NR1501 System Setup, Remote Control and HD Audio
The Main Menu contains five basic areas, including System Setup, Input Setup, Speaker Setup, Ch(annel) Level Setup and Sound Parameter. Before we did anything, though I suppose it was out of order, we ventured into the Speaker Setup menu and began to configure our surround system. Aside from the Auto Setup which uses the included calibration microphone and Marantz Room Acoustic Calibration (M.R.A.C.) system, there are 4 options: Speaker Config, Speaker Distance, Speaker Crossover, and Room EQ Setup.
This catch-all menu is dedicated to global settings like Sub W(oofer) Mode, where you can allow the sub output to be combined with the low frequency put out by your full range speakers, or strictly adhere to LFE plus bass management input. The single HDMI output can be configured to carry audio to the television or retain it for processing and decoding by the receiver. You can defeat the tone control and engage HT-EQ (which is basically a circuit that mimics THX' Re-EQ system to compensate for theatrical soundtracks being played in the home theater environment). Video Convert tells the Marantz NR1501 whether or not to pipe the analogue inputs into the HDMI path, upconverting them to digital.
The Input Setup menu gives you access to each of the 8 possible inputs: Blu-ray, Game, DVD, DSS, VCR, CD, Aux1, and Aux2. When you select an input to configure it presents you with the ability to rename it, select the digital (optical or coax) input, Audio mode (HDMI, digital or analogue), Auto Surround mode and Lip Sync.
Speaker Config allows you to select the size and presence of a speaker in your system. In this way you can ghost a nonexistent Center channel or run a system with or without a subwoofer. You can also tell the Marantz NR1501 whether your speakers are Large (Full range 20Hz – 20kHz) or small (anything else). Speaker Distance allowed us to set the group delay for each speaker by setting the distance to the listening position. We like to see 0.5 foot increments here, but the Marantz only allowed 1 foot steps. You can make adjustments in Feet or Meters (or should I say Metres?) The Crossover system works independently on Front, Center, Surround and Surround B(ack) speakers. You can set the crossover to 40-80 in 5Hz increments, then 90-150 in 10 Hz increments and also 175 and 200 Hz. "Full Range" means that the channel(s) will get full range with nothing being sent to the subwoofer.
Ch(annel) Level Setup
In this simple menu you can adjust levels in 1dB increments (we like to see 0.5dB steps) in order to better balance out the system. It will emit a test tone when you turn this function on using the remote or the menu system and a simple Radio Shack meter will allow you to verify that all speakers are reaching the "money seat" at proper levels.
The unremarkable Sound Parameter menu is where you set Night Mode, Dolby PLII and Neo:6 preferences. Overall, the menu system for the NR1501 was very plain. It gave you access to the basics, but there were no real surprises or complicated configurations to navigate. While many audioholics like complexity and options, I think Marantz nailed this one by keeping it very simple and straightforward. Running the Auto Setup was even easier since it took care of everything without having to tweak the Speaker Setup menu.
RC006SR Remote Control
The remote that comes with the Marantz NR1501 has what's known as glow keys, or as we call them lovingly around here – "I'm-too-cheap-to-have-backlit-keys" keys. It's a basic remote and if you can see what you're doing it will serve you well. In the dark, however, it's difficult to navigate since 70% of the keys are identical in size and shape. The topmost section is dedicated to power and global functions like LCD dimmer and Night mode. The next section controls the sources. In the middle lies the menu controls, with the navigational section just underneath. Finally the keypad and EQ controls make up the bottom as do the oddly-placed TV Power and Input buttons. The Setup menu is activated by selecting the Amp source and hitting the Menu button – this felt rather odd to us, since the button marked "Setup" doesn't seem to do anything (and was the natural place we tried first). You won't exactly break this remote over your knee in frustration, but replacing it with a good universal remote control will make the entire system run that much more smoothly.
HD Audio Support
The NR1501 supports Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus and dts-HD formats via HDMI. There are no dedicated 7.1 analogue inputs for legacy DVD-Audio and SACD players, so you won't want to necessarily use this receiver with legacy products that require those high resolution formats be transferred over anything other than HDMI. These days, however, if you're even moderately updated you should be able to grab most of what you need over HDMI audio. The space savings employed by Marantz to bring this receiver down to size make a lot of sense and if it meant giving up analogue audio inputs then I think it was the way to go.
On the video side I'm switching Satellite (HDMI), DVD (Component), iPhone (Component) to a Plasma via a single HDMI.
The system is great for the space and price. FYI, $599 will get you a MR1601 now. You can still pickup used NR1501 for a lot less.
I live in a small (450 sq ft) city studio, so I don't need power. Given my space constraints and neighbors, I've given up on big speakers and critical listening - I'm using a JMlab 5.1 mini-speaker system and mostly play straight from the iPod (can't remember the last time I even turned my SACD player on). I basically want another receiver like this JVC - decent HDMI and upconversion capabilities. Simplicity of cabling and operation are key.
When I move to a larger place, I'll get back to my old setup (top shelf receiver, real speakers, and a 110" projector). In the meantime, is there anything on the market that's an improvement on a NOS D402?
The Marantz sure seems nicer on the audio side, but it doesn't take up any space to put a decent video processor in these chassis. I guess I should be thankful I don't have a good excuse to replace my 402.
Did you spend any time with the MRAC system. I'm a little curious as to how accurate it is and how the EQ portion performed.