The A/V receiver market is a highly competitive one, with all of the manufacturers scrambling to gain some advantage. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it means that the most important features are, for the most, part duplicated across the field. What really distinguishes one brand from another is how they implement latest technologies. Marantz’s SR5002 has most, but not all, of the features we could want, but what made it a standout design is just how easy it was to install and use. We never had to consult the owner’s manual to get the job done.
The SR5002’s MRAC (Marantz Room Acoustic Calibration) handles audio setup; the receiver is XM “ready” so you’ll need to buy XM’s kit to enjoy satellite radio. Audiophile goodies include HDCD (High-Definition Compatible Digital) to decode HDCD CDs with 20-bit resolution compared to standard CD’s 16-bit sound; and Dolby Headphone processing delivers 5.1 channel sound over stereo headphones. The SR5002 amplifiers’ all-discrete circuitry (no integrated circuits) pumps out 90 watts for each of its seven channels. True, the receiver lacks the latest Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio lossless surround modes, but the SR5002 can deliver TrueHD and Master Audio sound after they’ve been converted to PCM by your Blu-ray player. I’ve grown weary of overly complicated remotes, so the SR52000’s slender remote deserves special mention. It’s just so darn well laid out and easy to master; it also helps that it’s completely backlit, so we could actually see all the buttons in our darkened home theater. The remote provides direct access to bass and treble controls, tunes AM/FM/XM radio stations, and selects stereo Dolby/DTS surround modes — no need to slog through menus or other complications.
HDMI (V1.3 Switching/ V1.1 Repeating) is nice, but the SR5002 doesn’t up-convert analog video to 1080p HDMI. It will, however, convert composite and S-video sources, like your old VCR, to component video.
The Doors Waiting for The Sun DVDAudio disc [Elektra/Rhino)] was a revelation over the SR5002. Remixed to 5.1 by the group’s original recording engineer, Bruce Botnick, in 2006, the higher resolution sound feels more contemporary. Jim Morrison’s vocals are solidly planted in the center channel and his presence is dramatically better than it ever was on CD or LP. Ray Manzarek’s keyboard basslines are clearer than ever before, and John Densmore’s slammin’ drums on “Five To One” really pop out of the mix. Robby Krieger’s stinging guitar and Jimbo’s crazed screams near the end of the tune raised goosebumps. The band recorded the basic tracks “live” in the studio, and on the DVD-A, you can hear that energy. Man, they were tight. I was having such a good time listening to high-resolution audio I checked out a few tracks on Frank Zappa’s QuAudiophiliac DVD-A [DTS Entertainment]. These quadraphonic mixes were done by Zappa in the 1970s, and their you-are-there sense of being in the room with FZ was truly spectacular.
Oh, and thanks to its Dolby Headphone processing we loved the SR5002 with our Grado RS-1 ‘phones. The Dolby Headphone sound was so good that I had to take the headphones off for just a second just to make sure the sound wasn’t still coming over the speakers! It’s that good.
I was impressed with the SR5002’s home theater chops. The “One Of Them” episode from the Lost: Season 2 DVD box set sounded awesome. The battle scene flashbacks of Sayid’s memories of the Gulf War made huge demands on the receiver’s power amplifiers. No problem, the mayhem was visceral as hell and the surround mix during a scene inside a military transport was suitably claustrophobic. Every bump in the road, every creak and low shudder of the transport were palpably communicated.
The Marantz SR5002 was a joy to use. It sounded great, and if late night headphone listening appeals to you, the SR5002 should be on your short list.