The verdict's in.
Just repeating my setup first:
Originally Posted by Woodgnome
Front: B&W DM601 S3
Center: B&W LCR600 S3
Rear: Never got around to buying the 603's for front speakers (and using the 601's as rear), so just some random Pioneer speakers not worthy of further mention.
Subwoofer: B&W ASW675
In other words; a set of pretty old speakers (~10 years), but still in good condition (the surrounds are still soft with no cracks, no audible issues, etc.). Compact speakers so the low frequency output is somewhat limited.
I would also add that I am by no means an exprienced listener
(by my own standards at least) - I watch movies, I listen to music and I'm into Hi-Fi, but living in an apartment complex for the last 6 years I've had limited chances to have some good sessions without disturbing the neighbours (and girlfriend) too much.
With all that said and done, lets get to the more exciting stuff!
For both the AVR-X2200W and NR1606 I've connected the front/center/subwoofer (no rear) speakers and run the Audessey guide (Dynamic EQ disabled). I haven't tinkered with settings outside of that. I also turned off the subwoofer for music listening, because I didn't want to get confused about whether I was listening to the speakers or the subwoofer.
I left the Sound Mode in Pure/Auto which means that I've been listening in stereo mode except for movies with DD/DTS tracks. All sources have been connected via HDMI and all decoding done by the receivers.
While I probably spend more time watching movies than I do listening to music the latter is where I notice differences/care about the experience the most, so I've been testing mainly with music.
I started out with the Denon connected for a day and then swithed to the Marantz for a day. My initial impressions were 90% "Can't tell a difference" and 10% "The Marantz seems pack a bit more sound in the low frequency spectrum", but I couldn't be sure I wasn't just biased by reviews stating that the AVR-X2200W lacks a bit of punch
To get a more in depth comparison I went with the setup mentioned in my previous post, i.e. connected left speaker to the AVR-X2200W and right speaker to the NR1606 (front right terminals on both receivers) and hooked up a source to each receiver playing the same track.
It took a little time, but with certain music tracks I started to notice some minor differences; the NR1606 does
have a bit more sound in the low frequency. Kinda like the AVR-X2200W bottoms out at a slightly higher frequency. The AVR-X2200W has some strength of it's own though; at higher frequencies there seemed to be a bit more clarity (there's a scene in the start of Master and Commander where I noticed this in particular; prior to the first fight a drummer is beating to quarters on a snare drum and it sounded like a thin piece of cloth had been put in front of the speaker connected to the NR1606 compared to the speaker connected to the AVR-X2200W).
To ensure that it wasn't just a result of differences in the speaker positioning/sources/the speakers themselves I also tried switching the speakers to the opposite receiver and switching the sources, but still came to the same conclusion.
There differences are
there but they are very minor - I wouldn't have been able to discern them without the side-by-side comparison. Larger speakers might provide a more distinct difference in the low frequency, however.
So who's the winner?
Well... It depends.
For music I would pick the NR1606. The extra power in the low frequency adds a sort of "fullness" to the sound picture that I would prefer over the AVR-X2200W. For movies, however, I would pick the AVR-X2200W for the higher clarity.
If you were dead set on getting a final answer from me, I would go for the AVR-X2200W, but it wouldn't be based on the sound. Due to how minor the differences are, it would be based on the fact that the AVR-X2200W has a higher power output; 2x95 watts @ 2 channels driven vs. 2x50 watts @ 2 channels driven for the NR1606. I might not keep a new receiver for nearly as long as my old AVR-1804 (~10 years), but likely long enough for me to move into a place where I can get a full 7.1 setup and 2x50 watts simply sounds too low for that scenario.
Having said that... I've traded in the NR1606 for a Marantz SR5010 and will be giving that a listening test over the weekend (will be updating this thread with my findings). It's slightly more expensive (175$ more at my local dealer), but I'm hoping it'll give me the best of both worlds. We'll see.