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Slim receiver with full-bodied sound
The Good / The Marantz NR1605 stands slimmer and looks sleeker than typical boxy AV receivers. It packs a host of must-have features, including eight HDMI inputs, 4K Ultra HD 60Hz pass-through, built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplay, and front-panel USB. Its sound quality is excellent, with enough power for most surround speaker systems.
The Bad / This receiver's 50 watts per channel may lack muscle for more power-hungry buyers.
The Bottom Line / The slim, compact Marantz NR1605 provides excellent sound quality and thoroughly up-to-date features, making it one of our favorites for the price.
There is a prevailing theory that all home theater receivers sound the same. Sometimes that theory holds water, but other times it's pretty easy to show the disparities.
If you put the likes of the $700 Marantz NR1605 alongside a $100 Sherwood, you will definitely hear a difference. We even heard an (admittedly lesser) difference between the Marantz and one of our favorite Sonys, which costs $100 less. It's all about voicing, and Marantz is one of the least expensive of a breed of amplifiers that include the likes of Rotel and NAD in a "music first" philosophy. Marantz also stands apart from those two brands in that it's quicker to adapt to new features like Spotify Connect and 4K compatibility.
Sound quality aside, the NR1605 is also one of the nicest-looking full-fledged AV receivers to grace an audio cabinet. The key is its slimmer height, complemented by graceful (for a receiver) curves that further reduce the typical boxy look.
For the money the NR1605 can hardly be called a "steal," but it offers pretty much everything you might need to start a cracking home cinema system for a small to medium sized room. If you want even more power you can trade up to the "full-size" SR5009 for an extra 200 bucks, but doesn't offer much in the way of extra features.
When Marantz introduced its NR range several years ago it was one of the smallest, yet fully featured, series of receivers on the market. While their compactness has been eclipsed by digital-only competitors like the NAD D 3020, these receivers are still pretty small when compared with the hulking home theater models of today.
Like all modern Marantz receivers the NR1605 features an aluminum front panel with rounded resin edges. At the boundary of these two materials are two knobs: one for volume and another for source selection. The effect is quite neat but why stick with a rotary source dial? Given that sister-brand Denon has started including input shortcut buttons on its receivers, it's a shame not to see it on this model.
The menu system that runs the Marantz is a welcome step up on some previous models as it's now full-color and formatted for HD televisions. The menu is easy to use, and you're able to access most online services from the main page -- bar Spotify Connect, which uses your mobile device.
The remote control is kind of cute in a "Kids Own" remote kind of way and all of the main functions are available from the handset.
Before we got started we had some concern about the NR1605's conservative 50-watt-per-channel power rating. No matter what we threw at the 18.5-pound receiver, however, it never ran out of steam in our small listening room.
Of course, if you have a huge space or like to play movies and music really loud, the NR1605 might come up short. In that case, consider the NR1605's bigger brother, the 100-watt-per-channel SR5009 receiver. If you like to really crank up your tunes or movies from time to time, you can never have too much power.
The NR1605 is Marantz's top-of-the-line slim "NR" receiver and so boasts the most number of powered channels and the greatest selection of connectivity. It has eight HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0 compatibility, plus one optical and one coaxial digital plus three analog inputs. Bluetooth connectivity and a front-mounted USB port are also on offer.
The onboard Wi-Fi brings with it a number of streaming options including AirPlay, Internet radio, and the streaming streaming services Pandora, Spotify Connect, SiriusXM and Flickr. The Marantz is also one of a growing number of devices which is embedded with Spotify's Connect hardware. This competitor to Apple Airplay enables limited control of the receiver via the Spotify app: users can power the receiver on and start playing music straight away without having to use a remote -- especially handy for continuing an on-the-go playlist when you get home. While the cheaper NR1504 has Spotify embedded, it doesn't have Connect, meaning you need to use the slower combination of the remote control and the onscreen display.
Of note for videophiles is the ISF-certified controls for calibrating each input, which is helpful if, like mine, your cable box puts out a darker image than everything else.
We used our reference Pioneer SP-PK52SF home theater speakers, and an Aperion Audio Bravus 8D subwoofer for all of our listening tests. Since we haven't liked the sound balances we've been getting with most receivers' auto-setup programs, we did a manual speaker setup and calibration with the NR1605. That took about five minutes, start to finish.
First up, the plane crash scene on the "Cast Away" Blu-ray, the screaming whine of the jet engines, and the violent bashing sounds of the cargo careening from side to side were ferociously scary. When the plane slams into the sea the rush of water flooding the cabin was intense! Later, when Chuck Noland, a FedEx systems engineer (Tom Hanks) spends years alone stranded on the island, the open expanse of beach surf sounded huge.
Switching over the to the Sony STR DN1050 receiver, the speakers' sound field grew smaller, and we were more aware of the location of each speaker.
We continued with jazz saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom's "Sixteen Sunsets" audio-only, 5.1 channel surround Blu-ray. This is an exceedingly natural-sounding recording, and the STR DN1050 certainly did a good job with it, but the NR1605 revealed more spatial cues, so the sense of being in the room with Bloom's band was easier to hear. The delicate cymbals' shimmer and individual piano notes sounded better on the NR1605, and our respect for the Pioneer Andrew Jones speakers bumped up a couple of notches.
At only a $100 premium over the excellent Sony STR-DN1050, the Marantz NR1605 offers a host of extra features plus even better sound. It has great looks, excellent features and Marantz's expected superb sound quality. If you're not an extreme power user, the NR1605 should be everything you need.