Think of any consumer technology product in your home, and then envision its physical transformation over the past 10 or 15 years. Cell phones went from little flip models to spacious handheld touchscreen slabs; laptops went from heavy beasts to wispy thin-and-lights; and TVs went from monstrous and pudgy CRTs to giant wall-mounted flat panels. In the same time frame, AV receivers went from big black rectangular boxes to... well, nowhere. They somehow still look exactly the same.
For the most part, that is. AV receivers from Marantz are still black rectangles, to some degree, but they're only half as tall, and offer a nice retro stereo look. It's a slimline design the company pioneered half a decade ago with the likes of the NR1501 and. While the features have improved and the styling has changed slightly, the idea behind the new-for-2015 NR1506 is the same: all the functionality of a large home theater receiver in a friendlier, more compact housing.
AV receiver functionality, thankfully, has ramped up in the past decade: these boxes are the nerve center of a home theater, handling source switching from cable box to game console to Blu-ray player, surround sound or stereo amplification, and even streaming audio from services like Spotify or via Bluetooth from smartphones and tablets.
The $500 NR1506 reviewed here is a slightly cut-down version of the $700 NR1606 receiver with fewer amplified channels (5.1 versus 7.2) and inputs but with the same robust Wi-Fi streaming functionality and, as we found, almost identical sound quality to, which debuted in 2014 at the $700 price point.
While the NR1506 offers excellent musical performance and and top-notch home cinema sound, be aware there are more muscular cinema performers, such as the, for a little more money. However if you're not looking to run oversized towers or power a Beverly Hills mansion, the NR1506 is a great choice for most living rooms -- and the fact that it actually looks good gives it a big edge over all those other black boxes.
Like all modern Marantz receivers, the NR1506 features an aluminum front panel with rounded resin edges. At either side of the fascia there are two knobs: one for volume and another for source selection. We would have preferred shortcut buttons though, especially as sister-brand Denon has started including them.
The design is squat at only 4.1 inches high, but still manages to fit a large blue LED display onboard, while the other dimensions are more familiar at 17.3 inches wide and 14.4 inches deep.
While Marantz has made some headway recently with updated onscreen displays, the NR1506 menu you'll see on your TV screen is only 720p and doesn't feature any illustrations, nor is there any onscreen info when a track is playing via Spotify Connect or other streaming services. Paying extra for the NR1606 orgets you a full-color interface that's formatted for 1080p televisions.
The remote control is kind of cute and looks very similar to other Marantz remotes -- all of the receiver's main functions are easily accessible from the handset.
The NR1506 replaces the two-year-old, a model that didn't even have Wi-Fi. The new receiver brings Wi-Fi to the $500 price point (though Ethernet is still included for hardwiring fans), and includes support for Internet radio, Pandora, SiriusXM and AirPlay. It will also play back digital files stored on the network with support for most formats up to 24-bit/192kHz.
The Marantz is also one of a growing number of devices embedded with. This competitor to Apple AirPlay enables limited control of the receiver via the Spotify smartphone app: users can power the receiver on and start playing music straight away without having to use a remote -- especially handy for continuing an on-the-go playlist when you get home. While the had Spotify embedded, it didn't have Connect, meaning you need to use the slower combination of the remote control and the onscreen display.