Marantz AV7005 vs. Cary Cinema 11a Pre/Pro
I have a Marantz SR8500 A/V receiver with B&W speakers across the front, and I would like to upgrade to take advantage of the new high-rez audio formats. I'm considering the Marantz AV7005 and Cary Audio Cinema 11a preamp/processor. For amplification, I plan to use my Lexicon 512 amp or the amp section of the SR8500. Considering the equipment I have, would the extra cost for the Cinema 11a give me that much improvement in sound over the AV7005? Should I use the Lexicon amp or the 8500's amp, or would the Marantz MM7055 5-channel amp be the way to go? I'm willing to spend the money for whatever is going to sound best.
I would definitely not get the Cary 11a (reviewed here with the Model 7.125 power amp). While it does decode all the new audio formats, it has only two HDMI 1.3 inputs, which is too few to be practical in a modern home theater, and they do not support HDMI 1.4 features such as 3D, Audio Return Channel, and Ethernet over HDMI. The updated version is the Cinema 11v, which has six HDMI 1.3 inputs and two outputs, but I'd want HDMI 1.4. Cary just introduced the Cinema 12 pre/pro with four HDMI 1.4a inputs and one output that support the new HDMI features, but I'd want more than four inputs, especially for $5000.
By contrast, the Marantz AV7005 (reviewed here with the MM7055 power amp) offers six HDMI 1.4a inputs and two outputs, and it decodes all the new audio formats for $1500. Reviewer Michael Fremer liked it so much, he bought it, which says a lot, given his golden ears.
In Fremer's review of the Marantz units, he didn't like the MM7055 quite as much as other amps he tried with the AV7005, though at $1200, he called it a great value. As he put it, "While the MM7055 was in the system, the sound of my home theater was somewhat diminished tonally, rhythmically, and especially in terms of those black [sonic] backgrounds. Still, I'd rather listen to this amp than any class-D amp I've ever heard, regardless of power. The MM7055 shaved the edges off of every performance parameter I can think of. But with such surgical subtractive precision, you're not likely to notice it unless you compare it to an amplifier that's far more powerful and expensive. Its musical heart was in the right place and at a price that can't be beat."
I suggest you try the AV7005 with your Lexicon amp and the amp section of your SR8500 before investing in another amp. If you like the sound of either one with the AV7005, great. If not, you might try the MM7055 orironicallythe Cary Model 7.125 ($4000), which Fremer liked a lot.
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