Reviewer: David Neiger
NOTE: This review looked at a package, the Marantz SR4001 AV receiver and the Jamo S606/Sub 250 speakers. The rating and review here covers both devices, the Pros and Cons and specifications refer to the Jamo speakers only.
Wine and cheese, shoes and handbags, speakers and amps. Some things are just made to go together, but finding the perfect match can be hard work, especially when the task involves juggling the myriad performance variables of a five-speaker surround sound package and a home theatre receiver. With this Marantz/Jamo bundle, though, Melbourne-based distributor, Qualifi, has taken much of the pain out of the process and provided an audio solution that strikes a healthy balance between price and performance.
Jamo’s S60 series speakers comprise the floorstanding S606, the bookshelf-sized S60 SUR and S60 CEN (for surround and centre duties), and the SUB250.Â All are finished in an attractive veneer Jamo calls ‘dark apple’, with the speakers all featuring ported cabinets, a design approach (also know as bass-reflex) that reinforces bass performance. With the same combination of drivers used across all speakers, the tonal characteristics of the system should be well matched, allowing for a more seamless, coherent and realistic panning of sound.
To help handle the work surround soundtracks call upon front left/right speakers to do, the S606 are fitted with large diameter (20 cm) woofers. These are side mounted into the cabinet, ensuring the speakers satisfy the current architectural aesthetic by presenting a narrow (19 cm) face to the room. Centre and satellite speakers are supplied with wall-mounts should you need them.
The subwoofer provides a 20 cm driver and claims 250 watts power output. Line level and speaker level connections are provided and you can adjust volume, high frequency cutoff and phase.
The Marantz SR1400 provides 7 x 80 watts power output and all the surround decoding you’ll need, as well as some you won’t. The unit quickly and automatically switches to the correct surround format upon receiving a signal, but you can also manually select decoding modes as well as apply various matrix effects to create virtual surround sound from stereo sources such as CDs or TV broadcasts. For music lovers, the Pure Direct mode bypasses the surround and video processing circuits to deliver the signal straight to the appropriate speakers with the minimum of processing. It also blocks the video outputs and turns off the receiver’s display to minimise electrical noise.
The unit provides two HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) terminals for connecting like-equipped DTV receivers, Media Centre PCs, DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD players. The HDMI inputs allow you to switch between the two connected devices but, being the older 1.1 standard, may not fully support new SACD and DVD-Audio players that require HDMI 1.3.
As is common nowadays, the remote control can operate a myriad of devices.Â If you are using Marantz equipment you simply press the appropriate control button (DVD, CD).Â To use the control with other brands of equipment, you need to enter the appropriate control code from the back of the book, or use learning mode on the remote control.
The bundle comes in three boxes; one containing the Marantz receiver, another containing the subwoofer and the third 60 kilo box containing the front left/right, centre and surround speakers. Make sure you have a friend to help you with the lifting, as the front speaker pair is heavy and tightly packed within the box.
The setup instructions for the S60 series speakers are pictorial (think Ikea!), which helps makes hookup easy, but assumes that you are familiar with setting up a speaker system.Â A short written explanation of how to optimally position speakers and operate the subwoofer’s controls would assist with the setup, particular when it comes to blending the bass output from the sub with that of the rest of the speakers in the system.
This is no budget home theatre in a box speaker system, so you will need to buy your own speaker cables.
Even if you hate reading manuals, the SR1400 is so feature-packed that you should read its manual at least once before setting it up.Â For the novice home theatre buff, it’s got to be an imperative – if only for making sense of the sea of inputs and outputs at the rear of the receiver and the various surround sound decoding and matrix functions supported.
Once all equipment is connected, however, the ‘Simple Setup’ option (where you specify the number of speakers, size of speakers and size of room) will get everything operational fairly quickly. For optimal setup, however, connect a TV to the monitor output and use the menus to manually set the volume level for each speaker and the cut-off frequency for the subwoofer.
The SR1400’s 80 watts a channel comfortably filled our medium-sized room with sound, with switching between surround modes accomplished smoothly and soundlessly. The unit provides good separation between the various channels, allowing us to easily track the individual voices, effects and instruments in our test mix. The virtual surround modes are not as distinct, and it is possible that some users will enjoy the interesting effects they can create. We preferred to turn them off, particularly when listening to music.
In this regard the S606s performed admirably, providing a nicely balanced stereo soundstage, with their pair of 20 cm woofers digging deep on rock, pop, jazz and electronica. On some female vocals, the highs tended to sound clipped, and the midrange was slightly emphasised with some genres, upsetting the balance between vocals and instruments on some classical and choral works.
These criticisms evaporated with our surround auditions, however, the S60 CEN and S60SUR working nicely with the floorstanders to provide smooth left-to-right and front-to-back pans. The subwoofer contributed somewhat to the mix, but lacked a certain ‘tightness’ or any real presence, despite its 250 watts output.
The Marantz SR1400 lacks for some features, such as video upconversion, that can be found in other receivers at this price, and would benefit from a more friendly setup system, but it has the grunt to fulfil the sound levels required by most (sane) home theatre enthusiasts, plus connections aplenty.
Although letdown somewhat by the S250 SUB, the S606 package is a solid performer whose bias towards surround duties makes for an excellent marriage with the Marantz. Together, they are more than a match for the el-cheapo home theatre in a box systems typically sold to buyers of LCD and plasma TV; the type of system capable of reproducing sound that is actually in scale with the pictures seen on today’s big screens.