Marantz is a weird brand. I mean that in a good way, of course. I like weird. And I especially love this sort of weird. What makes Marantz a bit of an oddball in the consumer electronics industry? In my opinion, it's the company's magical ability to not be contained by the little boxes we draw around most manufacturers. Marantz AV receivers and surround processors manage to appeal to both mainstream, big-box-store audiences and audiophiles alike. They're consumer friendly, yet they're also a serious favorite amongst custom installers. Whether you end up buying an Onkyo, an Arcam, or something in between, a Marantz equivalent was almost certainly on your short list of potential buys.
If you're in the market right now for a 9.2-channel AV receiver with 11.2-channel processing, oodles of inputs, easy setup, intuitive multiroom capabilities, Alexa integration, and great performance, the company's new SR6012 receiver with HEOS should definitely be on your to-audition list.
The $1,499 SR6012 sits comfortably in the middle of Marantz's current full-sized receiver lineup, offering a pretty substantial upgrade over the $999 SR5012, thanks to its nine powered channels (versus seven), more powerful amps (110 watts per channel into eight ohms, measured full range with two channels driven at 0.08 percent THD-- versus 100wpc for the SR5012, measured the same), object-based format decoding, and 11.2-channel processing capabilities. On its own, without the addition of separate amps, the SR6012 will get you up to 5.1.4 or 7.1.2. What does it lack compared with the step-up $2,199 SR7012? Mostly just Auro 3D support, as well as more robust amplification.
The SR6012 offers plenty of features to be excited about, including eight HDMI inputs and three HDMI outputs with full HDCP 2.2 support, BT.2020, Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log Gamma pass-through, and eARC capabilities; two component video inputs (no, seriously) and a component video output (I know!); multichannel analog audio ins and full 11.2-channel pre-amp outputs; built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi; IP, RS-232, IR, and even RCA connections for control input and output; and of course Marantz's HDAM (Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Module) technology and current-feedback topology.
All of this is wrapped up in a chassis that's undeniably Marantz, from the elegantly beveled façade to the tiny but gorgeous porthole front-panel display to the meticulously organized and intuitive back panel, which shares a ton of DNA with similar offerings from Marantz's sister company Denon.
I won't spend a ton of time on the back panel and its I/O array, if only because we have so much else to talk about. As has become the trend, the SR6012's binding posts are laid out horizontally, which makes speaker hookup a breeze--regardless of whether you're using plugs, spades, or bare wires. Advanced control integration is also a snap, at least with Control4, since the SR6012 is supported by a super-swank SDDP IP driver that gives nuts-and-bolts access to the sorts of parameters that most AV receivers would never let you touch (like volume-ramp delays, for instance).
If you've installed and configured a Denon or Marantz receiver in the past few years, you'll almost certainly be familiar with the screens that greet you once you connect the receiver to a display and turn it on. The wizard walks you through everything from speaker hookup to input configuration in the clearest and most concise way imaginable, except for a few ambiguous questions that aren't that hard to sort out in the end. For example, when asked if I was using height speakers in my setup, I selected yes, not realizing that this question pertains only to actual physical speakers installed in-ceiling. I should have selected no and answered yes to the next question about Atmos effects modules, but it was easy enough to back up and correct my response.
Once you're done with that (or once you skip it, should you choose to jump directly to manual setup), you're greeted with all manner of in-depth settings, the likes of which we're seeing fewer and fewer of these days. You can, for example, set video scaling parameters, switch from fixed to relative volume readout, set a power-on loudness level, and set a relative mute level... and all of it is intuitively named and located right where you would expect it to be. If you happen to come across a feature whose function you're unsure of, there's usually a brief but thorough explanation along the bottom of the screen when you highlight any particular option.
The receiver also supports HEOS multiroom audio technology, for which you'll need to download the applicable app and set up an account. (I'll be covering HEOS in depth in a separate review of HEOS speakers, so I'm not going to focus on it much here.) If you don't use HEOS, there's still Bluetooth and Spotify Connect capabilities, both of which are simple to configure and work flawlessly.
What I really want to dig into in this section is room correction. The SR6012 features Audyssey MultEQ XT32, with LFC, Sub EQ HT, Dynamic Volume, and Dynamic EQ--all of which adds up to what's known as Audyssey Platinum. The SR6012 ships with the witch-hat Audyssey mic that you're likely already familiar with, but it also comes a cardboard mic stand for those of you who don't have a tripod for use with the mic. I do have a tripod, but I still decided to give the cardboard stand a go for my eight-point measurements and found it to be a very welcome bonus. The stand assembly couldn't be any easier; and, using the notches on the side of the stand, I was able to adjust the mic to ear height in seconds. This an incredibly welcomed addition to the package.
You have two options for how to run the measurements required for Audyssey to do its thing: either via the receiver's onscreen UI or via the new Audyssey MultEQ Editor app for iOS and Android devices. Just know that if you run Audyssey via the onscreen UI and decide to upgrade to the app experience, you'll have to run all of your measurements again. The app does cost $19.99, mind you, which might be a deterrent to some consumers; but, in my experience, it's completely worth it. My reason for saying so boils down to pretty much one reason: using the app, you can set an upper limit to Audyssey's filter frequency range. There are other settings you can tweak from within the app that aren't accessible via the receiver's onscreen interface--such as Midrange Compensation (aka the BBC Dip), which you can disable per speaker pair (or individually for the center speaker). You can also tweak target curves via the app, although it's not easy to do on the small screen of a phone. In tweaking the curve, you can't see the averaged in-room response of your speakers, so it's not the most helpful thing in the world.
On the other hand, the ability to set a maximum filter frequency addresses the single biggest beef I've had with Audyssey in the past, and the audible difference it makes, at least in my system, is monumental. In setting up the system in my room--in which I relied on Focal's Sib Evo Atmos 5.1.2 speaker system throughout the review--I settled on a max filter frequency of 600 Hz for the fronts and center, 800 Hz for the surrounds (which were a little close to a boundary and needed a little more help), and no upper limit on the up-firing Atmos effects modules built into the speakers.
Compared with an earlier setup (via the receiver's UI alone) in which I had no choice but to let Audyssey do its thing from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, this filter-limited configuration sounded more open, less sterile, and less constrained. To put it simply, the speakers still sounded like themselves.
The bass, though. Oh my, y'all! MultEQ XT32 worked absolute miracles with the bass in my room (coming from a pair of RSL Speedwoofer 10S subs, not the Focal sub that ships with the Sib Evo system), which is exactly what a good digital room correction system should do.
A great example of what a spectacular job the SR6012 does with bass, with MultEQ XT32 configured as I configured it, comes roughly four minutes and 10 seconds into Baby Driver (roughly 3:25 into the truncated YouTube clip below) on UHD Blu-ray.
There's this spectacular bass drop plopped right into the middle of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosions' "Bellbottoms," which is timed to sync with Baby's first truly spectacular driving stunt.
To really get a sense of what's going on here, you need to listen to that scene three times: once with no room correction, once with Audyssey configured automatically and run full range, and once with upper frequency limits set on its filters via the Editor app. In the first scenario, what you get is an utter bloated mess when that bass drops. Walls shake. Rafters rattle. It's just not pretty. In the second scenario, bass is beautifully controlled, but the rest of the soundtrack is a little limited. Somewhat compressed. Not quite natural. Not as open and spacious as it could be. In the third scenario, with filters applied up to the points I mentioned above, all I'm hearing out of this receiver is sheer sonic perfection for a product at this price point. Like, seriously, you couldn't ask for better. Music is delivered with a rich sweetness, and even the subtlest of details (like Ansel Elgort's finger-tap drumming on his head and the side of his car and the nicely blended overhead effects of the UHD BD's Atmos soundtrack) ring through beautifully. The SR6012 also proves itself to be appreciably dynamic. And that aforementioned bass drop is rendered exquisitely, barreling through the floor and bopping back up to punch you square in the tasty bits, without ever feeling like it's any danger to the fundamental architecture of the room.
I did, by the way, try toggling on Audyssey's LFC (low frequency containment, which purports to keep deep bass from leaking out of the room you're in, while replacing its effects psychoacoustically), but I found that it pretty much nipped the gut punch of that bass drop right in the bud, so I toggled it off and left it off for the rest of my evaluation.
Curious how the SR6012 would handle something a little less bombastic, I popped in an old favorite in the form of Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are on Blu-ray. Chapter six, in particular, makes a fantastic test of the receiver's capabilities, especially in the way that it shifts from a quiet, dialogue-driven scene to a wild rumpus. The early bits are plenty impressive, especially in the way the Marantz renders the ambient sounds of the forest. There's a real depth to the soundfield here. A genuine sense of space and environment.
When the aforementioned rumpus starts, there's a fine line between controlled chaos and outright cacophony, a line I've heard any number of receivers stomp all over. So packed is the mix that any imprecision in timing or egregious tonal coloration really turns the soundscape into a blurry, murky mess. The SR6012 handles itself beautifully, though. With the hoots and hollers, yes, but also with Karen O's dense and mischievous soundtrack, as well as the percussive beat of Wild Things stomping through the woods.
Looking back through my notes taken during the rest of the film ... well, there just aren't any. Truth be told, that's largely because I just forgot to take them, caught up as I was in the movie itself. There's an effortlessness to the SR6012's performance that makes it easy to kind of forget. That's a good thing, by the way. I did, at a few points during the film, push the volume knob way past the point of comfort to try and make the amps clip or fault protection engage, but even at loudness levels I couldn't tolerate for long, the receiver maintained its composure and intelligibility.
All that said, where the Marantz SR6012 really excels, in my experience, is with plain old two-channel music. Free from any additional processing, any surround enhancements, any tinkering of any sort, it delivers the sort of deep, wide, dimensional soundstage that some people like to imagine can only come from dedicated stereo gear. Again, here I find a huge hole in my notes--mostly because I spent days trying to make objective observations but getting lost in the process. I was sucked into some of my favorite recordings in a way I just didn't expect. The SR6012 rocks. It swings. It saunters. It sings. But most of all, it just gets the hell out of the way and lets the recording do its thing.
One really fine example of this is "The Theme from Schindler's List" by John Williams (from the original Geffen Records CD release of the soundtrack). The SR6012 downright nails the timbres of Itzhak Perlman's haunting violin solos, but more spectacular than that is the way it renders the environment in which the score was recorded. And not merely in its succinct delivery of the tiniest details (subtle background noises, etc.) but also in the depth of the soundstage. There are seemingly endless layers of music here, woven in and around one another, some protruding, some receding--and the Marantz delivers each and every one of those layers perfectly intact. This is yet another case where the slightest imprecision in timing would cause the delicate tapestry to fall apart. It never did with the Marantz--and at any volume from whisper-quiet to I-hope-the-neighbors-don't-call-the-police, it maintained its richness and depth unimpeachably.
Aside from the fact that you really have to drop an extra 20 clams on the Audyssey MultEQ Editor app to get the most out of Marantz's SR6012 receiver, there's very little to complain about here in terms of performance or day-to-day use.
With one noteworthy exception, that is. This thing runs hot. Way hot. Like, Africa hot. Seriously, "Steering wheel on a sunny August afternoon in Arizona" hot. Hot enough that, after a few hours of use at even moderate volumes, you can feel it raising the temperature of the room itself. Hot enough that I mistakenly accused my wife of turning the central heating on before the calendar struck November (a major no-no).
If my review sample is typical of the model, under no circumstances should you consider rack-mounting the SR6012 without sufficient active cooling. Even with seven inches of free space to either side of the receiver, nine inches behind it, and all the room in the world overhead, I still worried about overheating it. Mind you, it's only fair that I reiterate the fact that I never did push the receiver into fault protection mode. Hot as it ran, it seemed to be perfectly comfortable doing so, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me worry about reliability in the long run.
The SR6012 is supposed to work with Alexa, via the HEOS platform. Setting up the integration of the receiver and Alexa requires that you first set up HEOS, create an account, name your device, and add the appropriate skill via the Alexa app. Unfortunately, I couldn't get Alexa functionality to work here. I tried a few different names for the receiver (Marantz, bedroom, bedroom receiver, SR6012, just to name a few), and Alexa acts like she understands the command. I get an "okay!" confirmation, but the receiver itself never responds. This might be a minor point for now, to be sure, since Alexa functionality is still limited to on/off, volume, mute, and input commands for the most part. However, as new features are added (direct voice access to specific apps, etc.), I think a good number of customers will want the Alexa integration to work well.
Comparison and Competition
Without a doubt, the Marantz SR6012's closest competitor at this point comes in the form of the Denon AVR-X4400H, a similarly priced (plus or minus $100-ish) receiver that shares the same platform and much the same connectivity. There are differences between the two, though. In place of the Marantz's 7.1-channel analog audio inputs, for instance, the Denon subs in zone two and three analog audio outputs. The Marantz also features much nicer binding posts and gold-plated connections for all its ins and outs. And it should go without saying that there are differences in the analog output stages of the two receivers.
The Pioneer Elite SC-LX701 9.2-channel receiver also comes in at a similar price, depending on where you shop. It features slightly more power and should run substantially cooler, but in terms of inputs and outputs it's relatively similar. There's an extra optical input on the Pioneer Elite, but no multichannel analog audio ins. The Elite also lacks the nice binding posts of the Marantz, as well as their accessible layout. As far as I can tell, the Pioneer lacks Spotify Connect functionality, but it does support Chromecast via a firmware update. Unfortunately, it's been ages since I played around with Pioneer's MCACC room correction software, so I can't make any valid comparisons there.
Yamaha's RX-A2070 is another serious contender around this price point. Its MusicCast multiroom system is a reasonable alternative to Marantz's HEOS, and it too features Spotify Connect. Yamaha does rate its amps as a bit more powerful than does Marantz, but I would view such claims with a skeptical eye since Yamaha tends to be a bit more liberal with its own ratings, in my experience. Curiously, the RX-A2070's pre-amp outputs don't extend beyond the channel count capabilities of its speaker binding posts. Either way, you're only getting 5.1.4 or 7.1.2.
The above list reflects the objective comparisons, price-wise, that come to my mind. Subjectively, though, I'd put the Marantz SR6012 receiver in a performance class with the likes of Anthem's third-generation receiver lineup. Maybe somewhere between the $2,499 MRX 720 and the $3,499 MRX 1120, or at least close enough to that imaginary target that the comparison isn't ridiculous.
And that's really due in large part to the new Audyssey MultEQ Editor app, which allows you to make the sort of tweaks to Audyssey that were formerly only available to professionals. The ability to set a maximum filter frequency is--as much as I hate this phrase--a game-changer, since it allows you to use room correction to fix low-frequency problems without changing the overall timbre of your speaker system.
Of course, the best room correction system in the world wouldn't be able to make up for bad processing, preamplification, and amplification, so it's a major plus that the Marantz really shines in all three departments. I've absolutely fallen in love with its performance with movies; my feelings toward its two-channel music performance would be more aptly described as lust.
• Visit the Marantz website