AudioQuest NightOwl

MARANTZ

NR1200 Stereo Receiver Review

The Marantz NR1200 has great connectivity and produces a smooth and rich sound.

PRICE


$599

THE HIGH NOTES


  • Great Connectivity
  • Smooth Rich Sound
  • A New Age Receiver

Company & Product Overview

When Saul Marantz founded the Marantz brand over 60 years ago now, his main goal was to produce the best possible stereo experience. Those original Marantz components, if you are lucky enough to be able to find them, command prices in the audio stratosphere now as they have become very collectible. Even the Saul Marantz designed stereo receivers of the late 1960s and 1970s go for thousands of dollars today in good condition.

Fast forward to 2019 and you’ll find Marantz making a wide variety of home audio and home theater components. However, unlike some brands, who have just focused on home theater, Marantz also still has several models dedicated to two-channel home stereo in the form of integrated amplifiers and separate audio components. This part of the Marantz design team still cares a great deal about upholding the tradition of their founder in making audio gear that not only sounds good but makes you want to listen to more and more music.

Today’s review is on the brand new Marantz NR1200 two-channel HiFi product. It is a stereo receiver and is the first new stereo receiver from Marantz in almost 10 years. Marantz calls it a 2 channel slim stereo receiver.

Design & Build Quality

The Marantz design team had been noticing a trend over the last 3-4 years of a new breed of consumers who did not care that much about surround sound and were more focused on systems with turntables and streaming music in good old fashioned stereo. However, they were also noticing these same people wanted an easy way to tie in their stereo system into their TV to greatly improve the sound of those terrible TV speakers.

To do this with a regular two-channel amp or stereo receiver can be a little tricky. Interestingly, Marantz has a team that concentrates on making great two-channel only gear at the higher end, and another team who designs the home theater products that are loaded with all kinds of great features. A light bulb went off that if they combined the expertise of both of these teams, they could create something pretty interesting.

Marantz took the chassis of their slimline home theater receivers for the Marantz NR1200 but decided to put the focus on making it sound as good as possible. The result is pretty cool! This new slimline receiver is the standard audio component width of about 17” but only sits about 4” tall and has 14” of depth. Don’t let the small size fool you though, it weighs in at about 18 pounds, mostly due to its beefy power supply.

Build quality is very similar to the NR home theater series with nice gold binding posts on the back that can accept bare wire or a banana plug and solid connections for inputs. Power is rated at 75 watts per channel and unlike many brands that have gone to quoting power at a high distortion rate and not across the full audio band (think at 1,000 Hz and 1% distortion), they spec it at .08% THD and from 20Hz to 20kHz and at 8 ohms. We like their honest power spec a lot!

Marantz NR1200 Stereo Receiver Front

Features & Technology

The Marantz NR1200 shares almost all of the same features as you’ll find in the great Marantz home theater receivers. Connectivity on the video side gives you 5 HDMI inputs and an audio return channel output to your display. These HDMI inputs all support the latest in HDMI.

There is both an optical and coax digital input, and you’ll have 3 analog inputs. Since this is a two-channel unit, Marantz wanted to include a great phono stage, so they gave it the same one you’ll find in their $1.5k SR6014 which uses their HDAM tech giving you much better sound from your turntable (moving magnet cartridges only) than the cheaper opamp based phono stages you find in some units.

You’ll be able to run a second pair of speakers with the Marantz NR1200 as it has both speakers A and B, plus you even have the option of adding a bigger a power amp later with its preamp out jacks on the rear.

We love the fact you also get two subwoofer outs and a zone 2 preamp out for a second room. Finally, the backside has an ethernet connection, Marantz’s dual antenna system for both WiFi and Bluetooth and an input for an FM antenna.

Marantz NR1200 Stereo Receiver Back

Moving on to the front panel, you’ll find a nice display centered between the selector and volume knobs. We did have one complaint on the prototype we received and felt the volume knob felt a little flimsy, but everything else felt very solid.

The front panel also gives you one more input with a USB connection for a USB stick or drive, and its made for Apple products as well. A full-sized headphone jack, with a dedicated internal headphone amp, sits just under the selector knob.

In the center are 8 tiny buttons that give you zone 2 control, tuner presets, a dim feature for the display, status, and sound mode. Under these are three knobs that are a throwback to the days of old Marantz integrated amps with a balance, bass, and treble control.

Obviously, you get far more input/output flexibility than your typical two-channel stereo receiver with the Marantz NR1200, but it does not end there.

Marantz NR1200 Stereo Receiver Front

The DAC’s inside the Marantz NR1200 supports Hi-Res Audio with the ability to do 24 bit/192-kHz files plus DSD up to 5.6MHz. These are the same DAC’s featured in their higher-end AVR’s, but since they are only being asked to do two-channel stereo, Marantz says they were able to squeeze more performance out of them. Marantz also spent a lot of design time on the power amp section of the NR1200. It is essentially a dual mono design with most of the same parts used in their bigger PM7005 $1k integrated amp.

From a network standpoint, you’ll not find the Marantz NR1200 lacking in much at all. It works with both Alexa and Google Assistant and has Heos built-in which is a streaming platform that supports all of the major streaming services. Throw in AirPlay and Bluetooth and you have a complete package of ways other than the rear jacks to get sound into this cool receiver.

You can even set it up so the major functions are controlled with your TV remote and if you are an XBOX One gamer, it includes the new ALLM (automatic low latency mode) feature for a more responsive gaming experience with the new TV’s that support ALLM.

New in most of the Marantz home theater receivers this year is the ability to watch one thing while listening to another. This is also present in the slim stereo receiver NR1200. And if you like to just use the web to set things up, it has a Web UI interface for just this feature.

As you can see, Marantz created a two-channel receiver with all of the features you could ever desire from a high-end home theater receiver. The question is, did they pull it off, giving a great sound to satisfy our audiophile ears, while offering up everything needed to keep a techy happy?

 

Performance

We pulled the prototype Marantz NR1200 out of the box and were raring to give it a whirl. It was really clear this was a pre-production unit with the big blue sticker on it saying “NOT FOR SALE”. After turning it on, we were a bit frustrated at first as you can not make the NR1200 play without pulling out the remote and telling it you don’t want to set things up on the TV. You’ll not be able to get past “go” without pushing the select button on the remote to exit the setup menu that comes up when you turn it on for the first time. This is similar to the Marantz home theater receivers, but not something we were expecting from a 2 channel product. But when we thought about all of its features, it makes sense.

The Marantz design team had told us a lot of time was spent fine-tuning the actual audio components used in the Marantz NR1200 to get the best sound, so we let it warm up a bit before beginning to listen.

While we were waiting, we played around with some of the setup features. We really liked the way you can dial in the distances, as the Marantz NR1200 will let you tell it the distance from your subs and main speakers down to .1 foot. The crossover to the sub can also be set in 10Hz increments rather than just large or small. Marantz has this circuit called M-DAX designed to improve the sound of low-resolution audio files, and we loved the fact you can defeat it for a purer sound. And speaking of “pure sound”, there are three audio listening modes. The first is called “Stereo” which will allow operation of the tone controls and M-DAX if you have it on. The next is “Pure” which defeats the M-DAX and tone control circuitry. The final one is “Pure Direct” which turns off all of the display circuitry in the NR1200 for that last nuance of noise reduction. You also have the ability to defeat the subwoofer out on the fly if you wish, using the handheld remote. If you are in Stereo, you can also adjust the tone controls from the remote.

We connected the Marantz NR1200 to a pair of B&W 603’s, an $1800 pair of tower speakers. These are overkill for the typical use case of a $599 stereo receiver, but we wanted to check out the dynamic potential of this receiver. The first cut we played was from Patricia Barber’s Cafe Blue album. The Marantz receiver had very silky highs and portrayed a great stereo image with the B&W’s. Next, we tried some driving bass on an old Best of Fleetwood Mac CD. Bass was tight but not as dynamic as we have heard on some more expensive integrated amps on these speakers. Of course, our comparison was a $1500 British integrated, a little unfair. At this point, we changed out the speakers to an easier to drive Paradigm tower, the SE3000’s at about $700/pr. We felt these were a better match for the Marantz and had a great musical experience for about 30 minutes listening. Switching over to a Rega P3 to test out the phono stage proved to also be a good experience. What did stand out after this amount of time, was not one hint of hardness or strain, which means you’ll be able to enjoy the sound of this receiver for hours, something you do not always find in this price range.

Our conclusion after listening is Marantz has done a great job integrating all the features you need for today’s world of music streaming, gaming, TV, voice control, and enjoying music into one slim, complete package.

Overall Recommendation

If your system needs the ability to combine music streaming, audio, and you want to coordinate all this with your TV and not break the bank, the NR1200 is by far and away from the best choice we know of under $1000 that combines all of these features into one unit. We loved all of the flexibility Marantz has packed into this unit. You can probably find a stereo analog-only integrated amp for around the same price that will outperform it, but there is no way, you’ll find anything with the connectivity, feature set and cool use features of the Marantz anywhere near its great price of $599. It's truly a stereo receiver for the modern, budget music and video lover.

HIGH NOTES UNPACKED

Marantz SR1200 High Note 1

Great Connectivity

A stereo receiver with lots of digital, HDMI, phono and even dual subwoofer out. Pretty impressive!

Marantz SR1200 High Note 2

Smooth Rich Sound

We found we could listen to the NR1200 for a long time with no sense of fatigue, which is unusual at this price point with so many features.

Marantz SR1200 High Note 3

A New Age Receiver

Today’s world demands voice control, music streaming, TV connectivity, and good old analog. Marantz has fulfilled all of these needs at a very modest price point while concentrating on great sound!

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