Aside from being one of the most respected manufacturers of reference-grade hifi components, Marantz is also a big player in the home theater market. They make products at fair price points, for just about every application, with cutting edge features. I reviewed their flagship AV separates, the mighty AV7005 and MM7055 preamp processor/multi channel and power amplifier combination that brought heaps of power, superb sound, networking, flexibility, and impressive looks to the table. Certainly, this $3000 combo is not for everyone, and for those who can’t accommodate these big boys and who don’t need gobs of power, Marantz gladly makes slimline, more modestly priced receivers.
Marantz just introduced a number of brand new AV receivers and I have two on hand to evaluate: the NR1403 and NR1603 integrated receivers. The NR1403 retails for $399 and the NR1603 for $649. At first glance, they look virtually identical, housed in the classic black Marantz casework, each weighing in at 18 lbs. Both are rated at 50 wpc, and both use the identical onboard DAC, the Analog Devices ADSP21487. They also are equipped with Audyssey MultEQ room correction. But that is pretty much where the similarities end.
The NR1603 offers 7.1 surround sound, mutli room speaker output, is housed in a higher quality chassis, and is networkable -- AirPlay for use with Apple devices, DLNA compliant, and compatible with various streaming services like Pandora and tunes Internet Radio. There is also an FM Tuner as well as USB and HDMI inputs. The remote control for the NR1603 is bit more button heavy. The NR1403 offers 5.1 surround sound, has an AM/FM tuner, but it is not networkable. It is not AirPlay compatible, and has a few less inputs than the NR1603.
Set Up & Use:
I set up the NR1603 first, and later installed the NR1403 to see if there were any performance differences besides the obvious features available only on the NR1603. After all the requisite HDMI cables were plugged in and speaker wires connected, I used the Audyssey MultEQ system to calibrate and provide room correction and EQ management. It is no more than a five-minute process. You can calibrate the unit manually, by the way, simply by navigating the user-friendly set up menus.
The first step is to confirm your speaker set up, which in my case is 5.1. I have floorstanding Paradigm Monitor 9’s as my fronts, a Paradigm Monitor series center channel, a PSB sub, and Paradigm Atoms for the rear channel. Then you are asked to position the supplied microphone in the main listening position while a series of test tones are emitted. A total of six readings from five additional positions besides the main listening are recommended. The system then determines the listening distances, processes the readings level matches the speakers, provides EQ, and bass management. There is also dynamic volume control, which compensates for the varying volume levels of different cable or satellite channels. This can be applied in varying degrees. My sources, by the way, are digital cable, an Oppo Blu-ray player, and occasionally NetFlix.
I have found the automated Audyssey calibration to be excellent. It correctly calculated listening distances, and to my ears did a fine job of balancing the sound, and with bass accurate management. Once the readings were stored, it was time to get down to business. I was actually quite stunned at the quality of the multi channel sound the NR1603 was producing from 5. 1 digital cable channel, DVDs, and Blu Ray discs. It was very, very close to the authoritative sound of the AV7005/MM7055 combo. Maybe a bit too close for comfort, since it is just over one quarter the price. I was especially surprised at how its 50 watts per channel more than filled up my living room. We sit approximately twelve feet from the front and center channel speakers, but I never had to push the volume on the NR1603 more than half way to achieve movie theater volumes.