Re: costs and performance. While this point should be common sense, I'll explain the obvious. Economy of scale plays a massive role in the production costs of an 8802A unit. There is a lot of engineering that is shared among much higher volume products. Then basic economics come into play like budget curves. So if the prepro price is raised by even a $1,000, that will sharply adjust down the total volume of a unit. It’s why the heavily related Denon X7200WA receiver at $3K retail outsells the 8802A by a lot. Sure, one reason is that the X7200WA has built in amps. But the budget curve has a lot to do with it. The same thing occurs if you compare the 7703 volume versus the 8802A. D&M sells many times the volume of the 7703 exclusively because of the budget curve (price). Nothing new here. So IF
I asked Krell to go out and design a prepro that has all the features
that D&M has including the incredibly GUI and intuitive room correction set-up, they would be asking $20K plus. Never mind that by the time they got all those features designed, the unit would already be obsolete Sound familiar? After all, D&M has 220 engineers; Krell maybe 5??? I'm not dissing them; it is what it is.
So when a boutique vendor decides to get into the prepro market, many times they need to use a DoD “cost plus” approach in order to figure out what to charge. Of course, charging a lot makes the volume collapses which mandates they charge even more to even break even. Example: When I helped make radiation hardened SRAM’s for space applications, it required two additional processing steps out of 100 as well as a specific layout technique. So an off-the-shelf commercial SRAM cost $1 and Honeywell charged the radiation hardened DoD customer $5500 per chip. Oh.. Legally, we were allowed to profit 10%, so we weren’t get rich. So no, Datasat isn’t making bank on their prepro even when the bill of material might be $1K. In fact, it's a very tough business to stay afloat. Datasat volume is squat and it is the reason they charge $5K just for Dirac software. In the prepro market and when charging $10K-$15K retail, you better make darn sure it looks and smells of quality. So they add $250+ to the jewelry (case and faceplate) so it looks the part. Then perception takes over and you get analogies to cars.
Don’t assume the $10K+ price point automatically means it sounds better or that they actually spent more on the parts. It depends. I will suggest that KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is a big reason why things sound better. It’s certainly the case with the Lyngdorf MP-50 I’ve been studying. It cost $10K. Same same as to why “Pure Direct” sounds better because it bypasses a lot of features/circuits. Therefore the case can be made that the 8802A would sound better if they actually spent less on the unit. But features add buyers/volume which allows economy of scale. So without Zone 2, you will lose some customers, without zone 3 even some more. Without legacy connections you will lose some more. The fact that Marantz has the resources and economy of scale with shared platforms is actually the reason why they sell more units and therefore it costs LESS! They aren’t nice guys, they have to charge less or their approach wouldn’t work.
So in actuality, “fully balanced” was not included because SQ wise, it’s not that big of a deal and it would become “expensive” to the customer. Not so much because of the added bill of material but rather because it is a sole-sourced board for only one platform. That $100 “fully balanced board/DAC cost will increase the RETAIL (I’m pulling numbers out of my butt) by $500 or more. But the slippery slope of $500 more will plummet the volume which means they have to charge more for the unit. Now maybe $1K more or $5K retail. As I have said before, a key reason why ANY vendor makes a prepro’s is to sell their matching amplifier. Companies in the separates business make their money on the amp and not the processor. So in Marantz case, they want to keep the 8802A reasonable to sell their matching amps.
But make no mistake, if you add up all of the parts (including every chip and connector) and the cost it took to engineer the 8802A, they spent more than what a $10K-$12K prepro's spends.
The bottom line is I'm going to take an educated guess that a $15K Datasat (for instance) spent about the same on the bill of material (within a couple hundred). In fact, maybe
the 8802A spent more. As to which sounds better, I'd have to listen for myself and I wouldn't let "retail" pollute my brain into thinking a $20K product is automatically better or that the vendor spent thousands more on the BOM; no way, no how. Prepro's, with their intense R&D effort and fast moving technology changes are the exception to the rule which normally suggests that spending 3X more ==automatic better performance. So if (in this example) the Datasat sounds "better", the bulk of it will be related to K.I.S.S. and or the auto room EQ. That will also be partially subjective.