Although most AV receivers are brutish slabs, Marantz's NR1602 is refreshing proof that a chassis the size of a small dog kennel isn't a prerequisite for best-of-breed performance. Available in black and silvery gold, this receiver is about half the height of a traditional home-cinema amp. Indeed, it's small enough to sit comfortably on the shelves of regular TV furniture.
But that's not to say this second-generation addition to Marantz' slim-line NR range is short on features. Beneath the lid lurk 7.1 channels of amplification, enlivened by network connectivity, media-streaming support and Apple AirPlay compatibility.
The NR1602 is available now for around �530.
Design and connectivity
Marantz hasn't been afraid to add a few design flourishes. The NR1602's curving fascia is emphasised by a vertical ridge that runs through twin volume and input dials. This marries well with a matching Marantz Blu-ray player to create quite a snazzy system.
On the back panel, you'll find four, 3D-compatible HDMI inputs, two component inputs, three phono AV sockets and an Ethernet jack. There's also a front-facing USB input for use with an iPod, , memory stick or external hard drive. We used the USB port to browse both an 8GB thumb drive and a 160GB external hard drive, without any problems. Should you need more connectivity, you can always buy the optional RX101 Bluetooth receiver.
The NR1602 is very easy to use. We particularly like the menu system. It's high-res and intuitive. An on-screen wizard leads you though the speaker-connection, room-tuning and system-configuration processes.
Auto-calibration is based around Audyssey's MultEQ system. The AV receiver also uses Audyssey's Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume features. Dynamic EQ should only be used if you're a compulsive tweaker, while Dynamic Volume should be switched off immediately, as its only purpose is to iron out dynamic peaks in your source material. It's useful only for making the NR1602 sound lifeless.
A big chunk of the NR1602's appeal lies in its network functionality. It offers access to Internet radio services, Last.fm, Napster and photo-sharing site Flickr.