|Marantz NA7004 Network Player Review|
|Home Theater Media Servers Music Servers|
|Written by Andre Marc|
|Wednesday, 18 May 2011|
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20 years ago source components could be divided into three categories: turntables, tape machines, and digital disc players. That was then, this is now. Today, a source component may have no moving parts and require no physical media to operate. Two of these types include the music server with a built in ripping drive, and the network player with no internal hard drive. The network player allows you to stream files via Ethernet or WiFi from a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device, a computer, or directly from a portable USB hard drive.
Some of the well known, cost effective network players include the Logitech Squeezebox and the Sonos system, and they have been around for a while. But network players are going upscale, with offerings from established firms like Linn, Naim, Bryston, and startups like Auralati. To make it all more complex, each company has their own unique approach. For instance the Naim NDX has an on board DAC and digital inputs, while Bryston takes a more purist approach on their BDP-1, with no on board DAC.
The subject of this review is a new network player from Marantz, the NA7004, priced at $799. As you will see, the NA7004 is a very exciting product, especially given the price point. What makes it even more compelling is that there is nothing else like it in the Marantz line, except for a few features found on their AV receivers. There is also no other competing product at this price point of which I’m aware. Yes, the Squeezebox Touch is about one third the price of the NA7004, but the analog outputs are in my opinion not high fidelity, which necessitates the purchase of an outboard DAC and digital cable. Plus the NA7004 allows for the direct connection of a computer, IPod, and includes S/PDIF digital inputs, and the Squeezebox does not.
The NA7004 is ruggedly built, with the same solid black hybrid case material Marantz uses for its components, except for those in the Reference line. It weighs in at just over 14 lbs and has high quality connectors on the back and front panel.
There is a lot going on under the hood too. The NA7004 is based on the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) architecture and, via its Ethernet port, can access Pandora, Rhapsody, Napster, and Internet Radio. There are multiple optical and coaxial inputs, one rear panel USB type B input that for direct connection to a computer, and one front panel USB type A slot for iPods/iPhones, external hard drives, or memory sticks. You can also use AirPlay to wirelessly stream from any networked computer, iPod, iPhone or iPad running iTunes.
On a performance level, the NA7004 has HDAM circuitry, prevalent throughout the Marantz line. If you decide to use the unit with an out board DAC, there are also digital outputs. By any standards, this is a pretty complete set of features. And did I mention Bluetooth connectivity and a headphone jack?
The NA7004 handles WAV, FLAC, Mp3, AAC, and WMA formats. There are some limitations however. With the internal DAC, WAV support is limited to 16 bits. Also, there is no gapless FLAC support, which is a bummer in my opinion. There is also no AIFF support, which I find a bit odd, since many MAC users use AIFF instead of WAV when ripping CDs. Lastly, sample rates up to 96 Khz are supported. A simple workaround to these limitations, for those who have music ripped in problematic codecs, is to use iTunes / AirPlay.