Exhaustive research has shown that some readers consider a four-star rating to be enough to scratch a product off their shortlist. Despite our best efforts, some of you just don't believe a four-star machine might be their best option. Those people haven't even read this far… so once again, they're missing out. This purposeful Marantz receiver is an excellent four-star product – here's why it could be the very thing to power your home cinema system.
For starters, it's extensively specified. Seven 110-watt channels of power make the SR7002 capable of bringing even the most truculent loudspeakers under control, and there's a plethora of useful socketry around the back. The Marantz can upconvert any analogue video signal to HDMI – and on the subject of the almighty HDMI, the SR7002 features four inputs and two outputs. Marantz reckons so many of us combine flatscreen TVs with projectors, twin outputs is nigh-on essential. Most excitingly, the SR7002 can decode the flash new audio codecs Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD.
Then there are aesthetic and ergonomic considerations. The Marantz sets itself up accurately, if not particularly quickly, via its little microphone, and its remote control is a backlit, learning affair that can handle remote duties for your entire system. And the SR7002 doesn't do itself any harm by looking smooth and inoffensive on your kit-rack, either.
A dab hand with Dolby
Decoding and amplifying the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack to our Letters from Iwo Jima Blu-ray, the Marantz establishes a wide, tall and deep soundstage. It steers and positions effects confidently, ensuring dialogue is at once distinct and well integrated. No detail is too fine to elude the '7002, and it's prepared to brawl and grind when the soundtrack demands. Low frequencies have fine variation of tonality, and punch with assurance.
Music benefits from this same even-handed approach. Grinderman's Set Me Free is served up sinuously, the soundstage entirely plausible and alive with detail. Instruments integrate into the whole smoothly, vocals carry character and expression, and timing is of the assured, toe-tapping variety.
So how does that fifth star elude the SR7002? Well, as Sartre observed, hell is other people – he would have added ‘and other AV receivers' if he'd been half as smart as he thought he was. Alongside its very best rivals, the Marantz lacks cast-iron authority and scale where movies are concerned – it just doesn't have the fulminating dynamic ability of the class leader and can occasionally sound inhibited by comparison. Music, though luxuriously detailed, can harden at volumes where some competitors just get louder.
But having read this far, you'd be wrong to write the SR7002 off. It's a well-made, comprehensively specified receiver that runs at a reasonable temperature and sounds excellent 90% of the time.