Over the past few years, we’ve almost started to take for granted that new features appearing on the most recent Marantz AVRs would, at some point, trickle backward to previous years’ models. It happened with eARC and AirPlay 2. It happened, a little more slowly and selectively, with IMAX Enhanced. The Marantz SR6014 and its kin in the company’s 2019 AVR lineup, though, seem to be a bit of a break from this tradition.
New to the SR6014, the SR5014, and the slim NR1710, and exclusive to those models in the Marantz lineup for now, is a technology called Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, which allows you to experience Dolby Atmos soundtracks without the need for overhead speakers or Atmos effects modules. (The tech also appeared on new AVRs from Pioneer, including the recently reviewed VSX-LX504, though it wasn’t available on that model until a firmware update that dropped after I finished my review.)
Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization is, in effect, similar to DTS Virtual:X, which did appear on last year’s Marantz AVRs, including the predecessor to the SR6014, the SR6013. Interestingly, while you cannot apply Virtual:X to Dolby-encoded audio, you can apply Dolby Surround (and hence Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization) to DTS-encoded audio.
Oh, and you can now use Spotify Connect with a free Spotify account.
Other than that, things remain largely consistent from SR6013 to SR6014. You still get 110 watts per channel of output with two channels driven (rated with an 8-ohm load, 20 Hz to 20 kHz, 0.08 percent THD). With more channels driven, you’ll get less output per channel, of course. Connect five speakers (not counting powered subs) and you’ll get between 75 and 80 watts per channel, assuming an 8-ohm load. Hook up all nine speakers, and the per-channel power output goes down from there.
The SR6014 features a total of eight HDMI 2.0b inputs (seven ’round back, one up front) with HDCP 2.3 (not 2.2) compliance and three HDMI outputs, one with eARC and one for Zone 2. It supports BT.2020, Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log Gamma pass-through via HDMI, and also includes two component inputs and one component out. In addition to 7.1-channel analog audio inputs, it also boasts 11.2-channel pre-amp outs. For control options, it supports IP, RS-232, and mini-jack IR in.
In addition to the Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization discussed above, a couple of new features are worth noting: With past years’ models, I don’t remember being able to assign the same HDMI input to multiple sources. If that was added at a later date via firmware, I might have missed it. But with the SR6014, out of the box, you can use the same HDMI video input for multiple sources. Say, if you want to watch the video from your satellite or cable box while listening to analog or optical/coaxial audio from your CD player, you can do so. Also new is automatic HDMI input re-naming, assuming the source supports it.
The specs for the SR6014 also list Bluetooth Headphone Transmission as a feature, meaning you’ll be able to beam audio from the receiver to your wireless headphones, which is a handy addition. Or, it will be once it’s enabled via firmware late in 2019.
Of course, comparisons with previous years’ models may not be super helpful if you’re just shopping for a new AVR. So, it’s worth pointing out what the $1,499 SR6014 gives you that the $999 SR5014 doesn’t. In addition to more power (110 watts per channel versus 100) and more powered channels (nine versus seven), the SR6014 also features better room correction (Audyssey MultEQ XT32 versus MultEQ XT), independent level and delay controls for two subwoofers (the SR5014 treats its dual subwoofer outputs as a single out with a virtual y-splitter attached), the aforementioned Zone 2 HDMI output, the multichannel analog audio inputs also mentioned above, and 11.2-channel preamp outs (the preamp section of the SR5014 is limited to 7.2, or more accurately 7.1, given its parallel subwoofer outs).
All of these upgrades are what make the SR6014 the sweet spot purchase for most HomeTheaterReview.com readers, and by this time next year end I expect it to be one of the two best-selling receivers via our Amazon Affiliate links, alongside the semi-equivalent Denon for the latter part of 2019, which hasn’t been announced just yet but which we assume will be called the AVR-X4600H, following Denon’s standard model designation conventions.
In past years, Marantz fans might have also looked forward to an eventual step-up in the form of an SR70XX model (although maybe not, given that we never got an SR8013; Marantz sometimes skips a year at certain tiers in its lineup), with even more power per channel, a beefier power supply, and perhaps the addition of Auro 3D decoding. But Marantz has informed us that there will not be an SR7014, which leaves the SR6014, with its $1,499 price point, as the sweet spot in terms of the balance of performance, features, and value for most of our readership.
If you’ve read my reviews for previous Marantz (and, indeed, Denon) AVRs in this general performance and price range, you pretty much know exactly what to expect from the SR6014 in terms of setup, so I’ll mostly just hit the high points here, since I have a lot to say about Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization in the Performance section, and I’d rather this not turn into a 6,000-word review.
To cut right to the chase: Marantz hasn’t fundamentally changed its setup procedure much in quite some time, because it doesn’t need to. Upon firing up the receiver for the first time, you’re greeted with screens that walk you through the setup process, ask you which speakers you have, tell you where to connect them, help test those connections, and identify any problems with the physical setup of the AVR.
Physical setup is made extra easy due to the standard Marantz layout, which places all of the speaker binding posts across the bottom of the back of the cabinet, side by side, with all of the HDMI connections across the top, and ample room in between for any legacy connections you need to make. In my case, the only analog hookups were for my pair of RSL Speedwoofer 10S subs, which left a lot of room for me to work on the rest of the connections. Old as I am, and tired as my eyes are, I didn’t even need a flashlight to make the connections in my relatively dim secondary media room, which is lit by nothing more than a pair of small lamps on the other side of the room.
If I have an constructive criticism about the setup process, it’s the same criticism I’ve leveled at all recent Marantz and Denon AVRs: I do wish the setup menus did more to tell you that, hey, instead of running room correction via the GUI, you may want to go download the $20 MultEQ Editor App and run room correction via it instead, ’cause if you run it via the GUI you’re just going to have to do it from scratch if you want to use the app.
And you definitely want to use the app, because it turns Audyssey MultEQ XT32 from a solid room correction solution into a really, truly fantastic one, allowing you to establish your own target room curves, set a maximum filter frequency, and make other tweaks and adjustments that aren’t available via the GUI.
For this review, I tinkered around with a few different max filter frequency settings, but generally kept the filters below 350Hz, except with my surround speakers, where a bit of recent redecoration in this room led to some unevenness in the response just north of 500Hz. Since I couldn’t fix that with placement in short order, I set a 600Hz max filter frequency for those speakers, and noticed no deleterious effects for having done so.
One other setting worth pointing out has to do with Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, though you won’t find those words within the SR6014’s menus. Instead, within the Audio menu, under Surround Parameter, you’ll find a setting labeled Speaker Virtualizer, which can be engaged while a Dolby Atmos audio stream is playing, or if your sound mode is set to Dolby Surround or +Dolby Surround, so long as you don’t have overhead speakers connected. (It can also be used to “virtualize” surround sound speakers, but I didn’t test the unit without dedicated surrounds, so I can’t speak to the effect.)
This is going to a really weird performance analysis for me, because when you get right down to it, I don’t have anything to say about the fundamental sound of the SR6014 that I didn’t already say about the SR6012 a year and a half ago. So, you’ll forgive me if I refer you back to that review for an in-depth review of what this receiver sounds like on a fundamental level, in terms of its performance with and without Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction applied.
In short: assuming its amps have enough power to fill your room, this receiver delivers a rich, robust, powerful surround sound and stereo experience that’s more than satisfying. In my 13-by-15-foot secondary media room, the SR6014 isn’t quite powerful enough to sustain THX reference listening levels, but it easily cranked out peaks of 97dB at my main listening position roughly two meters away, driving my 87dB-sensitive RSL CG3 5.2 Home Theater Speaker System. That’s plenty enough for my tastes, and the receiver delivered audio at that level cleanly and articulately. For most of my listening, I had the volume dial turned to the left of that point another five or six decibels, purely as a matter of preference, but also in keeping with where most home cinema enthusiasts keep their dials set. (In my experience, most people in our hobby tend to listen at 10 to 12dB down from THX reference, with peaks in the neighborhood of 93 to 95dB, though your preferences may differ.)
Throughout my listening, I found bass performance to be fantastic--powerful and controlled, with equal parts authority and nimbleness. Dialogue was perfectly intelligible, soundstage was fantastic, and distortion was inaudible. Again, see my review of the SR6012 for a much deeper dive into the performance of this level of Marantz AVR. Nothing fundamental has changed since then, at least not that I noticed.
So, instead of retreading the same water, I’d like to spend a good chunk of the rest of my word budget talking about Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, both objectively and subjectively. And I’ll admit right up front that this discussion is fraught with bias, because I generally just don’t like Atmos (or DTS:X) for movies. Love it with video games in the few applications that have made it to market so far. I even kinda dig Atmos upmixing for two-channel music. Hell, I also love Atmos demos as a pure AV experience. Fire up that Atmos “Leaf” trailer on a good sound system and I’m giddier than a kitten with a ball of yarn.
But by and large, I find it distracting when watching movies, which is why I generally plug in ceiling speakers for a few days when I’m reviewing a new Atmos-capable receiver, just to make sure everything is groovy on that front, then unplug them for the bulk of the evaluation period.
So, it’s a little bit weird that I’m completely smitten with Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization. First, let’s discuss my subjective reasons why, since my biases may be radically different from yours, then we’ll dig a little into my objective analysis of the technology.
My biggest issue with Atmos, especially with dedicated ceiling speakers, is that it often draws my attention out of the horizontal plane in which the movie takes place. I’ll find myself fully immersed in a film, only to have a helicopter or what have you whiz overhead and allofasudden my attention is drawn starkly toward the ceiling and away from the screen (something that doesn’t happen with surround sound effects).
In the past, I’ve found that effect to be lessened somewhat by the use of Atmos Effects modules, rather than dedicated in-ceilings, but the problem with bouncing height effects off the ceiling is that it requires some pretty careful speaker placement. Positioning that works best to deliver height effects to my seating position in my room is often less than idea for front or surround soundstaging. (Angle of reflection equaling angle of incidence and all that jazz.)
With Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, this is simply less of a concern. I first noticed this with the Atmos mix from the UHD Blu-ray release of Wonder Woman, especially the scene early in the film in which Diana stumbles upon Steve Trevor bathing in a cave. When I reviewed Focal’s Sib Evo Atmos 5.1.2 Home Cinema System, with its up-firing drivers, I found this scene in particular to be an incredibly effective Atmos demo, assuming I sat in exactly the right spot in the room and didn’t move my head too much. With Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, I’ll be the first to admit that the height elements of the mix were definitely a little more subtle. But they were also more consistent over a larger seating area.
Not massively larger, mind you. You’re still somewhat limited in terms of left-to-right movement, and need to stay well within the boundaries painted by speaker setup. But rather than having two seats’ worth of really pronounced Atmos sound, as was the case with the Focal system, I found myself with about four seats’ worth of really quite good Atmos sound. There was still an undeniable height axis to the overall sound. Turning the Speaker Virtualizer off in the SR6014’s menus, I immediately felt the vertical nature of the cave collapse around me. Turning it back on, I got a very strong sense that the water was flowing from above. The little drips and drops of moisture, as well as the echoing, reverberating ambience of the cave, also added a healthy height element to the aural landscape of the scene. And again, this was with a 5.2-channel speaker system with the five satellites all positioned at pretty much ear level.
The score, too, really benefited from the Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, extending naturally and organically upward, especially during the film’s more intense scenes. Speaking of such scenes, though, I have to say this: if you’re a huge fan of Atmos with dedicated in-ceiling speakers, I don’t think you’re going to be as satisfied by Height Virtualization as I am. You still get the general sense of planes and bombs and bullets and so forth passing above you, but not with the same intensity, and not without the same level of pinpoint specificity.
I found this to be equally true with The Last Jedi on UHD Blu-ray. You can still hear ships flying overhead and explosions going off somewhere “up there”; you simply don’t get that same gee-whiz effect of ion engines buzzing four feet from your noggin or shrapnel emanating from the light fixture just to the right of the middle of the ceiling. I think that’s a good thing; you may think it’s a bad thing.
But there is, without question, enhanced height to John Williams’ score. And Height Virtualization does a great job of recreating the most effective (for me) elements of the film’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack. That is to say, it does a really nice job of creating a sense of space that includes the height dimension. You can feel as much as hear the difference between interior and exterior spaces, and with the former you can feel as much as hear the difference between caves and the decks of the Supremacy, in a way that just isn’t as salient with Height Virtualization turned off.
You might be inclined to write it off as “Atmos Lite.” And I wouldn’t fight you on that. I would describe it, though, more as “Atmos Calmed the F*** Down,” given that it replicates well enough the experience of a tasteful Atmos mix, while toning down egregiously aggressive height channel effects that only serve to draw me out of the cinema experience. Again, though, if you like those aggressive overhead affects, I have a feeling you’ll find Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization to be a little underwhelming.
That’s it for my subjective critique. Now, let’s talk some objective observations for a few minutes. One of the reasons I’m talking so much about Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization and not much about DTS Virtual:X is because the latter--while great for soundbars, and great and creating the impression of speakers where none exists--works its magic at the expense of natural timbre. Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, by contrast, lifts sound gracefully (though subtly) into the height dimension without really changing its sonic characteristics to any appreciable degree.
The Big Lebowski on UHD Blu-ray made a great demonstration of this. The disc comes with a DTS:X soundtrack, which allowed me to directly compare Virtual:X against Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization. (Again, you can use Dolby’s speaker voodoo on DTS tracks, but not DTS’s speaker voodoo on Dolby tracks). From the opening moments of the film, the disparity between the two technologies was substantial. Sam Elliott’s narration sounded pretty much identical when comparing straight-up DTS-HD Master Audio to “HD Master Audio+Dolby Surround” (which is the setting you have to employ to engage the virtual height speakers). Switch over to Virtual:X, though, and his voice thinned out, became more nasal.
That’s one thing. But like most of you, I’m sure, I can allow for a certain level of timbre tinkering with dialogue and movie sound effects that I just cannot abide with music. So once Dylan’s “The Man in Me” kicked in to accompany the film’s opening credits, that’s when the rubber met the road, if you’ll pardon the expression. Again, engaging HD Master Audio+Dolby Surround (and hence Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization), I couldn’t hear any substantial tonal, harmonic, or textural differences in the music of vocals. It was a little less pronounced than the sonic impact of removing the grilles from your speakers.
Switch to DTS Virtual:X, on the other hand, and suddenly it sounded like that crappy Bob Dylan impersonation your uncle does when he’s a little too deep in his cups.
That held true with pure two-channel music, as well. Granted, I did most of my music-listening through the SR6014 in stereo mode (where, by the way, I found its performance to be every bit as good as the SR6012, and I’ll refer you back to that review yet again for deeper insights), but I did tinker around with the various sound modes for an afternoon.
With James Gang’s “Walk Away,” I found that adding Dolby Surround processing really didn’t change the overall timbre of the music very much. Maybe a bit of extra richness in the bottom end, and some definite enhancement of the reverb effects (though that had as much to do with drawing the music into the surround speakers as it did adding a virtual height effect, as I discovered when I turned the Speaker Virtualizer off and left Dolby Surround on).
Virtual:X by contrast fundamentally changed the tonal balance of the music, even if it did add a more dynamic and discrete virtual object-based surround effect.
So, in conclusion: if you absolutely love Dolby Atmos with ceiling speakers, and you grumble at any Atmos mix that doesn’t send sound effects flying all around your cranium, the Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization feature of the Marantz SR6014 probably isn’t going to float your pickle.
But hey, let’s not forget that this is a 9.2-channel AVR, good for 7.1.2 or 5.1.4 setups without the addition of any outboard amps. And it performs very well as such. Pretty much exactly like the last few years’ worth of SR60XX-level Marantz AVRs.
If you’ve ever read my reviews of similar Marantz gear, you could probably write this section yourself. But for the new folks in the audience, this needs to be said. Marantz really needs to include a good recipe for Eggs Benedict in the box, because you couldn’t quite fry an egg on top of the SR6014, but you could certainly poach the hell out of one. Dear Lord Baby Buddha in his swaddling kāṣāya, this receiver runs hotter than the hinges on the gates of Hell. No hotter than any other Marantz receiver at this level, mind you, but I somehow always manage to forget how toasty these things get when I have another brand of receiver in for review. Marantz recommends setting Eco Mode to Auto, which engages an automatic detection mechanism to reduce power consumption and thus the heat generated by the AVR, so if you don’t have the luxury of ample airflow, as I do in my room, this is something you might want to consider.
My only other beef is that, short of digging into the user manual (which isn’t included in the box, and only recently went live on Marantz’s website), I worry that some people might be a little confused about how to turn Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, given that those words aren’t to be found in the GUI. To reiterate, you need to turn on Speaker Virtualizer in the Audio setup section, under Surround Parameters, then select Dolby Atmos or Dolby Surround (or +Dolby Surround) by pressing one of the sound mode buttons on the remote during playback. This is doubly confusing given that, when you pull up the available sound modes, “Virtual” is one of the options. That mode is intended for headphones and for systems with only front left and right stereo speakers.
Granted, it didn’t take me long to figure all of this out, but I can imagine my dad throwing his remote control through a window trying to figure out why “Virtual” isn’t the way you access Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, and why the words Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization don’t appear anywhere in the setup screens.
Comparison and Competition
We’re at a weird point in the AVR update cycle right now, whereby there isn’t really direct competition for the Marantz SR6014 just yet, at least not in the D+M lineup. Denon’s 2018 AVR-X4500H is close, but it does lack Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization and I’ve seen no indication that Sound United will (or even can?) go back and add it via firmware. So, you’re really left waiting for the likely (though unannounced) release of a potential AVR-X4600H if you want the semi-equivalent AVR from Marantz’s sister company.
If, on the other hand, you’re just completely uninterestedin Height Virtualization, there’s always last year’s SR6013 to consider, while supplies last.
The recently reviewed Pioneer VSX-LX504 is a decent and comparable competitor to the SR6014, though, in that it’s also a 9.2-channel AVR with Height Virtualization and all that jazz. Like the SR6014, the VSX-LX504 delivers surprisingly good stereo performance for a multichannel receiver. It also sells for a good bit less, at around $1000. If you need room correction, though, be aware that MCACC, even in its Advanced form, is no match for Audyssey MultEQ XT32 when configured via the MultEQ Editor mobile app.
For more in-depth reviews of similar product offerings from other companies, please see our AV Receivers category page.
Some years back, I had a friend who worked for one of the major TV manufacturers, and he complained to that when 3D started appearing on televisions, reviewers were reviewing the 3D technology instead of the display itself. I feel like I’ve done that to some degree with this review, given how much time I spent on one feature of the SR6014 that, quite frankly, a lot of you might not even be interested in. But again, in every other respect, this new Marantz performs just like equivalent models from the past couple years, and I’ve already extolled the virtues of those quite extensively.
Then again, I think a lot of our readers may actually get a lot of mileage from Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization. Surveys indicate that fewer than ten percent of you actually have in-ceiling speakers or Atmos modules in your home theaters, despite the fact that most of you purchase Atmos-capable AVRs these days. Whether that’s due to the difficulty of doing such, budget concerns, apathy, or--as is my case--a general disdain for watching movies with dedicated ceiling speakers thwapping you in the head, I don’t know. But it’s pretty safe to say that the average Home Theater Review reader buys Atmos-capable receivers and then never connects Atmos-capable speaker systems. So maybe this new feature will be of use to more of you than some may think.
At any rate, even if you’re going whole hog with a 5.1.4 or 7.1.2 speaker system, or ignoring Atmos entirely because 5.1 or 7.1 is everything your heart desires, there’s still so much to love about the Marantz SR6014. As I said in the intro, the great room correction (as long as you’re using the MultEQ Editor app), the independent setup of dual subs, the multichannel analog audio inputs, and even the 11.2-channel preamp outs make this model one heck of a deal for $1,499.
• Visit the Marantz website for additional specs and information.
• Visit our AV Receivers category page to read reviews of similar products.
• Denon AVR-X4500H 9.2 Channel AV Receiver Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.