The feature list’s obvious headline-grabber is AirPlay. In case you’ve been living in a cave for the last couple of years, AirPlay allows you stream tunes from a Mac, PC, iPod, iPhone or iPad to compatible audio devices over your home network.
Once the NR1602 is hooked up to your network, it’s listed as a device in the little AirPlay menu at the bottom of the iTunes window – simply select it and play your music. In testing, our laptop saw the NR1602 straight away and played our iTunes library with no messing – as is usually the case with Apple technology, it just works. As an added bonus, you can even control the NR1602 with Apple devices after downloading the free Marantz Wizz App.
The NR1602 is also DLNA certified and can stream music and photo files from devices on your home network, as well as streaming some 14,000 internet radio stations. Subscription-based services include Last.fm and Napster, plus you can browse photos on Flickr.
These services provide hassle-free access to a plethora of music, adding tons of value to the overall package. But the lack of Wi-Fi support, either built-in or via dongle, makes setup a little more cumbersome than it could be – hopefully this will be added to its successor.
As well as supporting direct connection of iPods, the USB port on the front allows you play back audio files from pen drives and external HDDs. Supported formats include MP3, WAV, AAC, FLAC and WMA and our files played without fuss, even showing album art for some tracks.
On the video side, the NR1602 takes analogue video piped into the component or composite and outputs it digitally through the HDMI port, but there’s no on-board video scaling, which is another area where rivals score points against the NR1602.
But as you’d expect, the NR1602 decodes the full gamut of Dolby and DTS formats found on Blu-ray and DVD discs, plus Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS Neo:6, Dolby Virtual Speaker and Neural Surround are on hand to turn stereo sources into multichannel. There’s no Dolby Pro Logic II though, which isn’t a deal-breaker but is found on some similarly-priced rivals.
Setting up and optimising a receiver can be an absolute nightmare for beginners, so thankfully the NR1602 comes equipped with Audyssey MultEQ auto calibration, which sets all the sound parameters for you using the supplied microphone then regulates the sound using Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume. The latter prevents big jumps in sound levels, which is OK for levelling out noisy adverts but won’t be of much use when listening to dynamic movie soundtracks.
Setup is carried out through the onscreen menus. Although not the prettiest looking menu with its basic blocky graphics, its logical, intuitive layout gets the job done. The setup menu leaves no stone unturned, which is useful if you’ve opted to handle speaker setup manually.
The network menu is a little jazzier, with higher-res icons and attractive fonts. It lists the various functions – Internet Radio, Media Server, Flickr, Last.fm and Napster – and the interface for each service is easy to navigate, with simple left and right clicks taking you back and forth through each menu screen.
That said, we didn’t always see eye to eye with the remote, particularly at first glance. It’s cluttered with banks of identical buttons and some confusing labelling that makes little sense until you’ve read the manual. In its favour though, the menu and volume keys are thoughtfully placed and the brushed black finish looks fetching. There’s also a handy button that brings up a list of all the source inputs, allowing you to select one onscreen. It’s a learning remote too, so you can consolidate your handsets if you wish.