One of the big bugbears that people can have when searching for an AV receiver is the space that they can take up on your AV rack. If this sounds like you, the Marantz NR1508 – with its feature-packed specifications and sleek design – might just be the receiver you’ve been looking for…
Sporting Marantz’s instantly recognisable curved front panels, the 1508 takes up the same footprint as most AV units but with only a paltry 105mm of height. The panel still has space for an LED display, control knobs for inputs and volume, quick select buttons for sound modes and tuner presets as well as an HDMI and USB input. Around the back there are a further five HDMI inputs as well as an ARC capable output, all of which (including the front input) are 4K compatible and HDR enabled for HDCP2.2, BT.2020 colour and Dolby Vision, with Hybrid Log Gamma compatibility coming via a future firmware update. You’ll also find optical and coaxial inputs for digital audio and three analogue inputs for legacy equipment. You’ll only see speaker terminals for five speaker channels, but Marantz have also released the seven channel Dolby Atmos enabled NR1608 to cover larger setups.
Internally, Marantz have stuck with the 50 watts per channel that they’ve used in the past, along with decoding for high resolution audio using advanced 32-bit DSP processing. This means that you’re pretty much covered across the board, whether it’s home cinema soundtracks like Dolby True HD & DTS Master Audio or DSD & FLAC music files. Twin Wi-Fi aerials for 2.4Ghz/5Ghz and an ethernet port round things off to take care of network connectivity.
Hooking up and calibrating the Marantz is simple by using the included Audyssey microphone. After a few minutes of test sounds being fired out of each speaker, you’re up and running for whatever your poison is. We started off with a Blu-ray of Pacific Rim, and as soon as the massive robot “Gypsy Danger” picks a fight with a huge monster Kaiju over a fishing boat, any fears of the NR1508’s 50 watts being too little are soon allayed. As the fishermen gape out of the window, the Marantz’s high and mid-range control will make you swear you were there too, with the waves crashing around you and the water splashing against the cockpit cabin.
Whether in direct stereo, Dolby Digital or DTS modes, there’s a natural flow and timing to whatever you listen to. A dedicated hifi amp at the same price will certainly give better stereo separation and focus, but the NR1508 definitely shows some of the pedigree that all Marantz products have become renowned for through the years. Even when switching to something in lower resolution, such as a Spotify stream of Sam Smith’s “I’ve Told You Now”, there’s still plenty to enjoy about the NR1508. The sweeping strings are a touch bright but despite the drop in detail, plenty of solid rhythm remains for those who aren’t as picky about source quality. Another really useful feature is the addition of HEOS multi-room streaming technology. Whether you’re using online subscription services such as Spotify Connect, Deezer & Tidal or your own digital music library, the app is a blast to use. Search functions for artist, album, track, or radio station name make creating playlists and selecting music super easy and managing different “zones” is just as intuitive. Simply touch one of the rooms on your mobile device’s screen to drag it away from the main zone or to join it back up. Whether it’s multiple standalone HEOS speakers or a larger unit like the NR1508, each zone has individual volume control and EQ settings so you can adjust the tone for the acoustics of individual rooms.
Although the NR1508 can handle lower impedance speakers, you’ll find it’s better suited to 8 ohm set-ups in order to get the most attack and weight from your audio. It’s unlikely that the NR1508 is going to be suitable for larger rooms, though you could always switch to the NR1608 for the extra 2 channels to fill the space out. The onscreen menus are basic text affairs and a little dated compared to others, but the provided remote control is clearly laid out and not too crowded. You can always use the Marantz AVR Remote App instead but it’s a bit less slick than the HEOS controller.
The NR1508 sets out to give you a decent sound from a smaller, discreet design and manages the task admirably. What it gives away to competitors in out-and-out sound quality, it manages to make up for in being practical and aesthetically minimal, not to mention its decent spec sheet and host of features. Why not visit your local store and see how this receiver can take your movie experience to the next level?
Author: Steve, Bristol Store