- Review Price: £607.95
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.
The back panel features a typically generous selection of sockets, providing all the inputs and outputs you need but leaving plenty spare for expanding systems. Most significantly, there are three HDMI inputs and two outputs, all of which are v1.3 and therefore support features like Deep Colour and HD audio bitstream transfer. You can use the unit as an HDMI switcher, and thanks to the I-Chips Technology 10-bit video processor you can even upscale connected video sources to 1080p.
Elsewhere there are three component video inputs and two outputs; four S-video/composite inputs and two outputs; five digital audio inputs (three optical, two coaxial) and one optical output (for Zone B or recording purposes); 7.1-channel analogue inputs and pre-outs, six analogue stereo inputs and four outputs, plus DC trigger, flasher input and remote control terminals. Furthermore, the surround back speaker terminals can be used for a separate zone, and you’ll also find separate Zone A analogue outputs.
We’ve touched upon the main features, but there’s plenty more to get your teeth into. The Marantz Dynamic Audio eXpander (or M-DAX to you and me) boosts the quality of digital music, while there’s a range of four Acoustic EQ modes that work in tandem with Audyssey’s automatic settings. You’ll also find support for HDCD, Dolby Headphone, Dolby Virtual Speaker and Neural-THX Surround, plus video conversion capabilities.
Operating the SR6003 is a piece of cake, with the crisply-presented, responsive on-screen menus making it simple to access MP3 files, adjust audio settings or assign the various inputs. For the latter purpose, the unit uses a table to show which input is assigned to each source, and this common sense approach is prevalent across the entire menu system.
Similarly the remote feels intuitive and is surprisingly slender considering the amount of functions it has to control. We also like the backlight (which illuminates every button) and small readout at the top that indicates the selected source, but on the downside the buttons are a bit cluttered and confusingly labelled.
The SR6003 backs up its generous feature list with sensational audio performance. ”Hellboy 2: The Golden Army’s” DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack on Blu-ray is an absolute blast from start to finish, with the Marantz orchestrating its thrilling sonics with drive, precision and bucketloads of detail. This assured performance makes showpiece action scenes like Hellboy’s battles with the Elemental and the Golden Army sound utterly compelling – sudden bangs and crashes are satisfyingly dynamic, explosions are conveyed with gut-wrenching force and dialogue cuts through the melee without sounding harsh or tinny. Meanwhile, effects are expertly steered and thrown around the soundstage to deliver an incredible sense of width and scale.
But what’s also impressive is the amount of finesse on display – yes the Marantz will rip your head off when it needs to (although it’s nowhere near as ferocious as the Onkyo TX-NR906) but it’s never afraid to slip on its kid gloves and tease out subtle details and background noises – a good example being the spellbinding Troll Market scene, where a tapestry of half-heard voices and delicate effects ping from every speaker with effortless clarity.
Despite being right at home with films, the SR6003 is also blessed with an innate musicality that allows John Legend’s ”Evolver” CD to slide from the speakers like sonic velvet. In stereo mode, the deep bass notes and beautifully smooth top-end make for a really satisfying and involving listen, plus it injects a sense of rhythm and urgency that’ll get your neck nodding without you even wanting it to.
The Marantz SR6003 is a class act all round, boasting stunning supermodel looks, awesome build quality, a comprehensive feature list and superb sound quality with both films and music. It’s also one of the most user-friendly AV receivers we’ve tested, removing most of the hassle normally involved in setting up a surround sound system. Naturally you get more power and more presence from a more expensive model like the Onkyo TX-NR906, but in its class we reckon you’ll be hard pressed to find anything better.
Score in detail