When it comes to home theater equipment, especially amplifiers, it is not uncommon amongst enthusiasts to believe in the notion that bigger is somehow better. But, for some, the option of filling the living room with big bulky amplifiers or AV receivers is out of the question, either for aesthetical or practical reasons. The good news is that Marantz offers a solution to this problem with their 17.3" x 14.8" x 4.1" slimline NR1506 AV receiver, catering to customers who wants a more inconspicuous home theater installation in their living room.
The NR1506 looks exactly like its predecessor, the NR1504, and the only way to tell them apart is the model number and some changes to the rear panel. Belonging to Marantz's slimline series and only being 4.1 inches high makes the NR1506 a perfect candidate as the main hub of a scaled down home theater. And while it may be less visually demanding compared to its full-size AV receiver siblings in the Marantz catalog, it still has a long enough list of features to appease even the more demanding home theater enthusiast.
Features and Functionality
One of the more noticeable differences between the previous model and the NR1506 is the two rotatable antennas mounted on the back for wireless connection to bluetooth devices or a Wi-Fi setup. The 1506 also supports AirPlay for wireless communication with iDevices.
New is also the six HDMI 2.0a ports with 4K Ultra HD compatability, capable of 60 Hz full rate content, 4:4:4 Pure Color sub-sampling and 21:9 aspect ratio pass-through. It's also HDCP 2.2 compliant, which is a requirement for 4K Ultra HD copy-protected content. Five of the HDMI inputs are placed at the back and one is conveniently placed in the front for easy access. 3D content is also covered, and the HDMI output supports ARC (Audio Return Channel) for receiving audio from an ARC compatible TV.
The NR1506 handles streaming of wireless audio signals very well thanks to the two RF antennas, and both bluetooth and Wi-Fi worked fine without any break-up or interference during the test. If you want to you can also connect it to the internet, either wirelessly or hard-wired via the RJ-45 Ethernet LAN port, and get access to a multitude of internet radio channels, or streaming music services like Spotify Connect and Pandora, for example.
It's also DLNA 1.5 certified for compatibility with PC, Mac and NAS and allows you to stream lossy formats like MP3, AAC, WMA, AIFF, and lossless formats like WAV, FLAC 192/24, DSD (2.8 MHz) and ALAC while also supporting Gapless Playback.
With just five pairs of speaker terminals, the NR1506 only allows for a simple 5.1 setup. It does however provide you with pre-outs for the front channels (L+R) if you wish to add external amplification, and two (2) subwoofer pre-outs, which gives you more flexibility when it comes to subwoofer placement, and, consequently, a more even bass response if set up properly.
Unfortunately, due to the restrictions of being only a 5.1 channel AV receiver means that Marantz had to purposely omit the new Dolby Atmos and DTS:X formats in the NR1506, and you will have to climb up a step on the Marantz ladder and get the NR1606 if you want this option.
Setup and Usability
Thanks to a well designed user interface (although a bit crude visually), and the clearly laid out controls on the front of the receiver and the remote control, it is very quick and easy to set up and use the NR1506. At first, the 'Setup Assistant' takes you through the process step-by-step, and is very helpful if you're inexperienced or not used to installing and setting up home theater systems - all you need to do is to follow the instructions, select speaker options, etc.
To optimize the performance of the receiver, Marantz has chosen Audyssey's MultEQ calibration system and also include a measuring microphone and mic stand. It calibrates the speakers using up to six measuring positions to get the best possible result, and a step-by-step guide will provide assistance to make sure that the calibration gets done properly.
Once the calibration is done you will be asked if you want to activate 'Dynamic EQ' (features advanced DSP processing to deliver full range wide-band response, even at reduced volume levels) and 'Dynamic Volume' (features advanced psycho-acoustic processing to deliver clear dialog and wide range sound at reduced volume levels so that you can enjoy theater-level clarity at whatever listening level you choose). If you're not pleased with the results of the automatic calibration you have the option to adjust the levels to your liking, or you can skip it altogether and set it up manually using your (golden) ears or a dB level meter and a tape measure.
After performing an automatic calibration and some minor tweaking of the levels, we started our listening test with plain two-channel music, mainly streaming high resolution audio files but also listening to CDs. We let the NR1506 do all the digital-to-analog conversion, and all unnecessary processing was turned off by using the ‘Direct’ and ‘Pure Direct’ modes.
Listening to a wide variety of music in a wide variety of genres, the NR1506 revealed a very organic and musical sounding character with a surprising amount of power and authority at odds with its compact size. It did a good job at conveying harmonial structures, giving instruments and vocals nuance and texture. It also painted a large and spatial soundstage, both in width and depth, and it was fairly easy to pin-point the different instruments within that space.
Moving on to multichannel audio, and we're yet again amazed by how potent this little Marantz sounds. Using two subwoofers obviously adds to the extra sense of power, but it's hard to believe that it's rated at only 50 watts per channel (20Hz~20kHz, .08%THD, 8 ohms), and it only shows its limitations when you turn up the volume to levels that will either cause hearing impairment or get you into trouble with the neighbors - probably both.
The NR1506 was very convincing with effects-heavy movies, like 'Star Wars', 'The Lord of The Rings' and 'The Dark Knight' trilogies - so much that it was at times hard to remember to listen critically as it was so easy to get swept away by the stories that unfolded before our eyes (and ears of course). The modestly sized receiver did an equally good job with more subtle storytelling and less effects-laden movies, where it could demonstrate its ability to paint soundscapes with plenty of details and atmosphere. The overall musicality and fluidity also lended itself well to multichannel music as well, and it was hard to resist stomping our feet (or banging our heads) to the beat of the music. It is quite remarkable how much aural joy Marantz has managed to cram into such a small unit.
If you’re looking for a slimline AV receiver that is ideal as the main hub of an inconspicuous home theater in your living room, the NR1506 is, thanks to its elegant design and useful features, the perfect choice. You will miss out on Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but who cares when it sounds this good?
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- IN ThE bOX
• Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in
• Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio
• 5ch discrete power amplifier, 50W per channel
• Audyssey MultEQ auto speaker setup and room calibration
• Latest HDMI 2.0a version with 4k 60Hz 4:4:4 resolution
• 5+1 HDMI in / 1out (4k 60Hz, 3D, ARC, HDR, BT.2020)
• Full HDCP 2.2 support on all HDMI inputs
• MP3, WAV, AAC, WMA, AIFF • HD Audio streaming: FLAC 192/24, DSD, ALAC
• Gapless Playback
• Spotify Connect, Pandora®, SiriusXM™*, Internet Radio support
• Setup Assistant and Hybrid GUI
• AirPlay on board
• Marantz AVR Remote App for iOS and Android™ devices
• ECO mode
DTS HD Master / DTS 5.1 / DTS ES / DTS 96/24 • / • / • / •
Dolby Digital Plus / Dolby TrueHD / Dolby Digital EX / DPL IIz • / • / - / - Multichannel Stereo •
Compressed Audio Enhancer: MDAX2 •
DLNA Certified • (v1.5)
Lossy Formats MP3 / WMA / AAC • / • / •
Lossless Formats FLAC / ALAC / WAV • / • / •
DSD Streaming • (2.8 MHz)
FLAC HD 192/24 •
WAV 192/24 •
ALAC 96/24 •
Gapless Playback • (FLAC, WAV, ALAC, DSD)
AirPlay Audio Streaming •
Windows PlayTo / Windows 8/RT Compatible • / •
Internet Radio (vTuner) •
Spotify Connect /Pandora / SiriusXM* • / • / •
Compatible with Remote APP for Smart Phones Android/iOS Ethernet / Wi-Fi • / • (dual antenna)
FM / AM Tuner •
Auto Speaker Setup by Microphone Audyssey MultEQ Audyssey Dynamic EQ / Dynamic Volume • / •
HDMI Pass-Through on Stand-By •
3D Video Pass-Through •
Audio Return Channel •
On Screen Display Hybrid GUI GUI Overlay on HDMI •
Setup Assistant (English, French, Spanish) •
Smart Select 4 presets Variable Cross Over •
Optimized Bass Redirection •
Composite In / Out 3 / 1
HDMI In / Out 5+1 / 1
Analog In / Out 3 / 0
Digital Optical In 1
Digital Coaxial In 1
Multichannel Pre Out • (2.2)
Subwoofer Out 2
Marantz Remote Bus •
Network: (IP-control / update) • / •
Front Inputs: HDMI / USB • / •
USB Audio / Made for iPod / Made for iPhone • / • / •
Number of poweramps 5
Power Output per channel
Maximum Power Output Per Channel 100 W
6 ohm, 1 kHz. 0.7%, 2ch Drive 60 W
8 ohm, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 0.08%, 2ch Drive 50 W
Audio Signal to Noise Ratio 98 dB
Available colors: Black •
System Remote Control RC028SR
Power Consumption in W 180
Power Consumption No-Sound (ECO ...on/off) in W 25 / 35
Standby Consumption in W 0.2 (with CEC 0.5)
Maximum Dimensions (W x D x H) in inches 17.3 x 14.8 x 4.1
Weight in lbs. 18.1
Quick Start Guide
Notes on radio
FM indoor antenna
AM loop antenna
Sound calibration microphone (ACM1HB)
Sound calibration microphone stand
Remote control unit (RC028SR)