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Review: Marantz SR7012 9.2 Channel AV Receiver

Marantz SR7012
The Marantz SR7012 is a powerful, new receiver from Marantz that shows that with one device you can listen to high quality music and enjoy a high-level cinema experience.

The Marantz SR7012 is a powerful, new receiver from Marantz that shows that with one device you can listen to high quality music and enjoy a high-level cinema experience. The receiver is for sale for a price of 1.699 euros.

Marantz introduced two new high-end receivers this fall. The SR7012 and SR8012 are not the very highest models that have the respected hi-fi brand in house. Nevertheless, you can safely call them pretty high-end. Moreover, both come with the latest gadgets, which makes them very interesting receivers for the homecine lover looking for something more. Apart from the technology that is typical of Marantz, these receivers also offer something different in terms of design. Compared to typical AV receivers from most other brands, they radiate a lot more elegance. They are receivers that resemble traditional hi-fi stereo devices. And that is really Marantz. In this test we look at the SR7012, the SR8012 (which has a different architecture under the bonnet) will be discussed in a few weeks.

The SR7012 offers many surround possibilities

The SR7012 is a 9.2 receiver with a capacity of up to 200 watts. Like all receiver brands, Marantz gives the most optimistic figure here, with a limited load on one channel. But the device has in practice some power on board, which is apparent from the two times 125 watts that comes with a stereo load on 8-ohm speakers. Our fixed surround setup (consisting of Rubicon LCRs and Vokal in the front, and Dali Opticon LCR in the back) was able to control the SR7012 to very high volumes without any problem.

Just like the receivers of sister brand Denon, this Marantz comes with support for the three surround codecs with height channels (Dolby Atmos , DTS:X and Auro 3D) in a 7.2.2 set-up. The presence of Auro 3D is quite unique in this segment. However, most people will not use it much, because there are not many films with an Auro 3D soundtrack. You do have a bit more music recordings with this innovative surround technology, such as a nice live recording from the Belgian Ozark Henry and Blu-rays from the German multimedia rock group Lichtmond. It remains limited, but it is interesting that the SR7012 also has Auromatic-upmixing. We find this upmixing technique, for example, to bring stereo to 5.1 on paper more impressive than the alternatives of Dolby and DTS.

It is rarely thought about upmixing functions on a receiver, but with the rise of Atmos and DTS: X it still makes sense to pay attention to it. If you do make the effort to extend a surround setup with ceiling speakers or Dolby Enabled speakers (which radiate upwards and reflect on the ceiling), then it is nice to be able to upgrade 5.1 material from DVDs or Blu-ray’s. to surround in height. This can be done with the SR7012 from 2018, when Marantz adds a DTS Virtual:X firmware update . Funnily enough, the option Virtual: X is already available via the HEOS app.

You can take the step to 7.2.4 with the SR7012 by adding an extra amplifier to your installation. This strengthens a pre-out signal that is meant for the second pair of height channels. Do not be confused by the fact that the SR7012 has eleven pairs of speaker terminals. You can use a maximum of nine. There are eleven to be able to connect all the different variants of Atmos, DTS: X and Auro 3D. Before you drop out because this all seems very complex: the setup interface of the Marantz is very clear and you can also fall back on a good illustrated manual that shows and explains the many possible surround setups.

Finally, whoever prefers 5.1 can also equip a second and third zone with wired stereo speakers. Convenient, especially if you know that this receiver also has three HDMI outputs (divided over two video zones). So you could use those extra zones purely for music (for example, to control loudspeakers in the kitchen and in the veranda), but also for video. You could watch a movie you watch through the Netflix app on your Xbox on a screen in the hobby room.

HEOS on board

Note that we explicitly talked about ‘wired’ speakers when it came to multiple zones. That is because the SR7012 also offers wireless multi-room streaming. From this year on the HEOS function will be present on almost all receivers of the Sound United group. Not only at Denon, such as the AVR-X2400H or AVR-X6400H that we tested recently, but also at the new generation of Marantz receivers.

Thanks to HEOS, the SR7012 has extensive streaming options on board. Operation takes place via the HEOS app, with which you can also control and group HEOS speakers. The SR7012 appears in this app as a single device with three zones that you can turn on or off. So you can not play one song in one zone of the SR7012 via HEOS and simultaneously listen to a different track in a second SR7012 zone. However, you can play the same song in one, two or three zones at the same time. It is not a huge limitation, because we think that nowadays most people will equip a second zone (like a kitchen) with a wireless HEOS speaker instead of pulling loudspeaker cable to a set of built-in speakers.

We do have the same comment here as with the X2400H: it is regrettable that you can not use a set of HEOS speakers for the rear channels in a surround setup. That is possible with the 999-euro HEOS AVR. The criticism weighs a bit less with this Marantz, because the target group of the Marantz SR7012 are serious homecine lovers who may have fewer problems with laying cables in their living room or home theater.

We wrote it before: the HEOS app is logical and easy to use. It has three main screens that you select at the bottom of the app: Rooms, Music and Current. In the first screen you choose the active HEOS device and join your speakers, in the second you can choose sources and search for music, the third screen shows the music that is currently playing and media controls. Thanks to HEOS you can play music from services (Deezer, Napster, Soundcloud and Tidal), Internet radio and your own files (from USB, DLNA servers or from a mobile device). That is quite complete, although we personally miss Qobuz in the list of services.

But you did not think it stopped? As we have already noticed in almost every receiver review of this year, you discover a comprehensive menu card for each brand in terms of streaming. You will also find Spotify Connect, Airplay and Bluetooth on the Marantz SR7012 along with HEOS. Bluetooth only works in one direction, for example to stream music from a smartphone to the receiver. We always find it pleasant if you can also use Bluetooth in the reverse direction, like with Yamaha and Sony, to get the sound of your movie or game on a Bluetooth headset at night. But that is not possible here.

If you go to work with your own music files, you can count on a pretty good support of music formats. The SR7012 likes about any PCM format up to 192 kHz, as long as it is stereo files. However, the AIFF and multichannel PCM files from our test suite do not play. From Marantz we also expect support for DSD files and – indeed – the SR7012 works fine. The Direct music mode is highly recommended with these files.

The included remote control is a typical Marantz remote. Nothing special about it, both in the negative and positive sense. You can also operate the SR7012 with the Marantz 2016 AVR app. On a smartphone screen the app is surprisingly effective, on the iPad it is just a bit less tight. You do not often see that. In itself the app is fine, it should only be slightly modified here and there. In our opinion, you should be able to switch between sound modes faster, for example.

What makes Marantz Marantz?

Those who read our reviews about the Denon receivers will see a lot of things coming back to the SR7012. Are they the same devices, simply packaged differently? Not quite. It is true that there are many similarities in terms of software. We are happy about that, because Denon scores consistently high when it comes to user-friendliness.

For example, the Setup Assistant is particularly useful when you set up the receiver for the first time. Sound United also provides good support, in the form of an interactive manual online and via the remote app. Because the differences between the interface of Denon and Marantz are minimal, all those advantages also apply to the SR7012.

But there are also nice differences between Denon and Marantz, which is in line with the marketing strategy of Sound United. The company behind Denon and Marantz wants the two brands to have their own face and distinctive features. With the SR7012 this is reflected in a typical Marantz design, but also in a slightly different tuning. Compared to the Denon AVR-X6300H that is fixed in our test room, the SR7012 is a bit more comfortable and relaxed in terms of sound. A little warmer and more pleasant for music. Technically, this is explained by choices made by Marantz (led by brand ambassador Ken Ishiwata) and the use of proprietary technology, such as HDAM (whereby Marantz replaces traditional integrated opamps with separate components on a printed circuit board – the reverse of miniaturization). Also typical is the Pure Direct mode, where all superfluous things such as the display are switched off.

Whoever compares the inside of the SR7012 with the AVR-X4400H from Denon certainly sees many similarities. The sound differences (that do exist) do not originate from major architectural differences. They are available if you consider the step to the SR8012, which is equipped with a considerably more powerful toroidal transformer. What is immediately noticeable on the SR7012 is of course its own design, completely in accordance with the retro-light design language of well-known Marantz devices. Especially in the gold silver we find it very nice, but you can always get the SR7012 in a brushed black.

Compared to many receivers, the front is very sober. The display is limited to the well-known porthole of Marantz, behind which a small screen is hidden that tells you which input and volume level has been selected. Just as typical is the blue LED light around the circular porthole. Left on the rounded front plate you see a large input dial, on the right a large volume control. An on / off button is also there, and that’s it.

Of course that’s a dozen keys too little for an AV receiver, but Marantz has done something very clever. All buttons and a large display are hidden behind a flap under the circular display. The lid is as subtle as it is big – it is not a sarcasm – and you only open it if necessary. You will also find a number of connections here, for example a USB port and a headphone connection.

All this makes Marantz SR7012 one of the most beautiful and timeless AV receivers on the market. If you hate devices that are remarkably technological in your living room, then this is a receiver to choose.

Well equipped with connections

The back of the Marantz SR7012 is, as usual, finished at a high level at Sound United. Sound loudspeaker terminals are a must at this price level, just like an extensive suite of pre-outs. Marantz certainly does not disappoint us in this area. You can control even exotic setups with the Marantz SR7012, for example scenarios where you use this device as a processor for a separately amplified 7.2.4 system. Marantz continues to offer legacy video connections. That is no longer necessary for us, but it is allowed on a more expensive receiver.

With seven HDMI inputs in the rear (plus one extra in the front), you are even good as an avid console collector. You can assign two coaxial and two optical inputs, as well as 7.1 analogue, to a video input. That is certainly not mainstream, but the Marantz SR7012 is already a serious thing for a real home cinema. That is why you can also count on an RS232 connection and on Crestron compatibility.

In terms of HDMI, this Marantz is all along. 4K/60p is no problem, even with 4:4:4 color resolution . You also do not have to accept anything else from a new receiver. Support is also available for HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision. And eARC is also coming through a firmware update . This makes Marantz one of the first to confirm the arrival of this standard. eARC may become important as streaming services as Netflix do more and more with Dolby Atmos. If you now watch a Netflix title with Atmos soundtrack, such as the new Punisher series, then you can only do something via an Xbox One. If you look at your TV via the Netflix app, it is almost never possible to send that Atmos stream via the HDMI ARC cable. With HDMI-eARC it will be possible.

The Marantz SR7012 sounds sophisticated and yet powerful

We already have our tickets for the first screening of ‘The Last Jedi’. In preparation and to satisfy our Star Wars hunger, we get the Blu-ray from ‘The Force Awakens’. Atmos, of course, was nice, but the DTS HD MA 7.1 mix is ​​as good as you might expect. As befits a Star Wars film, we start with a dash of John Williams and then a gigantic spaceship that flies by. Already in the run-in period (where we just use the receiver) it was noticed that the Marantz SR7012 just sounds very pleasant for music. This is also evident here at the intro, where the horns sound threateningly behind us. The heavy, deep tones of the First Order ship’s engines increase the threat, a trick that is repeated when Kylo Ren’s shuttle lands a little later in the rebel village. The Cinema EQ function can be useful with this movie. The soundtrack is very dynamic. That is no problem for the Marantz SR7012, which follows effortlessly. But if you prefer a more balanced experience with fewer volume differences, the EQ function is quite handy. Star Wars films are always strongly supported by the orchestral soundtrack of Williams. It has to be presented musically and apart from the film effects itself. The Marantz SR7012 shows that this is possible. Not only during the battle in the rebellion village, but also when the playful Rey’s Theme sounds in the background while we meet the young Jedi-in-spé (we speculate but …) for the first time.

This way we touch on one of the strengths of this receiver. It does not present itself as an over complex, but it offers many more extra functions than you would expect. That is literally true: you can find other options under Surround Parameter in the audio settings depending on the selected sound mode.

If you really want to fine-tune the sound, there is good news: you can also use the Audessey MultEQ app with the Marantz SR7012. You pay 20 euros for this app, but suddenly you have a lot more control over all kinds of audio parameters. With the app you have to do the Audessey calibration again, the great thing is that you can save the results and tweak them on different levels, also at individual loudspeaker level. The app is a very powerful tool that requires some knowledge to use properly, but that can be very useful. It is also something that most competitors miss.

Marantz is convinced that the Marantz SR7012 is as good in music as films. It is striking that you can set the front speakers separately for 2-channel modes. Maybe it would have been nice if you had separate equalizer options here. For music this Marantz speaker sounds really good, we notice that every time. Whereas with cheaper mainstream receivers you sometimes have to endure somewhat harder sounds, the Marantz SR7012 shows itself in a very balanced and detailed way. And that is not only important when you stream via HEOS or listen to a CD. Also a film like ‘Suicide Squad’ (Ultra HD Blu-ray with Dolby True HD / Atmos) continuously uses music to introduce characters. The ‘Paramount’ Blu-ray by Ozark Henry sounded very good on this Marantz too. It is nice that you can switch between multichannel (DTS MA HD and Auro 3D) and stereo, and thus discover the added value of a true surround music recording.

Conclusion

The Marantz SR7012 is a very complete AV receiver that will satisfy even demanding home cinema builders. The sound of the Marantz receiver is not miles away from its Denon counterpart (and certainly not in terms of features), but adds some own things. Such as a distinctive and elegant design. The SR7012 is a clever thing that you do not want to hide in a piece of furniture. The nice looks are not everything he excels in. The SR7012 draws the map of musicality and sophistication rather than of enormous dynamism and bombast, and it does adorn it. It makes this AV receiver a true all-rounder. And that is not a compromise label but a real compliment.

Cons

  • Interface was allowed in higher resolution
  • Context-sensitive options are sometimes confusing
  • Rest of housing was allowed on the front / rear level
  • HEOS speakers can not be used for surround

Pros

  • House-room-friendly retro design
  • Very complete in terms of connections and standards
  • Interface is best on the market
  • Musical topper
  • Easy to use, yet extensive options available

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