Music in the Round #47 Page 2
Unlike some pre-pros, which enforce the subtle high-frequency rolloff of Audyssey's standard response curve, the AV7005 offers the additional options of Audyssey Flat (no HF rolloff) and Audyssey Byp. L/R (no EQ for the L/R channels). Marantz also makes it easy to choose a preference by allowing the user to scroll through these options, along with Audyssey Off and Manual (I never used it), with a single button on the remote. Each of the Audyssey options opened up the width and depth of the frontal soundstage and enhanced the immersive illusion, whether of ambience or of the performers spread around me. Audyssey Flat was clean but a tiny bit aggressive in the highs. Audyssey Byp. L/R somewhat compromised the integration of the frontal soundstage with the surround channels. Like Goldilocks, I found the choice easy: Audyssey's standard curve gave me a very cohesive, balanced sound.
The Marantz AV8003, which came with only Audyssey MultEQ and not the AV7005's more advanced MultEQ XT, was unable to apply Audyssey to bitstreamed high-definition codecs. To apply Audyssey to 24-bit/96kHz signals with the AV8003, the disc player had to be set to transcode dts MA and Dolby TrueHD into PCM. However, Marantz has stated that the AV7005 can apply Audyssey to bitstreamed HD codecs at 24/96, and my experience confirms that. Moreover, the AV7005 could successfully handle multichannel PCM up to 24/192, whether from SACD, DVD-Audio, dts MA, or Dolby TrueHD, while also applying Audyssey. This is particularly important for music listeners who want the most from their SACDs, as the AV7005 can't accept DSD directly. The Marantz happily accepted 24/88.2 from the Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player and 24/176.4 from the Sony XA5400ES SACD player, Audyssey remaining effective all the while.
In principle, Audyssey's DSX, DynamicEQ, and DynamicVolume enhancements do not appeal to me. My bias is to play the hand I'm dealt: Don't extract/synthesize more channels than are in the source signal, and don't mess with the dynamics or frequency response to compensate for level settings. Still, I found these enhancements to be reasonable responses to acknowledged problems.
To assess DSX, I set up a temporary Wide configuration, with the Right-Wide speaker in the middle of a doorway and the Left-Wide speaker perched in front of a window. With two-channel music sources expanded to 5.1 by DPL IIx Music or dts NEO:6 Music, DSX Wide slightly expanded the soundstage and improved the blend with the surrounds in a very pleasing way. It also seemed to entail zero compromise in the transparencyor any other attributeof the main channels. I still prefer to listen to two-channel sources in two channels, but the many who prefer to expand stereo to ersatz surround may find this useful. With discrete multichannel sources the effect was minimal, but with no downsides other than cost and convenience. It's entirely possible that adding height channels might have had a greater impact, but there's no way to accommodate them in my space, even temporarily.
Dynamic EQ, on the other hand, was very effective and highly useful for all sourcesexcept music! With a 0dB reference level, switching in Dynamic EQ during a TV broadcast or film restored fullness to the bass and presence to voices and sounds, and made listening at less than reference levels refreshing and exciting. I don't usually set the TV or movies at reference level, so Dynamic EQ provided a welcome frisson that greatly increased my enjoyment of NFL broadcasts, and I could thoroughly enjoy movies at levels as much as 10dB lower than I usually do.
With music, however, Dynamic EQ, though effective, wasn't all that enjoyable. Using the handy button on the remote, I tried all its settings and ended up with a reference setting of 5dB, as Marantz recommends for classical music of wide dynamic range. DEQ did bring out details and bass lines that, due to the ear's loss of sensitivity at the extremes of the audioband, tend to get lost at low volumes. I can understand that many who must or prefer to listen only at low levels would find this a boon, especially for music of compressed dynamic range, such as many pop recordings. With these and movies and TV, DEQ should be considered a necessity. However, I listen mostly to classical music of wide dynamic range, which means that I rarely need the compensation DEQ provides, and that I'm very sensitive to its rejiggering of tonal balances. Given a good recording in which the performers' attention to balance has been preserved, it's difficult for me to accept that it would sound the same if the performers played more softly. (I'll leave the discussion of DynamicVolume to the home-theater folks. I believe it is incompatible with serious music listening.)
I didn't assess most of the AV7005's radio functions, which include AM, FM, HD, and Sirius tuners, but I was impressed with its ability to stream music from my PC, the Internet, and USB-attached media. Internet-radio sound was easily the equal of that of the Logitech Squeezebox Touch, and the OSD display made navigation a breeze. The Rhapsody and Pandora streaming services, too, were excellent with the AV7005. However, what I found even more impressive was the Marantz's performance with high-resolution FLAC audio files, such as those I've downloaded from the 2L and Linn labels, as well as discs I've ripped to my portable drive. A particularly delightful surprise was hearing, in full 5.1, a bunch of dts discs I'd ripped to WAV. Now, all I need is a way to do the same for SACD!