Marantz NR1607 review: Half-height Atmos receiver serves tall order of sound and features

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Screenshot by Ty Pendlebury/CNET

If you download the free Marantz 2016 AVR app you can use it to stream high-res music to the device from a phone or networked device, as well as normal controlley stuff like power it off and on or change inputs. Sadly we found it could become non-responsive on occasion, which is something that other users have complained about on Google Play.

While cheaper receivers don't include legacy (analog) video ports, models at the level of the NR1607 is where you'll find them. If you have a Nintendo Wii or similarly old equipment, the three composite and two component inputs will help you.

Setup

We used a pair of Pioneer Elite SP-EBS73-LR speakers in the front left/right positions, an Elite SP-EC73 center-channel speaker, ELAC Debut B5s as surround speakers, and a Klipsch R-110SW subwoofer with the Marantz NR1607. In the receiver's bass management settings we ran the speakers as "small," with the crossover points set to 80Hz.

As we played movies and music we never settled on one volume setting for the subwoofer. To get bass to sound right we had to fiddle with the sub volume on the NR1607's setup menu from one movie or album to the next. That's not usually the case; we normally settle on one sub volume setting that works for most program material.

Listening

While the Marantz NR1607 is rated at just 50 watts per channel, we noted no apparent power shortfall relative to 100-watt-per-channel receivers. In stereo, the clarity of sound was first and foremost, and the NR1607 gave us a new appreciation for the SP-EBS73-LR speakers' talents.

With Hans Zimmer's score for "The Thin Red Line," the vibrancy of the music was remarkable. The score features choirs, world music percussion, and orchestral sections, and the NR1607 consistently managed to project a wide, deep, and fully dimensional soundstage.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The Rolling Stones' concert Blu-ray "Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live" ratcheted up the energy level, and the surround mix presented a natural balance of the sound of the band in front, and the appreciative crowd's sound coming from all around us. The percussion that kicks off "Sympathy For The Devil" lit up the Pioneer Elite speakers, so we pumped up the volume and the NR1607 unleashed the percussionist's dynamics without sounding like it was working very hard. The Blu-ray didn't have a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X mix, but even so sonic immersion was excellent. The standard DTS Master Audio, 5.1-channel mix certainly didn't leave us wanting for more.

While looking at the city street scenes on the "Birdman" Blu-ray, the thing that grabbed our attention was the way the NR1607 dished up ambience; the sound of close-up and distant traffic, sirens, and people talking upped the ante as far as realism is concerned. It was a you-are-there experience.

For even more spatial thrills we turned to the "Gravity" Blu-ray, with its Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The added dimension of the front left and right height channels opened up the soundstage, so it clung less to the Elite SP-EBS73-LR speakers. The space drama sounded clear and clean, but during the scenes where the astronauts lost control and were free floating and accidentally bumped into the spacecraft, the bass coming from our subwoofer was much too loud. So we turned it down, but as a result the low bass was muddier than what we got from the competitive Yamaha RX-V681 receiver.

Switching between the two, the Marantz receiver sounded somewhat clearer and more transparent than the RX-V681. As to which one is better, that's a question of personal preference, though your speakers' tonal balance should be considered. Our Pioneer Elite speakers are straight-down-the-middle neutral, but if you have bright speakers, the NR1607 might sound too lean, and the RX-V681 would be a better match.

Conclusion

The Marantz NR1607's low-slung chassis is less bulky than most AV receivers, with only the plasticky feel of the knobs and front panel seemingly out of place for the money. As for the sound, clarity was impressive, but the RX-V681's warmer tonal balance might be a better match with bright speakers. Which one you choose depends on your needs: If you want pristine dialog and more detail in your music, choose the Marantz; but if you crave more volume and features such as multiroom music, the Yamaha may be a better match.

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