the volume at all, and you can enjoy clear music by listening quietly. Use it to play Hi-Res music files, and you can feel the real and beautiful sound of instruments and human voices.
The sound field is vast and transparent, and the ability to resolve small sounds is super
In terms of movie sound performance, the SR7012 can indeed show flagship-level performance. When playing action movies, it still maintains reasonable control and stability when the multi-channel speaker is powerfully output. It clearly and accurately presents the audio and image positioning in each direction in the three-dimensional space.
I think there are three main characteristics of this machine to express movie sound effects. One is the “clear picture”, the sound field is transparent, broad, and far-reaching. It allows me to easily and clearly hear the moving route of the flying object in the air and how close it is to me. The sound effect of passing by is very realistic.
The second is the ability to resolve small sounds. Especially when you play a movie that you are familiar with, you will not only feel that there are subtle sounds around the body and in the space, but also can determine what sound it is.
The third major feature is that you don’t need to turn up the volume to exaggerate the sound effects of the movie. That is the essential point because installing a multi-channel system at home will inevitably have to worry about whether it will affect neighbors and complain about the noise. The beauty of SR7012 is that when the user plays the music or movie at a moderate volume that does not disturb neighbors, it can maintain the balance of the whole frequency band. The details, vitality, audio, and video positioning and movement are precisely the same as you turn the volume to the max.
The SR7012 is produced at the flagship level, presenting a broad sound field, rich layers, and precise sound positioning and movement. Its characteristic function is that it can show vivid sound at normal or low volume, and even subtle sounds are very present.
Mid- and high-priced AV receivers are characterized by high-power output in movie sound effects. Most Audiophiles do not agree that surround receivers can be used as a tool for playing music. But I think Marantz SR7012 is a rare exception. When playing this music, it can show a delicate texture with a soft sound, showing elegant temperament and beauty, which is quite fascinating.
Marantz AV receiver SR7012 Specs
- 9.2 channel AV Receiver with 200 W per channel
- 4K/60 Hz full-rate pass-through, 4:4:4 color resolution, HDR, BT.2020 , Dolby Vision and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) pass-through
- 8 HDMI inputs (incl. 1 front) with full HDCP 2.2 support; 3 HDMI outputs (incl. Zone 2)
- eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) support via firmware update
- Analogue to HDMI conversion and SD to HD/4K Upscaling
- Dolby Atmos (up to 7.1.4 with an external 2ch amplifier), DTS:X™, and Auro-3D built-in
- Built-in Wi-Fi with 2.4GHz/5GHz dual band support
- Built-in HEOS Wireless Multi-Room Audio Technology
- AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, Internet Radio, Spotify Connect, TIDAL, Deezer and more
- Now available – Apple AirPlay 2
- DSD (2.8/5.6MHz), FLAC, ALAC and WAV support
- Audyssey MultEQ XT32, LFC, Sub EQ HT, Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ
- Colour-coded speaker terminals, Setup Assistant, Marantz 2016 AVR Remote App
- Intelligent ECO mode with off/on/auto setting
- Advanced multiroom options; 11.2-channel processing with pre-outs for all channels; RS232 Control; Crestron Connected