Well I recently auditioned the Marantz NR1501 (CDN $568 + Tax) attached to some cube speakers at a high end stereo store in the main wide open televison display room, sitting on a sofa about 10' away from the display it was connected to (I'd say the room is 75' x 35' with a waist height divider wall about 1/3 of the way into the middle of the room). I also have a Denon AVR-4310ci at home in the main listening room that I could subjectively compare it to.
In short... the sound quality is just excellent. It's as simple as that. The 50" Samsung LED display that it was connected to coupled with a BD player was equally impressive.
There is no GUI over Video which is what I really wanted to find out for myself since I LOVE using this feature on my Denon. On the Denon, one push of a button instantly brings up 5.1 levels that can be adjusted on the fly as well as the main volume (of course all other menu options are available too but you have to go digging a little deeper). If you want to go menu hopping on the Marantz, the NR1501 must black out the audio/ video and switch over to an independent board for adjustments. This just about caused me to label it a Deal Killer until the salesman showed me that you can still adjust all 5 channels without having to black out the screen and switch over to the independent Menu board. I knew you could adjust Bass/ Treble on the fly with the remote but you can also access the 5 other channels with the remote using the Receiver's LED display on the front panel. That revived my interest in this unit. As long as I don't have to interrupt my viewing experience to adjust levels on the fly, I don't care if that happens on the Main TV Display or the Receiver itself. Save! It's not as convenient but at least it's there.
I have the Energy Take Classic 5 with an ESW-V10 Sub at home just waiting to be connected to some power for use in my bedroom (or future computer room/ den) and I know they will sound way better than the cheapo's I was listening to in the store with a tiny 6 or 8" micro sub. I thought if the Marantz sounds this good on these things, it'll only get better attached the Energy's.
Turning the volume up produced strong, clean power that was only degraded by the limits of the cubes being reached. 50W on paper would appear to be lacking something, but it's really not. The sound was definitely, rich, warm & buttery. And that my friends is what hooks you! Almost immediately you start making up excuses as to why you don't "actually" need all of the other bells & whistles that you know bigger receivers like the Denon have (even though you know you want them)!
One by one the sacrifices mentally start being made. "Well... I don't really need Ethernet based HD Radio, USB port, GUI over Video, Pre-Outs or Anchor Bay 2010. Darn, why couldn't they at least include iChips?!" LOL! What other receiver brand do you know can do that to your psyche without really stepping it up a notch or two in price?
I would never replace my Denon in the main room because of the ability to upscale Satellite/ DVD/ Wii/ Connnect to the internet/ use USB/ Firmwre Update/ etc. but for a secondary room? Hmmmmmm.
I'm ready to go and buy it right now but I just can't help thinking that the next model will add at least an iChips upscaler (with video processing). I have SAT TV in every room with HDTV's and I find upscaling (with video processing) a significant improvement to the overall viewing experience. Using this receiver in any of the additional rooms would produce an underwhelming image quality in many instances (except on certain HD Channels). On the other hand, I have enough of those HD channels to learn to live with periodic degradations (see, it's happening again
). I'm just trying to hold out for a press release to see what the next unit will include. If no changes are forthcoming, I'll go and buy it. It's that good.
Problem is, don't know if I will wait that much longer because my Energy's have just been sitting quietly in their box since I got them in the summer. I brought home a Marantz AV6003 at the time but for a desk or dresser in a smaller room it was just too damn big! The Denon was even worse. Thus form factor does play a role for me in this case alone. If it didn't I'd have two 4310's or the AV8003.
What an almost perfect choice the NR1501 is, I'm just one press release away from getting it. I find the Marantz 50W is just as pleasing in a regular listening environment as the Denon 130W system. Plus we're talking about a $1000 difference!
You either heed the call of the Siren and go for it, foregoing the extras, or go for a unit with the bells and whistles that you want because this unit just doesn't have them. Orrrrrr... wait for the next press release to decide, if you can