Marantz SR7200 Receiver 
Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers
Written by Richard Elen   
Monday, 01 July 2002

Introduction
At a suggested price of just $849.99 US, the Marantz SR7200 AV Surround Receiver offers excellent value for money, with impressive power (six channels x 105 watts into eight ohms), high-resolution D/A converters, and a wealth of surround features,- plus an excellent sound almost indistinguishable from the company’s more expensive offerings.

Installation and Setup
Modern AV receivers are getting more and more complex. As this receiver can handle a 6.1 surround system with dual zone/dual source capability, the Marantz SR7200 has more ins and outs than most. But once you’re armed with the 30-page (per language) manual, and a clearly labeled rear panel, installation and configuration are entirely straightforward. There’s a fold-out rear panel diagram in the book, and a list with good descriptions of where everything’s supposed to go.

Loudspeaker connections, of which there are several, six main (system A) outputs including surround (rear) center for the main system and a stereo pair of system B outputs - are on good large binding posts with banana plug capability, and unlike a lot of receivers, they handled my extremely thick front speaker cables with relative ease. There are preamp out jacks for an external amplifier, a line level sub output, line level stereo outs to connect a second zone amplifier, a multitude of digital and analog input connections, about which more in a moment, and even DC control outputs to activate devices such as a screen lowering system, etc., plus video, S-video and component video switching. All these facilities are very impressive for a unit at this price point.

Meanwhile, the inputs that are present include stereo analog record and play inputs for tape, VCR and CD-R/MD, plus stereo analog inputs for CD player, DVD, TV and satellite receiver. There is also a seven-channel analog input that bypasses all the internal processing in the receiver: ideal for connecting your DVD-Audio or Super Audio CD (SACD) player. On the digital I/O front, there are optical (TOSLink) and coaxial (S/PDIF) outputs, along with no less than two optical and three coax inputs, each of which can be assigned to a different function. - For example, you can assign your CD player to any convenient digital input, your digital satellite receiver to another, and so on. Note that if you still have a laserdisc player, the RF output must be demodulated before connecting to a coax digital input.

Video switching is similarly comprehensive. The unit handles four composite, four S-Video and two component inputs, with corresponding outputs. As is usual with such systems, there is no conversion between the three types of video: the component outputs will only deliver signals fed to the component inputs and not to the S-Video inputs, for example. There is a composite video output for a monitor in the second zone, as well as main composite and S-video monitor outs.

All this I/O flexibility means that hooking up my diverse peripherals is straightforward. Analog audio from my DVD-A and SACD players goes, via a custom made switch box, to the seven-channel input, while the digital outputs from the two devices go to an optical in (from the SACD player when it is replaying CDs) and a coax in (when the DVD player is playing DVD-Video discs). Then it’s digital optical and S-video for the satellite receiver, component video from the DVD-A player plus optical and S-video and from the multi-standard DVD-V player, analog stereo audio and composite video to and from the VCR, and finally all three video format outputs to different inputs on my Sony WEGA TV.

Before considering the rest of the installation -and the configuration of the 7200, a brief word on the remote control unit. Regular readers will know that I am very hard on the majority of remotes supplied with receivers. The reason for this is simple: I have the coolest remote you could hope to own, an original Philips Pronto. In fact, the only thing better than my Pronto would be a newer Pronto. Marantz has created remotes that are in the same league as the Pronto that they call the RC5000, RC5000i, RC5200 and RC9200. With one of these devices, you can either teach the unit how to control virtually anything (it already knows Philips/Marantz codes) or go to one of several websites (such as remotecentral.com) and download control interfaces for a vast number of common and not-so-common consumer audio components, including, incidentally, the SR7200. Apart from messing with the 7200’s supplied remote for review purposes, I actually used the Pronto to very successfully control the unit in everyday use.

All this said, the Marantz-supplied remote with the 7200 is an excellent device, in a convenient long thin package with luminous buttons that actually light up quite well, and a significantly large 1.5 x 1.75-inch LCD display that tells you what device and parameters you are trying to control (see picture).

The remote has buttons to control 11 common types of device, including the 7200 itself, and features an ingenious jog wheel that selects 10 of the current device’s parameters to adjust. The names of controllable devices can be entered into the remote (if you can reduce them to five characters) and it can learn any command the device’s original remote can throw at it, up to 330 of them. The only thing wrong with this is that if you have a reasonable number of devices, especially complicated ones like DVD players, you’ll be there all week teaching the remote all the codes. You only have to do it once, but even so, it would have been nice if the remote also had a code library for common manufacturers and devices.

One very neat feature of the system is that you can control a device by pressing its button once; press it a second time and the receiver switches to that input, so you can control a device without listening to it (or watching it), a feature I use quite a bit. Press two different source buttons in succession and the receiver will select the first as the video source and the second as the audio, which is- quite useful from time to time. The remote also allows the storage of macros.

Configuration
The SR7200 has a comprehensive onscreen display, again a pleasant feature to encounter on a unit in this price bracket. Despite the usual crude fonts that everyone’s onscreen displays seem to have (with the possible exception of Philips), the OSD is stable and does not degrade the video. Main settings are also echoed in a scrolling display on the unit’s front panel and you can turn off the OSD if you don’t want it.

From the OSD main menu, you can select surround mode, channel level, multi-room setup, system setup and speaker setup. The OSD tells you when main system parameters change, such as altering the main volume or switching to a different input combination.

There are three system setup screens, which allow you to assign the five digital inputs to specific devices instead of analog (such as your CD player, DVD player or satellite receiver), and configure the DC control outputs. There are also three speaker setup screens: the first for speaker size (large or small, plus the presence or absence of speakers, including center, rear and sub), the second for speaker distance (delays), and the third for speaker level with a test noise signal (you can also tweak levels numerically from the Channel Level Control screen).

One thing I noticed is that the sub crossover frequency is fixed at 100 Hz,- a good choice of frequency. While we might find it desirable to have a variable crossover setting, it is very unusual to find that on something this price. Another screen allows configuration of the multi-room capability.

The tuner is capably sensitive on both AM and FM and includes a useful auto-preset capability that finds and stores all the signals that are strong enough to come through clearly.

Surround Capabilities
The surround mode offers a source direct option, where the source is fed straight to the output via minimal necessary processing --- not as direct as the seven-channel input, but pretty close --- a night-time mode and a whole bunch of other modes. These can be cycled through with the remote or from the unit itself at any time with the big left-hand knob. They are: Auto,- which works out what the source is, generally correctly; Stereo,- which bypasses any surround processing and mixes down any surround information to two-channel (and it is interesting to note that the converters in this unit will all handle 24-bit, 96 kHz signals, which many DVD-V and DVD-A players will deliver, and the left and right front converters will do 192 kHz,- which would of course be ideal for the highest-quality DVD-A stereo recordings if there were some method of connecting the player digitally, but that facility is only just arriving); Dolby,- which features both Dolby Pro Logic II and regular Pro Logic capabilities; DTS; 6.1 Surround, which supports Dolby EX and DTS-ES; a set of the usual synthesized DSP Modes, which I personally never use; a Virtual mode, which does quite an interesting job of recreating a surround effect if you only have two speakers; six-channel stereo, which generates a surround signal from two-channel source material; and, finally, Circle Surround 5.1, which will do a creditable job of decoding two-channel non-Dolby matrixed surround (such as the Ambisonic UHJ technology used by Nimbus and others) into 5.1, and producing a surround effect from stereo.

Listening Tests
The first thing I noticed about the Marantz SR7200 was, once again, that it was an excellent performer for its price range. I tried it on two speaker systems: my standard JBL rig, with the assistance of the Morel active sub (reviewed previously), and the RBH satellite/sub system (also reviewed earlier). In both cases, I was particularly impressed by the bass handling, which was firm yet full, and the transient handling, which was also exemplary. The cannons at the end of the new Telarc 1812 (I used the SACD version) rattled the windows effectively and once again underlined excellent transient handling.

The top end was clean and very well defined, and the midrange was smooth and well integrated. Talking of integration, the 100 Hz sub crossover frequency suited both the Morel sub and the RBH system extremely well, with no serious lumps or dips in the response with a standard sweep test. Stereo imaging was what I would expect from the two speaker systems, notably stable and accurate with the RBH system, where the smaller drivers tightened up localization and indicated that the receiver was not a limiting factor in this respect. Tracks from Bucky Pizzarelli’s Swing Live on DVD-A backed up my early impressions on the accuracy of localization. At serious levels, the 105 watts of power per channel delivered the goods, with plenty of oomph and no unpleasant effects. My now-standard test track from Alan Parsons’ On Air revealed that the bass management system in the 7200 behaved correctly, with no bass being thrown at my smaller speakers. I ran some relevant tests contained on the Chesky Ultimate DVD Surround Sampler & 5.1 Setup Disc (see separate review) and the 7200 handled them all well.

Both of my DVD players are capable of delivering 24-bit, 96 kHz digital audio to an external receiver, and comparing the 7200’s converters with those in my recently-acquired Kenwood DV-5700 DVD-A player (which costs over twice the price of the 7200) indicated that the 7200 handled this part of the digital audio reproduction process very well, but not quite at the level of the higher-priced Kenwood DVD-Audio unit.

To test the Circle Surround’s decoding capability, which is not particularly common on a receiver, I played some CDs from UK record company Nimbus, which has recently returned to the marketplace. Nimbus was for many years the best vinyl pressing company in Britain and was the first UK manufacturer of CDs (in fact, the second CD they pressed was one I engineered and produced). Virtually all Nimbus Records releases have been made with a two-channel matrix version of the British-designed Ambisonic process, which is related to the technology Chesky used on Swing Live and some other albums. Although the two-channel version of Ambisonics is less common these days (just as Dolby Pro Logic and other two-channel surround encoding schemes have been largely superseded), it is still extremely effective.

Circle Surround uses a very similar technique and decodes the information to a 5.1 speaker system. I used the Nimbus Ambisonic Demonstration Disc (a special sampler made for Mitsubishi in 1991), Nimbus Natural Sound Volumes 1 and 2, and a very early Nimbus CD, Bacchanales by the Equale Brass, plus Alan Parsons’ Ambisonic album Stereotomy, and a couple of my own CDs mixed with the technology. I noted that, although not quite as stable as my own Ambisonic decoder, localization in the Circle Surround mode acquitted itself very well, and was noticeably superior to other two-channel matrix decoding schemes provided in the unit. It also did a nice job of wrapping regular stereo sources around the room.

I was pleased to note that patching video through and around the 7200 did not result in any noticeable video signal degradation. In addition to experiencing the SR7200 in daily use for a few weeks, including all my usual sources such as digital satellite, CD, and DVD-A/V, I also tested the unit with some DVD sources I know to have impressive, full-range soundtracks. “The Fifth Element” (regular version, Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment) is a particularly good example here, and was actually the very first thing I played to check the system. The deep rumbles out in space associated with the evil object, the attempts to destroy the menace, and the operatic scene, in which the diva’s stage performance is rapidly intercut with mayhem below decks, exhibited the good bass handling and transient capability of the unit, even at high levels, just as had been experienced with music source material.

Performance on both Dolby AC-3 and DTS soundtracks was exemplary, with DTS having the edge in most cases, as would be expected. The classic T-Rex footfalls in the original “Jurassic Park,” a good example in DTS of the cinematic use of the Low Frequency Effects channel, came through loud and clear, without apparent distortion or lack of ability to deliver the power required. The 7200 actually has a good, massive power transformer, the power supply often being the limiting factor in these cases. While not as hefty as the one in the Denon unit I reviewed a few months ago, the transformer in the 7200 is once again better than you can usually expect in this price range.

The Downside
I could find very little wrong with the 7200, especially when you consider the price. To criticize the lack of subwoofer frequency choices under the circumstances would be churlish, as would criticism of the lack of a built-in remote control library to accompany the remote’s learning function, as- the remote in general being an extremely creditable effort (and I’m notoriously difficult to please on this front). Vinyl fans might complain about the lack of phono input, but I certainly wouldn’t make a big issue of it. If you were going to play LPs on a system receiver like this, you’d likely look to an aftermarket, outboard phono section costing nearly as much as the receiver.

Conclusion
The big deal with the Marantz SR7200 is that it behaves like a much more expensive unit. It’s unusual to see so many useful features,- notably the digital inputs, onscreen display, multi-zone operation, etc.,- on a unit so comparatively inexpensive, and yet the sound is there, too. My only criticisms are minor niggles. As a result, I think I could happily recommend this unit to anyone looking for those apparently impossible combinations of features, sound and low price. Value for money is where this unit excels, and if you are looking in this price range, I think I can confidently say that it would be difficult to find such a fully-featured unit elsewhere. You should certainly check it out. Congratulations to Marantz for an excellent piece of work.
Manufacturer Marantz
Model SR7200 Receiver
Reviewer Richard Elen





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