Figuring out the best possible home theater receiver for your home theater setup can be pretty difficult. Once you know the kind of specifications you are looking for and you set your budget, you could scout for reviews to get an idea on which products stand out. But we can all agree that today’s home theater receivers look the same and they provide great enhancements to home theater systems. Nowadays, choosing the best AV receiver is about weighing the features against the price. Brand reputation is important too. But you will also notice that the features of receivers in the same price range are quite similar as well. But Marantz strives to be different than the rest of the competition by offering some mid-range AV receivers with a unique characteristic – a slim design. Marantz has been manufacturing slim receivers since 2010 and the Marantz NR1504 is part of the 2013 series of this category.
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Marantz appears to be contented with the design and front panel layout of the 2012 Marantz NR models judging from the fact that the NR1504 looks just the same. Compared to the traditional AV receivers, the Marantz NR1504 actually looks less intimidating to look at because the simple layout makes good use of the space available. You have the two familiar knobs which you can use for input selection and volume adjustment along with the typical rectangular display. Under the display is a single row of 8 thin buttons each with their own labels. Since the NR1504 lacks multi-zone support Marantz was able to place a “Sleep” button along with a pair of “Preset Ch” buttons on the front panel. While the Marantz NR1504 is supposed to be low-end version of the NR series, it is good to see that this model retains the HDMI port on the front. Also found on the front is a phones jack, setup mic port and USB port.
The back of the NR1504 shows that it isn’t really possible to make the receiver any thinner without making some sacrifices. Connection ports are pretty crammed on the back but in a organized manner. In fact, the Marantz NR1504 makes the ports look more emphasized than its predecessor by making use of white labels with black text. The speaker connections are color coded as well so it should be much easier for new users to set up their 5.1-channel speaker system. Above the speaker connections lie 5 HDMI inputs and a single output. There are no component ports available so you have to make use of those HDMI parts if you hope to use HD components with the receiver.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
The 60 watts per channel specification may not sound so impressive on paper but it is actually pretty sufficient for a 5.1-channel speaker setup. Any modestly configured system should have no issues with the NR1504. The trick is to rely on the Audyssey MultEQ Technology so the receiver can decide on the best settings for each speaker in position. The included microphone which you need to plug in to the front panel is the one that analyzes the various parameters necessary to create a special acoustic profile for the receiver to adapt.
But if you can’t go past the speaker setup part, you can go through a very friendly wizard called the Setup Assistant. This short step-by-step process teaches you how to make the required connections and even shows some visuals so you won’t get lost. The Setup Assistant even goes as far as handling the network configuration which will be expounded in the next section.
The Ethernet port on the back serves as the only gateway to the networking and Internet features of the Marantz NR1504. Connecting the NR1504 to a wireless router with an Ethernet cable enables the ability to stream music from online services. SiriusXM, Pandora and Spotify are all supported so your music discovery options are pretty good.
If you already have a big MP3 collection on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or computer with iTunes installed, you can stream any of those tracks wirelessly with ease by taking advantage of the AirPlay support. Just take note that the AirPlay support is restricted to audio so you cannot stream videos or mirror your portable device’s screen through the receiver. Because of the Windows logo on the back, this receiver supports Windows PC music streaming and photo streaming too. Although there is no adapter that enables Wi-Fi functionality, you may optionally buy the Marantz RX-101 adapter if you wish to add Bluetooth capabilities to the Marantz NR1504. This accessory is useful if you have other media players or devices with Bluetooth enabled and you wish to stream music files from those devices. Don’t forget too that there is a USB port on the front of the receiver just in case you want to plug in other Apple devices like an iPod Nano and play back music while charging the device.
A NR1504 hooked up to a router also means that your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet can work as a cool remote control if you install the Marantz Remote app. This app is free and works over the network so it is pretty responsive if you want to configure or control the Marantz NR1504. The traditional remote control can also be used and it already comes with batteries.
The NR1504 is simply a nice AV receiver to consider because it has a pretty complete set of features crammed in to a receiver that is half the height of traditional receivers. With a $499 price tag, it is also the cheapest way to go slim if you want a 2013 AV receiver. The 6 HDMI inputs still offer a lot of home theater setup possibilities and the overall audio performance is very good for its price. You can step up to the NR1604 which still has the same slim form factor but slightly ups the power per channel, allows 7.1-channel setups, adds video upconversion from analog and 4K video support, and provides multi-zone features.
Update: There is a newer model > Marantz NR1508