The Other Diamond Jubilee - Marantz 2013 Product Launch

Steve Withers

Reviewer
Marantz celebrate 60 years with a line-up that emphasises their history and strengths

This week’s press launch in Sorrento was for the D+M group so it wasn’t just Denon that was on display, we also got our first look at the new Marantz line-up. Of the two brands, Marantz has always been associated more with higher-end two-channel audio and has gained a significant reputation over the years. That legacy was particularly in evidence at the launch because this year Marantz celebrate their 60th anniversary. We’ll cover the history of Marantz in a separate article, so let’s kick off by taking a look at their new audio-video receiver (AVR) line-up.

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Although both Denon and Marantz share the same basic AVR platform, the Marantz brand differentiates itself by adding original technologies. Marantz has always targeted an older audience, the 35+ market, and as such their products are expected to be robust and reliable whilst also delivering an excellent audio performance. However, the AVR market has a number of inherent problems, one of which is that people tend to replace their receivers on a 5-7 year cycle. As such it is important for the receiver manufacturers to find ways to attract new customers and one of the approaches that Marantz has taken is to create their ‘slimline’ receiver range.

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The NR series offer all the features of an AVR, with multi-channel amplification, processing, HDMI inputs and network streaming but squeezed into a compact chassis that is half the size of a normal receiver. This approach has proved very popular, especially with people who want the better sound quality but don’t want a huge box in the corner of their lounge. Traditionally, engineers have driven the design of receivers but the NR series is an example of a product where user groups have played a key role. Marantz understand that times are changing and the AVR needs to change with them or find itself left behind. As a result, Marantz are increasing their industrial design budget, in order to develop better looking receivers that will appeal to a wider audience.

Whilst the form factor is important, the NR series also incorporates another key element these days - networking. The NR series include Spotify, AirPlay, Windows 8/RT compatibility and a remote app for both iOS and Android. The NR1504 retails for £399 and includes front USB and HDMI inputs, along with another five HDMI inputs at there rear. There are five channels of amplifiaction offering 85W per a channel and there is a Setup Assistant with Audyssey MultEQ. The NR1604 includes the same features but adds an advanced GUI, an additional HDMI input, an improved remote as well as 4K upscaling and passthrough. The NR1604 also has seven channels of amplification delivering 90W per channel and retails for £549. Both the NR1504 and the NR1604 offer a choice of a silver/gold or black chassis.

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Moving up from the NR series, we have the SR series which uses a full size chassis, incorporates the classic Marantz design and delivers more power and has an upgraded sound performance. There are three models in the SR series - the SR5008, the SR6008 and the SR7008 - and they all offer a choice of a silver/gold or black chassis. The SR5008 retails for £699 and includes horizontal connectors for easier installation and seven channels of amplification with 180W per a channel. The SR6008 adds a bit more power but also includes twin HDMI outputs, phono inputs, InstaPrevue, DTS Neo:X and it can accept Direct Stream Digital (DSD). Finally there’s the SR7008, which retails for £1,399 and includes nine channels of amplification at 200W per a channel, outputs for two independent subwoofers, Audyssey MultEQ XT32 and LFC, a trapdoor design and a programmable remote.

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Finally there’s the AV/MM series which offers an AV processor/controller that can be combined with a separate multi-channel power amplifier. The AV7701 is a seven channel processor/controller that uses a separate pre-amplifier board, ELNA Hi-Fi capacitors and powerful transformers. At the top of the tree is the AV8801 which includes three separate processors, thirteen pre-amplifier boards for 11.2 audio channels, a Toroidal transformer and independent power supplies. Both of these processor/controllers can be used with the Marantz MM8077, MM7055 and MM7025 multi-channel power amplifiers. The AV/MM series is only available in black.

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Since Marantz is closely associated with Hi-Fi, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that they had an extensive range of high-end audio products on show. However, just as the AV world is changing, so is HiFi land, where the way people approach media has fundamentally altered. These days people use a multitude of digital sources including media players, laptops and PCs, which they access either via USB or Ethernet. This has resulted in the rebirth of the digital-to-analogue converter (DAC), as manufacturers offer ways for people to get the best possible sound from their digital sources. Marantz now offers a range of HiFi products including network players, CD players and integrated amplifiers that include digital inputs and high quality DACs.

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At the forefront of this HiFi revolution is the Marantz NA-11S1 Network Audio Player with USB-DAC, which was released in February, is available in silver/gold or black and retails for £3,499. This player offers the choice of either connecting to your home network via Ethernet or with a USB cable directly to your PC or Mac. If you connect to your network, then you can access various services and Internet radio or stream music files. Alternatively, by connecting directly to your PC or Mac, the NA-11S1 acts as the soundcard, allowing you to playback all the services installed on your PC or Mac and turning it into a media player for high resolution music. The NA-11S1 supports FLAC 192/24, WAV 192/24 and ALAC files, whilst the USB-B port works in asynchronous mode and supports 192kHz/24-bits and DSD-Audio (2.8 & 5.6). There’s also an OLED display, XLR balanced outputs, a high quality headphone output and a remote app for iOS and Android.

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The SA-14S1 SACD Player takes a similar approach, providing both CD and SACD playback and incorporating an asynchronous USB-B port with high resolution file support, including DSD. There’s a DAC mode that uses the 192kHz/24-bit DAC, a new SACD drive, a Torodial transformer, a rigid chassis and a low noise LCD display. There’s also the PM-14S1 Integrated Amplifier that has been designed to work in unison with the SA-14S1 and incorporates new circuit topography, high quality components and retuned sound with optimised parts. The SA-14S1 and the PM-14S1 will be available in October, both will cost £2,199 and offer a choice of silver/gold or black. Finally there’s the CD6005 CD Player which offers some of the features found on the much more expensive SA-14S1 but at a far more reasonable price. This CD player uses high quality circuitry, retuned sound with optimised parts, an accurate system clock, a USB-A input for an iPhone/iPod and WAV file playback capability. The CD6005 will be available in September and retail for £349.

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Whilst there are consumers who place greater importance on sound quality, just as with the AV receivers, a lot of people are more concerned with convenience, features and design. To address this, Marantz has developed the Melody line of systems that combine a black and white styling with a gloss finish and attractive design. The Melody Media M-CR610, which uses a typeface that looks very reminiscent of Meridian, is a network CD receiver with built-in WiFi, AirPlay, Spotify, an OLED screen, a DAB and FM tuner, front and rear USB inputs, bi-amping and high resolution file support. Conversely, Melody Stream M-CR510 is a network streamer drops the CD player and tuners to concentrate on the streaming and Internet radio. The M-CR610 and the M-CR510 are both released in August, the M-CR610 will retail for £499, whilst the M-CR510 will cost £399.

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Finally there’s the Marantz Consolette, the first speaker dock in their range, designed for the audiophile and released to coincide with their 60th anniversary. The Consolette deliberately includes retro design elements as a reminder of the previous sixty years and the name comes from the first Marantz product - the Audio Consolette. The new Consolette reflects the modern age with not only an iPhone/iPod dock but also wireless music streaming, Internet radio and Netlink. However the Consolette retains true to its HiFi heritage by using balanced mode radiators (BMR), dual high-performance bass drivers and full digital signal processing and amplification.

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Of course, no Marantz launch would be complete without a presentation from Ken Ishiwata and sure enough the industry legend was on hand to take us through a brief history of HiFi, from mono recordings right up to DSD downloads. There were two setups, one used a turntable connected to a vintage mono-block amplifiers driving highly sensitive Tannoy speakers. The other consisted of the new Marantz NA-11S1 Network Audio Player connected to a MacBook Pro and using two Marantz power amplifiers to drive a pair of insanely toed-in Boston Acoustics M350s. Ken started off by playing a live mono recording of Benny Goodman from 1938, followed by a number of records including some that were cut directly onto the vinyl, right up to a disco-era maxi-single. The odd crackle aside, the records all had an incredible dynamic range and you were reminded just how good analogue vinyl actually sounded. You were also reminded what a pain it was having to constantly get records out of sleeves, put them on the turntable and put the stylus down. This was made all the more obvious when Ken started playing high resolution audio files using his iPhone as a controller. Thankfully, the second setup wasn't just convenient, it also sounded fantastic and DSD downloads in particular were very impressive. At the end of the demonstration you were reminded that although technology has changed beyond all recognition over the last sixty years, great music and great sound haven't. The more things change, the more they stay the same - Happy Anniversary Marantz.
 

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