There has never been a time in high-end audio where customers have demanded plug and play devices that can accommodate a slew of sources like the current market. Ironically, early on, the home hifi industry offered stereo “consoles” with integrated speakers, a record player, and an amplifier. Back in those glory days, sources were limited to vinyl and tape, which certainly made things simpler. A bit later on, audio component manufacturers figured out they could sell multiple boxes, each dedicated to a specific task, and maximize sales. This also allowed for “upgrading”.
Marantz happens to be one of the grand old companies who were around during the so called golden era, the early days of high fidelity. Marantz has always looked forward, being one of the earliest high-end companies to mass produce CD players, home theater products, SACD players, and network streamers. But I would guess even the most future-conscious engineers could not have foreseen the digital revolution, which has detached media from the optical disc and seen the rise of streaming services.
With many younger people, and even some long time audiophiles, rejecting the expensive, room dominating, multi box approach to hifi, the one box solution is back, in a big way. There are a slew of companies designing units that simply require a set of speakers. Cocktail Audio, Naim, Cary, Cambridge Audio, and many more. Simpler solutions even include products that are standalone music makers, with built-in speakers and amps, like the Denon Heos and Sonos, and they offer all sorts of connectivity.
Marantz has taken things to another level with the introduction of their new network receiver, the M-CR611 , which retails for $699. The M-CR611 is so packed with features, you will need to hold onto your hats. The M-CR611 connectivity checklist includes Bluetooth, WiFi, Ethernet, Analog In, USB, Headphone, and coaxial FM.
The feature set includes two sets of speaker binding posts, with 60 wpc of power on tap, a remote control, access to Pandora, Sirius XM satellite radio, Internet radio, Spotify, DLNA support and, amazingly, a CD transport (with DSD file support)! A Marantz mobile app is available to control all functions, including volume, but you can use other control apps as well.
Out of the box, the M-CR611 is very attractive, with classic, curved Marantz lines, very nice casework, and quality connectors. The entire unit is compact, with the buttons and inputs/outputs all smartly laid out. I used the M-CR611 with a pair of Harbeth Compact 7ES-3, and hooked it up with DH Labs Q-10 speaker cable. That was it. Nothing else needed.