In this post, I will introduce a Japanese home theater amplifier. Japanese AV amplifiers have strong decoding capabilities and fast update iterations. Brands such as Denon, Marantz, Onkyo, Yamaha, and others launch new products every year, adding new technologies and new functions. I will review the Marantz mid-range product SR6014 power amplifier.
For the major Japanese manufacturers, the upgrade cycle for flagship models of surround amplifiers is long, and mid-priced and affordable models will be introduced almost every year. The protagonist of this article is Marantz SR6014. I must tell you honestly that its appearance, size, weight, number of channels, output power, and even internal structure are almost identical to the previous generation model SR6013. Still, it is fully incorporated into both Dolby and DTS.
With the “Height Virtualization” function, even if the ceiling speaker is not installed, you can still clearly feel the three-dimensional sound effect from the upper side.
The SR6014 is Marantz’s 9.2-channel mid-priced surround amplifier. It has a built-in 9-channel power amplifier circuit and two subwoofer signal output terminals. The user can use 5.1.4 (5.2.4), 7.1.2 (7.2.2) channel speaker configuration.
SR6014 is still a Marantz family-style, black brushed aluminum panel, three-stage structure. The middle part is inlaid with a circular multi-function display screen. The left and right sides are respectively set with the input selection knob and the volume adjustment knob.
Although the internal materials are not luxurious, it is good as a mid-range machine. Remove the top cover, and you can see that the inside is divided into three layers of circuit boards.
The uppermost layer is the digital decoder board. The middle layer is the analog audio buffer amplifier board. The last layer is the power rectifier filter and power output terminal board.
The left side of the front is the power supply part. The middle to the right is a 9-channel separate component power amplifier board with a heat sink. The bottom is also designed with two cooling fans that automatically start and stop according to the temperature to ensure fast heat dissipation.
The circuit similarity between SR6014 and the superior model SR7013 is relatively high, including circuit layout, technical application, and components. The digital motherboard is also equipped with a HEOS network. The major difference lies in the digital audio processing circuit. The SR7013 uses 4 SHARC DSP chips, and the SR6014 uses a Cirrus Logic CS49844A. However, even if the structure is simple, the SR6014 still contains the highest level of Audyssey MultEQ XT32 automatic sound field correction.
In order to reduce the noise, SR6014 designs the digital conversion circuit into an independent circuit board and uses two AKM 32 bit 8-channel DAC chips AK4458VM for digital conversion. The front stage uses Marantz’s exclusive research and development with discrete components. The composed high-speed amplifier circuit “HDAM” module is used for amplification and has broad frequency response characteristics.
It has phono input to connect with vinyl turntables, and even phono stage also uses HDAM circuit as RIAA EQ instead of OPA chip.
The 9-channel power amplifier circuit of Marantz SR6014 is made of two circuit boards. The power amplifier circuit board of the main channel is closer to the previous and power circuits to shorten the signal and power transmission path. At the end of each channel, SR7013 uses a pair of Sanken Darlington crystals 2SB1647/2SD2560 push-pull output circuit, and the maximum output current capacity is 15 amperes.
In the power circuit, the audio circuit of the SR6014 is powered by a copper isolation EI transformer. Two Nichicon 12,000μF/71V audio dedicated electrolytic capacitors are used as the filter capacitors of the 9-channel power amplifier circuit.
DTS Virtual:X and Dolby Height Virtualization Functions
Multi-channel players must know that as long as there is a “ceiling speaker”, you can feel the three-dimensional sound effect of a sense of height. But back to reality, many users think of installing speakers on the ceiling, which is time-consuming and labor-intensive, and then gives up.
DTS saw this real problem a long time ago. They developed the DTS Virtual:X technology, which presents the virtual surround sound and virtual ceiling channels. Marantz has followed up on this quite quickly. As early as 2017, it launched a surround amplifier with built-in DTS Virtual:X. The previous-generation model SR6013 had this function. Even if the user had no ceiling speaker installed, it was playing DTS:X. You can select the “DTS:X + Virtual:X” mode for sound effects and hear the three-dimensional sound effects.
DTS-HD can also use “DTS-HD + Virtual:X” to convert the 5.1 or 7.1 channel sound effects with the sense of hearing of the “virtual ceiling channel”. It is, of course, a great welcome from users who cannot install the upper speaker.
In addition, IMAX also cooperates with DTS to promote “IMAX Enhanced”, whether it is playing IMAX Enhanced movie or general DTS-HD, DTS:X sound effects. In addition to the physical ceiling speaker sound to express IMAX sound effects, SR6014 can also use “IMAX DTS + Virtual:X” to virtualize the upper sound field when there are no ceiling speakers.
But do you see the problem? DTS and Dolby are rivals. DTS Virtual:X can help virtual ceiling speakers for the encoding format developed by its own (DTS) and even help multi-channel PCM and two-channel processing, only when using “Dolby-related” encoding.
The SR6014 has a built-in “Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization,” which seems to only do virtual ceiling channel processing for Dolby Atmos. But, in addition to Dolby Atmos, as not DTS relevant codes, such as Dolby TrueHD, or even two-channel audio, can use this new feature for virtual upper sound field processing as long as the Dolby mode is turned on.
In terms of streaming function, Marantz SR6014 Receiver is precisely the same as SR6013. It can read and play music files from NAS and PC through the network, mobile phones, or USB storage devices. Compatible file types for playback include WMA, MP3, WAV, MPEG-4 AAC, FLAC, Apple Lossless, and DSD. The highest compatible format for multi-bit Hi-Res music files is 192kHz/24bit, and DSD is DSD128 (5.6MHz).
SR6014 also has a significant upgrade in Bluetooth. The previous Bluetooth version of SR6013 was 3.0 + EDR, and this machine was 4.1.
I connected SR6014 to 5.1.4 channel speakers. After setting it up, I first tried listening to the music in two-channel mode. I can feel the power and character of this new machine are pretty similar to the superior model SR7013. Listening to music in Pure Direct mode, the background is quieter than Stereo mode, and it drives Pioneer S-1EX floor speakers in the full frequency range.
Subwoofers are not in the test, the bass appears solid and powerful, and the excellent control makes the low frequency fast and clear. The midrange and treble are clear and direct types, and the entire frequency range appears pure, agile, and energetic.
SR6014 adjusts the sound of the subwoofer very correctly. As long as the subwoofer’s performance is not bad, it can make the active subwoofer and the low frequency of each channel speaker perfect in both speed and energy. It is combined into one, and it can push the low-frequency range that each channel speaker is responsible for very solid, presenting excellent bass effects when playing movie sound effects.
The frequency range is low, and the sound is pure, so that the three-dimensional sound field has a high degree of perspective. The sound field is open and far-reaching. You can hear the shape of each audio image and the movement in the space without turning up the volume.
IMAX Enhanced Effect
I also used the two IMAX Enhanced movie clip, “Angry Birds Play Movie 2” to compare whether there is a difference in the IMAX effect. Obviously, the sound density is higher when IMAX is turned on on this machine. The spatial sound field becomes denser, the physical sense of each sound object is more substantial, and the dialogue voice, especially the male voice, is fuller and thicker, bringing the listener the sense of immersion.
The movie sound effects are also closer to the sense of hearing in a movie theater. I also listened to the SR6014 playing DTS-HD MA and DTS:X movie clip using IMAX Enhanced as post-processing effects. To be honest, I think IMAX can indeed optimize DTS-related sound effects, but the degree of optimization is not as good as the IMAX Enhanced movie demo.
The focus of the test also includes the effect of the “Dolby Height Virtualization”. To activate this function, Top Front and Top Rear must be set to None, so I used SR6014 to simulate a 5.1.4 channel speaker with a 5.1 channel speaker effect.
When playing the Dolby Atmos movie demo, there will be no ceiling sound field if the “Dolby Height Virtualization” function is not used. It feels that the sound field above the head is empty. When the “Dolby Height Virtualization” function is turned on, it is obvious that there will be the upper sound field is surrounded, and the difference in the height of different sound objects can be heard. If I hadn’t set the SR6014 by myself and listened without knowing it, I would think that the ceiling speaker was actually installed and sounding!
I am curious about the difference between “Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization” and “Dolby Atmos” with a physical ceiling speaker, so I compared the difference between the ceiling speaker set to small (physical) and none (virtual).
While listening after comparison, when playing in the Dolby Atmos mode, the SR6014 virtual ceiling speaker has approximately 80% of the effect compared to the physical ceiling speaker. But the sound effect of the virtual sound field above the head is slightly weaker than the physical speaker.
The effect of the virtual DTS:X upper channel is similar to Dolby Atmos. Without the ceiling speaker, the upper sound field will be surrounded by the “virtual”. The effect is definitely better than the no “virtual” is much better.
You may want to ask Dolby or DTS whose virtual ceiling sound effects are better? I want to tell you, Dolby and DTS mainly deal with “home thearter coding,” the virtual sound effects of the two cannot be used interchangeably, so it is difficult for me to judge the winner for movie sound effects.
But when playing 5.1 or 2.0 (PCM) music software, my own preference is to use Dolby Surround plus virtual processing. The ceiling sound field sounds more natural.
In terms of performance, the SR6014 receiver has quite an excellent movie sound performance, especially IMAX Enhanced. The sound quality of the music playing is pure and balanced. In terms of sound price, its high-cost performance has qualified for the best recommendation.
I carefully listened to the virtual upper sound field processing of this machine. I initially thought that the virtual upper sound effect should seem to be absent, but the actual measurement results far exceeded my expectations. The envelopment and compactness of the upper sound field sound similar to the ceiling speakers that are installed.
If you really cannot install the upper speaker in your home environment, please put Marantz SR6014 receiver at the top of the priority list. Don’t waste it if you don’t connect the “extra channel” of the upper speaker.