Marantz is hoping to change that with the ZR6001SP. The installation-free, distributed audio system is a two-part affair consisting of a ZR6001 A/V receiver and a ZC4001 audio client, the latter of which looks like a tabletop radio with built-in stereo speakers. Eschewing complicated networking solutions--and the need for professional installers--the ZR6001SP uses a technology called Digital Audio via Electrical Distribution (DAVED) which uses the AC wiring in your home to transmit audio signals from the ZR6001 receiver to the ZC4001 client. While the $1,300 package comes with a single ZC4001, the system can support up to a total of six (additional clients are available for $300 each). The DAVED streaming technology is definitely impressive, and the ZR6001 is a great A/V receiver, but plug-and-play simplicity of the system is tempered by its inability to stream from digital audio sources and the fact that the sound quality of the ZC4001 client is merely on par with a small table radio.
Editors' note: Marantz America will not honor the warranty on Marantz components purchased from unauthorized dealers or if the original factory serial number has been removed, defaced, or replaced. If in doubt about a particular online or brick-and-mortar retailer, call Marantz at 630/741-0300. The nexus of the Marantz ZR6001SP system is the ZR6001 A/V receiver. It has the same luxurious look and feel we found on last year's Marantz SR5500. The 30.2-pound receiver is 6.44 inches high by 17.25 wide by 18.25 deep. The receiver lacks auto setup and calibration, but the manual on-screen logistics were above average, so we had everything squared away in a matter of minutes.
That intuitive elegance wasn't carried over to the large remote; it isn't backlit and has tiny buttons, so it won't win any awards for ergonomic design or layout. It controls both the A/V receiver and the ZC4001 client. The dearth of separate remotes is a strange oversight given that the components are designed to reside in separate rooms. We would have preferred if Marantz included an additional, smaller remote with basic functions for the ZC4001 client.
The ZC4001 audio client is about the size a decent tabletop radio: It is 5.1 inches high by 14.25 wide by 4.5 deep and weighs 6.6 pounds. The curved dark grey cabinet is constructed from medium-density fiberboard (MDF), and the silver front panel has a large LED display, and a backlit Marantz logo. The top surface has volume up and down buttons, a mute control, a row of ten input-selector buttons and basic transport controls for a CD player. (There's no built-in disc player, but it can control a player attached to the receiver in the other room). You can mate up to six clients from one ZR6001 A/V receiver and extra ones can be purchased for $300 apiece. Or you can just move one client from room to room when the need arises (the built-in handle makes it easy to tote). The Marantz ZR6001SP system is comprised of the ZR6001 A/V receiver and the ZC4001 audio client. The ZR6001's amplifiers produce 95 watts for each of the seven channels with 8-ohm rated speakers and 115 watts for 6-ohm speakers. The onboard 32-bit processor decodes all the standard Dolby and DTS surround sound formats, SRS Circle Surround II, and Dolby Headphone processing (which produces satisfying surround effects over conventional stereo headphones).
The ZR6001 has a total of five A/V inputs, including the front panel's set, but only two accept component video sources (three is the industry standard). The receiver will convert composite and S-video sources, such as VCRs, to component video, which means you'll only need to run one set of video cables from your receiver to your TV. At least, you'll only need one set of analog video cables: We were disappointed to note the ZR6001 isn't equipped with HDMI inputs or switching, which will be increasingly useful as HDMI-equipped high-definition A/V sources (PlayStation 3, HD-DVD/Blu-ray players, HD cable/satellite boxes) become more popular. Instead, you'll have to run any of your HDMI sources straight to your HDTV, and limit the ZR6001 to handling their audio instead.
There are three sets of stereo analog audio inputs, two of which have tape-out loops. Digital audio connectivity runs to four inputs (two optical, two coaxial) and two outputs (one each: optical and coaxial). The 7.1-channel analog inputs ensure compatibility with soundtracks from DVD-audio, SACD, Blu-ray, and HD-DVD players. And, if the need or desire for more power ever arises, you can use the 7.1-channel preamp outputs to drive a separate power amplifier.
Rounding out the ZR6001's standard connections is an RS-232C port for use with computer-controlled systems and fixed and variable stereo audio outputs. The ZR6001 is a seven-channel receiver, but if you use only five channels in your main system, you can reassign the "surround Back" channel amplifiers to drive a set of "B" stereo speakers in another room (in lieu of another ZC4001).