A few years ago, Marantz surprised the home theater community with their slim home theater receivers. These home theater receivers are not only space-saving in the living room but they also don’t come with any compromises on the audio quality. These slimmed-down home theater receivers did so well that Marantz continued to make updated models every year. This 2013, Marantz is making a slight update to last year’s home theater receivers with the Marantz NR1604 being one of the two new models. They have the same slim look, a few cosmetic changes on the back and some neat extras which should attract more folks looking for a functional and slim AV receiver.
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The slimness of the NR1604 remains as an impressive feat even today because other manufacturers decided not to head towards that route. Measuring about 10 cm high, the Marantz NR1604 is about half the height of a standard home theater receiver. On the front, the NR1604 looks identical to the previous model – the NR1603. There is a small info display on the center of the receiver just below the Marantz logo. It is flanked by two knobs for input selecting and volume adjusting. Only 8 buttons are found below the display and provide quick access to functions like Internet Radio and Zone 2 toggle. While there are only 4 connection ports on the front, they are all significant for modern usage (phones jack, setup mic, USB port and HDMI port).
A larger receiver has more room for connection ports so it is natural for people to be concerned about the connectivity options on the back of the Marantz NR1604. Fortunately, the NR1604 has a sufficient amount of ports so you can set up a beefy home theater system. 6 HDMI inputs are located in the back which is nice improvement since previous model only featured 5. Marantz did a pretty good job in cramming all the component, composite and speaker ports on the back of the older model. However, it might be confusing for some to locate the correct port. Marantz has responded to these concerns with the Marantz NR1604 by making group outlines and labels white with black text so they are easier to read.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
Most home theater receivers priced above $600 normally have at least 100 watts per channel. Since the NR1604 is a bit slimmer than most of these receivers, the output per channel is just 70 watts. Still, the audio quality is pretty impressive and it doesn’t cut out any of the vital features that let you configure the receiver for the most optimal performance.The setup process is pretty simple thanks to an easy on-screen Setup Assistant. This process walks you through the basics like speaker setup as well as the network setup so you can utilize all of the features of the home theater receiver.
Because the Marantz NR1604 is a 7.1-channel home theater receiver, you can come up with a speaker setup that consists of a trio of left, right and center speakers on the front where your TV is and have 4 other speakers handle the surround sound. Once you set up these speakers, you can use Audyssey’s award-winning technology to handle the calibration process. The Audyssey MultEQ technology is used by many home theater receivers today because it does a fantastic job in creating a nice sounding environment. This technology works the same way for this slim model.
It is also possible to come up with a multi-zone setup in case you want to add another source to another room. For instance, you can watch your favorite TV show in the living room while others listen to their favorite playlist in another room. Only a single receiver is required thanks to the multi-zone support.
One of the new things that the NR1604 adds is 4K Ultra HD support. The newest 4K displays are expensive but offer better pixel density for larger displays. Compared to 1080p, the picture quality is 4 times better providing that the content properly supports it. What the Marantz NR1604 does is upscale any lower resolution content so they still look good on those massive displays.
Like its predecessor, the NR1604 has networking capabilities although there is no built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on board. While you can add Bluetooth support by purchasing the Marantz RX-101 adapter, you have no choice but to plug in the receiver to a wireless router via Ethernet so you can enable the other cool networking features.
Enabling these features is worthwhile especially if you have an iOS device with a lot of stored music. The Marantz NR1604 supports AirPlay so you should have no trouble wirelessly streaming your iTunes playlist to the receiver. Computers with iTunes installed can stream music to the receiver too. If you prefer listening to your favorite music using music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and SiriusXM, you can access those services right from the receiver.
The NR1604 comes with a remote control complete with batteries so you are all set from the get go. But if you prefer a more intuitive experience and have an iOS or Android smartphone, you can download the free Marantz Remote app instead. This app makes things a lot easier if you need to configure or control the receiver.
If you are looking for a slim home theater receiver, there are hardly any other choices available unless you go for the cheaper NR1504 or any of the older Marantz models. The Marantz NR1604 is a good investment if you believe you will buy a 4K display one day. But if you don’t need the multi-zone support, video upconversion and 4K support, you can save a considerable amount by getting the Marantz NR1504. Marantz has proven once again that there is always room for improvement even if the form factor is so slim. The $649 is a reasonable price to pay as well given all the cool things you can do this particular home theater receiver.
Update: There is a newer model > Marantz NR1608