Home theaters in a box are all the rage, but sophisticated listeners still demand separate components. Persnickety buyers lavish upward of 40 percent of their home-theater budgets on A/V receivers such as the Marantz SR5400, which carries a retail price of $599. Marantz is one of the oldest names in audio, so the SR5400's stellar sound and build quality didn't really surprise us, but the receiver is missing a couple of features that some users might want.
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For 2003, Marantz updated the cosmetics of all its receivers. Compared with last year's models, such as the, the new products look more symmetrical. For example, the company centered the SR5400's display and input-selection buttons in an attempt at greater organization. The design is also more macho: this bad boy measures 17 inches wide and 17.5 inches deep, and it weighs a healthy 27.6 pounds.
Setup is straightforward, thanks in large part to intuitive onscreen menu navigation. And unlike its predecessor, the SR5400 provides an adjustable crossover to help you better integrate your satellites and your subwoofer. You choose from 80Hz, 100Hz, and 120Hz.
We mostly liked the remote. It's nice and big, and it offers bass and treble controls. Our one gripe is with the awkward placement of the 6.1 button, which we used to access our SACD/DVD-Audio player.
Marantz didn't reinvent the receiver or discover a new way to move electrons through its circuits, but the SR5400's range of surround-processing modes is pretty impressive. On the Dolby Digital side, you get EX and Pro Logic II. Your three DTS options are ES 6.1 Discrete, Neo:6, and 96/24. And Marantz offers its proprietary TruSurround headphone technology for late-night movie watching, as well as Circle Surround 2 as an alternative to Pro Logic II. Power for each of the six channels is rated at 90 watts for 8-ohm speakers and 110 watts for 6-ohm speakers.
The connectivity choices around back are on a par with those of other receivers in this class, which is to say pretty darn good. The SR5400 features component-video switching, along with four ins and two outs for A/V. Digital-audio hookups comprise a quartet of inputs (two coaxial, two optical) and two outputs (one coaxial, one optical). The receiver accepts analog audio on three connections and sends it on two. Plus, a 7-channel direct input accommodates DVD-Audio and SACD players. The front panel also has a suite of A/V ins. But wait, there's more: 6.1-channel preamplifier outs enable the use of external power amps. Unfortunately, the SR5400 lacks A/B speaker switching and second-zone outputs.