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Features and Operation

By Danny Phillips

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Marantz NR1602

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

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.

Marantz NR1602

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.

Marantz NR1602

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.

kaled

October 28, 2011, 4:22 pm

"eye-catching feature list, headlined by AirPlay support"

What is the world coming to - this is an AV receiver first and foremost and just like every other technology reviewer, you seem to have to give Apple some free advertising!
Forget the fact that it is completely ridiculous that AirPlay even exists since DNLA can do the same thing - and yet the media heap praise on Apple rather than critise for bringing yet another, prioprietry standard.

Keithe6e

October 28, 2011, 7:40 pm

>> DNLA can do the same thing

No it can't.

The nearest thing I can think of is bluetooth A2DP, but that's audio only.

DNLA is a pull protocol, Airplay & A2DP are more push protocols, learn the difference before ranting.

kaled

October 28, 2011, 7:55 pm

Actually, my Twonky DNLA server software can 'push' content directly to my Marantz SR7005 in exactly the same way as Airplay functions on the receiver.
Indeed I believe Twonky mobile enables just this feature from a mobile phone and presumably tablets too!

Keithe6e

October 29, 2011, 2:24 am

Ah right, as long as it's acting as a DMR. Good point, it's sort of the same thing, and your right another protocol wasn't really needed. But there are plenty of people who would be interested in knowing the device can handle this, so I'm still not sure what's your gripe. Is it any worse than highlighting if a product is DNLA certified?

Gk.pm

October 29, 2011, 7:57 pm

Well the problem with DNLA is it tries to do too much and support everything under the sun, but then - as usual for such things - fails at even minimal usability.

I'm talking from experience because unfortunately I had to build and now maintain a small DNLA setup consisting of a Mac as server, an Onkyo 609 for audio, a WD Live box and a Panasonic LCD TV for video. What a nightmare to get that to even play something.

Had to try 5 different DNLA servers, each with varying amounts of FAIL until I finally settled on a paid commercial one (iSedora) that works 90% of the time. Twonky was among the worse, Tweaky would be a more appropriate name. I spent hours fussing around with that. It's just not a polished product, was very surprised Panasonic even recommended it as their DNLA server of choice.

Even now HD content still needs to be transcoded with obvious artefacts. Lossless audio? Keep dreaming. And that's when the devices aren't complaining they can't see the server.

Recently purchased an iHome IW1 with Airplay from the States to replace my low cost (but very low quality) bluetooth setup. What a joy to use. It really just works.

Almost no setup needed, just choose Wifi and that's it (the iHome even comes with a setup app). Plus it's lossless audio, not the rubbish A2DP.

So no DNLA can't do the same thing. Maybe it could on paper, but in real world user experience it's broken.

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