Marantz SR-19EX Receiver 
Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers
Written by Tim Hart   
Saturday, 01 September 2001

As more big-budget, blockbuster and effects-laden movies are being released in new formats such as DTS ES 6.1 and 7.1 , the choices expand in new receivers that take advantage of these exciting formats. Separate components allow the flexibility to get the best performance and the ability to change a single aspect of your system to take advantage of the latest technology without replacing your entire rig. However, most of us aren’t in the financial position to have "Best of Breed" gear and must remain financially realistic when it comes to spending our hard-earned deneros. And, let’s face it, not all people like to search for the perfect component to highlight the rest of a system. Some folks want a centerpiece that has a good reputation for reliability, performance, versatility and, if possible, upgradeability. One serious contender in this area that commands consideration is the Marantz SR-19EX AV receiver ($2,299.95).

At seven-and-one-half-inches wide, 18 inches wide, 19 inches deep and a hefty 54 pounds, the SR-19EX is the most affordable entry in the SR class of reference receivers in the Marantz product line-up. The SR-19EX is an upgrade of the SR-19, adding THX Ultra certification. This includes DTS ES matrix 6.1-channel decoding, 5.1 plus matrixed rear center and Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1-channel decoding and additional surround modes. There are three DSP settings also available, which you can use for non-discrete surround sources, such as DSS and VHS. All channels feature 192kHz/24-bit D/A converters for high-resolution playback. These channels include left and right mains, center, left and right rears (surround), and left and right effects (THX EX, DTS ES or DSP). Five of the seven channels provide 130 watts into an eight-ohm load. To utilize the other two available channels that the SR-19EX will decode, it is necessary to add two channels of amplification. When Marantz upgraded the SR-19EX to decode the additional channels, there wasn’t any real estate left to add internal amps without a major redesign.

Another feature of the SR-19EX is the ability to control a multi-room set-up. You can integrate a receiver and speakers that reside in a different part of your abode, and leverage the features of the SR-19EX through that extra receiver. The prerequisite for taking advantage of this feature will require the purchase of the Marantz multi-room remote unit and the remote control signal receiver, which will allow you to control the functions of the SR-19EX from the room where your auxiliary equipment resides. Also required is a long RCA video cable and a left and right RCA interconnect for the line-in into your auxiliary receiver. Then you’re all set. You now have the ability to utilize almost all of the components you have connected to your SR-19EX. Want to watch a movie in your bedroom, but don’t have a DVD player for your bedroom TV? Use the DVD player in your main system. Want to listen to your CD player in the main system while someone else is watching a movie in the auxiliary room? No problem. You also have the ability to have different volume controls of the same source in both rooms. Pretty nifty, huh? Although it will only provide stereo, it is still a good way to leverage existing hardware.

On the front panel you will find two large knobs. One is for the input setting and the other is for volume control. In the center is the Marantz hallmark Gyro Touch tuner control wheel, along with a blue display above the wheel. Along the bottom is a hinged panel that reveals an extra set of auxiliary jacks for a video camera and a headphone jack, along with manual buttons for some of the features found on the remote unit, such as the surround options, tone controls and so forth. The front display, above the Gyro Touch tuning wheel, provides information related to the input source, surround mode, tuner, multi-room indicator and volume level. Another one that I liked is the encoded channel status. This visually tells you what speakers are in use with the format that is playing. A square graphic, with smaller squares inside of it, depicts speakers in their relative orientation to one another. If the speaker square is displayed, it is in use. Therefore, at a glance, you can determine the format that is being used to play your movies.

The rear panel is not as populated as some receivers I’ve seen. For example, the Yamaha RV-X3000 is packed. You could not add one more connection if your life depended on it. The SR-19EX looks almost Spartan in comparison. It did make hook-ups a little easier and less confusing when it came time to make all of the required connections I needed.

For speaker connections, you’re only given the ability to use bare wire, a pin type connector, or a banana jack, but no spade lugs. The word "reference" to me means that all aspects of a design are taken to the highest level. To limit one of the most important connections on your system is, in my opinion, a serious oversight. But I mustn’t be too hard on the SR-19EX. Most A/V receivers suffer this same fate. To use the banana jack you have to remove a plastic insert in the center, which is a real pain.

No need to worry about having your receiver become obsolete due to a new software format coming out. The SR-19EX has six-channel direct inputs to accommodate future surround sound formats and other digital components, or decoders such as DVD-Audio and SACD.

The SR-19EX provides three optical and three digital inputs, three sets of Y/Pr/Pb component video inputs, one digital and optical output for a CD-R or MD recorder, and five S-video inputs and three outputs. Furthermore, the 5.1 plus matrixed rear center preamp-outs provide the ability to upgrade to outboard amps, so that the SR-19EX can be used strictly as an A/V receiver/preamp/processor.

The RC-18SR remote control is a special version of the RC-2000 Mark II that comes with the SR-19EX. It can be programmed to run any component outside of the SR-19EX by either entering the manufacturer code or by programming the RC-18SR with the remote that you want it to emulate. The manual is clear and concise in setting up the four macros available for your personal system automation. The backlit keys are large and easy to read. Once I became familiar with the layout, the key location was intuitive. The LCD display on the remote shows functions such as CD, DVD and LD ECT. A status indicator and graphics for learn, transmit and page macros are just a few of the many options available to you. The RC-18SR allows you to name each learned feature with up to six characters for a custom look. If you have another RC-18SR remote, you can clone the complex macros you’ve saved in the original remote.

The onscreen display (OSD) will walk you through the various aspects of system set-up, such as surround mode, multi-room set-up and speaker and level set-up. The graphic display for each set-up was refreshingly simple and easy to understand.

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.

The Downside
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.
Manufacturer Marantz
Model SR-19EX Receiver
Reviewer Tim Hart

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