PLAYBACK 23: Parasound P7 Multichannel Preamp & Marantz AV8003 A/V Pre-Tuner

Marantz AV8003 A/V ,
Parasound P7 Multichannel Preamp
PLAYBACK 23: Parasound P7 Multichannel Preamp & Marantz AV8003 A/V Pre-Tuner
  • 7.1-channel A/V pre-tuner with THX Ultra2 certification
  • AV8003 can serve as an Ethernet-enabled, DLNA-compliant Digital Medial Player for audio, photo and video files (can access network attached devices, but cannot access the Internet directly).
  • Sound processing modes: supports the latest HD audio codecs from Dolby (Dolby TrueHD), DTS (DTS-HD Master Audio), plus THX, Circle Surround, and Marantz’s proprietary M-DAX mode (intended to restore lost dynamics when playing MP3, or other compressed files).
  • Two sets of 7.1-channel analog pre-amp outputs—one unbalanced (RCA), one balanced (XLR).
  • Balanced (XLR) stereo analog input for use with high end CD or SACD player.
  •  Tuner: AM/FM/HD radio is standard, and AV8003 is both XM and Sirius satellite radio-ready.
  • Ample analog and digital audio/video inputs and outputs (none on the front panel, however).
  • HDMI 1.3A: four in, two out.
  • Anchor Bay video scaling and processing: 10-bit video processing with upscaling to 1080p (but processing applies for SD sources only).
  • Chassis is made of copper-plated heavy gauge steel to help minimize electrical noise and problems with physical vibrations.
  •  Multizone support, with component video output for remote zones.
  • Comes with two remotes.


Almost every test I’ve done offers up some surprises, and this one was no different. The first thing that confronted me was the similarity in sound between all four preamps. Since I’ve often had a strong preference for one preamp over another when doing testing, this similarity surprised me. Of course, each reviewer has a methodology, and I know I tend to look for tonal balance issues first. Maybe it isn’t too surprising that preamps, with their tendency to deliver superb measurements (flat frequency response, high channel separation, low noise, etc.), sound similar in this regard.

My next surprise, with more listening time, was how much the Parasound Halo P7 sounded like the superb conrad-johnson ART stereo preamp ($15,995 - discontinued) that I had on test last year. The P7 has a “golden” treble sound that I simply find beguiling. Treble sounds clear yet not etched or grainy. The decay of notes is well preserved, which is critical for soundstaging (space is recreated with very low level sounds). Bass is also very well produced, with impact and definition that rival any of the other preamps here.

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