If you're building a home theater, probably the two most "difficult" (read: fun) decisions are choosing speakers and the receiver. While there are obvious differences between speakers -- both in terms of style and performance--it can be tougher to choose between receivers. Not only do nearly all of them look the same (a big black box), but some might contend that they all sound the same, too. Of course, to the audiophile community, that last statement is sacrilege: differences between receivers may be subtle, but they are certainly still discernible.
If you're among that small golden-eared fraternity, the Marantz SR5009 is an excellent, though pricey, option: it retails for $900 in the US, £750 in the UK, and AU$1,350 in Australia. The SR5009 offers a raft of features plus rock-solid amplification which comes without the hyped sound of other home theater amplifiers. That its performance with music is even better than its already impressive sound on movies is only a bonus.
If $900 is a little rich for your blood, there is no shame in opting for the $700 Marantz NR1605 (£600 in the UK, and $1,250 in Australia), which not only offers a slimmer design but also most of the same features.
In terms of designing something that looks different from its competition, Marantz is leading the pack with its curved lines and idiosyncratic details while still keeping an inherent "receiver-y" look.
The SR5009 has the rounded edges of its brethren but unlike the NR1605 this is still a large, boxy receiver. It borrows the "porthole" display from earlier designs which lists the current input plus the volume level, but if you sit too far away, say 10 feet, this probably won't be readable anymore.
The SR5009 boasts a simple, yet powerful remote which is logically arranged. It comes with luminescent keys though -- unless you "charge" it under a light -- it's not particularly readable in the dark.
The menu system is what you'd expect from a modern receiver with a full-color display with readable text and a sensible layout. It features a wizard to help you set up the receiver as well.
The Marantz SR5009 is an extra $200 over the company's own NR1605 (in the US), thus begging the question, "What are you getting for the extra money?" The biggest upgrade is the beefier power output: seven channels driven at 100W instead of only 50W. The number of inputs and outputs is also slightly better, but otherwise their feature counts are very similar.
If you're a streaming music fan one of the most useful new additions is Spotify Connect. This enables users to control their receiver and even turn it on via the Spotify app. Of course it only works for streaming Spotify so if you want to do anything else you'll need to use Marantz's own app or the remote control.
The SR5009 offers a plethora of connection options including 8 HDMI inputs plus 2 HDMI outputs that can feed two TVs (or, perhaps, a TV and a projector), and a pair of both optical and coaxial digital inputs. (Note to 4K TV fans: the HDMI ports are rated to handle 4K video signals up to 60Hz.) In addition there is built-in Bluetooth (but sadly no aptX), and Wi-Fi. That final feature enables AirPlay streaming (from PCs, Macs, and iOS devices), streaming for the built-in Pandora, SiriusXM, and Flickr apps, and the ability to use the iOS and Android Marantz Remote apps. Finally, there are also a number of multiroom options, super-easy Audyssey speaker setup and calibration, plus a set of 7.1 pre and post connections.
Given that Marantz released several turntables under its own name in recent years (though they're officially discontinued, they can still be found online), it's a little surprising to find there's no dedicated phono input.
We used our reference Pioneer Andrew Jones home theater speakers and Aperion Audio Bravus 8D subwoofer for all of our listening tests. We thought we knew these speakers well, but their dynamic impact and surround imaging has never been better. The speakers' modest prices notwithstanding, the sound quality was truly remarkable, far ahead of what's available from top-of-the-line sound bar systems such as the $1,500 Paradigm Soundscape, which isn't that much less than the total cost of the SR5009 plus the five speakers and sub. The SR5009 and any set of well-matched speakers and subwoofer still have a huge performance advantage over the best sound bar systems, because they sound clearer, play louder, with less distortion, and project a far more life-like surround experience.
Since we haven't liked the sound balances we've been getting with most receivers' auto-setup programs we did a manual speaker setup and calibration with the SR5009. That took about five minutes, start to finish.
We used a 5.1 channel surround SACD from movie score composer Jerry Goldsmith, "Movie Medley," to start our SR5009 evaluations. The orchestra's soundstage was huge, with massive dynamic impact, and ravishingly high resolution/clarity. It's an incredible recording, and the SR5009 unleashed the full measure of the London Symphony Orchestra's sound. Switching over to Marantz's smaller NR1605 receiver the SACD still sounded pretty fantastic, just with slightly reduced dynamic punch, plus the orchestra seemed smaller and the sound was less weighty overall.
I noted the same sorts of differences with Herbie Hancock's funk masterpiece, "Head Hunters" on SACD, and the deep grooves went a little deeper on the SR5009 than they did on the NR1605. The sound was so good I turned the volume way up, and the SR5009 took it all in stride.
For movies, I checked out my favorite scenes from "Avatar" and "Super 8" on Blu-ray, and the SR5009 sounded great. In our listening room the 5.1 system the sound-staging wasn't limited to the height of the speakers, the illusion of sound coming from a few feet above the speakers was so convincing we wondered how Dolby's new Atmos surround system that uses height and/or up firing speakers could surpass what we heard from this system. We will have an Atmos system in for review soon, so we'll see.
I found the streaming features of the Marantz to be excellent in use, from Spotify Connect through to Bluetooth. This last part surprised me as most Bluetooth performances are rubbish, but even on demanding material fed from both an aptX-free LG Optimus G and Sony Xperia Z3v , the Marantz stayed in control and didn't exhibit significant distortion. Of course, for even better music performance, if you own an iOS device you can opt for the built-in AirPlay streaming instead.
The Marantz SR5009 is a stylish receiver which breaks away from the typical boxy, austere look of other devices. It offers a host of useful features and excellent performance in both movies and music. There is very little the receiver gets wrong, but if you want to spend less, you can always try the similar and smaller NR1605, or opt for any of our other favorite receivers, too.
Editor's Note: The rating has been changed from 3.5 to 4 stars after correcting an editing error.