Uncompromising sound requires the best audiophile-quality gear. But in this current digital age, you never know which sound source you might want to use for an evening of entertainment. You might watch Blu-Ray movies on a 1080p HDTV; prefer the uncompressed audio files obtained from a CD and loaded onto your iPod; and play games on both an Xbox 360 and a Sony PlayStation 3. Connecting them all together – and still maintaining near perfect audio quality – is a challenge.
The Marantz SR6003 dispenses with the usual tricks and superfluous features. It’s designed for the audio purist to unify their digital entertainment without making any of the usual sacrifices (say, being forced to use a coaxial connection when you really prefer digital optical). Yet, it’s also easy to use and has several interesting perks that you might not notice right away. All in all, it’s a top-notch selection.
Features and Design
Calling the SR6003 an AV Receiver is a bit of a misnomer. It’s more like a digital hub that supports just about any consumer electronics source you can imagine. From a design perspective, the slate-black SR6003 looks understated – which is probably what you want in your living room anyway. In fact, Marantz chose to put all the logos for supported media on the top of the receiver, so the front panel is clean and shows only the current inputs. There are two large dials, one for controlling inputs and one for volume. A drop-down panel hides a few other buttons and inputs, accessible from the remote as well.
In basic operation, the SR6003 is just a joy to use. While the remote is definitely filled to the corners with buttons and options, they are all arranged in a logical fashion. There’s a large input button and one for volume, mirroring the dials on the receiver itself. You can also punch in the input directly. There’s a tiny switch on the side of the remote that lights up the remote buttons – you can hold it down or press once so the light turns off by itself after a short time. Like other multi-function remotes on CE equipment, you can use the basic options or explore some of the more advanced functions, such as EQ settings. However, the main point is to provide quick access to the gear you want to use.
In testing the SR6003, we connected just about every gadget we own. Here are some of the specific findings. First, we wanted to test uncompressed audio files (in PCM format), so we used the Logitech Duet media streamer – connected over digital coaxial – and played songs by a band called White Lies. We used the Snell CLS 5.1 speaker system in a large living room. The receiver provides a handy auto option that determines the best setting for the current input. You can also press the Pure Direct button, which turns off every other input (including video) so that the signal is as clean as possible.
Suffice it to say, the SR6003 sounds superb. The best description of its audio output is this: Distinct. We even compared the same uncompressed PCM files played on a professional PA system, and the SR6003 reproduced the PCM files just as clearly, with excellent richness in bass and treble response.
The receiver pumps 100W of power into each of the seven surround sound channels. It uses a TI Aureus 32-Bit digital signal processing and supports 192kHz/24-Bit digital/audio conversion, emphasizing sound reproduction over any other feature. One example of this: The typical Best Buy home audio receiver might provide settings for “jazz” or “hall” that try to change the quality of the audio to match a specific musical genre or room. These features are all thankfully missing with the Marantz SR6003.
We also connected both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game systems. The SR6003 up-samples component video to HDMI 1080p, a boon for those who own an HDTV that does not support component video, and proves a great way to just reduce cable clutter. You can connect your CE device any way you want, but send the output to the receiver only over HDMI (if you so choose). We played EA’s NFL Tour and the quality was just a notch better and clearer than a direct component connection. We used the PS3 for playing audio CDs over the HDMI connection, which provides the best digital/audio conversion. Bands like All-American Rejects sounded fantastic over the Snell surround system, both in Dolby Extended mode (where the receiver automatically determines which speaker to use for the music) and Pure Direct mode. We also watched the Blu-Ray movie Children of Men and, wow, was the 7.1 surround in Dolby Extended mode ever amazing. Bullets flew from one side of the room to the other without the typical distortion of other surround systems, where you can tell the frequencies are a bit limited and unrealistic.
We also connected a Nintendo Wii, a Dish VIP-622 HD receiver and an Apple iPod Video. Predictably, the Wii looked terrible – the SR6003 does not really improve the standard-def signal too much. The VIP-622 is a 1080i device, but we compared the quality when it was connected directly to our Viewsonic HDTV and through the SR6003 – there was a slight uptick in quality, but not that noticeable. For some reason, we had trouble playing audio files on the iPod – the SR6003 read the iPod as a storage device and would not play MP3 files. Marantz is looking into the issue, but it’s likely due to the iPod being in drive mode. The SR6003 can read any USB drive and provides an on-screen music player.
Keep in mind – all of these devices were connected at the same time. So, that’s three video game systems, an iPod, a music streamer, and an HD satellite system. There were still many inputs left over. We counted 31 inputs total, including all the legacy analog inputs (RCA), four digital optical with two in front, five each for S-Video and composite, three for HDMI, and three for component. There are also two HDMI outputs, and two component outputs. It’s really more than anyone could conceivably connect, but good to know you can if you’re not concerned about power consumption.
Marantz SR6003 Connections
Some of the extras on the receiver are not as critical as the multitude of inputs and the solid sound quality. There’s a setting for Audyssey MultEQ that improves audio caliber based on room size – you can connect the included microphone to read the tonal quality. An M-DAX button improves the quality of compressed audio files, such as those you may have bought on the iTunes music store. It worked okay, but Bruce Springsteen still sounded a bit distorted even at a 128kbps. If you’re gear supports them, the SR6003 can handle HDMI 1.3, Dolby TrueHD, and dts-HD Master Audio. There are interfaces for RS-232C, Flasher in, and DC trigger. The receiver works as a powerful radio as well, supporting AM and FM (you can use the included antennas for good reception) broadcasts and the XM and SIRIUS platforms.
The only gripes we had were about the iPod Video not working (as we mentioned, because of it being in drive mode). We were also confused (temporality) by a DISP button that disables the display on the receiver and on the HDTV – as a kind of safety feature, we presume.
An emphasis on quality – and not as many trendy features such as DSP modes or some sort of funky “dual sub-woofer” option – means you are paying only for overall audio caliber and various input options. As such, the Marantz SR6003 proves a powerful, flexible, high-quality receiver that – while light on frills – comes correct where it counts, and, insofar as audiophiles are concerned, really gets the job done.
- Supports just about any connection type
- Easy to use
- Power multi-function remote
- Exceptional surround-sound quality
- No superfluous features
- Minor iPod Video glitch
- DISP button caused momentary confusion