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Marantz NR1200 Review: Freedom of choice

Meet the Marantz NR1200 Stereo AV Receiver. According to the internal classification of Marantz, the NR1200 belongs to the class of “connected amplifiers” (translated from English – “connected amplifiers”). Apparently, the network capabilities of the device are implied. In particular, HEOS technology, concentrating these capabilities in a single system under the guidance of an easy-to-use smartphone app.

NR1200 switches five HDMI inputs, and each (and this is far from an ordinary parameter) supports HDCP 2.3, 4K Ultra HD 60 Hz video, HLG and other relevant additions. Automatic Low Latency Mode (ALLM) is available in the system for connected Xbox One with TV models that also support ALLM. The audio delay can be adjusted to suit the video.

The sixth HDMI connector, marked white on black “MONITOR ARC”, will allow the device to completely replace the sound system of your TV with control from the standard “television” remote control. Note that the other five HDMI connectors on the rear panel are labeled: 1 CBL / SAT, 2 Blu-ray / DVD, 3 GAME, 4 MEDIA PLAYER, 5 AUX. And this was not done in vain.

Digital switching is represented by coaxial and optical inputs. A cable connection to the network is provided. The wireless option, of course, is present in all its glory – two antenna connectors on the upper corners of the rear panel, labeled “Bluetooth / Wi-Fi ANTENNA”.

In other words, if the owner does not use the network capabilities of the model or uses a cable connection, and he does not like the sight of the Wi-Fi antennas sticking out to the sides, and he ignores them, then there will be problems with Bluetooth. That is, it will still work, but from a distance of no more than a meter and somehow uncertain, as your humble servant was able to make sure personally. So the antennas need to be connected anyway. By the way, they can easily be positioned so that they are hidden behind the body. Built-in Wi-Fi supports dual bands: 2.4GHz / 5GHz.

Among the classic analog RCA connectors available on the rear panel, the pair marked “PHONO”, with the obligatory grounding terminal, undoubtedly pleases. Vinyl lovers, thanks to the built-in phono stage, got the NR1200 a loyal ally with a good brand sound. In addition, there are three RCA line inputs, as well as stereo outputs: ZONE 2 and FRONT.

A pair of subwoofer outputs is located under them – and immediately a logical question arises about the presence of stereo separation between them. In this case, an interesting option of channel-by-channel connection for two broadband speakers and two active subwoofers, working separately on the right and left channels, could have developed. Alas, such a function is not provided, although the Marantz representative, after being asked a question on this topic, seems to have thought about it.

If we talk about service switching, the NR1200 is equipped with the IR IN FLASHER connector, which is hardly in great demand in our area. There is also an RCA remote control input / output for connecting infrared receivers / transmitters to control the NR1200 itself and external devices from another room. Another miniature non-standard four-channel connector on the rear panel is called a service one and should not be of interest to the user. With regard to remote service management, the system, in particular, supports the Domotz Pro technology with a dedicated web interface.

The receiver offers an ECO power saving mode that limits power consumption. In this case, the maximum power of the amplifier decreases, and in standby mode, for example, it may become unavailable to turn on the device over the network – you have to pay for everything.

One small note. To connect an acoustic cable with banana tips, you need to remove the dust caps from the receiver connectors – for example, from two pairs of terminals in the zone A we are using (the system also provides for switching amplifiers to the second pair of speakers connected to the system – zone B). If your acoustics provides a two-way connection, then it is also provided by the NR1200 in A + B mode – using all the speaker cable terminals on the rear panel.

All we need is in front of us

It’s time to connect all this and deploy the NR1200 “to your front”. Now the slim Marantz NR1200 stereo receiver is in all its glory. The model is really graceful, and this impression is only amplified by the realization of its capabilities. The situation like “if you are desperate to start this device, perhaps you should read the instructions” in this case is excluded. The device works immediately, everything you need is on the surface. When connected to a TV, the NR1200 displays an on-screen menu, through which the Setup assistant guides us.

It is convenient to control the model using the standard remote control. It has four Smart Select buttons, which can be used to enter the same four settings, including source, modes and more. Conveniently. HDMI CEC functions (you must select “ON” in “HDMI Control”) allow you to operate the receiver from the TV remote control.

A mobile gadget with the universal application Marantz 2016 AVR Remote is capable of replacing the remote control. It can be easily downloaded using the QR code from the included “Quick Start Guide”. Another universal application – HEOS (also by QR code) – is useful when working with remote connections and network functions of the device, as well as for organizing a proprietary multi-room system, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth (including support for Bluetooth headphones) and other streaming audio transmission options. In addition, there is a QR code to download the 100MB Russian user manual.

Controlling the device from the front panel is rather an episodic situation. Interestingly, the right large encoder, which is responsible for the volume, rotates with sufficient effort. But the left “step” input selector lends itself gently and easily. The processor electronics are characterized by a small delay between the command and its execution. In about five minutes you get used to it.

Everything that I would like to listen to

Having connected via cable to a network with Internet access, we immediately found an Internet radio. Stations are downloaded from the TuneIn database, and a special button is allocated for this on the standard remote control. The NR1200 also supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Siri voice control – albeit with regional considerations. Naturally, streaming from Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, Deezer and a host of other services is available via Bluetooth from a smartphone, AirPlay 2 or the built-in HEOS app.

Heos made it possible to find a networked NAS and immediately start playing the first FLAC file that came across. After digging a little more on the disk, we found the DSF file and … yes, it worked! This is as it should be: the model decodes ALAC-, FLAC- and WAV-files with bitrates up to 24-bit / 192 kHz, as well as DSD tracks of 2.8 MHz and 5.6 MHz. It is much easier to use the USB port on the right of the front panel to test audio. The maximum hierarchy is set for it: eight levels, 500 folders, 5,000 files. It should be enough for the first time. Video playback in the NR1200 is not documented.

A double DAC AK4458 is installed in each of the two channels of the device. To improve the operation of the audio path, they tried to mechanically decouple the network transformer from the chassis. As for the power supply, the NR1200 has specially designed proprietary capacitors. The built-in discrete power amplifier, according to the manufacturer, delivers 2 x 75 watts into eight-ohm acoustics at 0.08% distortion. And at 6 ohms and at one percent, it is able to give all 135 watts. By the way, the power terminals received a symmetric topology with a central power distribution.

Let there be music!

Before starting listening, the Pure Direct mode was chosen – the option that maximally excludes the impact on the sound path (there is also the usual Stereo mode and a slightly more strict Direct). In Pure Direct, in particular, the tone and balance controls brought to the front panel do not work. The mode is indicated by a blue LED on the right panel. On the other side of the panel there is an indicator of the opposite M-DAX mode, which compensates for the disadvantages of compressed audio. Looking ahead, I will say that the tests of this mode gave a certain improvement – nevertheless, the difference between MP3 and DSD remains, to put it mildly, significant.

In a fairly large open space, listening to the NR1200 passed at 65 units according to the on-board volume indicator, which has a range from 0 to 98. If we talk about the playback quality, the device leaves a very positive impression. This is a signature sound with a balanced and precise low range, crystal top percussion and very lifelike vocals. It can be noted that our stereo setup sounded very emotional, revealing many previously unnoticed nuances in long-familiar phonograms.

I was lucky to listen to a receiver with different acoustics – including one with a superior power amplifier used. And in the latter case, there was a temptation to hear the lack of dynamics at high sound pressure levels, because “volume at close range” leads to a certain deterioration in quality (however, this option does not make sense – listening is uncomfortable).

In the end, however, the NR1200 left the impression of a device capable of pulling a good dynamic range – the system played naturally and naturally. I put on extreme phonograms like “meander” guitar solos by Billy Gibbons or computer synthesized sound of the Tsar Bell (as if this giant had been repaired and hung on a bell tower). The sound of a system without serious headroom on such tracks usually falls apart, exacerbating the uncomfortable sound, making it unnatural and dead. But the NR1200 passed this crash test too.

Returning to the Stereo, Direct and Pure Direct modes, I would like to note that the latter option has real advantages over the former in terms of transparency and clarity of sound. Direct, of course, is in between, although sometimes it seems that Direct and Pure Direct are too close in quality – even practically indistinguishable.

Naturally, the comparison of Hi-Res with a bitrate even 24/96 showed serious advantages over the standard version of “CD-resolution”. Here you can feel the “pedigree” of the final amplifiers of the model, which are able to retain and convey the soft, “velvety” sound formed by the New Generation DAC from Asahi Kasei Microdevices Corporation. Here I confess to my subjective predilections, but the sound of these components, in comparison with my “classmates”, seems to me the most lively, humane and sincere.

It is these epithets that I would like to add to the description of the sound of the NR1200. You shouldn’t expect monitors and dispassion from this device. It has its own character. Having tuned in by ear to the sound of a proven setup with a tenfold price tag of the amplifying link, you understand that the NR1200 changes a lot.

And he does it gently and subtly. In the nature of the sound of female vocals, in the raised distinctness of the upper percussion, in the outlines of the lower middle, in the “meat” and breathing of punch. But how delicately all this is happening! Audiophile purists may find criticism. As for me, I listened carefully to “In the Cave of the Mountain King” by Grieg from beginning to end, catching myself thinking that I instinctively left time for the conductor’s final bow.

Another connection option – via Bluetoooth – made me come to the conclusion that the sound quality of files with a CD-bit rate, when compared to USB, remains practically unchanged. Given the memory capacity of modern smartphones, this method of operating the NR1200 will probably be in demand.

Output

Apparently, the Marantz NR1200 hit the market on time. A system based on this model will become an alternative to any advanced soundbar with an emphasis on the ability to get classic stereo from a very decent source with advanced content access capabilities.

The system can be supplemented with a CD player and / or a turntable, creating a neat, low stand. In terms of price / functionality / quality / design ratio, Marantz NR1200 is obviously doomed to popularity, since it turns out to be more attractive than its closest analogues.

The owner of this device will have great freedom to choose sources, modes and control methods. And this choice will have to be made – it will take, perhaps, too much time to properly use everything that the Marantz NR1200 “knows how”. However, the basic controls are extremely simple.

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All TechWeek writers are indepentent and from many different countries. Some english misspelling and grammar mistakes may occur. Report article.

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