Marantz SR6013: Getting better all the time

The evolution of home theatre receivers never seems to let up. If anything it’s accelerating as AVR makers squeeze in more and more features. The latest Marantz AV receiver is a good case in point

By Deon Schoeman

Things happen quickly on the home theatre front. It wasn’t that long ago that we replaced our ageing Marantz SR6005 AV receiver with a shiny new SR6011. And here we are, just 18 months later, reviewing the replacement of the replacement of the SR6011.

The SR6013 takes over from the SR6012, and to be frank, you need to be a Marantz connoisseur to pick up the differences. Most of the key features, facilities and performance stats are identical.

In fact, it’s possibly easier to think of the SR6013 as a tweaked and further improved SR6012, rather than a completely new model.

In a nutshell, the key highlights of the SR6013 include multiroom-capable Apple AirPlay2 compatibility, while its HEOS multiroom talents have been extended to include voice control in conjunction with Amazon’s Alexa voice control protocol.

There are extended capabilities on the 3D surround front too, with the SR6013 offering Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DTS:Neural-X and DTS Virtual:X. Although it’s a 9.2 AV receiver (nine internal power amps, and two independently controllable subwoofer channels), the Marantz has 11.2 processing capability.

Less obvious are some tweaks to the internals, including improved circuit components, and the implementation of Marantz’s latest HDAM (Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Module) technology. The receiver still employs current feedback-based amplification.

AT FACE VALUE

As already mentioned, the styling of the SR6013 is identical to its predecessor and features what has become Marantz’s trademark ‘porthole’ display, together with big rotary controllers on either side, and a hinged cover that folds down to reveal a bank of switchgear.

Most users will prefer using the remote control handset, however – or the Marantz AVR Remote app for iOS and Android smart devices, which is even more intuitive, and easier to use in dimly lit rooms (the remote doesn’t offer any backlighting).

In fact, you’ll need to make use of two apps to fully utilise the SR6013’s talents: there’s also the HEOS app, which allows access to the receiver’s extensive array of streaming and multiroom capabilities, and works in conjunction with the Marantz AVR app.

The receiver’s casework is a reassuringly solid, all-metal affair, while the faceplate’s curved cheeks and recessed centre section add visual interest.

Not surprisingly, the rear panel is crammed with a variety of inputs, outputs, connections, aerials and speaker binding posts. To Marantz’s credit, the layout is pretty logical, with colour-coding for the speaker binding posts, while the various inputs and outputs are neatly and (and functionally) grouped together.

UNDER THE COVERS

Without resorting to a long-winded description, the Marantz caters for almost every AV-related connection out there. HDMI remains the interface of choice, with eight HDMI inputs and three HDMI outputs, as well as full HDCP 2.2 support and eARC audio return, allowing 3D audio playback from smart TV-based applications.

Of course, there are also options for conventional composite and component video connections, and the SR6013 makes provision for both analogue and digital audio, including a MM-compatible phono stage.

The Marantz is fully network capable via either wired Ethernet or 802.11 Wi-Fi, and also offers Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay2. Network access allows the SR6013 to find and play back audio files from UPnP-compatible network-attached storage devices.

It also opens the door to a host of streaming services, including Deezer, Spotify Connect, TuneIn internet radio and Tidal. All streaming functionality is controlled via the HEOS app.

The HEOS ecosystem delivers multiroom capability to other HEOS-compatible devices. You can also opt for more conventional wired multizone functionality via RCA, HDMI or by assigning spare channels to a second zone.

On the video front, the SR6013 offers full 4K/60 Hz video pass-through with 4:4:4 colour resoution and full-rate 4K upscaling, together with analogue to HDMI conversion. The receiver is also compatible with Dolby Vision, High Dynamic Range, Hybrid Log Gamma and BT.2020.

The SR6013 offers 11.2 processing but provides nine discrete power amplifiers, each rated at 110 watts/channel. Improved circuit components and the latest HDAM op amp modules are said to have achieved improvements in performance and sound quality.

All-important digital-to-analogue conversion is via AKM AK4458 DACs, while a Cirrus quad-core 32-bit DSP chip looks after digital signal processing.

For a full run-down of features, you can download the Marantz SR6013 product information sheet here.

SETTING UP

For the review, the SR6013 was linked up to the Atlantic Technology surround sound speaker system in the AVSA listening room, and allowed to burn in for the first 100 hours or so before final set-up.

Our trusty Oppo BDP95EU universal deck provided the source signal, while the Marantz also had access to a UPnP music library stored on the network’s Synology NAS. As usual, our Optoma HD80 projector was in charge of visuals.

Network connectivity was via wired Ethernet, although linking up the Marantz to wi-fi was equally painless and appeared to be as stable. As soon as a network link was established, the SR6013 downloaded and installed a firmware update.

The SR6013 uses the latest Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room set-up and calibration software in conjunction with a supplied microphone and an eight-point measuring regimen, which takes about 25 minutes to complete.

The results were impressive and required very little in the way of post-measurement tweaking: the system uses a test signal to measure room characteristics and then sets up the AVR’s key parameters accordingly. I found almost all the settings to be spot on, with just the back surrounds needing a little extra toning down.

IN THE THEATRE

Starting off with The Avengers: Age of Ultron on Blu-ray, the Marantz easily tracked the often complex and intricate effects as Ultron and Ironman confront each other at the tanker graveyard.

Explosions were delivered with an almost tactile sense of force and power, and the amp tracked directional sounds with realistic precision, creating a three-dimensional soundspace that perfectly qualified the on-screen action.

Later, when Ultron attempts to escape in a pantechnicon, the street scenes with Black Widow (Charlotte Johannson) chasing the truck on a motorcycle showed off the same talent for precision as the big truck careens through inner city while Captain America (Steve Rogers) engages Ultron.

Excellent vocal projection throughout ensured that the frenetic action was never allowed to overshadow the dialogue between the characters, while the realism of the effects in both directional and impact terms highlighted just how vital the soundtrack is to overall movie enjoyment.

I know it’s an old, has-been movie by now, but I still rate Live Free Or Die Hard as one of the best action movie workouts for an AVR. There are just so many excellent action scenes, and most are both aurally challenging and visually arresting.

One of my favourite scenes is the mayhem that ensues when John McClane (Bruce Willis) and his hacker charge Farrell (Justin Long) are chased into a traffic tunnel by a machine gun-toting terrorist helicopter.

When the terrorists divert all the traffic into the tunnel from both sides, there’s utter chaos as cars crash into each other and fly through the air. The scene’s climax is when the chopper is struck by MClaine’s airborne patrol car.

The effects are almost visceral in their forcefulness – and the Marantz did well to make the most of them, immersing the viewer in a precisely steered force field of sound that left me out of breath, while endowing the on-screen action with real impact and realism.

There’s more to the SR6013 than crash-bang effects, however. Music playback is a traditional strength of Marantz AV receivers, and the review unit didn’t disappoint in that regard either.

Tasked with recreating the magic of Leonard Cohen’s live sets in various cities around the world immortalised on Songs From The Road, the receiver made the most of the engaging
5.1 TrueHD soundtrack, accurately placing the musicians on the stage and filling the room with captivating music.

The Marantz never had to resort to any hyperbole or exaggeration, but managed to make the music come alive. It displayed a penchant for attention to fine detail, but always carefully and accurately contextualised those details to augment an overriding sense of sonic realism.

I felt as if I was right there, in the concert hall, experiencing not only the music, but the ambience of the venue and the atmosphere of the occasion.

Surprisingly, the Marantz treated the 2.1 stereo soundtrack with equal respect and realism: it couldn’t quite match the 5.1 soundtrack for ambient realism, but still managed to create a strong sense of three-dimensional imaging, broad staging and rich tonality. If anything, the stereo focus added to the impact and focus of the music.

Staying with the music theme, I swapped Cohen for Eric Clapton’s marvellous Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 set. Here, the surround mix was more focussed on the on-stage action, while paying less attention to ambient information.

That said, the resulting sound lacked nothing in terms of realism and managed to closely examine each element of the often crowded stage with clarity and admirable balance.

Clapton and friends’ rendition of the classic, reggae-infused ‘I Shot The Sherif’ was a good case in point: the mix exposed each element of a full but perfectly captured performance.

Steve Gadd’s drum kit was spread wide, while the backing singers remained in superb supportive harmony with Clapton’s unassuming vocals throughout. The keyboards and bass found a delicate balance with Clapton’s articulate solo guitar riffs, too.

The Marantz’s music talents extended to its treatment of CD-quality music from streaming service Tidal, delivering a rich and convincing performance. Access speeds and signal stability our 20MB ADSL line were impressive – and that also went for Deezer and Spotify Connect.

The Marantz easily recognised the Synology NAS on the network, and navigating the content in folder view was a cinch, too. The list of compatible file formats is fairly extensive, and includes MP3, WMA and AAC, as well as WAV, FLAC, ALAC and DSD (up to DSD128).

Interestingly, it couldn’t play back some AIFF-encoded material on the server, though.

THE BOTTOM LINE

It never ceases to amaze me just how much functionality AV receiver makers are able to squeeze into a single chassis. Bar making a decent cup of espresso, there’s almost nothing the Marantz SR6013 can’t do.

Access to its multitude of features is intuitive, thanks to the excellent Marantz AVR app, which is definitely preferable to the remote control handset. And while I thought that having to deal with a second, HEOS app for streaming, the reality isn’t nearly as laborious as expected.

Set-up is simple too, aided by automated room calibration and an on-screen start-up guide. And while I wasn’t able to check out its 4K video features, picture quality in plain old 1080p HD was superb.

But most of all, the Marantz sounds great, regardless of source material. It’s an immersive surround sound performer, delivering its multichannel wares with oodles of energy and precision. And it really comes alive with music, both in surround and stereo.

HEOS-multiroom with Alexa voice control, and AirPlay 2, as well as easy Bluetooth connectivity and user-friendly streaming are the cherries on top of a very impressive AVR cake.

VITAL STATS

Channels: 9.2
Power output: 9x 110 watts (8 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0,05% THD)
Surround sound formats: Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and legacy formats
3D sound formats: Dolby Atmos, Auro 3D, DTS:X, DTS Neural:X
DSP: Quad-core, 32-bit
Audio DAC: AKM AK4458 32-bit
Signal-to-noise ratio: 102 dB
HDMI inputs/outputs: 8/3
AV inputs: 4x composite, 2x component
AV outputs: 1x composite, 1x component
Analogue audio inputs: 6x line-level, 1x phono
Digital inputs: 2x coaxial, 2 Toslink digitalConnectivity: Ethernet, 802.11 Wi-Fi (2,4/5 GHz), Bluetooth, AirPlay 2
Dimensions (WxDxH): 440 x 391 x 161 mm
Weight: 12,8 kg
PRICE
R29 990
SUPPLIED BY
HFX Systems

 

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT
Marantz SR-6011 AV receiver
Oppo BDP-95EU universal player
Atlantic Technologies 7.1 surround speaker system
Optoma HD80 DLP projector
Synology DS-214se NAS

 

SOFTWARE
The Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Blu-ray)
Live Free Or Die Hard (Blu-ray)
Leonard Cohen – Songs From The Road (Blu-ray)
Various – Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 (Blu-ray)