Testing the Marantz Cinema 30 has reminded me how much I miss my AV receiver

The Marantz Cinema 30 photographed on top of a metal and glass rack
(Image credit: Future)

I have had the pleasure this week of being involved in the testing of the Marantz Cinema 30, and it has made my current home system seem a little underwhelming. You will have to wait until our Home Cinema Week at the start of July to read our exclusive Marantz Cinema 30 review, but it has reminded me just how good a ‘proper’ Dolby Atmos system can be – and how enjoyable it is, if you’re the right sort of person, to own an AV receiver.

Regular readers of this column might remember that at the start of last year my family and I moved from London-ish to Cambridgeshire, and that the living room of our 'new' house is lounge first, home cinema second. We moved into the 'old' house right after it was built, and before the carpets were laid I was able to get in there and run speaker cables across the living room floor, up the walls and through the ceiling. That meant I was able to set up an 11.1.4 system, ceiling speakers and all, without the usual cable spaghetti – and that very much helped with the spousal approval.

With this house, things are a bit different. It was built in the 80s and it was well decorated and looked after by the previous owners, so I don’t really need to mess around with the living room. What’s more, there’s a large garage and we don’t feel the need to store our car in it. I have been given permission, therefore, to turn said garage into a more serious home cinema – so long as I don’t also do the same to the lounge.

That was an easy deal to make, as I’m sure you can imagine; but there’s just one problem – I have neither the time or skills to tackle the garage-to-cinema conversion myself, nor the money to pay someone else to do it for me. That means that, roughly 18 months since we moved into the new house, the amount of progress made on the garage cinema project is precisely none.

Home Theatre System: Sony HT-A9

(Image credit: Sony)

Before you break out the tiny violins, you should know that the new living room system is still much more substantial than that of most homes. We’re currently using a lovely 65-inch Panasonic OLED TV and, after stints with the Sonos Arc and then a pair of HomePod 2s, have settled on the Sony HT-A9 system for sound.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Sony HT-A9 system consists of four wireless speakers that you can place pretty casually around the room, but that will create a very impressive bubble of Dolby Atmos (and DTS:X and 360 Reality Audio) sound. Somewhat surprisingly, it was deemed by my long-suffering wife to be far more aesthetically agreeable than a soundbar, despite the increased number of boxes, and it offers an even more impressive Atmos experience, particularly when bolstered by an optional subwoofer.

That said, testing the Marantz Cinema 30 has reminded me that the better-than-a-soundbar Sony HT-A9 can’t really hold a candle to an AVR + speakers setup. Of course, that shouldn’t really come as a surprise: we’re talking about a huge box with multiple, high-quality amplifiers feeding hi-fi quality speakers via high-end speaker cables; versus a system designed to replicate all of those things as best it can with fewer speakers and no cables, at a fraction of the cost. Still, the sheer fidelity, detail, dynamics and drive of what I’ve been listening to this week has made me very sad for the AV receiver and speaker package that have sat neglected for 18 months in my one-day-to-be-glorious-but-currently-full-of-crap garage.

A photograph of the rear of the Marantz Cinema 30 AV amplifier

(Image credit: Future)

It’s not just the sound of the Marantz AVR and our reference speakers that has made me feel this way, either, but the joy I feel when operating an AV receiver. I fully appreciate that for most people an AVR is entirely incomprehensible and that solutions such as the HT-A9 and its soundbar rivals are designed to offer an undaunting alternative; but once you have learned the intricacies of AVR operation it becomes genuinely enjoyable. For what it’s worth, the Marantz Cinema 30 actually makes all of this stuff much more approachable than any AVR I’ve previously experienced, too – but more on that in the full review.

Ultimately, what I’m trying to say is that as good as modern soundbars and wireless speakers are – and they are very good – they are also inevitably compromised by their quest for convenience. There’s nothing at all wrong with that and I implore you to go down that route if you are currently making do with your TV’s own speakers (believe me, even the good examples are awful in an ultimate sense), but if you have the opportunity to go with an AVR and speaker package setup, you should grab it with both hands and never let go.

Meanwhile, for me, there is only one solution: to pull my finger out and get started on converting my garage to a home cinema. More on that in the (hopefully) near future.


Check out our reviews of the Sonos Arc, HomePod 2 and Sony HT-A9

These are the best AV receivers you can buy right now

Tom Parsons

Tom Parsons has been writing about TV, AV and hi-fi products (not to mention plenty of other 'gadgets' and even cars) for over 15 years. He began his career as What Hi-Fi?'s Staff Writer and is now the TV and AV Editor. In between, he worked as Reviews Editor and then Deputy Editor at Stuff, and over the years has had his work featured in publications such as T3, The Telegraph and Louder. He's also appeared on BBC News, BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4 and Sky Swipe. In his spare time Tom is a runner and gamer.