As its name suggests, the Melody Movie really sings with both movie soundtracks and music. We loaded up Iron Man 2 on Blu-ray, skipped to the Monaco Grand Prix scene and through our Teufel Theater 3 speakers the Marantz tackles the slam-bang action with relish. You can feel the roaring engines of the F1 cars on the grid shudder your bones, and if the sound of them zooming past the camera doesn’t get the adrenalin flowing then get yourself to a GP sharpish.
Throughout the scene, the whirlwind of effects is delivered with raw aggression and power, but always under complete control. The sound of sliced-up cars crashing to the ground is underpinned by a tight, thumping low-end, there’s a thick, muscular boom as Vanko smashes his whips on the ground, while the clattering of metal on metal boasts sharpness and bite but no harshness at all. This is a great advert for home cinema separates.
Despite its power, the system doesn’t miss out any of the little details going on elsewhere, like the clicking and beeping of Stark’s suit, or the electric crackle of Vanko’s whips. Dialogue remains clear too, allowing you to pick out Tony’s little quips as the chaos rains down around him, even without the presence of a dedicated centre speaker. It’s fast and dynamic, inspiring excitement with every sound – it’s just a shame you can’t add surround speakers to expand the soundstage, as Dolby Virtual Speaker adds very little width.
This superb movie performance is backed up by silky smooth CD playback, which is its clearest advantage over cheaper 2.1-systems. You can instantly hear where the extra money is going – from soul and jazz to rock and pop, it handles a variety of genres with sophistication, warmth and a completeness that you simply don’t get from the vast majority of budget Blu-ray receivers. Of course, it helps pairing it with your own speakers as opposed to the lightweight ones you get with one-box systems.
Although the Melody Movie takes a while to get a picture on screen due to its sluggish disc loading (Terminator Salvation took one minute to load, Iron Man 2 47 seconds), it’s certainly impressive when it arrives. Iron Man 2’s slightly grainy transfer is faithfully reproduced with immaculate detail, bold colours, subtle shading and fluid motion. Dark scenes are perfectly visible too, with superb shadow detail giving the picture plenty of depth.
We also ran through the Silicon Optix test disc and the Marantz competently handled most of its patterns. That said, there was some unusual juddering on rotating bars, strobing boxes on the Film Resolution Loss test and nasty flickering during the pan across Raymond James stadium, all of which suggests that the on-board video processing isn’t quite as powerful as we first thought.
Despite its stellar sound performance, in other areas the Melody Movie isn’t quite the all-encompassing, must-have system we hoped it would be. There’s too much missing from the spec sheet to completely justify that lofty price tag, including networking, digital inputs and DivX playback. But there are still plenty of positives to celebrate, such as the amazing build quality, alluring design and, most importantly, its mature, refined sound quality, which is streets ahead of 2.1-channel systems from the likes of Samsung, LG and Panasonic. If that’s your only demand, then the Marantz is a worthwhile purchase, but be sure to check out what the competition has to offer before buying.