|Marantz SR-19EX Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Saturday, 01 September 2001|
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I started out with a titanic test for the amplifiers of the receiver by hooking the SR-19EX to my reference speakers, the $11,000 per pair Martin Logan Prodigies, speakers not known for their efficiency. My choice to set up the Prodigy was not so about masochism as it was about convenience, considering the system set-up that I had at the time. I immediately had to improvise by adding a bulkhead-type banana jack to my AudioTruth Forest/Crystal BI-wire speaker cables to connect to the RS-19EX. After that, I connected my Audio Research CD2 via single-ended AudioQuest Topaz RCA interconnects to the CD-IN on the SR-19EX.
I turned to one of my latest favorites, A Perfect Circle's album Mer de Noms (Virgin Records), to road test the SR19-EX in two-channel mode. First up was "The Hollow." The crunchy guitar work didn’t have the ultimate resolution heard on my reference system, but that’s not surprising, given the load being driven. It is a treat that the SR-19EX does a respectable job at handling the kick drum and driving bass lines on the hit single "Judith," holding together in the lower bass registers to provide a very enjoyable and musical presentation. On "Orestes," singer Maynard James Keenan's voice is as melodic as you’ll ever hear it, rendered in the soundscape to additional backing harmonies provided by the other band members, with excellent guitar work that lifts it to a conclusion that will blow you away. Most of the midrange beauty associated with this track came through well on the SR-19EX. The SR-19EX also did well in soundstaging, placing the images slightly forward of the Prodigies. The images, while not as focused or refined as those of my reference system, were positioned where they should be between the speakers, with good transparency and detail.
To test the SR-19EX’s ability to decode DTS 5.1 music tracks, I cued up a DVD-A for use with the default lossy DTS 5.1 surround track. David Alan’s self-titled effort (DTS Entertainment) is detailed, dynamic and engrossing experience from this country crooner. The SR-19EX handles the acoustic guitars on "Should Have Been You" with authority and agility, presenting the body of the guitars with a lifelike quality that is easy to listen to and pleasant. Although the SR-19EX’s 130 watts gave it good control, I still felt that its lower octaves could still use some fleshing out in some heavy bass passages, but to mention this is to be pretty critical. Most people would accuse me of over-analyzing what I’m hearing. Guilty as charged, but that’s what I do for you and I’m not making excuses for it.
My current favorite 5.1 channel mix is Steve Stevens’ Flamenco A Go Go (DTS Entertainment). When I played the track "Our Man In Istanbul" at very high listening levels, the SR-19EX held up fairly well, although the top octaves were a bit subdued and sounded somewhat congested compared to how I’ve heard this track sound on other high-end systems. This isn’t a glaring problem in the first place and I must also add that this is a tough task to pull off. The SR-19EX did pretty well, considering the additional reserves of power in the systems I am using as the basis of comparison with the SR-19EX. If you were crazy enough to hook the SR-19EX to demanding high-end speakers, it is important to know that the unit has much of what it takes to keep up. However, in the amp department, you might want to make an extra investment that considers the needs of your speakers and/or whether you want to take advantage of the six- and seven-channel surround modes.
Movie soundtracks are rendered with good authority on the SR-19EX. In A Bug’s Life (Disney Home Entertainment), the mechanical bird scene provides seamless sound as the screaming creature flies around the room, never louder or muted on any of the channels. The 89 dB efficient Monitor Audio Gold Reference series speakers matched very well with the SR-19EX, driving them very dynamically and with agility.
Next up was Fantasia 2000 (Disney Home Entertainment). The 5.1 format really works well for this DVD, as it doesn’t matter that the instruments are surrounding you. The powerful sound on "Firebird Suite-1919 Version" is very captivating, drawing you into the music with the visual of the Sprite that gives life to spring flitting around on the screen to the measure of the sound. Cymbal splashes and the crash of bass drums are presented well.
In order to take advantage of the Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES matrix 6.1, you will have to add outboard amplifiers to the line level outputs for the extra channels. Marantz recommends that you use two of the 200-watt THX certified MA700 power amplifiers ($500) for the front main channels and that you reconfigure the internal front channel amps for the rear effects channels. After the initial investment, the idea of adding another $1,000 to your bill may not sit well. Also, the amps you use should have at least 130 watts, so that the inboard amps on the SR-19EX don’t overshadow what are now your main channels after you reconfigure your system to play the new formats. You could use a two-channel amp that may be more affordable, but amp matching is important, so if you stray away from Marantz products to fulfill the amp requirements, keep this in mind or you may compromise the channel matching designed for the system by Marantz. Last but not least, there is also the cost of additional speakers, speaker cables and interconnects to consider when you head down this road.
Having the SR-19EX in my system was very enjoyable. The reference styling of the system gives the SR-19EX a look to match its sound. Although it doesn’t have some of the features that other components in this class offer, such as Dolby Pro Logic II matrix surround, it is obvious that Marantz invested money on parts quality and design, as opposed to lots of gingerbread. The remote is very powerful and gives you more flexibility than you’ll probably ever use, although Marantz’s Philips Pronto-based touch screen remote is worth considering. Marantz had the forethought to offer six-channel inputs for outboard digital decoders and components. They also provide component video inputs for high-resolution video sources, such as progressive video and HDTV to extend the life of the product, plus seven channels of 192kHz/24bit processing and five channels at 130 watts of power to drive even most difficult-to-drive speaker systems. Own this and you have a command center for your A/V system that will serve you well for years to come.