Hi-fi manufacturer Marantz has experimented with home media streaming for several years, but until now it has been mostly proprietary. The NA7004 Network Audio Player is perhaps the company's first attempt at creating an open digital entertainment hub, which not only incorporates DLNA and AirPlay media streaming but DAB+ radio and a DAC.
The NA7004 maintains the lookwith its '003 range of components. The rounded edges feature a resin construction, while the front of the unit is brushed aluminium. The unit features a blue, three-line OLED display that is visible from across a room, which is handy because the unit doesn't feature any sort of on-screen display (OSD) for your television.
The display is surrounded by a smattering of handy controls including Play/Pause and so on, as well as a Menu and direction pad. At the bottom of the unit you also get a headphone output and corresponding volume control.
The remote control is well laid out and features direct selection of all inputs. If you have a Marantz receiver it will also provide limited control of that too.
If you're looking for a music player that will spin anything short of a physical disc, then the NA7004 is essentially a one-stop shop. It offers internet radio with thousands of stations at your fingertips, digital radio in the form of Apple's AirPlay standard. Just be aware that registering for AirPlay costs an additional US$50.(for the city slickers), in addition to AM/FM, a high-quality DAC with USB, direct iPod/MP3 player connection, DLNA media streaming from computers and compatible devices, and
Upgrading the NA7004 to include AirPlay via the three-line OLED display (Credit: CBS Interactive)
The Marantz features support for a number of different audio formats including MP3, WMA, AAC and FLAC up to 24-bit/96MHz. While the player will relay the sound of video content via AirPlay, the player doesn't support picture or video files.
Marantz offers its M-DAX system on the NA7004, which is designed to "put back what compression takes out", but most people will find this needless. The switch simply adds extra treble to the mix and given the likely quality of the target market's audio files it's redundant.
As the unit can be used as a stand-alone DAC, you'd expect it to feature some cutting-edge digital processing, and, according to Marantz, it does. The player uses the Cirrus CS4398 chipset, which may not be the household names that the Burr-Browns and the Wolfsons are in the audiophile community, but Marantz also uses the DAC in its AU$2500 flagship CD player.
The system offers a number of inputs and outputs befitting a high-end digital player. For inputs you get USB, digital coaxial and optical, antenna and, of course, Ethernet. On the output side, the Marantz features both optical and coaxial (just in case, say, you own an even higher quality DAC) and stereo outputs. The only thing we miss is the lack of any video output and feel this limits a user's ability to navigate through long lists of content.