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With their ability to bring breathtaking surround sound into our homes, there's no denying that AV receivers are amazing machines, but let's face it: they can be very complicated to use. Their rear panels are packed with more connections than Clapham Junction, there's usually a deluge of techie jargon and abbreviations to decipher, and assigning inputs or configuring speakers is sometimes akin to reprogramming a nuclear reactor.
Thankfully, the Marantz SR6003 - one of three new AV receivers recently added to the company's range - aims to make the installation process a little easier. It's equipped with a 256-colour user interface, which allows you to control every facet of the unit's functionality using clear on-screen menus, while the Audyssey MultEQ mode automatically sets the levels and listening distances at the touch of a button, getting you up and running a lot quicker than usual.
But ease of use is just one of the SR6003's big selling points - it's also packed with a vast array of audio features. The unit decodes all of the hi-res audio formats found on Blu-ray discs - Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS HD - as well as Dolby Digital EX, DTS ES (Discrete 6.1 and Matrix 6.1), Dolby Pro Logic IIx, DTS Neo:6 and SRS Circle Surround II. It can also muster 100W from each of its seven channels, making it a pretty powerful beast.
But the SR6003 is far from a beast on the outside, looking surprisingly attractive for an AV receiver. It eschews the boxy look of its rivals for the more elegant 'M1' chassis, which boasts curved edges and pleasingly shallow dimensions. It's available in black or silver, but whichever colour you choose it's classy from head to toe, plus the rigid construction is hugely satisfying and designed to improve performance.
The front panel is pleasingly free from clutter, and the display panel on the front is large, easy to read and packs in lots of information. It's flanked by two control dials for volume and input selection, and below it is a drop-down flap that hides a row of controls and AV inputs, including S-video, composite, analogue stereo and optical digital audio. They're joined by sockets for headphones and the Audyssey setup microphone, plus a USB port for playing back MP3, WMA, AAC and WAV files from memory devices, which kind of makes up for the lack of an iPod dock.