We had a sneak peak at the M-CR502 back in July, and were quite taken with its lean, driving approach and sonic clarity – not to mention rather attractive styling. But at £500, it lacked a little in the soul department to truly bowl us over.
It's always about 'performance-per-pound' here at Stuff, though, and when we heard Marantz had dropped its asking price by £100 we thought it only fair to put the M-CR502 through its paces properly.
First impressions are very good: the curved chassis and symmetrical layout is very stylish indeed, while the display is large and clear. Only the old-fashioned, clunky remote control disappoints.
You can buy the system on its own, or use the £100 you've saved to splash out on the Marantz LS502 speakers – designed specifically to partner the M-CR502.
The LS502s are decent small speakers with plenty of drive, attack and excitement, and the gloss-finish matches the top of the main unit. We also tested the unit with Tannoy's £110 Mercury F1 Customs.
If it were our money, we'd pay an extra £10 for the Tannoys. They retain the Marantz's precision intact while smoothing sibilance.
Returning to features, the ’502 offers support for WMA and MP3 files via USB or CD-R (limited to 192kbps and 320kbps), and two pairs of speaker outputs that enable you to play music in two zones – or to bi-amp the system.
It’s got rhythm
In the sound department, the ’502 has a quite stunning precision and rhythm. Every note is placed with pin-point accuracy; every track is attacked with rhythmic force – and this razor-sharp, detailed delivery is present and correct on DAB and FM broadcasts via its tuner, too.
At £400, we have no reservations about slapping a ‘hot buy’ sticker onto the M-CR502. The new price takes it an important step closer to the £300 Denon D-M37DAB, and away from the superior but more expensive Arcam Solo Mini.
At this lower price, we can also afford to ignore the sheen of insight and warmth that the £650 Arcam has in spades but is missing here. Instead, we can happily focus on how much more clean, punchy and precise the Marantz is than its cheaper Denon rival.