After the excellent performances of the Denon Ceol N8 amplifier, we couldn’t resist testing its alter-ego, the Marantz M-CR610. Are the two amplifiers really identical’ Or has the Marantz Melody M-CR610 been developed differently and therefore has its own sound aesthetics? Let’s find out.
Who is this amplifier aimed at?
It’s aimed at those who want a compact, high-performance hi-fi mini-stereo, which can read Audio CDs as well as MP3 and HD audio files from a USB drive or via the local network. A device which also allows you to listen to FM, digital terrestrial (DAB) or Internet radio stations, as well as music stored on an iPhone, iPod or iPad via the USB port, AirPlay or any Android smartphone and tablet. All of this with the maximum comfort, with or without wires and with a sound worthy of large-scale electronics. You think its impossible? Well, you’ll see that it’s nothing short of a miracle.
Differences with the Denon Ceol N8
We note a minor difference in output power, with 5 Watts less per channel for the Marantz M-CR610 and 60 Watts per channel at 1 kHz (with a high distortion rate). Real power is established at approximately 2×40 W at 8 Ohms, from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with a hi-fi distortion of 0.07 %. This, as we’ll see later on, is more than enough even with floor-standing speakers.
The design is slightly different, despite its similar dimensions. The front panel of the Marantz M-CR610 has two ?cheeks?, characteristic features of the Marantz design ? rounded side edges, as well as a central power button. The CD player is also located in a high-up position. The back panel reveals other differences, which are to the Marantz M-CR610 amplifier’s advantage, such as a compatible FM and DAB+ aerial socket to listen to terrestrial digital radio for example. There’s also a double pair of speaker terminals, in order to connect and use two pairs of speakers separately or simultaneously.
A second USB port is also featured, in order to connect a hard drive for example (FAT/FAT32). We also note the presence of a stereo pre-out output in addition to the subwoofer output, which is practical if you want to use power blocks.
The Marantz M-CR610 amplifier has a superior quality finish with a shinier gloss lacquer. The mirror effect is impressive. For functional purposes, there is no real difference between the Marantz M-CR610 and the Denon Ceol N8, which both share the same accessories, namely a remote control and a control application for iOS or Android.
Very good packaging for the Marantz M-CR610 amplifier, which is particularly easy to remove and unpack. As well as the power cable, Marantz also supplies a coaxial aerial cable.
We tested the Marantz M-CR610 amplifier with different speakers, namely Q Acoustics 2050i and Klipsch RB-51 and with AudioQuest Rocket 88 speaker cables, AudioQuest NRG-1.5 power cable and an optical Toslink cable, the AudioQuest Vodka. Nothing but excellent cables and reference speakers in relation to the price of this AV receiver. The sources we used were our NAS with DLNA server and CD and HD quality FLAC files, as well as a few audio CDs. We also watched some films, using a Mede8er MEDX6003D multimedia player.
It’s really just child’s play, as you might expect. Settings rely on the network configuration, which is compulsory for using AirPlay and DLNA modes as well as listening to Internet radio and Spotify. We initially connected the Marantz M-CR610 amplifier to our WiFi router, via the quick configuration menu. Even though it was faster using the WPS automatic connection mode, we typed in our WiFi password with the remote control.
Everything worked perfectly. The reaction time of the Marantz M-CR610 was, however, shorter with Ethernet than with WiFi, we therefore chose a cable connection. Once again, we had to use the quick configuration menu, which only took a minute. We then carried out a firmware update, which like the Denon Ceol N8, takes 15 minutes.
The Marantz M-CR610 will delight even the most technophile-minded user, given that it has a settings web server, which can be accessed from any Internet browser. This contains mainly the network settings. Please note that you don’t have to look at this unless you really want to split hairs.
Marantz Control App
This is a carbon copy of the Denon Remote App, apart from the graphic layout. The Marantz Control App is very easy to use. It allows you to select different entries, create playlists and edit favourites (which can be FM, digital and Internet radio stations or even shared audio files on the local network). Please note that you need to activate the network control using the remote control in order to switch on the Marantz M-CR10 with the iOS application or Android. You can use the remote control and mobile control application simultaneously.
AirPlay or USB: what you can do with an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad
Unlike the Denon Ceol N8 amplifier, the Marantz M-CR610 doesn’t include an Apple dock. This doesn’t really pose a problem as Apple devices gain in communicating with the M-CR610 via a WiFi network and the AirPlay protocol. Any iPhone, iPod touch or iPad connected to the local network can instantly send (stream) music (files in the memory, Youtube apps, Deezer, etc.) to the Marantz M-CR610 amplifier, which immediately starts playing. You just need to click the AirPlay icon on any audio player or iOS video and select the Marantz amplifier. If it is switched off, it will automatically switch on. The iPhone/iPod touch/iPad controls the volume too. The amplifier’s LCD screen displays information relating to the file being played. The Marantz M-CR610 application for iOS lets you control the amplifier. It is possible to connect an iDevice to the USB port on the front panel to charge it.
Possible interaction with a smartphone or Android tablet
You can connect an Android smartphone to the USB port on the front panel (or to the one located on the back) of the Marantz M-CR610, which is recognised as a USB drive. The remote control and LCD screen are used for navigation purposes. Many different file formats can be read, namely MP3, WMA, M4A, ALAC, WAV or FLAC measuring up to 24 bits and 192 kHz. Please note that the playing of WAV and FLAC files is gapless, meaning there is no silent pause between tracks, which is ideal when listening to concerts. The Marantz Control App offers the same functions when using iOS. On the other hand, it’s impossible to stream files present in the memory of the Android device using the Marantz application. In order to be able to do this, you must use a third-party application, such as the BubbleUPnP. We did this and playing files didn’t pose a problem. The FLAC HD files were streamed without any difficulty.
The LCD display is of excellent quality and big enough to be read from the listening point (2.5 m in our case). The different menus are well laid out. Tone control can be accessed quickly and it offers a Bass Boost mode, as well as correction on a 20 dB range (-10/+10, per increment of 2 dB) on 100 Hz frequencies (bass) and 10 kHz (treble). We added an additional 2 to 4 dB for home cinema listening with the Klipsch RB-51, whose sound is not as full this range as we might have liked.
The CD drawer is silent and opens quickly. Each disk is recognised almost instantly. The number of tracks is displayed, as well as the duration of each track. What is regrettable is that, despite the Internet connection, album titles and songs cannot be retrieved and stored. Audio performances comply with other sources, but we’ll come back to this later.
The Marantz M-CR610 features two USB ports (compared to just one for the Denon Ceol N8), which allows a hard drive USB to be connected. Only FAT and FAT32 partitions are supported. There’s no point in connecting an NTFS disk as it will not be received. The indexing of our USB test drive’s contents was very fast (a few seconds). Song titles are displayed on one line with possible scrolling if the name is too long. Play, pause and changing tracks are all instantaneous.
S/PDIF optical input
This is convenient for connecting an HD television. This is what we did, using an AudioQuest Vodka optical cable, which although it is costly, is highly superior to a basic cable with more expansive and soft listening with smooth treble. Please note that only PCM stereo signals are supported in inputs. It is highly recommended to set your television to re-format potential Dolby or DTS stream (all recent televisions do it).
RCA stereo analog inputs
The Marantz M-CR610 features two of these, which are very practical for connecting additional sources, such as a Bluetooth receiver for example.
FM and DAB (digital) radio
If the Denon Ceol N8 amplifier offered short wave (AM) reception, Marantz has decided to give it a miss and we’re not complaining. The FM tuner has satisfied us completely, just like the DAB but the proximity of an FM/DAB relay doesn’t allow us to say if these tuners are very sensitive. The wire aerial supplied was adequate for perfect reception.
The Marantz M-CR610 supports the vTuner protocol. Internet radio search is carried out by country or by genre. This is a simple operation with the remote control, but it’s even more convenient with the Marantz Control App, which allows textual research to be conducted. The creation of a favourites menu is a piece of cake. It’s worth noting that access to the created favourites is very fast, regardless of the source currently being played. The remote control is well laid out. The number of radio stations is in the thousands and all the major stations are present.
We didn’t test the Spotify connection, as we didn’t have a personal Premium account. Marantz did, however, confirm that user lists are accessible via the remote control and LCD screen, as well as via the Marantz Control App. This is convenient for Android users. Those who have an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad can use the official Spotify application and listen to music via AirPlay.
DLNA music servers
This is where things sometimes get complicated but not with the Marantz M-CR610 amplifier which is just as good as the Denon Ceol N8. Whether using the remote control or Marantz Control App, access to the list of DLNA servers present on the local network is instantaneous. We used the DLNA server from our Synology NAS, but it is possible to access music shared by smartphones (Samsung especially) or computers (Mac/PC) on which there is an active UPnP/DLNA (Serviio, PS3 Media Server, Foobar2000 with optional UPnP plugin, etc.). Most Internet servers use this music-sharing service on USB drives or their internal hard drive. The Marantz M-CR610 amplifier reads the most current CD (16 bits / 44.1 kHz) to HD (24 bits / 192 kHz) quality formats.
Let’s start by saying that this Marantz M-CR610 amplifier doesn’t sound completely like the Denon Ceol N8. High frequencies are smoother. When you compare the two, you notice that the Denon Ceol N8 has a slight bump in the medium, which adds presence and depth to the sound stage. The Marantz M-CR610 is smoother and soft and is quite similar in medium and treble to what the NuForce DDA-100 offers.
Listening is remarkably solid and clear. Such strength and dynamics in bass frequency delivery! Rising times are very short and the Marantz M-CR610 can play it just right. The crash of the timpani on Take Five by Dave Brubeck invite you to turn up the volume more and more. Our little Klipsch RB-51 really came alive like never before with remarkable ease. Similarly with the Q Acoustics 2050i tower speakers, whose bass thunders on Moonlight on Spring River by Zaho Cong (Dali CD vol 3).
The sound localization is extraordinary with delightful lateralisation (well-centred voices). Listening is full of little details, which are all well integrated into the audio message. Listening is coherent, lively (but not aggressive), refreshing and always engaging.
We listened to different types of music (pop, jazz, classical) and the results consistently impressed us ? just like the Denon Ceol N8. Even Internet radio stations, streamed in MP3, are perfectly coherent. AS WE listened to films and series, we noticed the miracles achieved by this mini amplifier. No jumble with the terrible DTS track of Pacific Rim ? the upper bass is well articulated and the infra-bass totally credible. The introduction to an episode of Breaking Bad and the track Bonfire by Knife Party is simply breathtaking.
We were in no doubt but we just wanted to check anyway ? the Marantz M-CR610 is just as good if not better than the Denon Ceol N8 thanks to its smoother medium and treble ranges, which are much better integrated. Few hi-fi or home cinema amplifiers for under 1000 euros can boast such listening pleasure as this Marantz M-CR610 with its solid, controlled bass. It proves to be an essential hi-fi and home cinema stereo solution. There is no compact speaker which could not be paired up with M-CR610. As for floor-standing speakers, we checked that a pair of 16 cm drivers in a bass-reflex enclosure wouldn’t affect the amplifier’s output stage. We highly recommend this Marantz M-CR610 amplifier which has become our reference model for listening in living rooms measuring between 15 and 25 m².