Although Marantz has been building rock-solid AV receivers for years, many consider it rather as a hi-fi brand. With the NR1200, both sides of the legendary brand meet – and that in a slim receiver that fits neatly into a TV unit.
Marantz NR1200 stereo AV receiver
What if you are looking for an interior-friendly way to improve get sound from your television – but are not particularly impressed by sound bars ? A number of interesting alternatives have recently emerged that marry traditional hi-fi values with the skill of a TV-oriented device. But without making it complex. You hear it, the new NR1200 from Marantz is not an everyday AV receiver, but slightly different: a stereo receiver with HDMI connectivity that costs 700 euros.
Like the Denon DRA-800H  that we viewed earlier, it is made for everyone who would like to connect all (video) sources to one device but who is not really interested in a living room filled with 7, 9 or more speakers. No, there is no surround from this device, but there is two-channel stereo. That is an ideal starting point for reproducing music much better than an average soundbar that often has difficulty setting up a large soundstage. The two speakers required for the Marantz NR1200 can also be supplemented with a subwoofer for a 2.1 setup. That immediately makes films more impressive and allows you to opt for more compact bookshelf speakers that usually suffer from anemia when it comes to bassing.
The biggest difference with the aforementioned Denon? The NR1200, which costs 699 euros, is a much slimmer device, barely 11 cm high, made to fit very discreetly into your TV furniture. In short, on paper this is a very exciting device for anyone who wants to listen to music as it should – in stereo! – and still want to enjoy the many plus points of an AV receiver, such as streaming options and HDMI functionality.
Five HDMI inputs
The NR1200 belongs to the Marantz slimline family. In terms of width and depth, it roughly corresponds to an AV receiver, but the device is substantially less at 11 cm. It looks more like a hi-fi device in this area than a hefty, powerful AV receiver. The visual similarities with existing Marantz hi-fi devices, such as the PM8006 or the new PM7000, are also large. The same design elements come back, such as the convex front that bends to the sides and the two large knobs. With an AV receiver you will rarely find three big treble, bass and balance buttons. That it is well finished and looks luxury for its price, we think there is no discussion about that. Just like with most Marantz models, you can choose from a black version or an NR1200 in silver gold. We prefer to see the latter version, because that is “real” Marantz as far as we are concerned.
If you take a look at the rear, you will discover many things that belong just a bit earlier to a surround receiver. Starting with five HDMI inputs, enough to connect video sources such as consoles, TV decoders and Blu-ray players. With the one HDMI-ARC-compatible output you lay a cable to your TV, where the ARC function ensures that the sound from your TV even (for example from a Netflix app) plays through the speakers. The NR1200 does not support eARC, but if you think about it, it is not necessary. After all, it plays in stereo and for that you need the classic ARC .
Nowadays, manufacturers have released more stereo devices with an HDMI-ARC port. Think of the Mu-So Generation 2 for example, or the NAD M10 . However, most of those products can only process a PCM stereo signal from a television or source. If something else comes in, such as surround via bitstream, you get silence. The NR1200 does not have that relative disadvantage. You can have an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, such as our Oppo BPD-203, send sound from a film in bitstream format to the receiver without any problems. The device will then downmix the surround information itself or convert it to stereo. In terms of experience, this does not really matter, but it makes installing the NR1200 just that little bit easier. You don't have to adjust all kinds of settings on source devices and your TV – it always works.
The HDMI ports on the NR1200 support everything you would expect on image surface: Ultra HD (with support for 4: 4: 4 color resolution) , the necessary HDR formats (HLG and HDR10) and HDCP 2.3 (a security standard that is not yet used). In addition, the Marantz receiver brings support for ALLM, a new feature from the HDMI 2.1 standard that ensures that when you turn on your console, the TV automatically selects the correct fast gaming image mode. This way you don't have to dive into the settings of your TV at the start of a game session to manually adjust the picture mode. Note: this only works with brand new TVs that also support ALLM and – for the time being – with the Xbox One.
Also for your record player
A device that presents itself as a perfect solution for the music lover must have sufficient inputs. That is the case with the NR1200, especially at the analogue level. There are three analogue cinch pairs that you can assign and rename as good Marantz, and a dedicated phono input. Your turntable is therefore more than welcome. On a digital level, the offer is rather limited: one coaxial input, one optical.
But who goes for a slim device and a modest number of speakers may not want any of those additional devices. You do not necessarily need that CD player or turntable, because the NR1200 has a whole range of built-in options for listening to music. To begin with, it is a real receiver, equipped with an FM and a DAB + tuner. Given that in the foreseeable future analogue radio broadcasts will be extinguished in Europe, the presence of DAB + will be a must from this year onwards. Thanks to HEOS, the NR1200 has a range of streaming options, which can be operated via the austere but robust HEOS app (iOS and Android). In this app you can easily play your own music files over the network or from a USB stick that you plug into the USB port on the front. The app also allows you to play music from Deezer, Tidal and Soundcloud. That is only a modest range of streaming services, but luckily there are other ways through which you can enjoy your playlists and favorite albums via Spotify or Apple Music. Let me just mention that the HEOS app also gives access to TuneIn, with which you can consume online radio stations. Almost all Dutch and Belgian channels can also be selected this way, which is handy if you don't feel like installing the antennas needed to listen via FM or DAB +.
No sense in HEOS? Then there is AirPlay 2 which is especially useful if you have an iPad or iPhone at home. Thanks to AirPlay you can play the sound of all possible apps through the speakers connected to the Marantz. And because every streaming service does have an iOS app, there are actually no restrictions on how you can listen. Do you not have an iPad but an Android device? Then Spotify Connect is handy. The NR1200 automatically appears in the Spotify app as an available speaker, so you can send your playlists to the Marantz with one tap. Bluetooth is also there, as a backup option for streaming. Because Bluetooth does not sound as good, we would recommend working via HEOS, Spotify Connect or AirPlay. For the techies: the NR1200 is also DLNA compatible. With the appropriate app you can also play your own files or even certain streaming services via this route. The BubbleUPnP app also lets you stream Qobuz or Play Music to the Marantz app, for example.
But we don't always find DLNA as reliable. For example, via BubbleUPnP on our Huawei P30 Pro, streaming sometimes fails because a powersaving function is activated on the phone. It can all be solved, but compared to the other streaming options, DLNA is a bit more hassle.
Via HEOS and AirPlay 2 you can connect the Marantz NR1200 with other speakers and devices. You have the most functionality via the HEOS app, in which compatible HEOS devices (including wireless HEOS speakers) appear and can be operated. HEOS allows you, for example, to play the plate that plays through the connected turntable on HEOS speakers in the dining room. You can also transfer the TV sound to another room. The only limitation is that audio streams that are not supplied in stereo (for example from a Blu-ray disc) cannot be forwarded to other HEOS speakers.
Via Airplay 2 you can also connect the Marantz with other speakers, even from other brands. . The limitation here is that you can only send audio from an app on your iPad or iPhone to multiple speakers; the record player that hangs on the NR1200 cannot be heard on another AirPlay 2.
The NR1200 also comes with an analog Zone 2 output. You can use that to provide a second amplifier with its own speakers (for example a compact device that controls ceiling speakers in the kitchen) with music. There are also pre-outs for the primary zone, for those who want to use the NR1200 purely for HDMI functionality and, for example, want to use a more expensive amplifier for controlling your speakers. Not an everyday scenario this, but there may still be people who can keep their old but better hi-fi equipment.
Marantz and Denon – both sharing the same software and interface – are the uncrowned kings of usability . For the AV receivers with surround support you will be taken by a setup assistant when setting up. Everything is explained step by step, from connecting cables to configuring your TV connection. With the less complex NR1200, that setup assistant may be less necessary, but it is still there. For people who really have nothing with audio equipment a godsend, because the explanation that shows on your TV is really clear. The only complaint is that the resolution is very low for viewing on a larger Ultra HD television. Certainly if you stream music and show the album art on your TV, as a 4K projector owner or someone with a 65-inch Ultra HD screen, you will soon dream of a better view of that cover. But fair is fair: you can make this criticism on every current receiver of every brand. Now hope that in 2020 audio manufacturers will finally present their interfaces in 4K!
Also connecting to the home network is very smooth, especially if you have an Apple device at home. Then you can simply send the password of your Wi-Fi network to the Marantz receiver via the AirPlay function. Thirty seconds later, it is connected and you can stream. The internet connection is also practical for updates and to control the NR1200 via the HEOS app. You can also use the second app, Marantz AVR Remote (iOS and Android), to change settings, sound modes and inputs. But you can actually do most things via the HEOS app. With this stereo device you simply don't have the many sound modes that are available with the larger surround receivers.
Like the Denon DRA-800H, the Marantz NR1200 comes without an Audyssey room calibration system that comes with a microphone must adjust. We regret that. The manufacturer would say that this function is not necessary with a cheaper and simpler device. They are not entirely wrong, but still: even with a 2.1 set-up it is useful to check for bass problems caused by a room fashion and to correctly estimate the distances between speakers and listening position. You can set those distances manually. We would certainly recommend that, especially if you are also going to use a subwoofer. With a sub it is also best to take the time to coordinate the volumes well. Fortunately, that is easily done via the Marantz app or via the remote and the TV interface. What we still dream of? A slightly higher version of the NR1200 that comes with room correction.
Stoneware for music
The NR1200 is not just another AV receiver with fewer channels. For its price it comes with a powerful amplifier hatch, so that you can control those two stereo speakers really well. Marantz quotes realistic power figures of 75 watts per channel, with a full load over the full frequency range and with 8-ohm speakers. That is something else that the roughly 150 watts that you see on some receivers, where the measurement is done on a single channel that is loaded with a simple test tone. Just to say: the NR1200 should have a bit more to offer on the musical level, compared to a similarly priced AV receiver with around 7 channels. If we look under the hood, we also detect a larger transformer and a physically separate left and right end stage, something that you do not always have in this price category. Marantz also claims that it has worked hard through many tuning sessions on the design to make the NR1200 true to home noise. Sound quality is also promised by the unusual use of the 8-channel AK4458-DAC, which is configured to use two channels per output channel. You hear it: the hi-fi credentials are played out very strongly.
For our test, we installed the NR1200 in our surround rack in the test room, with the Xbox One X, Oppo UDP-203 and Panasonic DP -UB820 as sources, and we connected the receiver to our left and right Rubicon LCR wall speakers. They are handsome speakers, but for music we like to combine them with a subwoofer, in this case the Monitor Audio Silver W12. That extra subwoofer is, again, worth it, for example with the Lisa Batiashvili version of Prokofiev's “Dance of the Knights.” You probably know this work from countless films – it was recently used in the brilliant HBO series “The Watchmen”. You will only get the full impact of this dramatic piece if the timpani can really pound through, which is certainly the case here. But we also find the Violin from Batishvili very beautiful and detailed by the NR1200. Sometimes Marantz devices from the past were sometimes described as laidback and slow, but this device does not display that characteristic. In terms of tonality, there is indeed a little more heat, but not too much. Yes, for example, the seductive voice of Dominique Fils-Aimé is really very beautiful. At “Magic Whistle” by this Canadian singer, we also note that the NR1200 creates a large soundstage. In terms of sound, we experience a bit more involvement than with the Denon DRA-800H. But maybe we are just a little more Marantz enthusiast. Despite the fact that Denon and Marantz come from the same house, there are differences.
Out of curiosity we take the Bowers & Wilkins 606 bookshelf speakers out of our cupboard with test devices. So much more difficult than the Dalis, these affordable but good looking speakers cannot be controlled (88 vs 89 dB), but we know from experience that they really excel with a decent amplifier. What we hear when we listen to “Our Pathetic Age”, the new DJ Shadow album, is far from bad. With “Slingblade” the NR1200 is apparently never short of breath, despite the ultra-deep, tight beats and high, thin synth tracks. With “Drone Warfare”, the Marantz receiver is also sharp enough to accurately portray the rapid beat changes, the L-R panning effects and the flashy raplyrics of Pharoahe Monch. You might not quite expect it from a combination of two respected / traditional hi-fi names, but this genre is going well with them. “Rocket Fuel”, where DJ Shadow De La Soul rushes into the studio to make a big party, sounds great. As far as we are concerned, the NR1200 stands out in terms of music above most multi-channel receivers from the same price range.
And for films? It is important to position the NR1200 correctly. You choose this device because you think a stereo image is sufficient when watching TV, not because you hope that you will get a cinema experience from two speakers. As we already noted with the DRA-800H, stereo brought by two discrete speakers is actually quite compelling. The promotion will of course continue to take place at the front of the screen. For example, if we play the “Audiosphere” Atmos demo from Dolby, you will get a nice positioning and movement in the front channels. But when the ball at the end of the circle collides, it just becomes quieter. Logical, of course.
The fact that the NR1200 is good at reproducing music is of course also a serious asset in films. While watching surround sound tracks, such as the 'Ready Player One' racing scene (Ultra HD Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos), we miss a whole lot of immersion and experience, but we must nuance that at the same time. The sound field is indeed only at the front, but it is not flat or uninteresting, as with the standard TV speakers. And we are also comparable to the 5.1.4 setup on which we have often heard our test fragments.
Thanks to the Marantz NR1200, music lovers have a way of continuing to listen to their music in higher quality and yet to enjoy a better sound when watching TV. The starting point for this device is first music, then film sound. And that is the reverse of a soundbar, a device that usually plays films and TV series well, but music is not so good.
The Marantz NR1200 is not overly expensive, although you still need a few stereo speakers (and maybe a few more stereo speakers subwoofer) to use it. But you do have a solution that is uncompromisingly good for music and film soundtracks. The slim design, the many streaming options and the wide range of inputs make the Marantz NR1200 extremely versatile, just like an AV receiver. As long as you do not strive for a real surrounder experience, this is the best of all worlds. 19659056] Slim and premium finish