Home Theater Systems Buying Guide
Home Theater Receivers Buying Guide
After refreshing their affordable-luxury SR5015 and SR6015 in the Fall of 2022, Marantz has saved the best for last: the Cinema 40 has arrived to replace the SR7015 and serve as the flagship AVR. Marantz has given the Cinema 40 a visual refresh, as well as noteworthy-yet-understated reworking of what’s under the hood. We can’t wait to put it through its paces! Here’s what we know so far:
We’re pleased to see Marantz keep design elements that worked: the iconic port hole display, the cover for buttons on the front of the unit, and symmetrical knobs for volume and input. Even more impressive is that the new Cinema series added contours to the front panel, beautifully highlighted with white lights. The Cinema 40 fits in with its AVR siblings, and now the entire AVR family is a visual match for Marantz products like the Model 40n. It’s also available in a Silver-Gold color, which immediately evokes vintage Marantz equipment.
For consumers wanting to futureproof for 8K, or connect multiple gaming systems, look no further than the seven HDMI inputs on the Cinema 40 that support HDMI 2.1. Consoles like the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are the most likely to take advantage of the standard, followed by gaming PCs, and all can produce a silky smooth 120 frames per second in 4K or stream video in 8K. Your gaming gizmos will benefit from auto low-latency mode (ALLM) to reduce input lag, making sure you’re seeing the action as soon as it happens. The Cinema 40 also supports variable refresh rate (VRR), which keeps things smooth when frame rates fluctuate.
Few other video sources will bother with more than 30 frames per second – sorry, James Cameron’s “Avatar 2” – but 8K resolution is likely to become common on larger displays in the future. Why bother with seven HDMI 2.1 connections, when there are only three different devices (Xbox, PS5, PC/media streamer) that need it? Aside from futureproofing, the Cinema 40 is offering the ultimate luxury with its video connections: No, it doesn’t matter which input you plug into. Yes, they all work. It’s a welcome change from the previous generation, which offered one HDMI 2.1 input. You can skip the passive switchers or awkward trips behind your receiver with your flashlight to swap cables.
The Cinema 40 also supports two zones of video, with Zone 2 topping out at 4K video. 1080P and 4K sources can be upscaled for an 8K display, though often it’s best to let a TV handle upscaling.
Of course, progress with HDMI had one small casualty. The analog video connections on the Cinema 40 are pared down to two composite inputs and one component video input. Fortunately, your legacy connections aren’t totally left behind, and they are up-converted and sent out via HDMI – convenient!
Your home theater receiver is the nucleus of your entertainment system, and the Cinema 40 is compatible with all types of control. An IR remote is included, which also means universal remotes or cable box remotes can send commands to the front of the Marantz with line-of-sight or IR repeaters. The free Marantz app can also be used to switch inputs or adjust settings – you never know when you’ll need to dial back those four subwoofers. Finally, the built-in HEOS capability can control up to three zones of audio. It's an impressive set of features – and that’s without any third-party equipment or software.
If you prefer a voice assistant, the Cinema 40 has you covered there, too. Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomePod can all control the Cinema 40, provided that they’re both on the same network and you’ve enabled the right software and settings on your digital friend.
Thanks to HDMI ARC/CEC, it’s possible to have your receiver send a power-on command up to your TV – so even if your TV doesn’t communicate with any voice assistant, the Cinema 40 can help get the message across. Imagine telling Alexa you want to watch Cable in the living room, and having the Marantz power on to the right input, and then turning on your TV.
For custom integration or more involved control systems, the Cinema 40 supports RS-232 serial control and IP control over a network. It also supports 12V trigger connections and sports a flasher connection on the back.
Marantz seems to have used the same formula as the SR7015 for the channels and amplification of the Cinema 40. Both units feature 11 sets of speaker terminals, though only nine channels can be powered by the Cinema 40 at a time. Wiring 11 speakers to the unit will mean that your amp assignments and content determines which channels play. The Cinema 40 offers 11-channel processing and analog pre-outs though, so an external power amp can drive your front left and right, for example, freeing the Cinema 40 to drive the other nine speakers.
The Cinema 40 will provide 125 watts of power when driving two 8 ohm speakers (20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0.05% THD). That measurement is particularly useful because it’s published by most manufacturers for all kinds of amplifiers, and in this case, it lines up with the Marantz SR7015. Marantz goes a step further when it comes to this benchmark, guaranteeing that you will get at least 70% of that stereo power, even when you’re driving five speakers.
Bi-amping is possible with the Cinema 40, allowing you to connect two sets of speaker wire (or one 4-conductor wire) to two sets of terminals on the Marantz. If you have speakers with two sets of binding posts, you can then power your highs and lows with the separate amp channels on the Cinema 40. Just make sure to change the settings appropriately in the Amp Assign menu.
Class A/B amplification is at the heart of the Cinema 40, and indeed the Marantz sound. You can expect a warm sound, with full mid-bass and elegant details. In the tech department, Marantz’s sought-after Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Modules (HDAMs) are on board. The Cinema 40 eschews the copper-plated chassis and toroidal power supply which are the hallmarks of many top-end Marantz models.
Marantz has also done a huge favor to home theater lovers and bass enthusiasts by adding support for four subwoofers. Yes, you can connect four subs to the Cinema 40, a feature it shares with the Cinema 50. Configuring more than two subs with a receiver often requires leveraging analog RCA pre-outs, which restricts a sub to information coming from that channel. Subwoofer connections, by contrast, are using low frequency effects (LFE) information. Home theater bass is almost always intended to permeate and pressurize a room; subwoofers supposed to feel like they’re everywhere. Two subs achieve this better than one, and the net effect of dual subs is that the listener can’t pinpoint where the sound is coming from. Processing (and Audyssey room correction!) for four subs is a welcomed improvement – and one that doesn’t require Marantz to pack in more amplifiers or drain the power supply of the Cinema 40.
On the software side, the Marantz Cinema 40 supports the usual list of codecs: Dolby, Dolby Atmos (including Dolby Atmos Music), DTS:X, IMAX Enhanced, and Auro-3D. You can choose to bypass that processing entirely with a Pure Direct mode.
The Cinema 40 is an excellent addition to the HEOS family. Using the HEOS app, you can aggregate services like SiriusXM, Pandora, and Tidal in one place. Your smartphone becomes the controller, and your TV will show you track information too. You can group the Cinema 40 with other HEOS products to play the same audio in multiple rooms.
Roon users will be pleased to hear that the Cinema 40 is Roon Tested, so it’s a natural addition to an existing Roon system. Spotify users can connect to the Cinema 40 using Spotify Connect. Apple AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth round out the wireless options, offering convenience, if not the best performance.
Speakers: Bowers and Wilkins 702 Signature / AudioQuest Type 4 full-range cables
Subwoofer: REL T9x / AudioQuest Irish Red 3M sub cable
Notable Music: “Death of a Bachelor” by Panic! At the Disco, “Jack of Speed” by Steely Dan, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “Often” by The Weeknd, “Swimming Pools” by Kendrick Lamar, “Good 4 U” by Olivia Rodrigo
Notable TV and Movies: “The Last Of Us” (HBO Max), “Six Feet Under” (HBO Max), “Ready Player One”
Unboxing the Cinema 40 felt like an experience: The packaging was clean and orderly, and the unit itself is substantial. The chassis, knobs, and connections on the back all felt premium. Marantz has refreshed their remote, too, favoring a black-and-white look for the buttons but skipping the excessive weight some companies choose to pack into remotes.
The initial setup process was a snap, thanks to the on-screen guide from Marantz. An on-screen display walks you through each step, including which speakers your connecting (or omitting), and even includes a visual guide for how to prepare and connect speaker wire. Pairing the Cinema 40 was made simple thanks to Apple AirPlay – I didn’t need to type a Wi-Fi password in using the remote. I was able to breeze through the setup menu in about 10 minutes. Accounting for some time to make speaker connections, I could see a newbie getting their system up and running in under 45 minutes.
When watching TV and movies, the Cinema 40 delivered an immersive experience. Fine details like the crunch of glass under a character’s feet in “The Last Of Us” were appropriately salient, as were gasps or quick breaths. That detail didn’t come at the expense of output or a natural sound, either. Voices were smooth and natural, producing the transparency that audio products strive for.
During tense moments of dialogue, it truly felt like I was on set. Ambient sound, like background chatter in a coffee house, seemed real. Action sequences like those in “Ready Player One” were impactful, waking up my sub and causing me to fear disturbing my neighbors. The Marantz showed impressive dynamics in handling all kinds of scenes.
Any enthusiast will tell you, though, that musical fidelity will translate into a strong performance for movies and TV. There’s a ton the Cinema 40 gets right, in spite of hardware limitations.
Listening to classic rock on the Cinema 40 is all you could ask for, from a single-box AVR solution. Vocals sound natural and guitar riffs are smooth, letting you almost forget that you’re listening to a stereo. The piano in “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2004’s Queen Greatest Hits) sounded perfect! Steely Dan’s “Jack of Speed” also sounded polished to perfection.
More contemporary music, or specifically music that used computer-generated bass, proved a tougher test for the Cinema 40. When the bass dropped in Panic! At the Disco’s “Death of a Bachelor,” the lowest frequencies began to sound muddy and boomy. The high frequencies on that track also seemed strained while the bass pounded. Other bass-heavy tracks like “Often” by The Weeknd and “Swimming Pools” by Kendrick Lamar fell victim to the same issue – wonky bass taking away from some of the finesse in the higher range. Lamar in particular has excellent production values, and it was a shame to lose the nuance of the water-like background effects on “Swimming Pools.” (My subwoofer was not active during music playback.)
It’s difficult to tease out how much of that can be attributed to Apple AirPlay 2, or more broadly, compression. The movie and TV experience (granted, with the benefit of a sub) suggests that the amplification itself was not at issue. For all its virtues, the Cinema 40 doesn’t support wireless Hi-Res audio, even with the benefit of my Roon system. A dedicated Hi-Res streamer is the perfect companion for a music-lover who wants to make the Cinema 40 their main system.
Underneath the documentation, remote, and wireless antennae you’ll find a cardboard microphone stand and assembly instructions for Audyssey room correction. It requires a totally quiet room – I had to wait for my dishwasher to finish – and ideally your furniture should be positioned where it will be when you’re using your system. Room correction is your very last step; I actually skipped Audyssey during initial setup.
Upon plugging in the Audyssey mic, the Cinema 40 immediately launched the Audyssey setup menu. Audyssey asked me to take measurements for several different listening positions – with a smaller room, I stopped at six. The open space to the left of my sofa proved problematic, generating an error telling me either my speakers weren’t loud enough or that ambient noise was too high. I stood in the large doorway, which allowed the software to proceed but probably interfered with my results. Audyssey also had me dial back my subwoofer, only to announce after the calibration that my sub was 23.6 feet away (it is not).
All told, I didn’t gain anything from Audyssey. I rewatched
some scenes to confirm that I was better off with the flat settings.
Thankfully, Marantz have announced support for an optional Dirac Live add on for consumers more interested in robust room correction.
On the merits of its features alone, the Marantz Cinema 40 is an impressive flagship receiver. There’s relatively little fuss, but rather a set of features, connections, and amplification that would work wonderfully in most surround sound systems. It’s a worthy replacement for the SR7015 and a logical stopping point before entering the territory of AV separates. And boy, did Marantz make the Cinema 40 look sharp. Music listeners would benefit from a Hi-Res streamer, but that shouldn’t detract from a quality amplifier and a competent set of software out of the box. I was impressed with the performance for movies and TV – the Cinema 40 is everything I could ask for, from an all-in-one AV product.
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