Marantz' SR5001 sets a high standard for a receiver under £500.
Build quality is outstanding for the money and only the lightweight and button-crazy handset give us any cause to grumble.
Sacrifices have inevitably been made to keep pricing competitive, but you'd be hard pressed to tell. Only the lack of an auto calibration system or DAB tuner set it apart from its nearest rivals at the price.
Despite the lack of some niceties the Marantz is intuitive to use. The onscreen menus may look a bit unsophisticated but they provide a good level of flexibility to tailor the receiver to your specific requirements and there's an easy setup mode with room size and speaker configuration options.
Connectivity is easily as good as more costly models, and the Marantz incorporates video up-converters and HDMI video switching. It has multiroom capabilities too, enabling you to reassign the rear channel amps to speakers in a second room - so long as you're happy to stick with a 5.1 surround speaker setup.
Analogue video signals are smoothly up-converted with only a hint of softness, delivering the best video signal quality to your TV screen no matter what source is connected. There's no degradation with HDMI signals routed through the amp, and images have the same sharpness levels and intense colours of those connected directly to the TV from a DVD player. Analogue signals cannot be up-converted to HDMI signals.
The sound people
There's no auto calibration mode, but nevertheless the Marantz is easy to configure to any speaker system. Once speakers are installed, the SR5001 handles soundtracks enthusiastically and digs deep with bass notes to produce a warm, evocative sound that's soothing to the ears.
It's a detailed sound, but there's a hint of brashness with some soundtracks that make placement effects and dialogue during an episode of Doctor Who sound just a bit too intense and clinical. This can be rectified to some extent by selecting the HT-EQ mode, which tempers higher frequencies for a smoother, less in-your-face performance.
Similar characteristics are demonstrated with music playback. And while bass notes are punchy and powerful with The Killers Sam's Town, Brandon Flowers' vocals sound edgy and over sibilant when played at higher volume levels.
Unlike others, the SR5001 doesn't make a big thing about being iPodready and there's no custom input connection or enhanced audio facility for compressed audio playback. Nevertheless, Marantz' IS201 docking station (costing £99) can be added to any stereo input.
So, the Marantz SR5001 may not be an all rounder, and music sounds too crisp for our tastes. But its handling of movies is impressive, comes with decent video conversion and switching, and has a traditional styling and solid build that make it attractive at the price.