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.
The Marantz NR1605 is available for $699, £389 in the UK and AU$1,150 in Australia.
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.