Marantz NR1403 & NR1603 AV Receivers Review 
Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers
Written by Andre Marc   
Friday, 03 August 2012

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.

Marantz NR1603 Rear Panel
Marantz NR1603

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.

 
Marantz NR1403 Rear Panel
Marantz NR1403

 



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.

Marantz NR1603 AirPlay


Multichannel music from HD channels like Paladia was superb, as was 5.1 movie mixes, with dialogue crystal clear and panned effects rather startling. I had just received the new Blu-ray of Jimi Hendrix’s seminal Jimi Plays Berkeley, a superb documentary and concert video from 1970. The original 16mm film has just been newly digitally mastered, with a great 5.1 mix. Picture and sound quality were excellent. I have owned this title on VHS tape and DVD, and this was clearly the best version yet, very well served by the Marantz.

Marantz NR1603 iPhone app

Ergonomically, everything worked beautifully. The volume control offered super smooth transitions and HDMI switching was very responsive. BTW, there is an app available for controlling networked Marantz receivers via phone or tablet, for those who are interested. I used the iPad app and it was very good. I tended to use the supplied remote most of the time, however, out of habit.

Connecting an Ethernet cable to the NR1603 allowed for tuning of Internet Radio, and the streaming of content from a networked computer or NAS, as long as you have UPnP software installed. I have been using Twonky for the past few years with great success. I was able to stream music files from Mac Mini with no issues. AirPlay also worked well, allowing my wife to stream music stored on her iPhone. All of this allows for the NR1603 to act as a central digital hub, so to speak.

After several weeks, I packed up the NR1603 and installed the NR1403 using the identical procedures noted above, except for connecting an Ethernet cable, as the NR1403 is not designed to be connected to a network. Picture quality was identical and HDMI switching was immediate and precise. The remote for the NR1403 is a bit less busy, and but is laid very out well ergonomically.

The NR1403 also sounded virtually identical to the NR1603 to my ears. I would have nothing to add sound quality wise. Movie soundtracks, music, DVDs, and Blu-rays all sounded terrific, filling my large living room without strain. The biggest difference between the two units is networking. The NR1403 needs your sources in the room, while the NR1603 allows you to pick up content on your computer or networked drive. The NR1603 also has a front panel USB input.

 

Marantz NR1403


Conclusion:

Marantz's home theater products division has been on a roll over the past several years. Their flagship AV7005 pre/processor and multi-channel MM7055 amp, to my mind, compete with trophy AV separates costing many times more. The beauty is Marantz trickles down the cutting edge technology to their entry-level products. This is great news to those with limited budgets who want high quality products.

The NR1403 and NR1603 are both fabulous products that performed flawlessly in my home theater set up for over a month. Which one do I recommend? It depends. If you have a home network, tons of content on computers or network drives, enjoy internet radio and streaming devices and want AirPlay, and own a 7.1 speaker set up, the NR1603 is the way to go. If you have a 5.1 set up, and strictly use your home theater for DVDs, Blu Ray discs, and Digital Cable, the NR1403 is what you need. The fact these two components can be priced at $649 and $399 is really a miracle based on what they deliver. Both get my highest recommendation for those seeking cutting edge home theater under $1000.



Specifications




Marantz NR1603: $649
●    7.1-channel AV receiver, 50 watts per channel
●    Built-in AirPlay and DLNA
●    Built-in streaming apps for Pandora, Sirius/XM, Flickr
●    Ethernet jack
●    Analog video upconversion
●    Two component video inputs
●    Powered second-zone functionality
●    Front-panel USB input, iPhone/iPod compatible
●    Controllable via iPhone app


Marantz NR1403: $399
●    5.1-channel AV receiver, 50 watts per channel
●    Six HDMI inputs (including one front-panel input)
●    Supports 3D video pass-through
●    Two digital inputs (one optical, one coaxial)
●    Audyssey MultEQ automatic speaker calibration
●    Graphical user interface
●    Three-year warranty




Review System



TV: Vizio 55” LED
Preamp/Processor: Marantz AV7005
Multi Channel Amplifier: Marantz MM7055
BluRay Universal Player: Oppo BDP-93
Speakers: Paradigm Monitor Series 9 V.5 for L, R, and C.
Paradigm Atom for surround.
Subwoofer: PSB
Cables: Kimber, QED, PS Audio, Transparent
Digital Cable: Time Warner/Motorola DVR







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