Marantz rings the changes with this new-look home cinema amplifier. Steve May gets all emotional. Read our MARANTZ CINEMA 50 Review.
What better way to put this Marantz high-end home cinema amplifier through its paces than with some high-brow music. Specifically, Winter, from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (or, as I like to call it, Le quattro stagioni). The trilling of violins, beautifully elucidated by this amplifier’s melodious HDAM amplification, is sublime, and I just love the way the strings are dramatically engulfed by a full orchestral storm… and heavy weapons fire.
|PRODUCT||9.4-channel Dolby Atmos AV amplifier|
|POSITION||Second from the top of Marantz’s new-look lineup|
|PEERS||Denon AVC-X6700H; Yamaha RX-A6A|
John Wick is on the hunt (John Wick: Chapter 3 -Parabellum, 4K Blu-ray). The aforementioned needle drop, featuring Slovakia’s Cappella Istropolitana chamber orchestra, provides a glorious accompaniment to the symphony of violence about to unfold, and any preconceived notion that a Marantz AV amp is too refined to do justice to genuine cinematic mayhem is quickly dispelled. Automatic weapons discharge all around me, and the transients are fast and fabulous. My ears ring. Now this is what you call music!
Turn up the Wick
The heavily armed agents of The High Table are swarming The Continental hotel, but they don’t stand a chance. Wick has access to guns – lots of guns – and he’s getting through the armoury at speed. The barrage of gunfire from every angle is astonishing; this is Dolby Atmos audio writ large. When Wick and concierge Charon upgrade to heavy-gauge, armour-piercing shells, the gun retorts become even more visceral. I feel an urge to nudge the volume up further, something I’ve been doing all through the movie. Yet the amp, like Wick, remains unflustered. It never sounds under strain, always teasing more power in the tank.
1. A fresh aesthetic, but the ‘porthole’ display remains
The Cinema 50 heralds a significant change to Marantz’s home cinema line. Most obviously, it introduces an entirely new design, and I certainly approve. But the changes aren’t just cosmetic, they’re also under the hood, from the interface to connectivity.
This is a nine-channel model, priced at £, so entering the premium end of the market. In terms of positioning, it actually sits below the Marantz Cinema 40 (the reverse nomenclature can be a little confusing), which typically sells for £. The Cinema 40 is broadly comparable in specification to the model on our test bench, and mostly justifies its price hike with a higher claimed power output – 9 x 125W/8ohm vs the 9 x 110W/8ohm of the Cinema 50.
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If you want the new styling but also hanker after a radio tuner, Marantz’s Cinema 60 is available in FM and FM/DAB versions, priced £ and £ respectively. Power on both is rated at 100W/8ohm, via seven onboard channels. Providing an entry point for 2023 is the slimline Cinema 70, another seven-channel model priced £
If you’re buying Stateside, all the Cinema models are receivers, because that’s the market preference.
Hey, good lookin’
Marantz’s new HD user interface is uncluttered. Setting up any AV amplifier or receiver can be a harrowing affair, but the GUI here, which is actually generated by the Cinema 50’s HEOS network module, offers calm, orderly guidance.
As for look of the hardware, I’m not sad to say goodbye to the traditional Marantz curved fascia. This new design, available in Black or Silver Gold finishes, follows in the fashionable footsteps of Marantz’s two-channel amplifiers, the Model 30 and Model 40n. With squared-off, symmetrical
2. The Cinema 50 is rated at 9x110W – the step-up Cinema 40 promises more juice
edges, and a novel textured finish, this Marantz feels fresh, reborn. There’s still the traditional ‘porthole’ display, though. Flanked by moderately sized volume and source knobs, this provides just enough room to identify the chosen source plus any volume adjustment. It’s a bit squint-inducing, but on the plus side it’s not overly bright or distracting in a dark-room cinema environment.
3. Back-panel is well stocked with analogue and digital ins, HDMI stage, and 11.4-channel pre-outs
The amp comes with a rather nice, slim remote control. Marantz hasn’t opted to reduce the number of buttons on offer, but the wand feels good in the hand regardless. There’s a backlighting button on the right edge, which I initially missed.
Want to be more hands-on? The Cinema 50’s pulldown flap conceals controls, including Zone 2 power and source, HDMI output and Status and Sound mode buttons. There’s also a USB-A connection and mic setup jack.
There’s no front-mounted HDMI input though – all ports are around the back, with six HDMI inputs and three outputs (one with eARC/ARC support, one a secondary monitor for a projector, one to support Zone 2). All inputs support 4K/120Hz and 8K as standard, plus upscaling if required, while HDR handling stretches from vanilla through
4. Marantz has remodelled its remote handset too
to Dolby Vision and HDR10+. The amp is also fine with ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) passthrough.
Also on offer are four digital audio inputs (split between coaxial and optical), five analogue inputs, phono for a vinyl deck, and no fewer than four subwoofer outputs. If you’re system building, there’s a full 11.4 bank of pre-outs, including a stereo Zone Two output. Wireless support covers Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and AirPlay 2. Streaming and multiroom are courtesy of the HEOS platform.
Follow the clear, concise setup instructions and you’ll be prompted to EQ the Cinema 50 for your listening room. Room calibration comes via Audyssey MultEQ XT32, with Dynamic Volume and LFC calibration. You can measure up to eight positions in the room, the idea being to cover the main seating area.
If you want to dig deeper, the Cinema 50 works with Audyssey’s new Windows PC-based software package, MultEQ X (see HCC #336), but this requires the purchase of a licence to use. The amp is also due to receive a Dirac Live firmware update in March 2023, meaning tweakers could
5. The front panel, housing volume and source buttons, sits proud of a textured fascia
buy a licence for that, too. For most users, I suspect Audyssey MultEQ XT32 will suffice.
Usability on the Cinema 50 is excellent. Menus are quick to navigate, and what you need to adjust is never too far away. Pressing the Info button on the zapper identifies the input signal, with every channel that’s active highlighted alongside the post-processing active speaker configuration, so you know when sources are being upmixed. The display
6. The amp is also sold in a black finish, seen here with the front-flap down
‘The strings are achingly sweet, and dialogue gently reverberant. It’s immersive audio in its most literal sense’
also identifies the codec and post-processing, be it Dolby Atmos, Dolby Surround, DTS:X and so on. An additional click will impart HDR, resolution and colour space details.
The Cinema 50 uses the aforementioned HDAM amplification circuitry, widely acknowledged to give a characteristically warm, Marantz sound. Less frequently shared is just how marvellously malevolent this output can be. The gritty opening preamble to The Northman (Dolby Atmos, Sky Cinema) is built on a bedrock of menacing volcanic rumble, while ethereal whispers creep from both the Atmos height layer and the rear speakers. It gives a spine-tingling example of just how seamlessly integrated the Cinema 50’s 3D soundscape is.
A quartet of sound modes are accessed by the remote control: Movie, Music, Game and Pure. These, in turn, subdivide to Auro 3D, Auro 2D surround, multichannel stereo, regular stereo, Dolby Digital, Dolby Surround, and DTS Neural:X. Choosing between these is largely a matter of taste. If you want to keep things simple stick to Pure, which is the direct feed.
A missing sound preset is Sport; Marantz has seemingly forgotten that home cinema systems are also used for footie, fighting and F1, so there’s no go-to preset. I decided that DTS Neural:X worked best when it came to creating a live, stadium ambiance, and to improve commentary clarity I tweaked the Dialogue Enhancer (available in the Options menu) to medium.
What isn’t missing though is emotional kick. It’s not an easy characteristic for an amplifier to master, as it’s so intangible, but you know it when you hear it.
For the first act, the soundmix of Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho (Dolby Atmos, Sky Cinema), is L/C/R with a sub; almost monophonic in its presentation. But when Ellie timeslips back to the 1960s, emerging from that dark tunnel into Picadilly Circus, every channel on the Marantz amplifier blooms into life. It’s beautiful.
Traffic honks from the height channel, and the orchestra soars from the rear. The Cinema 50 handles this transition with appropriate awe and wonder. When Ellie enters the Cafe de Paris, and descends the mirrored staircase, the strings are achingly sweet, and dialogue gently reverberant. This is immersive audio in its most literal sense.
Good for the soul
With this new amplifier, Marantz has convincingly positioned itself as hardcore home cinema with a heart. You can certainly buy more brawn for the same cash, but few home cinema amplifiers boast comparable soul.
Inevitably, there are minor niggles – a front-mounted HDMI input would have been nice, and some would trade all those analogue ins for a USB-B jack – but these are trifling notes. The brand’s new premium design is chic and contemporary, and the restyled user interface fits the cool update perfectly. HEOS is a peerless streaming and multiroom client, while the updated 4K/120Hz HDMI board brings with it some welcome future-proofing.
And then there’s the sound performance: effortlessly smooth and balanced, with whip-snap steerage and popcorn-jolting dynamics. Marantz’s Cinema 50 is an AV amplifier for all seasons.
The Cinema 50 is a knockout AV amp, with a forwardleaning spec, excellent connectivity and a performance that’s as smooth and exhilarating as a bobsleigh run.
Best MARANTZ CINEMA 50 prices in the US ?
Best MARANTZ CINEMA 50 prices ?
|MULTICHANNEL PRE-OUT:||Yes. 11.4|
|MULTICHANNEL OUTPUT (CLAIMED):||9 x 110W (into 8ohm)|
|MULTIROOM:||Yes. Zone 2 AV, plus|
|HEOS AV INPUTS:||4 x digital audio (2 x optical and 2 x coaxial); 6 x analogue stereo HDMI: 6 x inputs; 3 x outputs|
|DIMENSIONS:||442(w) x 392(d) x 165(h)mm (excl. wireless aerials)|
|FEATURES:||HEOS streaming and multiroom; Audyssey MultEQ XT32 calibration; Dirac Live compatible (future firmware); Auro-3D compatible; 360 Reality Audio support; Bluetooth (including headphone support); Ethernet, Wi-Fi; Voice Assistant compatible (Alexa/Google Assistant/Apple HomePod); USB playback of MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, WAV, ALAC and DSD; Movie, Music, Game and Pure sound modes; Auro, DTS and Dolby upmixing; backlit remote control; HDAM modules; HDMI 2.1|
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM:
You might fancy watching this third outing for Keanu Reeves’ titular hero as prep for John Wick 4 (see p24), and the Dolby Atmos track is a sonic masterclass. Listen out for the library fight scene – when Wick breaks the assassin’s jaw with a hefty book, that’s the crunch from a Granny Smith…