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First Look: Marantz NR1601

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First Look: Marantz NR1601

2:33 /

The Marantz NR1601 features a stylish, slimline design and excellent sound quality, although other AV receivers offer more features for less money.

-Hi! I'm Matthew Moskovciak, senior associate editor at CNET.com and we're here with the Marantz NR1601. This is a midrange AV receiver from Marantz and is currently selling for about $600. Now, the exterior design is the highlight of the Marantz. It has a unique slimline profile coming in at close the half the height of competing AV receivers and it's also a little shallower. Aside from the smaller size, we also like the aesthetics from the symmetrical look of the face plate to the minimalist button selection. Unfortunately, those good looks don't carry over to the graphical user interface, which is limited to plain text. Well, it doesn't bother us too much for the set up menus which are used infrequently. It's more frustrating when using the menus to navigate a connected iPod. The ability to connect an iPod via USB is great, but it doesn't look quite as nice as the same experience on Pioneer's receivers. We also like that the included remote is fully backlit by just pressing a button on the side. That is a feature that makes it easier to see in a dark home theater and it's something that is not offered on any competitors that we've seen. Around back are all the ports including 4 HDMI inputs, which is a little less than the 6 ports that competitors like Pioneer, Onkyo, and Yamaha are offering. The HDMI inputs are compatible with some of the new HDMI 1.4 features such as 3D video pass-through and audio return channel support. The Marantz also supports standby pass-through, which allows the receiver to continue passing HDMI video signals even when it's turned off. Aside from HDMI connectivity, we also know that the Marantz is a little stingy when it comes to digital audio inputs offering only 3 totals when most competitors offer 4. The Marantz may only be rated at 50 watts/channel, but we found it had just as much power as receivers that claim to have more wattage. We listened to DVD audio, Blu-ray, and CD disks and the Marantz handled it all well, whether it was music or movies. We also compared it directly to both the Pioneer VSX-1020-K and the Denon AVR-1911, and overall, we found it to be on par with the Pioneer and just a little behind the Denon. Altogether, the Marantz is a good choice if you're willing to pay extra for its slimline looks and it has excellent sound quality, but just remember that other AV receivers offer more features for less money. I'm Matthew Moskovciak from CNET.com and this is the Marantz NR1601.

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