It has been a while since we looked at a slimline AV receiver from Marantz, but this review of the Marantz NR1609 is now changing. This compact and slim AV receiver comes with a price tag of 749 and is packed with the latest features and functions.
Marantz NR1609 – Specifications and features
Marantz recently announced two new slimline AV receivers, in the form of the NR1609 and NR1509. The NR1609 is the most comprehensive and advanced model of the two, with 7.2-channel amplification, separate output transistors and 50 Watts per channel (8-ohm, 20Hz-20kHz, 0.08% THD, 2 channel driven). The receiver has the latest standards and techniques, including support for HDR and 4K Ultra HD. The model is also equipped with bluetooth, Apple AirPlay and HEOS. With the HEOS app, you can make the receiver part of a multiroom system and stream music from services such as Spotify, TuneIn and Deezer. Support for Amazon Alexa is also on board, allowing you to use the voice commands to operate the receiver.
The Marantz NR1609 has a Marantz Hyper Dynamic Amplification Module (HDAM) circuit for optimal audio reproduction, and for surround here Dolby Atmos, DTS: X and DTS Virtual: X added. There is also support for high resolution audio in the form of Flac, AIFF and WAV up to 24-bit/192kHz, plus DSD 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz. There is a phono input for the vinyl fans. In addition, the NR1609 has eight HDMI inputs and one HDMI ARC output. All connections support HDCP 2.2 4K Ultra HD 60Hz, 4: 4: 4 subsampling, Dolby Vision, HLG HDR10 and the BT.2020 color range. Automatic calibration takes place via Audyssey MultEQ including Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ. The Marantz NR1609 has a price of 749 euro.
Design and connections
When we look at the design, it is clear that Marantz does not like big changes. And frankly that is not necessary, because the Marantz NR1609 looks just like its predecessors very tight and premium. It is a compact AV receiver, which simply means that this model is a lot less than traditional AV receivers. The device weighs 8.3 kilograms, which is not even very small, and has a size of 440 x 376 x 105 millimeters. With this the receiver fits into almost every piece of furniture and does not even look great on a piece of furniture. Note, however, that the receiver is about 7 centimeters higher when the antennas for bluetooth and WiFi are raised. In our experience, however, you could also aim it horizontally if you are not too far away from the router.
Appearance is a matter of taste, but the Marantz NR1609 certainly appeals to us. The finish is neat and we also see the well-known Marantz features, with a slightly curved front, two large rotary knobs and a large display in the middle. The device also has silver-colored insulating feet. Beneath the display there are buttons for, among other things, the zones, pure direct, surround mode and internet radio. The receiver is solidly built and has a premium look and feel.
In terms of connections, we see elements on the front as well as the back. The back is equipped with 7 speaker terminals, seven HDMI inputs, one HDMI output, two subwoofer outputs, a coaxial and optical audio input and various analog inputs. There is also an ethernet port. On the front we see an extra HDMI-input, a USB-port and a Phono-input back.
In this review we use a LG E8-series oled tv for the reproduction of video material, Spotify for streaming music, a USB stick with high-res audio, the Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray player for the reproduction of CDs and (Ultra HD) ) Blu-ray discs, and the B & W CM S2 series speaker system for optimal audio playback.
Operation and installation
If you have some experience with Denon or Marantz receivers then is the use of the Marantz NR1609 a piece of cake. After all, the interface has been the same for years. And, although you have no experience with receivers of these brands, you are still familiar with it in no time. The interface that Marantz uses is very straightforward. Maybe a little old-fashioned but absolutely well structured and easy to use. In the menus we see no bells and whistles or large lists of complicated options. The navigation in all menus is very smooth and fast, there is little chance of getting lost and functions are clearly indicated.
The nice thing is that Marantz provides a set-up assistant that you through the whole process of installation and configuration. This means that you will be explained step-by-step how you can connect the receiver to other devices, how to connect the speakers and which surround configurations you can use.
In addition, there is the possibility of the receiver automatically to be calibrated using the included set-up microphone and integrated Audyssey software. Audyssey looks at the distances, sound levels and acoustics of the room. Based on this information, based on six measuring points in the room, an equalizer is adjusted and the distances and levels are determined. Once analyzed, the Audyssey software ensures that the receiver is optimally adjusted. If you choose the calibration then you are busy with the set-up for fifteen minutes but your receiver is perfectly adjusted immediately. However, you can also skip the calibration and get to work yourself with the distances, sound levels and other settings.
Marantz NR1609 – In use
Remote control and Remote app
You can operate the Marantz NR1609 in two ways; using the included remote control and the Marantz 2016 AVR Remote app (Android and iOS). The remote control is not a special feature; a plastic accessory with simply the most important buttons for comfortable operation and buttons that give light in the dark. In addition, you have a number of smart buttons at your disposal to assign a function to yourself.
The Remote app is also one that has been known for a while, like the name of the app suggests. The free application makes it possible to fully operate the receiver. All functions of the remote control are available but also important parts of the TV interface appear in the app so that you can also watch the settings during the movie without being distracted. The app looks – like the TV interface – a bit old fashioned and can use an update, but it works well and quickly. For the novice user it can get used to the amount of options and hidden menus.
Marantz has equipped the Marantz NR1609 with 7 amplified channels for speakers, plus support for Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. This means that in addition to the traditional 5.1-channel and 7.1-channel setups you can choose a 5.1.2-channel setup in which two speakers are placed (diagonally) above the listening position. If you want a larger setup (5.1.4 for example) then you need an extra amplifier that controls the two extra channels. We used the receiver in the maximum 5.1.2 setup.
When it comes to streaming, with the arrival of the Marantz NR1609 we see HEOS for the first time on the slimline models. Thanks to the integration of HEOS you have the possibility to install the HEOS-app and via this app to get access to numerous streaming services. You can play music from your mobile phone or a NAS via the app or from services such as Deezer, Tidal, Spotify and TuneIn. You do not necessarily need multiple HEOS speakers for this; the receiver is seen as a playback point and is therefore sufficient to get started. However, you can always expand with multiple HEOS speakers or devices to set up a multiroom system. The support of hi-res audio formats is wide and complete, so chances are that you can play all your favorite music without problems.
The HEOS app has been using the same interface for years and does not look very exciting, but is functionally well together. The app works with three large screens, selectable via the tabs below. The first shows the list of connected HEOS devices, the middle all music sources (including all physical inputs on the receiver), the third one currently playing. Very practical is that in the HEOS app you can switch from a streaming source to, for example, your connected CD player and that you can select sound modes (such as ‘stereo’ or ‘surround stereo’). You do not have to return to the Remote app or remote control.
In addition, you can of course connect a CD player or a record player, physically and there is also a USB port for those who have their music on a usb storage medium. You can also use a WiFi or other network drive in your home network via WiFi, you can stream from all mobile devices via Bluetooth and if you have an iOS device you can use AirPlay to play your content via the receiver. Incidentally, Marantz promises an update to AirPlay 2, allowing you to group the receiver with other AirPlay 2 speakers in the future and to stream music through Siri.
Finally, the NR1609 features Spotify Connect, allowing you to get your Spotify numbers through the Receiver can be streamed, while you use your smartphone purely for operation and all other things. If that is not enough, you can search and listen to Internet radio stations, in addition to the traditional AM and FM channels. All these options work smoothly and well, but of course make sure you have a stable internet connection.
The NR1609 also features Amazon Alexa integration. This means that the receiver can be paired with an Amazon Alexa speaker that you can talk to. This can be for example an Amazon Echo or a Sonos One. This linking is done through a Marantz skill for Alexa, which you can activate in the Alexa app. You can then pronounce voice commands in the direction of the Alexa speaker, with which the Marantz receiver can be operated. Alexa allows you to stream music and control certain receiver functions, including switching inputs. Unfortunately, Alexa is currently not officially available in the Netherlands, nor in Dutch, so it’s just waiting for the official launch.
Marantz NR1609 – Audio quality
Despite its small size, the NR1609 is stuffed with features and techniques, but ultimately it is one part on which a purchase is really based and that is the audio quality. We have placed the receiver in our test room and we use the Bowers & Wilkins CM S2 series, accompanied by two AM-1 loudspeakers for the top channels (5.1.2). The subwoofer in this case is the Bowers & Wilkins ASW610XP. We do not use the other speakers (top rear and surround center).
First of all the musical qualities of the NR1609, tested by means of hi-res audio via USB and streaming via Spotify. Although streaming in this is the least option due to the compression used, the receiver still manages to produce a versatile and vivid image, thanks in part to the M-DAX technology that restores compressed content. The NR1609 provides a reasonably wide soundstage, with tight lows and highs. There is enough dynamics in it, with warm vocals in which emotions are audible. However, it lacks the really subtle details and that little extra depth, which creates the feeling that someone is playing right in front of you.
Hi-res audio is obviously a clear step forward , from the source already. And the Marantz NR1609 shows this with clearly more flexibility and details. The soundstage is wider and you can place the parts better in space. Simply put, the music comes to life more, both in width and depth. Even with intensive songs (including from Muse) the receiver knows how to keep itself standing, with tight low tones, a colorful display and a large dynamic range. If we compare it to the receivers a bit higher in the line-up, then it lacks in detail something in power and in dynamic passages the placement in the room is a little less tight, which means that instruments can not be easily distinguished. That is also noticeable when the volume is opened a bit further; the receiver has to work harder and that is a little forced here and there. The (emotional) space remains on the small side, but we can not blame the receiver given the price and specs.
Although music is an important part of the audio experience you buy a multichannel receiver naturally especially for the multichannel (surround) content. The Marantz NR1609 is a 7.2-channel receiver and thus offers various setup options, including a 5.1-channel, a 7.1-channel and even a 5.1.2-channel system. We have connected the receiver to our Atmos setup, which is a 5.1.2-channel reproduction with two loudspeakers against the ceiling. We have looked at Jumanji, Everest and Deadpool.
We have mentioned it before but if you can choose Dolby Atmos then it is absolutely recommended. You have to have the space for it, but the effect is a lot more impressive than a standard 5.1 channel experience, even with just two height speakers. The two height speakers provide much more height in the sound and thus an actual three-dimensional audio experience. 7.1.4 is even more impressive, but the Marantz NR1609 offers a very good step in the direction.
The receiver knows how to create a nice soundstage, with sufficient height, width and depth to imagine yourself in a movie. Surround effects are placed tightly in the room so that you can quickly forget the actual speaker placement. The gunshots in Deadpool are tight and accurate, while the howling wind in Everst fills the entire room. The receiver allows audio objects to float through space, can display details and effects with sufficient dynamics and ensures that elements such as dialogs, effects and the soundtrack can be separated and heard well. The surround sound is complete, lively and detailed. The NR1609 is also a serious player when it comes to bass. These are displayed with a lot of punch and accuracy. Yet there is a limit to what the Marantz NR1609 can do, and that is especially noticeable when the volume is thrown open further or when you sit in a larger room. Then you notice that the flexibility disappears into the background and the balance here and there is lost, especially in audio-intensive scenes where many different things happen. No, the audio experience is not bad, but with 50 watts per channel (less even because measured on 2 channels) the NR1609 simply lacks the ability to keep a cool head here and maintain control.
 If we compare the NR1609 with its larger brothers, the smaller size, the lower price and the lesser specs are particularly clear on high volume and in a larger space. For example, the Denon AVR-X6400H also knows how to keep the room very deep, wide and high at high volume, details remain tight and there is simply more control. But, you are in a different price range and with a much larger and more extensive device. The NR1609 is especially ideal for smaller rooms where the volume does not have to be fully open. There the receiver feels at ease and the surround experience is impressively good.
Marantz NR1609 – Conclusion
When we add everything together, there is very little that we do not like about the Marantz NR1609. It is a receiver for a specific target group; a target group that likes to use the small space well, has a limited budget, seeks ease of use and wants to tightly control a good speaker system with a serious receiver. The NR1609 is not a receiver for the really large rooms or a receiver for the maximum volumes, but a receiver that does what it is supposed to do very well. You have unlimited streaming capabilities and multi-audio capabilities thanks to HEOS, you can control the receiver with an app, you have various settings and calibration options and you can enjoy an above-average stereo and surround sound. All in a compact but premium-looking jacket. The NR1609 is in our view an absolute must, with limitations that are pure in what you want to use the receiver for.