As a home theater enthusiast and writer I am often asked by friends and associates for advice on selecting the best AV gear. When considering what components would best suit the needs of whoever is asking, I ask that person a few questions to find out what their needs and desires are. Recently, it seems like a large percentage of those asking about a home theater receiver want a unit that is "not expensive" and that can fit into a relatively small location that was not originally designed to house audio gear. Most people are not concerned about having all of the latest bells and whistles but want to make sure that whatever they buy will work with the new formats and into the foreseeable future with their iPods and high definition video sources. Finding all of these properties in a single component can be challenging.
As all of our readers know, or should know, no component is perfect; choices and compromises are made in the design and production of any component based upon a set of priorities determined by the manufacturer of that component. Throw in every available feature and have a large expensive box? Strip it down to the bare minimum and charge a pittance? Where along the continuum do you place your product? Marantz has done a commendable job in balancing the priorities listed above and picking a spot on the features size/price continuum with their new NR1501 "Slimline" receiver. The NR1501 is priced at $599 which is on the lower side of the mass market, full featured A/V receiver price range. The Slimline receiver was designed to address the demand for a receiver that can fit into smaller spaces without sacrificing key features. The NR1501 measures 17 3/8 inches wide, 4 3/16 inches high and 14 ½ inches deep. The front panel features Marantz's new curved panel design that has a large display front and center, flanked by two large knobs to the sides. Under the display are control buttons, a headphone output, setup microphone and an auxiliary input. The outer portions of the front panel are gently curved back for an attractive, modern look. Most people will immediately notice the relatively slim front profile, but even more importantly to many of the space challenged installs I have seen recently is the reduced depth of 14 ½ inches. Most receivers are deeper and this can pose problems if the installation is on a shelf or cabinet that is not designed for audio gear. Simply put, this receiver fits where others will not.
Hooray for the small form factor. However, there are other small form factor receivers and if the Marantz NR1501 cannot deliver the goods, it really does not matter how small or attractive the enclosure is. The NR1501 features a 7 channel, 50 Watts per channel amplifier, (4) HDMI 1.3 inputs, (3) each composite and Component Video inputs, (5) analog audio inputs and (3) digital audio inputs as well as a 1/8 inch stereo auxiliary input for iPods or other portable devices. The receiver can convert analog video to HDMI so that only a single HDMI cable needs to be run to your television. Also included is Marantz's MRAC setup and room calibration system. Additional audio capabilities include HDCD, dts-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD decoding and 192 kHz / 24 bit capable DACs on all channels. What's missing? There are no S-Video capabilities, satellite radio, multi-channel inputs or outputs, multi-room capabilities, 12v triggers, networking or USB capabilities. While some users in the targeted demographic may miss these features, most will not.
Comparison and Competition
Compare the Marantz NR1501 against some of its competition by reading our reviews for the Denon AVR-789 HDMI receiver and the Harman Kardon AVR 354 AV receiver. If you are interested in learning more about Marantz products please read our reviews of the Marantz SR 5003 AV receiver and the Marantz UD5005 Blu-ray player. Learn more about Marantz by visiting our Marantz brand page.
Read about the high points and the low points of the NR1501 on Page 2.
• The Marantz NR1501's small form factor allows it to fit where others cannot.
• Video conversion of composite and component video signals to HDMI allows for a single cable connection to your television.
• Marantz's MRAC system made setup very easy for those not intimately familiar with the process.
• The sound quality of this unit is refined and compares well with other similarly priced units.
• The unit can not accept digital files via USB like some other receivers and AV preamps in the market today.
• As streaming services, satellite and Internet radio are growing in
popularity it would be nice to be able to receive these signals as well.
• Some would suggest no HDMI 1.4 is a downside so it should be said,
but at this point I really believe HDMI 1.3 is cutting edge and 1.4/3D
is "vapor ware" in the marketplace.
The Marantz NR1501 price and form factor make it an attractive choice
for the casual buyer. Its capabilities make it a solid choice for those
seeking a high performing product. While the NR1501 can easily serve as
the hub for the vast majority of home theater systems, it is not for
every system. If you need some of the features that this unit does not
have such as S-video capabilities, networking or multi-room
capabilities or if you need a powerful amplifier that can drive less
efficient speakers you will need to look elsewhere.
I have personally purchased this unit for my mother's system. She
needed a unit that would fit in a smallish cabinet, accept her HDMI and
legacy sources, and be easy to use. This unit easily met her needs.
While audio quality is not as critical for her needs, I have spent a
good deal of time listening to her system and can report that the
NR1501 maintains Marantz's tradition of high quality audio and competes
well with other similarly priced units and sounds better than the other
sub $1,000 small form factor receivers.
I can easily recommend Marantz's NR1501 to anyone who is looking for
a receiver with this feature set regardless of form factor. This
receiver has been an easy to use, solid performer that is capable of
playing the star role in moderate sized systems that can be found in
most people's homes.