This week we reviewed the Marantz M-CR612 (Melody-X), the fourth iteration in the Marantz Melody network receiver range inaugurated in 2010 with the Marantz M-CR603, which was then followed by the Marantz M-CR610 (2013) and the Marantz M-CR611 (2017).
At €699, the Marantz M-CR612 receiver is very versatile: as well as a CD player, it also features a USB port for flash drives and hard drives, compatible with 24-bit/192kHz and 5.6MHz DSD files. Its network connectivity (LAN and WiFi) is complemented by AirPlay and DLNA streaming support. Internet radio playback is also available, along with access to online music services such as Deezer, Spotify and Tidal, for example.
Like the last model, this version includes an FM and DAB+ tuner, a Bluetooth receiver, several audio inputs and outputs and two sets of speaker terminals to simultaneously power two pairs of speakers. The manufacturer has modified the Marantz M-CR612 receiver by adding dual amplification, allowing you to control each pair of speakers separately. We will come back to this later.
Two more new features have been added to the M-CR612 version: support for the Apple AirPlay 2 and Denon Heos protocols, opening the doors to multiroom connectivity, and Google Assistant and Alexa compatibility, allowing you to control the receiver with your voice using a smart speaker featuring one of the aforementioned voice assistants.
Marantz M-CR612: the brand
Marantz’s story began in the late 1940s when Saul Bernard Marantz created his first amplifiers in his basement to listen to his microgroove records. In the early 1950s, he developed a phono preamp that was revolutionary for the time, as it integrated the equalization curves of different record labels. The “Audio Consolette” was a huge success with his audiophile friends.
Saul B. Marantz founded Marantz in 1953 and open the company’s first factory in Woodside, Queens (New York). Marantz then produced his first phono preamp, the Model 1, the Model 2 power amplifier (1956) and the Model 7 stereo preamp (1958) which was a reference high-end audiophile preamplifier for many years.
Despite the success of the Model 9 mono amp and the Model 10 tuner produced at the beginning of the 60s, Marantz encountered financial difficulties. The company was acquired by Superscope, who decided to focus on producing more affordable products and considered moving production to Japan, with the creation of Marantz Japan in 1975.
The partnership with Japanese development and production teams was marked by the arrival of engineer Ken Ishiwata at Marantz Europe in 1978. From the mid-1980s, this music and technology enthusiast, and true icon in the audiophile world, produced some of Marantz’s most prestigious products, labeled SE and KI since the 2000s.
Since its creation, Marantz has been an important player in the development of hi-fi and home theater equipment, with products for the general public as well as prestigious electronics lauded by demanding audiophiles. The company’s catalogue includes the Marantz PM-6006 hi-fi amp and the Marantz CD-6006 CD player, both affordable and very musical, but also high-end hi-fi amplifiers and A/V receivers such as the Marantz PM-10 and the Marantz SR-8012. Marantz also offers powerful network audio players, like the Marantz NA-6006.
Marantz M-CR612: packaging & accessories
Despite its compact size, the Marantz M-CR612 receiver comes in a large cardboard box to protect it from any impacts. The only accessories are a remote control and batteries (2 x AAA-LR3), a 2 pin IEC-C7 power cord (not earthed), a coaxial antenna to be screwed in for radio reception, the security instructions and a brief quick start guide.
Marantz M-CR612: presentation
Marantz M-CR612: design
The format of the Marantz M-CR612 receiver is identical to that of its predecessors: 280mm wide, 111mm high and 303mm deep. Therefore, this compact network receiver will fit nicely on a hi-fi or TV-video stand, a dresser or even a shelf. The Marantz M-CR612 receiver comes in two colors: black and silver gold (the version we had for this review). Both versions come with the same black remote control.
The front is divided into three distinct parts. The central part features the tray of the CD player, above the monochrome OLED screen with its white characters and black background. Among other things, this screen displays information about the track being played. Underneath, the Power/Standby button is in the center, flanked by the Input and Back buttons on the left, and the two volume buttons on the right.
On either side of the screen are two circular control panels with four functions and a central button. The left panel is for navigating the Marantz M-CR612 receiver’s menus: up, down, left, right and enter. The right panel is dedicated to audio playback control: open/close the CD tray, stop, previous track, next track and play/pause. A headphone input (3.5mm mini jack) is also present just underneath.
Marantz M-CR612: amplification
The Marantz M-CR612 receiver introduces a change in the way speaker amplification is handled. As with the previous models, two pairs of speakers can be connected (speaker terminals A and B). But now, each pair of speakers is powered separately, as the Marantz M-C612 now features four Class D amplification modules, instead of the previous two, with the ability to select speakers A, B, or A and B, just like the brand’s stereo hi-fi amps.
In practice, this means that the volume for the two speaker pairs can be adjusted separately. This is ideal for playing music in two different rooms, or if you own two pairs of speakers with different characteristics.
You should note, however, that the same audio source is then played on both pairs of speakers.
It is also possible to use the double terminals to bi-amp compatible speakers, by selecting the bi-amp mode in the settings menu. By separating the amplification of the lows from that of the mids and highs, the risk of overlapping between the different frequency ranges is eliminated. Lastly, you can choose to attribute all power to one pair of speakers connected to the A terminals.
The Marantz M-CR612’s amplification therefore totals 4 x 30 Watts of power into 6 Ohms to power two pairs of speakers, or 2 x 60 Watts of power if only one pair of speakers is connected. The frequency response ranges from 10Hz to 40kHz, which means the amp is able to play high resolution audio files. Consequently, the Marantz M-CR612 boasts the label Hi-Res Audio.
Given its power, the Marantz M-CR612 receiver is more suitable for powering compact speakers, although it is possible to associate floorstanding speakers with a high sensitivity rating and reasonably sized woofers (ideally, 6.5” max). It can handle speakers with an impedance between 4 and 16 Ohms.
Marantz M-CR612: connections
The Marantz M-CR612’s connections include four audio inputs, two of which are Toslink optical digital inputs that automatically detect entering signals. Therefore, it can be easily connected to a TV.
The type A USB input is intended to connect and recharge DAPs (compatible with USB MSC – Mass Storage) and Apple devices (iPod/iPhone). You can also connect a flash drive or external hard drive, as long as they are in NTFS or FAT32 format.
The RCA stereo audio input lets you connect an external analog source, such as a turntable with an integrated RIAA phono preamp (USB models for example), or a standard model paired with an external phono preamp.
The Marantz M-CR612 boasts an RCA stereo analog audio output (Audio Out) that can be configured as a line output (fixed level) or a preamplified output (variable level). It is therefore possible to connect an external power amp or a headphone amp. A preamplified output for subwoofers (SW OUT) is also present. The connector for the included DAB/FM antenna is a screw type. The M-CR612 also features a mini jack (3.5mm) stereo headphone output on the front.
Marantz M-CR612: 24 bit/192kHz
The Marantz M-CR612 network receiver is compatible with many different audio formats. WAV, FLAC and ALAC files are supported up to 24-bit/195kHz, as well as 2.8 and 5.6MHz DSD files, via USB or the local network. Moreover, gapless playback is provided for FLAC, WAV, and DSD files, a function that is very useful for live albums.
Marantz M-CR612: network and Bluetooth compatibility
The Marantz M-CR612 receiver includes an Ethernet port so that it can be connected to the local network. It also features a dual band WiFi controller (2.4 and 5 GHz). The receiver is DLNA compatible and can read files stored on a NAS or computer and shared on the local network, as well as files stored on a smartphone. It can also stream thousands of internet radio stations thanks to TuneIn.
The AirPlay protocol is supported: music and any audio content originating from any app (YouTube, video game, replay TV, etc.) can be streamed wirelessly from a Mac, an iPhone, an iPod Touch or an iPad. You simply need to set the Marantz M-CR612 as an audio player and the receiver will turn on automatically when streaming begins.
The Marantz M-CR612 network receiver also has a Bluetooth receiver to wirelessly stream music directly from a smartphone or compatible tablet without using the local network. The manufacturer has even made it possible to deactivate the Bluetooth function when it isn’t being used. This way, the receiver’s musical performance is enhanced by removing this potential source of interference.
Marantz M-CR612: compatible with Heos
Heos is the multi-room system developed by Denon with which several Marantz connected devices are compatible, including the Marantz M-CR612 (Denon and Marantz both belong to the D+M group).
Simple and intuitive, Heos allows you to wirelessly stream different musical sources throughout the house. In order to do this, it relies on the Heos control app which can be downloaded for free on smartphones and tablets (iOS and Android). With this app, you can control playback on the Heos device and access the Spotify, Deezer and Tidal online music services, as well as numerous internet radio stations (TuneIn).
Music stored on a computer or a NAS and sharded on the local network are also accessible. Furthermore, music saved onto the memory of a smartphone or a tablet can be read and streamed wirelessly to one or several Heos-compatible devices.
Best of all, an external source containing music and connected to the Marantz M-CR612 receiver can be streamed simultaneously to one or more Heos-compatible multiroom audio devices.
Marantz M-CR612: listening conditions
After unboxing the Marantz M-CR612 receiver, we connected it to our reference speakers, the Elipson Prestige Facet 8Bs, with NorStone W250 cables. We also connected it to the local network using an Ethernet cable hooked up to one of the network inputs of our Netgear Orbi RBK50 pack’s satellite.
When starting the amp for the first time, you are asked to select a language for the interface before you begin the quick set-up procedure. Next, you must choose whether or not to activate network control and automatic updates, then select the correct timezone. Lastly, you must choose if you wish to send your user details to the manufacturer (anonymously) for improvement purposes.
The Marantz M-CR612 then invited us to search for internet radio stations. We finished the set-up procedure by launching the Heos app on our Android smartphone to find the Marantz M-CR612 and add to the app as an audio player.
From the Heos app, we were able to launch different internet radios via TuneIn and enjoy our review playlist on Deezer (family account, MP3 quality streaming at 320 kbps). We also listened to a few Hi-Res files saved onto our smartphone’s memory.
Note that internet radios are also accessible via the amp’s remote control. The small screen and the rather monotone interface of the Marantz receiver aren’t as easy to use as the app. To test the Marantz M-CR612’s CD player, we also took a few CDs out of storage…
Marantz M-CR612: listening impressions
For our review of the Marantz M-CR612, we primarily used the Elipson Prestige Facet 8B speakers, connected to the A speaker terminals, and the Klipsch RP-8000F floorstanding speakers, connected to the B speaker terminals. Note that the receiver’s amplification is automatically set to standard mode with the option to select speakers A, speakers B, or both at the same time. The volume for each pair of speakers can be adjusted separately.
We decided to listen to our audio CDs first: the Beastie Boys’ The In Sound From Way Out (1996) and Millie Jackson’s Still Caught Up (1975).
Once the CD is inserted, it only takes a few seconds for the first track to play. With the first song, Groove Holmes, the Marantz M-CR612 displayed a nice sense of rhythm. The bassline perfectly underlined the tempo, the cymbals can be heard clearly, the drums and percussions were vibrant, and the keyboard was as retro-sounding as you could wish for! With the album’s experimental last track Drinkin’ Wine, we experienced a musical recreation of the feeling inebriation. The soundstage felt wide, then confined, sounds were airy and then precisely localized. We came out feeling rather dizzy, but with the feeling that the Marantz receiver accurately captured the artists’ intentions.
Next, we enjoyed an intimate atmosphere with soul singer Millie Jackson. Paired with the Elipson Prestige Facet 8Bs, the Marantz M-CR612 did justice to the singer’s warm voice and its occasional gravelly surges. The backing vocals fill the space perfectly, the strings are natural, the drums and bass are dynamic.
Listening to these two albums was enjoyable, but we were left wanting more. The source’s compression and limited definition stop you from fully enjoying the qualities that the receiver and speakers have to offer.
Playing high resolution audio files was a lot more rewarding, the dynamic range was more extensive, the soundstage more spacious and the overall restitution was more detailed.
Connected to the B speaker terminals, the Klipsch RP-8000F speakers allowed us to assess the Marantz’s bass performance. The lows were energetic and coordinated, and offered satisfying impact. With the Peaky Blinders soundtrack on Netflix, the spatialization was very pleasant, the atmosphere and sound effects felt realistic. The optical input’s automatic signal detection is very convenient and allows the amp to automatically switch to the appropriate source when the TV is turned on.
Switching between the two sets of speakers and adjusting their volume is easy with the remote control.
Lastly, we tried the Elipson speakers with the “bridged parallel” and “bi-amp” amplification modes of the Marantz M-CR612 receiver. The first mode lets you use all four digital amplification modules to power only the A speaker terminals to benefit from 2 x 60 watts of power. The second mode allowed us to use both the A and B speaker terminals to power the mid-bass driver and tweeter of each speaker separately. This mode is the one that we enjoyed the most with the Prestige Facet 8B speakers: the lows were more dynamic, with more impact. Vocals seemed more present and the soundstage was more spacious.
Marantz M-CR612: compared to…
Denon DRA-100: thanks to the Heos app, the Marantz network receiver is more user-friendly. The second set of speaker terminals gives the Marantz M-CR612 the edge, along with the ability to bi-amp a pair of compatible speakers or use the four amplification modules to power one pair of speakers connected to the A terminals. In doing so, the restitution provided by the Marantz receiver gains more power, energy and balance.
NAD M10: as we have previously stated, these devices aren’t in the same category and the NAD outperforms the Marantz, in particular due to its superior power rating. However, we didn’t try the Marantz’s bridged or bi-amplification mode when we reviewed the NAD M10. It is clear that these two modes change things completely, allowing you to significantly improve restitution. While it can’t match the NAD M10’s performance, with these specific amplification modes the Marantz M-CR612 is more dynamic than in standard mode, and takes greater advantage of what the connected speakers have to offer.
Marantz M-CR612: conclusion
The Marantz M-CR612 receiver is a perfect follow-on to its predecessor, maintaining its strengths and revising what needed to be amended. Consequently, the receiver boasts a chassis with a beautiful finish, extended connectivity, an FM/DAB+ tuner and a CD player.
Heos compatibility is a real plus, not only in providing multiroom connectivity, but also thanks to the expertly developed Heos app. All sources are directly accessible via the app, as well as the Marantz M-CR612’s audio settings. It is a serious asset that complements the included infrared remote control.
Lastly, the two sets of independent speaker terminals are an excellent idea. Being able to use them to bi-amp compatible speakers or to provide extra power for one pair of speakers is also an undeniable asset.
What we liked
- The well-designed Heos app.
- The dynamic and lively sound.
- The option of bi-amping the speakers and bridging the four amplification channels in parallel.
What we would have liked
- An aptX Bluetooth receiver.
- An even more compact format.