Marantz M-CR603 review

The Marantz M-CR603 is one slick, fully loaded little system that's more than capable of running top-notch speakers Tested at £500

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Best micro system £400+, Awards 2011. Great to use, listen to and live with, this Marantz micro is a high-tech marvel


  • +

    Lovely looks and great usability

  • +

    will play music from almost anywhere

  • +

    cracking detail and rhythmic precision


  • -

    A slight faff to add AirPlay

  • -

    no wi-fi

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

We have seen the Marantz M-CR603 before, way back in December 2010, when it stood out as the only affordable, all-in-one hi-fi to let you enjoy your music from just about anywhere.

CD? Check. DAB? Check. Digital iPod connection? You betcha. How about network streaming and internet radio? No problem – you can even add Napster and to the list.

An extra £39 gives you Apple AirPlay support, although it's currently free until the end of 2011, and there’s an optional Bluetooth adaptor, too. However, mighty as that feature list might be, the Marantz is no longer the only device that offers it – so it needs to sound great if it’s going to emerge from this test unscathed.

A classy-looking unit

It starts strongly. We’d argue that this is one of the best looking, most classy units in its class, and as well as feeling brilliantly well-made it responds very quickly to commands from the effective remote control.

The big display manages to fit in a lot of info and remain clear at all times, and the disc drawer is solid and quick to open and close. This is sophisticated, well-made kit.

Use the Marantz the old fashioned way by playing a CD, and it will reward you with an detailed, brilliantly judged delivery that’s brimming with energy.

Mr. Hudson and Kanye West’s Supernova benefits from punchy precision and pacey rhythmic ability, while voices and instruments are distinctly rendered and placed.

There’s a wide frequency range, too, resulting in tingly treble and deep, weighty bass.

From USB to AirPlay

You lose a little of the very fine detail and dynamic subtlety when you play an Apple Lossless rip through the digital USB connection on the front, but the performance is still excellent.

Perhaps more impressive, though, is that a switch from this to AirPlay incurs little in the way of further sonic penalties.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Marantz will handle 24-bit/96kHz digital files, and while a product of this type is never going to fully benefit from the extra quality a studio master brings to the party, there is an audible improvement in terms of definition and dynamics.

You can maximise the Marantz’s potential by adding decent speakers: Dali’s Zensor 1s are a good place to start.

While the Marantz is no longer alone in offering a huge feature list, its superb sonic ability plus excellent usability ensure it still remains in contention for top position.

MORE: Marantz M-CR610 review

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test