The A/V receiver market is hotter than ever, with nearly every manufacturer from the high end on down offering an all-in-one feature-laden, HDMI-loaded solution for consumers. Yet the larger consumer brands, such as Sony, Denon and Marantz, to name a few, are able to do what many of the smaller or even higher-end brands cannot: keep performance high and costs low. In the case of the Marantz SR6003 A/V receiver, the performance is off the charts and the retail price, $999, is phenomenal, considering that less than a year ago, a similar receiver, even from Marantz, would have been twice as much.
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The SR6003 takes its styling cues from the new Marantz AV8003 processor, in that it is crazy, sexy, cool and built like a brick well-you-get-the-idea. The SR6003 is stunning, with its black on black textured façade accented by its symmetrical tuning and volume knobs and clear-as-day FL display. The SR6003's manual controls are conveniently hidden from view behind a standard trapdoor and the normally obnoxious NASCAR-style logo lineup rests not on the face of the SR6003, but along the top edge. The slightly curved edges of the SR6003 look phenomenal in a custom rack configuration, such as a Middle Atlantic rack putting the SR6003 in the looks department next to Classe, Krell and Mark Levinson. Another thing you'll immediately notice about the SR6003 in terms of looks is its overall dimensions, which are compact, to say the least, measuring a little over 17 inches wide by nearly seven inches tall and 15 inches deep. The SR6003 weighs a total of 29 pounds, making it easy to fit and maneuver into spaces where few receivers can go.
Around back, the SR6003 is cleanly and uniformly laid out, with the usual list of legacy and digital inputs and features. The SR6003 is a seven-channel receiver, yet there are nine speaker inputs and two sets of main speaker binding posts, labeled Front A and B. The SR6003 puts out a robust 100 watts per channel across all channels, so unless you have a massive room or hugely inefficient speakers, you should be good to go. If more power is what you crave, the SR6003 has a full set of 7.1 preamp outs for use with an outboard amplifier. The SR6003 has three HDMI 1.3a inputs and two HDMI 1.3a monitor outs. All legacy video connections, whether analog SD or HD, can be converted and/or upsampled to digital 1080p via the SR6003's HDMI monitor out(s). The dual HDMI outs are a hugely beneficial feature, though the SR6003 cannot output two HDMI monitor streams simultaneously, but toggling between outputs one and two is simple and straightforward. Other notable features located on the SR6003's back panel include RS-232C support and Sirius and XM satellite radio inputs, as well as dual 120-volt AC outlets and a detachable power cord.
Under the hood, the SR6003 is as full-featured as they come, especially considering its sub-$1,000 asking price. For starters, the SR6003 has both Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio capabilities, not to mention support for countless other surround sound formats. The SR6003 features Audyssey's latest MultiEQ calibration and room correction software, which seems to get better with every inception, with the SR6003's version being among the best yet. The SR6003 features a 10-bit video converter to help scale SD and HD sources to its HDMI monitor outs. I have to assume the SR6003's video processor is either proprietary or an OEM design for Marantz, since there is no mention of an Anchor Bay, Gennum or Faroudja-based chip set. While it's not uncommon to find a third-party video processor in a receiver costing a grand or so, the unnamed processor found in the SR6003 is more than capable when it comes to performance. Lastly, the SR6003 features a front-mounted (albeit behind the trap door) USB port for use with portable music devices, such as iPods.
This brings me to the SR6003's remote. The shape and size of the SR6003's remote is good and a departure from the usual bigger than thou remotes found on similar receivers. The buttons are a bit on the small side, though they are fully backlit via the touch of a button. There is a small LCD screen at the top of the remote, letting you know what function and/or features you are accessing, but all controls are hard buttons. All in all, I like the remote and consider it a class leader, though it is hugely directional and not very powerful at a distance.
Installing the SR6003 into my reference system was about as easy as one could hope it would be. I was an HDMI input short, so I had to skip connecting my Toshiba HD DVD player for the time being. I could have connected it via a set of component cables and analog audio cables, but I've barely used it in the past six months, so I didn't bother. Due to the SR6003's rear panel layout, cable clutter is kept to a minimum, and the shallow, compact chassis is a huge benefit, even though I have the room to accommodate much larger components.
The onscreen GUI (graphic user interface) is superb and intuitive and negates the need for the manual altogether. The SR6003 responded promptly to remote commands, provided I was within a clear line of sight, and the Audyssey EQ process was a snap. The SR6003 bested my former reference receiver, the Onkyo 805, in terms of set-up ease and simplicity by a wide margin.
I kicked off my evaluation of the SR6003 with some music, though I bypassed traditional CDs, opting instead for the Blu-ray release of John Mayer's Where the Light Is: Live in Los Angeles (Columbia). I set the disc's internal audio settings to stereo and cued up the track "In Your Atmosphere," which features Mayer flying solo with his acoustic guitar. The SR6003's two-channel music performance was superb and had me grinning ear to ear at just how astounding the sound quality was. Mayer's vocals were rich, warm and carried an appropriate amount of weight and air, making for a very believable and dimensional performance. The solo guitar was lifelike in size and had a sort of sonic "oneness" I don't normally associate with receivers in the SR6003's price range. The SR6003 isn't bright or punchy the way a Yamaha or Sony receiver is, nor is it dark-sounding like an Onkyo. The SR6003 definitely has a sound, though I found it to be somewhat middle of the road compared to other receivers, which suited me just fine. It is among the more analog and old-school-sounding receivers I've come across, though has enough spank on tap to surprise you. Spatially, especially for stereo playback, the SR6003 proved to be a juggernaut. The soundstage width and depth was impressive and at times created a nearly surround sound performance in its own right.
Continue reading about the SR6003 AV receiver strengths and weaknesses on Page 2.