- Refined and reasonably powerful sound quality
- Stylish slimline design
- AirPlay support and smooth music streaming
- No Wi-Fi support or video scaling
- Can get more features for your money elsewhere
- Remote a little too busy
- Review Price: £509.90
- 7 x 50W power output
- AirPlay support
- DLNA certified
- Internet radio, Napster, Flickr and Last.fm
- Audyssey MultEQ auto calibration
If you thought all AV receivers were hulking black boxes that gobble up space in your AV rack, think again. The NR1602 is one of two slimline receivers in Marantz’s range, which bring a touch of space-saving elegance to your system. The NR1602 is the step-up version, adding features not found on the NR1402, with an approximate price difference of £180 between them.
The NR1602 is a 7.1-channel receiver with 7 x 50W of amplification under the bonnet. Naturally, it’s 3D-ready and elsewhere on the feature list is a range of networking capabilities – including built-in AirPlay support and internet radio. The 5.1-channel NR1402 lacks these functions.
Marantz makes some of the best-looking receivers in the business, and the NR1602 is no exception. The obvious eye-catcher is the unit’s slim dimensions, measuring just 105mm from top to bottom. But it’s the curved panels at either end of the fascia that really make it stand out, adding a touch of sophistication that perfectly matches Marantz Blu-ray players like the UD7006. It’s available in a choice of black or silver-gold.
The display panel on the front is excellent – nicely sized and full of helpful information – and it’s flanked by large input and volume dials, but beneath it is a rather cluttered bank of buttons and sockets, which could have done with being hidden behind a flap. The keys let you control often-used functions and menus, while sockets include a USB port (more on that later), a headphone jack and a port for the setup mic.
The slimmed-down rear panel doesn’t leave as much room for connections as most receivers, but Marantz has certainly crammed lots into the space. There are four HDMI inputs and one output, all v1.4 with Audio Return Channel support.
You also get two component and three composite video inputs, plus an output for each, 2.1-channel pre-outs, three sets of analogue stereo inputs plus two digital audio inputs (one optical and one coaxial).
Rounding it off are remote control in/out, Ethernet, FM/AM antenna inputs and Marantz’s M-XPort, which allows you to connect the optional RX-101 Bluetooth receiver (which in turn will receive signals from the IS301 Bluetooth iPod dock). Alternatively, you can connect your Apple device to the USB port on the front.
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.
The bodywork may be leaner than your average receiver but its sound quality is super-sized. Don’t let that modest power rating fool you either, as the NR1602 is capable of mustering plenty of punch and dynamism from within its slimline frame.
Sliding old favourite Hellboy II: The Golden Army into the tray, the NR1602 turns its DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack into a thing of beauty. The climactic battle between Hellboy and Nuada is a breath-taking maelstrom of effects blaring from all seven speakers. Clanking weaponry, punches, kicks, stomping robotic footsteps – all whipped round the room with authority and dynamism. It’s a real thrill ride.
But it’s not all about brute force. The soundstage also shimmers with detail – nowhere more so than the exquisitely recorded Troll Market scene – plus there’s a control and smoothness to the sound that only comes from an audio brand operating at the top of its game.
Steering is fast-paced and seamless, the soundstage is expansive and dialogue sounds clean and forthright. It’s a really impressive performance across the board, and that extends to music playback too – in stereo mode you get a wonderfully crisp and velvety sound from the NR1602, showing the sort of deftness and musicality you might not expect from a movie-centric amp.
We’re really impressed by the NR1602. Not only is it teeming with features, including DLNA streaming, internet radio, AirPlay and 3D support, but its slimline design is also gorgeous and sound quality is sublime, despite its low-sounding power rating.
It’s also a smooth music streamer, supporting a decent range of formats and AirPlay works flawlessly, providing a brilliant way of unlocking music on your Apple device or computer.
Granted, other AV receivers in this price bracket offer even more for a lower price. The Onkyo TX-NR609, for example, gets you Pro Logic IIz, Audyssey DSX, Wi-Fi dongle support, 4K2K video scaling, more connections, greater power, THX Select2 Plus certification and Spotify into the bargain for under £500. But we fancy the Marantz just edges it in terms of sophistication and musical refinement, plus it’s a lot nicer to look at.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 9
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