We first reviewed the M-CR502 in the July 2009 issue of What Hi-Fi? Sound And Vision. At £500, we liked it a lot for its lean, driving approach and sonic clarity, let alone its impressive design and attractive styling.
But still, we felt it lacked a little too much soul, a little too much of the subtleties of instrumental realism, to be awarded five stars.
However, it's always about 'performance-per-pound' here on whathifi.com. And with the news that Marantz has dropped the price of the M-CR502 from £500 to £400, we felt it deserved another listen at the new price.
First impressions are very good – the curved chassis and symmetrical layout is very stylish indeed, while the display is large and clear. Only the old-fashioned, unergonomic remote control disappoints.
Optional speakers cost £100
You can buy the system on its own, or for £100 extra Marantz will supply the LS502 speakers which were specifically designed to partner the M-CR502.
The LS502s are decent small speakers with plenty of drive, attack and excitement, and the gloss finish matches the top of the main unit. We also tested the unit with Tannoy's £110 Mercury F1 Customs.
If it were our money, we'd pay an extra £10 for the Tannoys. They retain the Marantz's precision intact while smoothing sibilance.
Returning to features, the '502 offers support for WMA and MP3 files via USB or CD-R (limited to 192kbps and 320kbps), and two pairs of speaker outputs that enable you to play music in two zones – or to bi-amp the system.
Stunning precision and rhythm
Play Hans Zimmer's Angels and Demons soundtrack and the '502 obliges with quite stunning precision and rhythm.
Every note is placed with pin-point accuracy; every track is attacked with rhythmic force – and this razor-sharp, detailed delivery is present and correct on DAB and FM broadcasts via its tuner, too.
At £400, we feel no reservations about awarding the M-CR502 five stars. The new price takes it an important step closer to the £300 Denon D-M37DAB, and away from the superior but more expensive Arcam Solo Mini.
It's a viable alternative for those that want better than the Denon, but who don't want to splash £750 on the Arcam.
At this lower price, we can afford to ignore the sheen of insight and warmth that the Arcam has in spades but is missing here.
Instead, we can happily focus on how much more clean, punchy and precise the Marantz is than its cheaper Denon rival.