Marantz NR1504 Receiver Review

Discussion in 'Write Your Own Review' started by Adam, Aug 18, 2013.

  1. Adam Audioholic Jedi

    Adam
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    (The following is from a review that I wrote for Amazon, hence my wording and "star" ratings below.)

    Recently, I've had a chance to audition this receiver, its brother the Marantz NR1604, the Denon AVR-E400 and the Onkyo TX-NR626. For form factor, this and the NR1604 are at the top. For features, connections, and power, this one is at the bottom (the Onkyo, which costs the same, is at the top). So, make no mistake that you are paying for the form factor. That said, the form factor really is awesome...so it might be worth it to you to trade off some of the other things.

    I read about and discuss receivers on an audio/video forum (Audioholics) a lot, and the things that I recommend that you look at when shopping are: connections (does it have everything that you want/need), auto calibration (a huge plus, IMO), features (can it do everything that you want), power (can it play as loud as you want and still sound good), ease of use, and the remote control. Price, of course, also weighs into it - I never want to spend more than I have to in order to get what I want, but I don't want to spend less and then be unhappy for years because I bought something that doesn't do what I want. This Marantz doesn't do everything that I want, but it might be perfect for you depending on your needs.

    The video provides an overview of the receiver, including a look under the hood. The main review is below.



    BOTTOM LINE
    If I were buying a receiver in this price range today, I'd buy the Pioneer VSX-1123. That's almost exclusively because I prefer Pioneer's MCACC auto calibration system over Audyssey (explained below), and the VSX-1123 has more connectivity and features than this model. If I wanted a receiver with Audyssey in this price class and didn't care about the form factor, I'd get the Onkyo TX-NR626. If I wanted this form factor, I'd get the Marantz NR1604 because of its more refined graphical interface even if you don't need its added features and connections. I'd get this model if I wanted the NR1604 but didn't want to spend that much.

    DETAILS
    I wrote pretty long reviews for the Denon AVR-E400 and Onkyo TX-NR626, which are also nice receivers to consider. I'm providing similar information below. The details section is a bit lengthy, but I think that $500-$600 is a lot of money, and I hope that you find it helpful in your search for a new receiver. I have a 7.1 speaker system, but since you'd be buying it for its 5.1 capability, I'm not knocking any ratings because it lacks 7.1.

    Form Factor: 5 Stars
    I've loved the idea of Marantz's Slim Line receivers for a while, but I honestly didn't realize how cool this form factor is until I unpacked the box. Even though a normal-height receiver fits in my entertainment center just fine, the smaller size of this not only looks nice, but it also makes reaching behind it to plug in or remove cables _so_ much easier. As someone who has contorted and reached behind equipment for decades, being able to reach right over the top of this and get to the connectors is simply awesome. The curved sides of the front face are also a very nice looking touch, too.

    Connections: 4 Stars
    While I initially thought it was lacking because the back panel looks pretty barren compared to my previous receivers, it actually has everything that I need these days. With the exception of the optical audio output from my TV, all of my other gear uses HDMI. Of course, you've got to make sure that it has what YOU need, because that is probably different than what I need. I also like the pre-amp outputs for the front channels, but I question how many people want to hook up a power amp to this after spending extra money to get a smaller unit.

    Auto Calibration: 3 Stars (might be 5 stars for you, though)
    Auto calibration is a wonderful thing, and if you've never used it, I think that you'll love it. Audyssey seems to work pretty well and sounds good in the location where I set up the mic and ran the calibration. My biggest complaint about Audyssey is that it cannot store multiple configurations. In my room, I have two main seating locations - one is centrally located relative to the speakers, while the other is off to the side. The relative distances between the speakers and those two locations (and hence the optimal timing and volume levels for each speaker) are significantly different. MCACC (at least the version on my Pioneer and the VSX-1123) can store up to six configurations, so I can have one for the central location and another one for the side location. Audyssey, at least on this receiver, can't do that. I can place the mic in both locations during setup, but it still sets the timing based on the first mic location. If you have a seating arrangement in your room where everyone sits pretty close, then this might not matter to you, and you very well might consider Audyssey to be a five star system. A lot of people love it. I just didn't realize that it couldn't do multiple configurations until I started using it, so I wanted to point it out. That was a big disappointment to me. One other note - while it will ask you during Audyssey setup if you want to turn on Dynamic Volume (which applies dynamic range compression), it automatically turns on without asking Dynamic EQ (which is a more advanced version of the old Loudness controls). If you don't like Dynamic EQ, you need to disable it individually for every input.

    Features: 4 Stars
    It has pretty much everything that I would want from a 5.1 receiver except it won't decode DSD from SACDs. This is a downer for me, but probably won't matter to most of you. I love the ability to rename the inputs (e.g. "PS3") and select which inputs get cycled through when you use the selector dial on the front panel (my Pioneer also has this). For example, if you only have four components connected, you can set in the menu that you only want to cycle through those four instead of having to cycle through all of the inputs (including several that you never use) just to get to the ones that you want. VERY nice. HDMI pass through in standby mode is also very nice. The networking features (like internet radio and DLNA) are also cool, but not something that I'll use often. I might use the DLNA a lot if it could handle video files, but based on the manual and my own checking, it will only stream audio files. As far as I saw, you can't access the menu system from the receiver itself, so you need the remote to do that - I like that the Onkyo TX-NR626 can access the menus from the receiver itself.

    Power: 3.5 Stars
    This has decent power for low to medium volume levels, but it loses some dynamics at higher volumes. I don't tend to listen very loudly, so I don't need a lot of power. However, I checked out its capabilities at pretty loud volumes (0 dB, or reference level, on the volume control). One of my test cases to check out power is Fleetwood Mac's "The Dance" DVD. I use it because it's 5.1 and therefore uses five of the amp channels to some extent, and because it has short dynamic power requirements for things like guitar string plucks. The reason that I added a power amp to my first Pioneer, besides the real reason of just wanting to try one out :), is that I could tell that the music wasn't as crisp and clear at high volumes. For lack of a better word, it sounded muffled. The dynamics just weren't there, and it's because that Pioneer didn't have enough juice for the peaks (like guitar string plucks and cymbals) at higher volumes (at my normal listening volumes, though, that Pioneer was fine). So, I tried that exact same disc with this receiver - and it had the same issues as that Pioneer did. Maybe it was the Audyssey, but I believe it was a lack of power. So, for my normal listening levels, it was just fine, but I listen much lower than most of my friends...and if you are more like them, then you'd probably find this a bit lacking.

    Ease of Use: 4 Stars
    Honestly, I have no trouble using receivers that some other people consider complicated, so I'm probably not the best judge. This receiver, though, does seem very easy to use. I love that the OSD (including the setup menus) will overlay on top of what you're watching and let you keep watching. The OSD has virtually the same menus as the Denon AVR-E400 and Marantz NR1604 (except for choices specific to those models), but - and I actually find this shocking - the graphics on this model are much worse. The fonts are blocky and look like something from a computer in the 80's. For a unit that was designed around form, I find it surprising that they'd skimp on the interface (especially since the NR1604 has a _very_ nice interface). To be clear, the menu has the same functionality, it just looks worse.

    Remote: 3 Stars
    This remote is like that of the Denon AVR-E400 in that it's not a universal remote. The remote's simplicity is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that the buttons are large and easy to find/push, and the remote isn't bulky so it's easy to handle. The curse is that it's pretty limited. It operates the receiver well, although some things like changing the sound modes are more difficult than I think they should be. The killer for me is that it can't operate any other equipment. Given how inexpensive it is to include that ability, I'm surprised that they didn't. The remote even has the buttons that you'd need for common equipment - you just can't use them. I figure that if the receiver is marketed as the audio/video hub for all of your gear, then it should have a remote that can operate the most common features of common equipment like TVs, disc players, and cable boxes.

    Build Quality: 4.5 Stars
    Overall, a nice solid unit. While about half the size of other units, it weighs close to some of the competition, so it's more dense - and you can feel that when you pick it up. I docked it half a star because the front knobs, while solid, feel a little cheap. The connectors on the back are all solid. As a note, while the speaker connectors look a little fancier than normal ones in the pictures, they are just like the connectors on my other receivers (the Denon push connectors excluded) except with translucent plastic...so not higher quality.

    Packing: 4 Stars
    The outer box is just uncoated cardboard, but inside, everything is logically placed and secured. I LOVE that they went with foam end caps around the receiver that have top/bottom pieces so that you can lift out the top two end pieces, exposing the receiver that you can then lift out and off the bottom end pieces without any end caps still on it. So, you can sit the receiver down without having to pull the foam end caps off in mid-air as you juggle and balance it. Some receivers, like the Onkyo 626, have one-piece end caps that are more difficult to remove when unpacking.

    Audio Quality
    I added this category after it was requested in a comment. I didn't give it a star rating because it's dependent on where I sit and how loud I have it turned up. This is due to a combination of the Audyssey capability and the power handling of this unit. At my normal listening levels and in the location where I ran the Audyssey calibration, this unit sounds great. It's no better or worse than the Denon or Onkyo referenced above, and those are both higher-power receivers. At louder listening levels, it does begin to show its limitations by sounding more muffled (to me) and loses the crispness and clarity that it has at lower levels. In this regard, the Denon and Onkyo beat it handily. So, if you listen at moderate levels and tend to sit in one area, this receiver should work just fine for you. If you like to listen loud, then I suggest looking at a higher power unit.

    Overall: 3 Stars
    The form factor is awesome. Awesome. I can live without (but miss) DSD decoding, and I can put up with (but dislike) the remote. However, the evident lack of power at higher volumes, the relatively poor graphics of the OSD, and the inability to store multiple configurations for Audyssey in my living room drop this down for me. I lean towards giving this 3.5 stars overall, but I won't because that's what I gave the Denon AVR-E400, and I think that Denon is an overall better unit. Those of you who don't care about DSD, don't need a universal remote, listen at moderate volumes, don't care much about how the menu looks, and that sit in one location wouldn't have any of those complaints and might just love this receiver. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment and I'll respond as soon as I can. Thanks.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 19, 2014
    Adam,
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