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MARANTZ NR1200 STEREO RECEIVER REVIEW
Today we will be reviewing the Marantz nr1200 stereo receiver. I have been very big on big home theatres; that is front projection based multi channel home theatres. And for a long, long time, that was my focus, and up until about 2009. I legit thought that bigger was better, more was more and home theatre was all about having the biggest, boldest branches, most channels that you can. So why did I change my point of view? Well, for all of us even in America, the economy drastically shifted.
And not only on a personal scale did my financial situation change but on the AV side of the business world, things dramatically changed and around that time of the housing and financial collapse in 2009 and 2010. A lot of AV companies and a lot of home theatre enthusiasts ended up having to scale back and I was one of them. I scaled all the way back. I left the hobby completely. I sort of kind of burnt out on it and as a result, I just didn’t have a system, I had a soundbar and it is around this time that soundbars have started to gain strength and I think you can see why a lot of people who had multi channel systems got burned on them financially over time or never were at that point in life where they were able to have a lavish home theatre.
Therefore soundbars were all they could afford. And so in came the era of sound bars, but something was brewing inside me and I did want some expandability. I didn’t want to go for a home theatre. I didn’t want five 7.1.1 or however many channels of amplification and subsequent number of speakers, but I did want some expandability. I was always looking for a product whether it be an amplifier receiver preamp or integrated that enabled me to have all of the benefits of say HDMI and 4k video that we enjoy in the modern era, while giving me a slight ability to expand and enjoy third party components like a turntable, maybe other speakers and a possible power amplifier down the line.
I found a number of products that checked the majority of those boxes but didn’t check all of them and what I mean by that is that it’s not hard to find an integrated amplifier or even stereo receiver that will let you connect third party components and also enjoy vinyl records. They will let you play with a variety of speakers because they have power but they don’t have video capability and that leaves you buying, say an AV receiver with all of its channels of amplification, all of its Dolby licencing.
And then you’re only using two measly channels. That’s the way that I’ve lived for a very long time until today. We’re going to be talking about the Marantz nr1200 stereo receiver. This is an AV receiver that bears only two channels of amplification. That makes this incredibly cool from my perspective as a two channel home theatre enthusiast because it really does have on paper and in the box everything that I could ever want. Now because it has 75 watts per channel into eight ohms, it is robust enough for a wide variety of speakers available on the market today. I connected them to my JBL 100 classics and found that the Marantz nr1200 to be more than capable, but if it’s not, or if your speakers are a little bit more on the hungry side, it does have preamp outputs as well as subwoofer outputs.
So that’s the expandability; you can add an outboard amplifier for more power or to adjust the sound, the flavour and what-not. And because the Marantz like most Marantz products that I’m aware of has this pure direct mode where you can essentially turn the nr1200 into nothing more than a passive or pass through volume control, therefore it’s not colouring the sound in any way.
You’re just using it to attenuate sound levels. And that’s really cool.
You can do that whether you use the internal amplifiers or you connect this thing to an outboard amplifier like say, a crown amp. So that’s really cool. And that adds to the expandability that I spoke about earlier. Now the other thing about it is besides having three analogue inputs and a built in moving magnet phono stage, that’s right, it has a built in moving magnet phono stage which we will get to in a minute. It has all of the digital inputs that you may want, including wireless capability.
So now you begin to see how full featured this nr1200 is from a component and audio standpoint. The icing on the cake for me is the fact that it has five HDMI inputs and one HDMI output and these HDMI inputs are 4k HDCP 2.3. ready, that means 4k pass through. Everything and anything that you can do in 4k right now in the consumer space, the nr1200 can utilise it, play it back, pass it through, et cetera.
SO WHAT DOES THE MARANTZ NR1200 SOUND LIKE?
Well, in my experience in my time with this product, it’s not neutral. I would argue that Marantz isn’t known for being neutral. I think it has a house sound and that sound is a bit on the darker side, the richer side, the smoother laid back side. It’s not to say that it’s sluggish, but it definitely has body and weight. So if you like that sort of thing, then this is going to be a fantastic product for you. And if you have speakers that are on the brighter side of neutral, then this may be a product that allows you to turn or tame those high frequencies down.
To some of you reading this, there are further controls that allow you to adjust and tune the nr1200 sound because yes, it has physical tone controls on the front panel. And because it is a little bit richer, a little bit Meatier in the lower mid range, it gives the sound a very laid back weighty feel. And for me, when I want to just sit down and listen and enjoy music, i don’t mind that. It’s actually very soothing. It’s actually very, very pleasant because this is not an amplifier that attracts a lot of attention. This is an amplifier that is as good in the background just kind of playing music or television as it is when you do sit in front of it, turn it up just a little bit and get some of that dynamic flair back. But it is not an amplifier that is going to punch you in the face with its dynamics, it’s not going to bowl you over with one aspect of the frequency range over another. In fact, it is just one smooth operator indeed.
Now as far as the other components of its sound are concerned, the soundstage is very wide and very deep. But again, with it being a little bit more of a laid back product, it does not project. So you can expect more or less a bit of a wall of sound that is in line with the front baffles of your speakers. But that goes far beyond your front walls and breaks through the side boundaries of the speakers themselves. The soundstage itself is very nicely appointed, very detailed, there’s a good amount of air;not excellent or best in class, but enough that everything sounds appropriate so you can listen to any style of music at virtually any volume provided the 75 watts is enough for your loudspeakers in your room.
You’re just going to always get a really nice, pleasant experience. It’s not going to be fatiguing, it’s not going to beat you up. But again, it’s not going to hit you in the chest, it’s not going to punch you the way some products do. And as a result of that, it’s a very kind of middle of the road piece. And that’s okay, because again at $599 at this point given all of the other things that it does, the stuff that kept impressing me most about the nr1200 was just how easy it was to live with. And the fact that it just always worked. It always worked. It always sounded good. And no matter what I threw at it, I could always enjoy the experience.
So yes, there were times and tracks where I was streaming Tidal or playing vinyl playback where I was like,” Okay, yeah, I’ve heard better high frequencies, or I’ve heard a little bit more bass impact.” But again, when I would think about how and where and what other products were beating the 1200, I went, “ Well is it worth paying double for? Is it worth paying three times for?” And that is a personal call. But for me again at $599, I really do think that the nr 1200 represents a really solid baseline of pretty much a good chunk of what the average consumer and budding enthusiast will actually ever need.
SO WHAT DON’T I LIKE ABOUT THE NR 1200?
Well, because of its slightly darker character, slightly smoother character, if you have a component that also is on the darker, smoother, richer side, it can be too much of a good thing at times. Case in point, I have the music hall classic in house. And as configured, that turntable is rich. It is rich, it is deep, and it definitely favours some of the lower octaves. As a result, you’re kind of pouring on a little extra sweetener to something that’s already really sweet. And I wouldn’t say that necessarily is the best fit. Now I could use tone controls and tweak it, but I like to keep things very all natural.
And so this is where system matching and things like that come into play. So if you have something that’s really bright, the Marantz will help tone that down. If you have something that’s already kind of in line with the sound quality of the Marantz then it might be too much of the same or good thing for you. So you’re going to want to really look at your system or look at what you’re building, look at what your tastes are, and build and match accordingly. One little caveat about the phono stage. The final stage is good, it’s not the best, I have heard better, and in some instances it did not play nicely with certain turntables. Now I know I talked about the music hall classic not being a sonic match for the nr1200, but let’s talk about maybe the project X2 not being just an equipment match. I know that the X2 is a very neutral table, it really does strive to have no sound of its own. It is fantastic in that respect. But there’s a difference between neutral and boring. And when these two were connected, it was boring.
Now connect the X2 to the Technics integrated amp and it was magic. So the music hall pairs well with the nr 1200 but it’s a little bit more bass on top of bass.
Lastly, there is no automated room correction with the Marantz nr1200 of any kind. Yes, you can set speaker distances sizes and things like that. But there’s no Audyssey stereo. There’s no mic you plug in and run an automated room correction thing to get the most out of your speakers.I don’t require that personally but I could see how some people may look at that as a downside. So I do want to bring it up to you guys that it does not have any sort of auto room calibration whatsoever.
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