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Home Theater Receiver Review: Marantz SR5009

It’s no secret among my audio pals that I’ve been a long time fan of Marantz gear. Though I’ve flirted with and have reviewed many different makes and models over the years, I keep coming back to my trusty, slimline, surprising little NR1602 (reviewed here) for my small room system and various ‘6000 and ‘7000 series models for the large theater room. Their mix of compelling performance chops, no-nonsense features and ease of use are much to my liking. I even use two Marantz reference grade components, the PM-KI Pearl integrated amp and ST-17 tuner, in my 2-channel system in the main listening room.

One Marantz series I’ve never formally reviewed however is their ‘5000 models. Oh, sure, I’ve set up and auditioned plenty of ‘em over the years, especially when I worked for Aperion back in the day. But I’ve never done a thorough review on one, so when Aperion called and asked if I’d like to take one for test drive, I couldn’t resist.

Unboxing

Save for the actual model script, the Marantz SR5009 looks nearly identical to its predecessor, the SR5008. Both feature Marantz’ signature star and circle porthole display and curved front fascia edges. Even though it’s been around for a few years now, I still think the aesthetic is a refreshing change from the “big screen,” sensory-overload style of panel displays found on other receivers.

After unboxing the unit, I saw something that immediately put an ear-to-ear grin on my mug: The Marantz SR5009 comes with a microphone stand for its calibration mic. Cool! Sure, it may only be a printed cardboard stand, one that comes in several pieces and must be linked together in 3D puzzle-slash-origami style, but still—a bona fide mic stand!

I am not kidding you when I say that the instructions for every auto-calibration I’ve ever reviewed has said pretty much the same thing: “Place the microphone on a tripod or other camera stand for best results,” assuming everyone just happens to have a stand lying around. Not me. At least, not until I started reviewing gear to earn part of my living. But no receiver I’ve seen has ever included an actual mic stand. Regardless of how the Marantz was going to perform, the fine folks at D&M have already scored beaucoup bonus points for this thoughtful inclusion.

On the surface, the Marantz SR5009 doesn’t seem that different from its predecessor, the SR5008.  All of the same surround processing modes and video conversion capabilities are present and accounted for. Heck, it even weighs the same as the older model, which means the amp section probably hasn’t changed, either. Maybe that’s a good thing, considering the 5008 was such a well-rounded model to begin with.

This latest Marantz however does sport a couple of new networking features, namely Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. These will allow you to connect the receiver to your wireless home network and listen to onboard internet radio services or stream music via Spotify, Pandora, or SiriusXM.  Other feature upgrades from the SR5008 include an additional HDMI input for 8 total; one additional HDMI output for 2 total; one additional analog L&R audio input for 5 total; and Main and Zone 2 L&R analog outputs are now included.

Setup

Getting the Marantz up and running couldn’t have been easier: Setup using Marantz’ built in Setup Wizard and the Audyssey program took about 20 minutes. Per my usual practice, I then  double-checked all speaker settings via the manual setup menu. Marantz has done well to refine their Setup Wizard program over the years; the current iteration makes routing all necessary wiring to and from your receiver easy work, especially for novices.

Speaker distances and phase settings via Audyssey were spot on, too, even though one of its persistent anomalies remains: It sets the crossover points for most speakers too high. Thankfully, Audyssey has gotten much better in this regard; I only needed to adjust the rear speakers down from 250Hz or so—much better than also having to dial back the fronts and center from 80Hz 55Hz for the former and 150Hz to 80Hz for the latter. Bottom line: I’d still recommend starting with Marantz’ Audyssey and Setup Wizard programs: Using both together does much to alleviate most of the difficulties with setting up your theater rig. Just be sure to double check the receiver’s settings once the programs are done.

To fully put the Marantz through its paces, I used it with a variety of gear, including: A Samsung UN40C6300 LED TV; Samsung BD-C5500 Blu-ray player; Sony SCD-XA777ES SACD player; HP Pavilion G6-2320DX laptop running JRiver media software; Arcam AirDAC; Apple iPhone 4; Bowers and Wilkins P5 and NuForce BT-860 headphones; Marantz SR6007 and NR1602 receivers; and Aperion Audio’s Verus Grand Tower Surround HD and Forte Tower Surround HD loudspeaker systems.

Performance

I let the SR5009 run in for a good 50 hours before doing any serious listening, after which I fired up many of the same high-octane action flicks I’ve gotten used to testing receivers with over the years. These include J.J. Abrams 2009 version of Star Trek, Quantum of Solace, The Avengers, and The Dark Knight Rises, all on Blu-ray. Right from the opening scenes of Star Trek, it was easy to hear why I’ve been a fan of Marantz’s A/V receivers for so long: The SR5009 had the same smooth, clean, and tonally natural sonic character, with just a hint of lower midrange warmth to ensure long-term listenability I’ve come to expect over the years—prototypical Marantz. Various sound effects, such as the whirring, beeping and chiming typical of the ship’s bridge in all the Star Trek movies, were reproduced with clarity and distinction, easily enveloping the viewer in the ship’s atmosphere.

Other movies fared just as well. On the final action sequence from The Dark Knight Rises, the Marantz showed off its excellent dynamic range, scale and impact. Bass, too, rumbled with realistic heft and authority, even if it did have a bit less in these areas compared to its costlier siblings, the SR6008 and SR7008. Also note that I found the latter two receivers were capable of wringing much more performance from the Verus Grand system than the SR5009 could, due to their higher current capabilities–especially into low impedance loads. Those looking to use the 5009 with the Forte Tower system, however (as we did for the majority of our listening), should find the pairing satisfying in all the right ways if the upper two models are beyond reach.

Turning to the music side of things reminded me of why audiophiles looking for an A/V receiver often turn to Marantz: The SR5009 made music come alive. Much of the richness, refinement and subtlety of both complex electronic and acoustic music shone through in ways similar to a good, two-channel, purist audiophile amp. In my review of the SR6007, I wrote, “The Marantz seemed to take just enough edge off of older, harsh-sounding rock albums, like AC/DC’s Back in Black or Stone Temple Pilots’ Purple, while still delivering all of the punchiness in the bass and all of the dynamic range when called for.” While there were less bass punch and dynamics compared to the 6007 as expected, listening to those same albums via the SR5009 showed the lower-priced receiver’s spectral balance to be quite similar to its big brother, with less low end grunt, midrange clarity and transient snap overall.

The differences between the 6007 and the 5009 became more noticeable once I listened to the 1st Movement from Michael Tilson Thomas and San Francisco Orchestra’s SACD of Mahler: Symphony No. 1. Here, the larger receiver made brass and woodwinds in particular sound more texturally and tonally complete, with better harmonic development and detail rendering. Still, the SR5009 allowed the music’s gestalt to come through in a highly believable fashion, and delivered noticeably more of it than many other receivers in its price range.
_blank”>SR5009’s price range would be hard pressed to find a more musically compelling option.

I also got a chance to try out the 5009’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Airplay features with my iPhone 4, NuForce’s surprisingly good BT-860 headphones, and Arcam’s AirDAC D/A converter. The Marantz connected to all of my devices quickly and seamlessly, every time. Its AirPlay quality was particularly noteworthy, serving up the musical goods without any of the treble etch, midrange glare or grain endemic to some earlier AirPlay-equipped gear from other brands.

Conclusion

Having used Marantz’ excellent and understated NR1602 with the Verus Forte Tower system for a few years now, I wasn’t sure if I would appreciate the differences the SR5009 brought to the party. But after living with it for over a month, I’m quite enthusiastic about all the ways the Marantz SR5009 improved my system. It’s noticeably better than their 1600-series slimline models, and with an MSRP of $899, it’s a pretty good value to boot. What’s more, the inclusion of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, ease of setup and un-hyped yet refined performance chops makes it a fine addition to the increasingly crowded, sub-thousand dollar receiver category.

Still, no circa $1k receiver can do it all, including the SR5009. Those with extremely large, demanding speakers, or those looking for next-level two-channel refinement, will find that the SR6008 or SR7008 better fits their needs. But if sound quality is your top priority in an upper three-figure receiver, few in the SR5009’s price range can match it on musical grounds. If you’re in the market for a performance-oriented receiver under a grand, be sure to put the Marantz SR5009 on your short list.

 

Oliver Amnuayphol is a independent Writer-at-Large with nearly 20 years of audio and home theater industry experience. He currently works as a reviewer for several publications, including The Soundstage! Network and Digital Trends. Find him on Twitter at: (@valvesnvinyl). 



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