Originally Posted by KC Coldbrook
Is there an audio quality difference between the 80.1-80.2-80.3? The specifications seem to indicate they all use the same DACs and DSP.
I ask because my 80.1 video switcher went out last month, and since I couldn't have my system out of commission, while it's being repaired I picked up a Marantz AV7005. Unexpectedly, the Marantz AV7005 sound quality is head-and-shoulders above the 80.1. The dynamics are dramatically better -- not subtly better, but "wife noticed it without prompting" better. I really didn't think that was going to happen.
The plan was to sell the 80.1 when it's back from repair and pick up an 80.3 going forward, but now I have my doubts because of the AV7005 sound quality. It has 1 less HDMI input than I need and would have on the 80.3, but I'm working around that by using a second input on the TV and programming the remote macro to deal with it.
I don't really care about most of the 80.3 feature adds except HDMI 1.4a (and that's only for future proofing), since I rarely use a scaler and when I do, I have a good one in my Pioneer Elite PRO-151 panel. MultiEQ XT32 is potentially an improvement, but that's more sound shaping than raw sound quality.
So to summarize, AV7005 sound quality dramatically better than 80.1 (IMHO), so is 80.3 going to up the ante?
I have owned a 9.8, 80.1, and 80.2. I have not heard the 80.3. But, in answer to your question, yes, there were sonic improvements in each case. By far the biggest improvement was of the 80.2 over the 80.1. That was fairly dramatic.
I have not heard the Marantz myself, but I find Kal Rubinson's reviews and opinions in Stereophile to be completely trustworthy. In my book, he is unlike just about any other audio reviewer in that regard. He has reviewed both the Marantz and the 80.2, in addition to just about all other high end prepros. You can find his reviews online at their site to get some idea of the extensive listening he does for his reviews.
It's not on their site yet, because it was just published recently, but in his list of Recommended Components, he ranks the 80.2 in Class A, along with Meridian, McIntosh, Classe, Krell ($30K!), and the Anthem D2V. He would be quick to point out that that does not mean they all sound the same, just that they are comparable in sound quality. He puts the Marantza step below in Class B. His preference is for the Meridian.
I am not doubting what you heard. But, there might be reasons for it other than the products themselves. One thing that can cause variations is how you conduct the Audyssey calibration. I recently had this experience myself, and I had to redo my 80.2's calibration, because the sound was not quite right. (A rain storm during the first calibration, had "polluted" the results via noise from the raindrops on my roof.) It is a good idea to abide faithfully by the Audyssey setup guide. There is a link to it in each of Pepar's postings.
It is, of course, your choice. I think another thing that affects it is what you listen to. I only use hi rez Mch classical music in my own evaluations, because I go to many live concerts, and I have a frame of reference for what they should sound like. That is also predominantly what I listen to. I think differences with stereo CD or with movies are going to be more difficult to detect, and less meaningful, IMHO. All my own listening is done via HDMI, by the way, from an Oppo BDP-93.
I, myself, could not be happier than I am with my Audyssey-Pro calibrated 80.2. To me it sounds better than the Anthem D2V's owned by a couple of close friends. To me it is also comparable to a Meitner EMM Labs-based system - very costly using the finest components - I have heard through another friend. My system exceeds in true-to-life realism any plain stereo I have ever heard at any price, including quite a few $300- $400K systems.
FWIW, my own sytem is 7 Martin Logan 'stat hybrids - Prodigies, Clarities, Script-i's and a Stage - plus a JL Audio Fathom f113. Amplification is by Spectron Audio, Parasound Halo and Bryston.