Marantz SR4200 Audio/Video
Im always on
the lookout for budget gear to recommend to my friends, co-workers, and GoodSound!
readers, and recently I received a pretty hot tip. The buzz around the last CEDIA was that
Marantzs SR4200 had all the makings of a fine surround-sound receiver at a
completely reasonable list price of $430. When I got the offer to hear it, I jumped at the
The feature set of a $430 receiver is going to be, well,
pretty basic. After all, you cant have all the bells and whistles of a flagship
receiver for a quarter, or less, of the price. To build a high-quality, reasonably priced
receiver, a manufacturer has to take a good, hard look at what it can include for the
money. If it adds too many frivolous features, then build quality has to suffer. If it
doesnt include enough features, the receiver may not sell. Its a balancing act
I dont envy having to pull off.
Surprisingly, Marantz has managed to stack the SR4200's
features pretty well without adding extras that most people interested in a basic system
will never use. For example, they decided to forego the typical 30 or 40 surround modes
some competing products offer. Customers do get 96kHz/24-bit DACs (which will offer
a performance upgrade for many older CD and DVD players), as well as discrete amplifier
stages. These are features that clearly enhance the SR4200's sound quality.
The SR4200's selection of inputs and outputs is limited,
although it should prove quite adequate for most systems. There are four video inputs, two
S-video connections in addition to two more-typical composite hookups. Dont bother
looking for component-video inputs though, as you wont find them at this price
point. There are also three audio-only inputs and a very generous four digital inputs (two
coaxial, two optical) and two digital outputs (one of each type).
The unit does not offer six-channel analog inputs -- a must
for connecting a multichannel SACD or DVD-Audio player -- but, in a very unusual move for
a receiver in this price range, it does offer a full complement of six preamp outputs,
simplifying the addition of a more powerful multichannel power amplifier. This would be
extremely helpful in the event you should ever require more power than the 70Wpc the
SR4200 delivers. I took the opportunity to try this arrangement, hooking the Marantz up to
a Rotel 976 amplifier, and I can attest that the SR4200 works just fine as a preamp.
The SR4200 is outfitted with plastic-nut binding posts,
but, alas, you can leave your dual banana plugs behind, since the posts arent set
for the standard 3/4" spacing used in North America.
The Marantz supports Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Pro Logic,
Dolby Pro Logic II, five-channel stereo, and a handful of other surround modes. This
should accommodate the majority of home theaters. The tuner has 50 presets, or at least 10
times the number of marginally listenable stations on the dial in my little corner of
the world. Theres also a sleep timer, display dimmer, night listening mode, and a
source-direct switch, which bypasses the subwoofer crossovers and tone controls. A
multi-source universal remote completes the list. The receiver is 17.31"W x
6.5"H x 14.38"D and weighs 21.1 pounds.
Setting up the Marantz SR4200 proved simple enough. One of
the advantages of a receiver that doesnt have a ton of bells and whistles is that
you dont have to spend a lot of time wading through features and settings you may
not use. The only options on the SR4200's set-up menu are Speaker Size, Speaker
Distance, Channel Level, LFE Attenuation, and Digital Input
The menu system itself is a little awkward to navigate, but
once you get used to it, its not bad at all. To make changes, you simply navigate
through the options displayed on the receivers front panel via the cursor keys on
the remote control. You click up and down to page through the options within a level --
right takes you down a level and left takes you up one.
Basic set up consists of establishing the speaker size (a
necessity for the best home-theater performance) as "Large" or
"Small," plus "None" for the center and surrounds, and "Yes"
or "No" for a subwoofer, as well as the previously mentioned options.
Thats really all there is to it and I had mine up and running in no time. The manual
helps a little with the settings, but dont expect a primer on how each setting might
affect the sound of the rest of your system.
I used a Sony DVP-S300 DVD player and an Adcom GCD-600 CD
player as sources and Acoustic Energy Aesprit 300 and Acoustic Research HC6 speakers.
Everything was connected with Straight Wire interconnects and Monster Cable speaker cable.
Once the SR4200 is set up, operation is straightforward.
Setting the mode to Auto allows the receiver to select the appropriate mode based
on the signal it sees at the digital input -- selecting Dolby Digital, DTS or stereo as it
sees fit. In this mode the end-user will rarely have to do more than turn the receiver on,
select the appropriate input (such as CD or DVD) and set the volume level. This is perfect
for those of us who have technophobic family members.
The remote is a simple affair thats also used for the
SR5200 and therefore has some buttons that are either improperly labeled (five-channel
stereo is labeled "6-Stereo") or arent active at all. However, the remote
is fairly well laid out and once you get used to the mislabeled and inactive keys,
its not a problem to use.
Well, it may be simple enough to operate, but the $430
question is how does it sound? In a word, great! The thing that strikes me most
about this receiver is the fact that it's absolutely dead quiet. Turn the volume up to
near ear-bleeding levels and this receiver emits zero noise of any kind during pauses in
the music. I've heard quite a few inexpensive receivers and most emit at least some slight
hiss or hum at extremely high volume levels, but I heard nothing at all from the SR4200.
This contributes to a black background behind your music.
First up: The Replacement Killers soundtrack [Varese
5915] at fairly raucous levels. The SR4200 had more than enough power to drive the
moderately efficient Acoustic Research HC6 satellites (a small sub/sat system with an
8" powered sub) to ear-splitting levels in my average-sized family room. I also
swapped in a pair of Acoustic Energy Aesprit 300s and ran them full range to see how well
the Marantz would handle the bass of this highly active soundtrack, and whether the lack
of a powered sub would tax the amplifier section in any way. Much to my surprise, the
SR4200 never skipped a beat, providing ample bass with good control. The Marantz also
produces a very precise and detailed soundstage, which was quite apparent listening to
My standard test for bass control has been "Hotel
California" off of the Eagles Hell Freezes Over CD [Geffen 24725]. The
SR4200 performed quite well on this test. The bass wasnt quite as controlled as it
is with my separate Rotel amplifier, but it wasnt all that far off, either. The
Marantz's slightly fuller bass has its advantages, though. When paired with the AR HC6
system, the result was good low bass from the powered sub and a little added lushness
in the midbass of the satellites. I found this aspect of the sound extremely pleasing.
The 4200's midbass lushness doesnt come at the
expense of detail and high-frequency extension. On Jane Monheits latest CD, Come
Dream With Me [N-Coded Music NC-4219-2], every nuance of her voice is clearly there,
as is the air behind the cymbals on "Over the Rainbow." The clarity of female
vocals was remarkable and the receiver preserved low-level detail to a satisfyingly
Some time back I was asked what I thought about the
prospects of Dolby Pro Logic II. Ive never really been a big fan of music surround
modes but the Marantz SR4200 gave me a chance to finally put the question to the test.
Unlike some other receivers that support Dolby Pro Logic II, the SR4200 doesnt allow
for adjustment of parameters within each mode. Initially, I thought this was a glaring
omission of a required capability, but after listening to several CDs I decided that it
works well enough as is. Maybe its better to leave well enough alone on certain
Dolby Pro Logic II was just the ticket for me on music with
high ambient sound levels like the title cut from Rod Stewarts Human
[Atlantic 83411-2], where the background vocals carried just enough extra ambience to make
it sound more like a real concert hall. But I knew I was onto something when I dropped the
Cowboy Junkies The Trinity Session [BMG 8568-2-R] into the CD player. Here
the Marantz SR4200 did an incredible job of recovering the ambience of the church that the
album was recorded in. This was readily apparent on several cuts, but it really shone on
"Mining for Gold" and "Blue Moon Revisited."
Let me make this simple: You want Dolby Pro Logic II
in your music system. End of story. As I said, Ive never been much of a fan of
artificial music surround modes, but Jim Fosgate nailed it with Dolby Pro Logic II.
Its not for everything, but for some CDs I really enjoyed this mode on the
The Marantz SR4200 is an outstanding receiver for the
money. Its dead quiet in operation with nary a hint of background noise or hum. It
lacks some features people might desire, but it should be versatile enough for most
people most of the time.
Overall, the SR4200's sound is clean, detailed and smooth.
I was quite taken by just how polished this little receiver sounded with everything I
threw at it. It probably isnt the last word in ultimate resolution, but it did far
better than I ever expected at anywhere near the price. Bass control is better than
average, and with reasonably efficient speakers in modest-sized rooms, it should handle
the power demands of most systems with ease.
The question is: would I recommend this receiver to
friends, co-workers, and you?
I already have.
Price of equipment reviewed