REVIEW: Marantz SR7010 home theatre receiver

60Marantz’s top of the line SR7010 receiver is designed with enthusiasts in mind, says Stephen Dawson.

The Marantz SR7010 is the company’s top of the line home theatre receiver. To go bigger and better with Marantz, you have to move up to the 8xxx series, which are processor and power amplifier separates.

What is it?

As the top of the line model it comes with nine power amplifiers and support for up to 11.1 channels. Why 11? While a full Dolby Atmos implementation can involve dozens of loudspeakers, the consensus mainstream position for full Atmos system in the home seems to be the regular three front channels, four surround channels (surround and surround rear), and four ceiling or ‘height’ speakers, expressed as 7.1.4. The nine amplifiers suffice for 5.1.4 or 7.1.2, but by adding two additional power amplifier channels you can go for the full 7.1.4.

This is not only for Dolby Atmos, but also for the similar DTS:X system, which the receiver will support after a firmware upgrade is released early this year. The purpose of both systems, and the Dolby Surround processing system which now supports height channels as well, is to provide an even more engaging surround field in movies. Even though Atmos (and even more so DTS:X) content is limited, Dolby Surround is extremely effective at extracting material that should be overhead and placing it there.

Each of the nine channels is rated at 125W into 8Ω at insignificant distortion levels across the full audio bandwidth. Unlike some brands, the receiver supports 4Ω loudspeakers, albeit after making a setting in a kind of pre-setup to avoid overdriving the receiver’s amplifiers.

Some of the amplifiers can be allocated to purposes other than the standard speakers, such as to bi-amplify the front left and right channels, or to drive speakers with different material in a different zone and so on.

While on zones, I should mention that in addition to the two normal HDMI outputs a third one can feed a separate zone. Plus there are a couple of stereo line level outputs for use with other zones, and both composite and component video.

There are eight HDMI inputs, including the one of the front panel. All support 4K video and HDCP 2.2, so they should be completely compatible with the UHD Blu-ray players we hope to (finally!) see this year. There are also composite and component video inputs, and lots of line level audio inputs. There are even 7.1 channel analogue audio inputs, although what device one would be using for this purpose these days is beyond my imagination. More importantly, you get phono inputs (for moving magnet level cartridges). Plus optical and coaxial digital audio.

But this is a modern receiver, so it has Ethernet for network audio content, along with two antennae on the rear for WiFi (2.4GHz only) and Bluetooth. The unit supports DLNA, both as a player and a ‘renderer’ (which means you can use lots of apps to send audio to it).  And Apple’s Airplay system for sending iOS music to it. And Spotify Connect. If you have a premium Spotify subscription ($11.99 a month) then you can select the receiver as a ‘Speaker’ when using Spotify on your portable device (or, for that matter, the Spotify app on your computer). Unlike Airplay, instead of the music streaming from Spotify to your device and then being sent on to the receiver, Spotify Connect has the receiver connect directly to the Spotify servers for access to the music.

Of course, the receiver has installer-appropriate control ports: RS-232C, two 12V triggers and an IR input socket.

The front of the receiver is unusual. As a high end model it is large, and as is Marantz’s styling practice in recent years, it features curved edges. But the unusual feature is the display which, at first glance, appears to be just a 50mm round circle displaying the input setting and the volume level. But underneath this is a nicely damped, swing-down flap which reveals additional controls and a more conventional front panel display.

The unit is supplied with a nice IR remote with backlighting for the keys and a small LCD to show you its operational setting. There’s also a free app for Android and iOS devices to control the unit. This has been around for several years but remained serviceable on things like selecting inputs and adjusting volume level. But it was pretty clunky – very slow to produce lists of content, for example – on network media playback. Apparently Marantz is working on an update which may appear next year.

XL_sr7010_n_b_reSetting Up

These days Marantz receivers fire up the first time with an on-screen wizard which guides the user through setting up, with quite extraordinary detail. It even shows how to wire the speakers (and switches off the speaker outputs so you can do so safely). And of course it covers network setup. You can skip bits if you know what you’re doing (or skip the whole thing). The speaker balancing and room setup uses the Audyssey system, which is about as good as any of them. You will have the opportunity to employ Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume at the end of the speaker calibration. Say ‘no’ to both if you want the best sound.

One of the great things about this receiver is a special item in the manual setup area for speakers. Most of this menu deals with the usual things – distances, levels, crossovers and such – in case you want to tweak the automatic surround settings. But the final item is called ‘2ch Playback’. This allows you to have separate settings for your stereo mode. So you might want to have a different crossover to the subwoofer with music than what you’d use with movie sound, or perhaps balance the left and right channels slightly differently. That’s what you use this for. Many hifi fans will appreciate the ability to tune their stereo system differently to their surround system.

Once you’ve made all your settings, there’s a ‘Setup lock’ to provide at least a little resistance to someone messing with them.

Performance

The audio performance of this receiver was first class. I ran a 5.1.4 system, avoiding the need for additional amplifiers, using four high quality ceiling Jamo speakers for height (during setup you will specify their type).

And it sounded simply great. I focussed on movie content for a while, running a couple of Dolby Atmos test Blu-ray discs, plus my carefully hoarded, yet still small, collection of movies featuring this format. The sound fields in Mad Max: Fury Road were astonishing delivered by this amplifier, with seemingly unlimited levels from every direction and excellent directional stability.

The receiver was just as good with music, whether originating on vinyl, provided via the analogue inputs, or HDMI, or as a network feed. The receiver supports the usual compressed audio formats (MP3, WMA, iTunes style AAC) and lossless codecs (WAV, FLAC, AIFF and Apple Lossless). Plus standard Direct Stream Digital (not double rate or higher). I tested FLAC music files at up to 192kHz sampling to fine effect.

The Spotify Connect and Airplay connectivity worked very nicely, with the receiver appearing rapidly on the drop down lists of speakers for both. The receiver also has access to tens of thousands of radio stations via the vTuner Internet Radio system.

A tip that you might find useful: if you can tolerate the somewhat more cluttered look, leave the front panel down. In addition to there being more information on the display, you might see the red back-lighting on a button labelled ‘M-DAX’. This is Marantz’s version of the circuits designed to ‘restore’ compressed audio. It came on automatically whenever I fed the unit any form of network audio, even FLAC which of course needs no ‘restoration’ whatsoever. If you have the panel open you can see whenever it is in operation, and thus be prompted to switch it off. Once switched off the first time it remains off.

The receiver has good video management capabilities. It handled ultra high definition signals at up to 60 frames per second reliably and can also scale up to that resolution, or lesser selectable resolutions, if you want it to. It overlays its menu system over the top of whatever is showing, eliminating a resolution switch whenever you use the menus. It has a very effective automatic progressive scan conversion processor which generally applied the correct form of processing to interlaced signals.

Conclusion

As you’d expect from a premium Marantz receiver, the SR7010 delivered excellent all round home theatre and music performance.  This is a unit to satisfy the enthusiast.

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Reference: Connected Home

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