Marantz is currently celebrating its golden-oldie 50th anniversary as a manufacturer of high-performance audio equipment. Its SR5300, the second-least-expensive model in the company's 2003 lineup at a list price of $599, advances the tradition with a balanced selection of up-to-the-minute features, along with superlative sound and build quality. The SR5300's brushed-metal faceplate adheres to the established Marantz aesthetic, with two large knobs flanking the large, informative display. The left knob pulls up the various surround modes, and the right one controls volume.
The nifty remote enables direct access to bass and treble controls, as well as most surround modes, so you don't have to toggle through an endless list of options to get the sound you want. This remote is easy to program; we had it controlling our TV and DVD player in just a few minutes.
Unusually, the SR5300's bass management doesn't provide adjustable crossover options, typically 80Hz, 100Hz, or 120Hz, when you select the Small speaker setting. That's too bad; we find that sort of adjustability useful for optimizing the sound of large, medium, or small satellite speakers. However, the SR5300's SACD/DVD-Audio analog input levels can be individually tweaked (most receivers have fixed levels), which might come in handy with some players.
Measuring a reasonable 17.3 inches wide and 16.75 inches deep, this 28.4-pound receiver should be a comfortable fit for most cabinets or shelves. The SR5300 delivers 90 watts into each of its six main channels, as well as Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES Discrete processing for appropriately encoded DVDs. You also get a choice of three processors that produce surround sound from standard stereo sources: Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS Neo:6, and SRS Labs' new Circle Surround II (more on that in the Performance section).
Golden-eared owners will welcome the Direct function; it ekes out the best possible sound from music and home-theater sources. The SR5300 also has a full set of preamp outputs so you can add a separate power amplifier.
We also liked the unusually logical layout of the SR5300's back panel. You're a lot less likely to mix up what goes where when hooking up this receiver. Digital connections are plentiful; you get five inputs (two optical and three coaxial) and two outputs (one optical and one coaxial). Gamers and video-camera fans will appreciate the full set of front-panel A/V jacks.
Unlike most receivers in its price range, the SR5300 doesn't include component-video switching. That is, you can't use it to switch between two component-video sources, such as a DVD player and an HDTV receiver. But if your HDTV has more than one component input--or if you don't own an HDTV at all--you're less likely to miss this feature.
Marantz's three-year warranty is more generous than the typical one- or two-year policy. Our listening sessions proved the SR5300 to be a solid performer. On the Trio Jeepy CD by Branford Marsalis, there's a swinging duet between Marsalis's sax and Milt Hinton's big, fat stand-up bass. The musical interplay is so exquisitely woven that it's easy to forget you're hearing just the two men. It's a tough test of a receiver's musicality, and the Marantz's finely wrought sound was remarkable; more run-of-the-mill receivers dilute the magic of this piece.
We next experimented with the various surround modes and were quite impressed with the SR5300's Circle Surround. It was more enveloping and natural-sounding than Dolby Pro Logic II or DTS Neo:6.
In fact, we were having such a good time listening to music that we kept putting off the home-theater portion of the review. The SR5300 delivered every last bit of performance from the Doors' excellent Live in Detroit CD--well, almost every last bit. This receiver mutes the first fraction of a second of a CD when it commences play, and the same thing happened whenever we skipped ahead DVD chapters. In fairness, this sort of glitch is hardly unique to the SR5300.
Home-theater performance was also top-notch. The SR5300's power reserves never faltered when we cranked the Lord of the Rings DVD. With One Hour Photo, a decidedly quirky psychological thriller about a whacked-out photo-service guy (Robin Williams), we were struck by the film's textured and nuanced soundtrack. Next, we watched an old favorite, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and marveled at the SR5300's flawless delivery of ambience and depth in Count Dracula's castle. Sure, we could complain that the SR5300 revealed the brightness of this DVD, but the receiver's HT-EQ circuit tamed some of the harshness.