Marantz's NR-series receivers are nearly half as tall as competitors, plus the new NR1603 has six HDMI inputs and built-in AirPlay.
While most gadgets continue to get slimmer and more compact, AV receivers have stubbornly remained bulky, heavy, and complicated. Marantz's slimline receivers have been a welcome exception, and the company has updated its NR series with two new models, the NR1403 and NR1603.
They're both packed with six HDMI inputs and Audyssey MultEQ automatic speaker calibration, with the NR1603 adding networking features, including AirPlay, DLNA, and built-in streaming apps for Pandora, Sirius/XM, and Flickr. Here's a detailed breakdown of both receivers' feature set:
Key features of the Marantz NR1403:
- 5.1-channel AV receiver, 50 watts per channel
- Six HDMI inputs (including one front-panel input)
- Supports 3D video pass-through
- Two digital inputs (one optical, one coaxial)
- Audyssey MultEQ automatic speaker calibration
- Graphical user interface
- Three-year warranty
- $400 list price; available later this spring
Key step-up features of the Marantz NR1603:
- 7.1-channel AV receiver, 50 watts per channel
- Built-in AirPlay and DLNA
- Built-in streaming apps for Pandora, Sirius/XM, Flickr
- Ethernet jack
- Analog video upconversion
- Two component video inputs
- Powered second-zone functionality
- Front-panel USB input, iPhone/iPod compatible
- Controllable via iPhone app
- $650 list price; available later this spring
CNET didn't review last year's NR1602, but we did review the 2010's NR1601 and were pretty impressed with its excellent sound quality and stylish design. The NR1603 looks largely the same (in a good way), with the addition of worthwhile features like AirPlay, basic networking functionality, and more HDMI inputs. That may not stack up to Onkyo's uber-featured 2012 receivers, but I think the Marantzes have a good shot at being a compelling alternative, with a focus on sound quality and a slim look.
Of course we'll need to listen to these receivers before we can make any final recommendations, but the Marantz NR1403 looks like the best overall value from the initial product information. It's just $400, looks better than pretty much any other AV receiver, and ditches step-up features that most people won't need: 7.1 channels, analog video upconversion, second-zone functionality. AirPlay is a nice step up on the NR1603, but you can always add a $100 Apple TV to the NR1403 to get AirPlay plus streaming-video functionality for less overall.