The $430 SR4200 is a joy to use. We found the 5.1-speaker-setup rigmarole easier to navigate than most, even though the SR4200 lacks an onscreen display. The programmable remote's button count is high (56), but the regularly used buttons fall easily under your fingers.
The ins and outs
The SR4200's suite of connectors is perfectly respectable for the price. While the receiver lacks component video and DVD-Audio/Super Audio CD (SACD) 5.1 analog inputs, it does sport a rather complete digital audio complement: four inputs (two optical, two coaxial), and two outputs (one optical and one coaxial). Video connections are modest by today's standards: one pair each of S-Video ins and outs and four composite video inputs and two outs. The seven analog audio connections are plentiful enough for all but the most complex systems. Finally, if the SR4200's modest 70 watts of power per channel ever starts to cramp your style, you can hook up a mondo multichannel amp to the receiver's 5.1-channel preamp outputs.
Cruising with the SR4200
The SR4200 has Dolby Digital and DTS decoding and something brand-new--Dolby Pro Logic II. This surround format comes in two forms: one for movies and one for music. We found the Pro Logic II-generated surround effects on older stereo DVD soundtracks, such as Cube and The Madness of King George, to be a vast improvement over those of the original Pro Logic. We heard a greater sense of spaciousness, and the dialogue was cleaner and more articulate. Pro Logic II's gains on Nirvana's Unplugged CD weren't as decisive; the processed sound seemed, well, processed. We actually preferred the original stereo sound, but the Pro Logic II sound was bigger and filled our listening room more completely.
Quirks? Yes, this receiver, like so many others, muted the first fraction of a second of sound whenever we skipped DVD chapters and muted the sound on and off when we played a CD right after finishing a DVD.
The SR4200 is Marantz's least expensive home-theater model, but the sound is more than decent. In our tests, the CDs sounded full bodied, and well-recorded DVDs, such as Men in Black and Fight Club, were excellent. Their wide dynamic ranges were fully intact, and their spatial presentation sounded like that of higher-priced receivers. We pushed our inefficient speakers (Dynaudio Contours) pretty hard, but the SR4200's 70 watts per channel didn't run out of gas.
The SR4200's connectivity shortage may reduce its appeal to die-hard home-theater fans. Nevertheless, we were mightily impressed with its sound quality and friendly demeanor. We heartily recommend this receiver.