Denon N7 (CEOL) vs. Marantz CR603

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Hi,

New member, fort post and already asking a question...

I am considering purchasing a second system, for a 25 square meters room. After reading many reviews and forum posts, and actually hearing the 2 systems (unfortunately not at the same time and in less than optimal settings), I am just undecided between the Denon CEOL and Marantz CR603. I actually haven't read (or found) a 'serious' review on the N7 CEOL... I wish Whathifi had put it to the test.

I would pair the rig with budget bookshelf speakers (think Q Acoustic 2010 or Mission MX1), and will ultimately (read - need to convince my dear wife) add 2 Sonos ZP90s to link both my current and new systems to a NAS (songs ripped at 256kbps, ALACs and FLACs). Aesthetics or lack of Wifi on the CR603 is not an issue for me.

I would be very grateful for opinions and advice - especially on the Denon.

Just to be a pain there could also be a third alternative - since I will anyway go multiroom with Sonos, I could disregard a few watts and integrated network capabilities and get a Denon M38 + ZP 90 right away (and maybe better speakers if my wife looks away...).

Help! And many thanks in advance,

Nick
 
A

Anonymous

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Hi there, I have no experience of any other system other than the denon but as there is quite a lot of interest in this unit but few reviews I thought I would shove my impressions of the Denon RCD-N7 in your post now that I have had it for some months now.

SPEAKERS - Straight to the point, the supplied speakers look nice in an Apple kinda way, but that's the only positive thing I have to say about them. They are weak, have poor definition and frankly are an embarrassment to the system. I have 2 other Denon mini systems (DM37) and a HT and there speakers, for the price have always impressed. I stuck the DM37 on the N7 and was immediately much impressed and felt that this much more suited the system. However, for reasons that I shall come to later, the system now drives quite a large pair of Mission M62i brought off eBay at a good price. As I write this on my iPad it is being driven by Airplay on a lossless AAC and it is the best sounding system I have heard short of moving into serious money ($10K+).

CD - A very quiet mechanism, quick to load and reproduction is great.

FM Radio - A pretty good pick up. I am running it off a small 5" arial used for a USB laptop TV tuner and it's just fine at normal volumes in an average reception area. Of course DAB, DAB+ would have been nicer, but I suppose Denon had to draw the line somewhere as to how much stuff they would shove into this small system.

Intenet Radio - Starting to get trickier at this point. Unlike most people I secure my system with MAC Address Control at the router. When I had worked out where the MAC address was, entered it as a permitted device on my router and hit "Network First Setup" it logged in immediately without any trouble. It then asked to do a firmware update, which took 15 minutes, but happened without any error or issue. I think some knowledge on how network security operates is essential otherwise, and some patience trying to get familiar with the menu structure. When I am using it, the system works fine. Again their are a lot of web radio options and so I have settled on using the Radio Denon web application which is easy, quick to access, simple to use and surprisingly, if you know the URL, will allow you to register any web radio source so long as it's running a feed such as WMA that the system will understand. Audio quality is fine, infact if you dig up the Linn Classical web radio site, it's pretty fantastic with such a high quality feed (320kb). My only reservation, and a little bit of a disappoinment for me is that it has not got around the region specific download restrictions that some stations apply. Specifically I was after the commercial station Classic FM in the UK, but the site seems to know that I am not in the UK and therefore will drop my feed if bandwidth is tight at the UK end. I think this is something to do with licensing and copyright as well. So if you are hoping that this system might get you around similar computer based listening problems, well it hasn't worked for me. I have not used the Napster and co. functions so I cannot comment on this.

MUSIC SERVER - Denon manuals are not the best, but when I first got the system and logged it into my network it found my Music Server (iTunes library) as soon as I hit the button on the remote. Initially I thought this was Airplay (it is not) and was confused as to why on iTunes the icon for Airplay would not show. As the Airplay license at the time was a frankly insulting $60 I put up with the Denon music server option which I had found. It is incredibly slow and virtually impossible to use if you have a large music library (I have about 400CDs on my iMac). On the Denon remote application on the iPhone it shows about 8 lines of information at a time, and then takes a few moments to load the next 8. If you have hundreds of titles to search through, forget it. It would be quicker to get the CD.

AIRPLAY - and so I eventually coughed up the $60 and installed Airplay. It was made available to me via the update screen within 48 hours of my fax having been sent, which was at least reassuring. I'll admit I am a sucker for new technology, and was skeptical that my rush into the system with it's new Airplay technology would be any good. Some 2 months down the track I am a total convert. I ahve spent hours upgrading my library on my iMac and iPad to AAC lossless files to take advantage of the sound quality and ease of use. Even with the system off, if you set up 'Network Standby - ON' you can wake it up with your Apple product and get going within a couple of seconds. There's maybe a seconds delay when moving between tracks on iPod/iTunes player function, which is fine, and after days worth of play I have to experienced a single network hiccup or crackle. As a matter of reference I fell asleep on night driving it from my iPad which was fully charged when I started and in the morning it was still at 88% charge after 9 hours of pushing data to the player. But now to the speaker issue. I have the system in quite a large bedroom and the lowest volume setting is quite loud on the supplied speakers, it wasn't much quiter on the DM37's either. The volume icon on Airplay on an iPad/iPhone as way to sensitive to be practical and I found myself wandering around with the remote as well all the time for finessing. However as I was impressed with the audio quality improvement on the larger speakers I decided to try it out on a bigger set of speakers too, hence the M62i off eBay. Now I don't have any reference points but this has transformed the system again. There's nowhere else in my house I would rather listen to music now. The clarity is as good as my hearing is, the sound fills the room, even played softly, and the greater speaker size now means that the volume control on the iPad is usable. Where as previously a setting of 12 would have strained the supplied speakers and would have sounded like you were trying to play something loudly through a small set of speakers, 12 is now pleasant and defined. So you have to get it a good pair of soakers, even a discontinued line for a bargain price on eBay will do.

USB & AUX - Cannot comment as I have no used

iPod DOCK - works as you would expect but much like the Music Server, moving between tracks and such like using the remote application or supplied remote is painful. As I have most of my collection on my iPhone I now just drive it from iPod Airplay on the iPhone if I want to start it up quickly with my own music.

REMOTE CONTROL - Good reach. It drives the system fine from 5m away, which is where I am now. It is however not always obvious when moving between functions such as Tone/Bass control which up/down button to use and hitting the wrong one could reset you back to the start of what you were trying to do which is frustrating.

OTHER LIKES - The screen dimming function is great for the bedroom and can be taken to display off. The clock works via network feed so is always accurate, even after a power outage. The tuner search is fast and locks on quickly. The system doesn't seem to get too hot and has a good weight to it, suggesting some quality.

OTHER DISLIKES - I wish the manual would tell me more in just one language rather than how it comes, or even a better .pdf online would be good. A comprehensive menu map would be useful with advanced search function on-line. For example, source direct, which I understand is Denon's way of taking only the recorded amplification settings and dissabling any tone settings you might have preset, isn't even touched on in the manual or on-line.

CONCLUSION - To some extent, I suppose this system would be a bit like buying a DVD recorder in 2005 with a built in VCR, 3.5" disc drive, betamax, USB and HD recorder. It covers just so many bases. I think you need to know what you want from it, and if you are an iTunes fan, it works with Apple products, just like an Apple product does, perfectly. This is it's main strength along with it's excellent sound quality if set up with a decent pair of speakers. The rest is up to you. It's an intriguing product and I have not been disappointed.
 

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