Expert review and test of the Marantz NA6005 Network Player by Australian Hi-Fi Magazine. Free download.

Check the capabilities, features—and specifications!—of Marantz’s NA 6005 Network player and you’ll find it hard to reconcile them with the recommended retail price, let alone the ‘haggle’ price.

The Equipment
Marantz’s NA 6005 is definitely a ‘network’ player, in that if you connect it to your computer network (via Ethernet or WiFi), it’ll give you access to any music you have stored on the hard drive of your computer or on standalone attached storage (a NAS drive). And it really doesn’t matter how that music is stored, the NA 6005 will find all your albums (and/or tracks) and play them for you: WAV, FLAC, MP3… whatever… at up to 24-bit/192kHz.

Even if you’ve stored your music as DSD files, it will find and play these too, at up to 2.8/5.6MHz. If your computer network is connected to the Internet, the Marantz NA 6005 will also give you super-easy access to Internet radio and Spotify Connect.

‘But wait!’, as the voice-over in the late-night TV commercials always says, ‘there’s more!’ … to the NA 6005’s interconnectiveness than just this: You can also wirelessly access music stored on your iDevice or Android device, via AirPlay or Bluetooth.

But wait… there’s even more! If you’d like to spin discs and your CD spinner has an optical digital output, you can connect your player directly to the NA 6005.

You can also input via USB, so if your portable device has a USB output, it can connect to the socket on the front panel, in which case the NA 6005 will charge your device at the same time it’s playing the content stored on it.

As you can see for yourself from the photographs illustrating this review, despite being a ‘new’ type of component, Marantz has applied the same cosmetic styling found on other current-generation Marantz models, so if you have other Marantz components, it will be a visual match. To the right of the display is a transport control that allows you to play and stop tracks, as well as pause them, skip forward tracks (or skip back tracks), or fast forward (or fast reverse) inside a track. These transport controls are mirrored on the remote that’s provided with the NA 6005 (and provided free, not as an added-cost extra, as is becoming increasingly common these days), so you can perform all these functions from the remote as well (plus many more).

I think Marantz has been very clever to provide this type of operability, because it means that once you’ve found an album on your server, and started playing it, you can use the same ‘familiar’ controls you’ve become used to when playing your CD player… or at least familiar to those users who own (or owned) a CD player. And the fact that they’re laid out in a fashion similar to those found on portable music players mean they’ll also be familiar to the iPod generation.

The controller panel to the left of the display is not labelled (or identified in the manual!) but is used for navigation within, say, your NAS drive, once you’ve selected that drive using the ‘input’ selector. (These ‘inputs’ are actually ‘Setup’, ‘Favourites Call’, ‘Internet Radio’, ‘Music Server’, ‘Bluetooth’, ‘iPod/USB’ and ‘Optical’.)

In Use and Operation
I’d be the first to say that having your music stored on a network makes a lot of sense, and gives enormous flexibility. However this does require you to have a network with suitable components, and if you don’t, you may require someone with computer skills to set up the NA 6005 for you. For example, Marantz recommends you use the NA 6005 with a router that has a built-in DHCP server (which automatically assigns IP addresses) and a built-in 100BASE-TX switch. Most routers will have both, but yours may not. My advice is to make sure your hi-fi dealer is happy to come to your home and set up the NA 6005 if you run into any problems doing it yourself.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to connect the NA 6005 to my own home computer network. I simply plugged it (wired connection) into my router, told the NA 6005 to search for a network and less than 60 seconds later it had found the network and located the folders on my NAS drive. Then it was simply a matter of pressing the input button until ‘Music Server’ showed, then the ‘Enter’ button to show those folders and select between them. Then, using the up/down arrows on the selector button, I could scroll through my albums, and once I found one I wanted to play, pressing ‘Enter’ again would start playback, after which I could use the controls on the right of the display to stop, pause etc, as I noted earlier. It was all pretty intuitive, and I could do all this using only the front panel buttons, or with the infrared remote control. Although I didn’t use it for this review, I also disconnected the Ethernet cable and set-up the NA 6005 wirelessly, using a similarly straight-forward set-up procedure (clearly described in the manual, which is provided on CD-ROM) without running into any issues at all.

When I tried to connect the NA 6005 the hard way (by manually entering the SSID and Network details) I found that the alpha-numeric buttons on the remote that are supposed to make this easy didn’t work, so I had to do it even more laboriously using the front panel buttons. This is so basic that I assumed it was a glitch with my particular remote (or with my understanding of how to do it), but you could check this at the time of purchase.
I also had a few issues with Marantz’s app. My first problem was that I loaded completely the wrong app (one titled ‘Marantz Remote App’) for the NA 6005 and it was only after almost an hour of trying to get this app to work that it finally informed me that it wasn’t compatible with the NA 6005.

I then went to the app store and loaded the correct app (which is called ‘Marantz Hi-Fi Remote’) which loaded beautifully and located my NA 6005 and music in a matter of seconds. I think the different Marantz remote apps should be more clearly identified.
Once it loaded I was a bit surprised at how basic the app is—particularly since Marantz presumably has access to coding used in Denon’s HEOS system, since the two brands are owned by the same company—but the fact that the ‘Hi-Fi Remote’ app is so basic makes it quite easy and intuitive to use, and it certainly did everything I want an app to do, which is find and play tracks and albums and create, store and play playlists. My only gripe was that if I took too long to do something, it would occasionally take me back to the root folder of my NAS, so I’d have to start over again. Once or twice during the time I had the NA 6005 on loan, the app also occasionally just stopped working.

Both these issues could have been caused by my long-in-the-tooth Android phone, rather than by the app itself, but this, too, is something you could also easily check at the time of purchase. (And once again, is yet another good reason you should buy from a bricks ‘n mortar hi-fi specialist retailer.)

Sonically, the NA 6005 delivers everything you’d expect from a product with the Marantz pedigree. The delivery of bass is precise, with all the pace, rhythm and timing you could wish for, combined with depth and a wonderful fullness to the bass sound. I was thrilled with the way the NA 6005 delivered Mama K and the Big Love’s debut album ‘Blind’, with its infectious take on what the band itself calls ‘heathen gospel’. Who’d have thought a band hailing from Tassie could deliver R&B that, but for its Aussie twist, could otherwise have been piped in direct from America’s south. The chunky driving bass is always to the fore, presumably because most of the songs were written by the band’s bassist, David Johnstone, and if you’re the one writing the songs, you may as well give yourself some of the best musical lines, but what makes the album totally infectious is the vocal energy created by the three lead singers, Crystal Campbell, Wendy Moles and Kartika Franks. I just loved the funky syncopated sounds on This Man, along with the brass arrangements.

Listen to While Others Sleep for more, this time with keyboards thrown in to good effect. The clarity of the vocals in this track is amazingly good, particularly against the complexity of the background sound… did I mention the recording quality is great as well? (It was recorded and produced by Stewart Long (Violent Femmes) at Red Planet Recording using a 1975 vintage Harrison 24/32 recording console and mixed to a Studer B67 open reel analogue machine.) I wasn’t overly enamoured of the track that seems to be getting the most airplay (Moth to the Flame) and I certainly hate the video of it, but I do really like the lyric. The Right Time has to be my favourite track on a disc that’s full of favourite tracks, great bass lines, terrific drumming, amazing keyboards and beautifully interwoven vocals. A standout… though the lyric may not play well with the feminista.

The arrival of the NA 6005 coincided with the arrival of the first album in over seventeen years from punk sensations At The Drive-In and tracks such as Governed by Contagion showed the band hasn’t lost its fire: ‘There’s a woman eating her newborn/Under a tractor’s frame’ and the Marantz NA 6005 proved that it’s more than up to the task of delivering sonic mayhem and thrash with the very best of them. The sound is wild and distorted, and the NA 6005 preserved and delivered it flawlessly. On lesser players the sound comes through as merely ‘chaotic’, but it takes only a few moments listening to the NA 6005 to hear the method in the madness and the musical artistry that’s woven into the fabric of the music.

The arrival in Australia of Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper’s hit musical ‘Kinky Boots’—plus concerts by the lady herself—triggered a local revival in her music, one enthusiastically welcomed by yours truly. I have never needed an excuse to spin up Lauper’s best-of album ‘Twelve Deadly Cyns’. Think tracks such as Time After Time, I Drove All Night, True Colours, Money Changes Everything, (all also available on ‘The Essential Cyndi Lauper’ (Sony/BMG), a ‘best-of’ which also strangely includes the song she excised from ‘Twelve Deadly Cyns’ because she loathed it—The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough. Here the Marantz NA 6005 revealed its strengths across the midrange, perfectly reproducing the catch in Lauper’s voice. Also listen to the second vocal behind Lauper on True Colours and the purity of the echo vocal. If you already have her classics, I’d recommend catching up with her relatively recent foray into country, where she puts her spin on some standards (Walkin’ After Midnight, Heartaches By The Number) plus a whole dose of humour (You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly) and two tracks that should be on a ‘Best Of’: Misty Blue and The End of the World.

Conclusion
Marantz’s NA 6005 is a great streamer that ticks all the boxes when it comes to its extraordinary connectivity and its ability to play back any music file you throw at it, plus it provides a great gateway into the world of ‘computer audio’ for those who really don’t want to have anything to do with computers. # Peter Knox

 

Laboratory Test Results

Newport Test Labs measured the output voltage of the NA 6005 at just over 2 volts, as shown on the tabulated chart, which is more than sufficient to drive any device it might reasonably be expected to be connected to. Channel balance was excellent, at 0.048dB, and the separation between the channels equally so, with a best result of 140dB at 16Hz. Channel phase was outstandingly good, measuring 0.02° at 16Hz, 0.01° at 1kHz and just 0.31° at 20kHz. Group delay was typical at 180° and 5.27°.

The Marantz NA6005’s frequency response was also excellent, just 0.09dB down at 16Hz, and only 0.32dB down at 8Hz. At 20kHz response was only 0.02dB down. You can see the graphed result in Graph 10. Newport Test Labs’ results show that unlike many manufacturers, Marantz is still including de-emphasis circuitry for those signals that require it, and that the circuit provided is extremely accurate, being only 0.001dB out at 1kHz, 0.011dB out at 4kHz and 0.114dB out at 16kHz.

Overall THD+N at 0dB was very low, at 0.011% as shown in the tabulated results. Distortion at 0dB, as well as at lower recorded levels, is shown in the accompanying graphs. Graph 1 shows the harmonic structure of distortion at 0dB. Other than a single even-order harmonic at –110dB (0.00031%), the harmonics are all odd-order, with a third at –120dB (0.0001%), a fifth at –108dB (0.00039%), and a seventh at –122dB (0.00007%). Higher-order harmonics are visible, but are more than 130dB (0.00003%) down. The signal at 15kHz is at –118dB (0.00012%) appears to be a sampling-related product rather than a harmonic. There’s a very slight rise in the noise floor around 20kHz, but since it’s more than 120dB down and occurs at such a high frequency, it’s of no importance.

At –6dB, almost all the distortion components disappear, with the ones remaining being the second harmonic at –126dB (0.00005%), the third at –112dB (0.00025%), and the fifth at –127dB (0.00004%), showing that the distortion components at 0dB were probably in the analogue output stage, due to the high output voltage, rather than related to the digital-to-analogue conversion.

It’s also important to note that music signals don’t get as high as 0dB, due to the necessity to leave some headroom when recording, so you won’t ever run into any 0dB-level signals when playing back recorded music from any medium.

Graph 3, which shows distortion at –10dB, shows the level of distortion you could expect when playing typical music tracks. There’s only a single harmonically-related component at –123dB (0.00007%). At a level of –20dB, even this component has disappeared, so there are no distortion components visible above the noise floor at –140dB. Note, too, that the level of the sampling-related artefact has dropped to –129dB (0.00003%).

Distortion at very low levels was excellent, as shown in Graph 6, which shows distortion at –91.24dB and Graph 7, which shows it at –90.31dB. Other than the slight difference in level, the difference between the two test signals is that the one at –91.24dB has not been dithered, whereas the one at –90.31dB has. The improvement in distortion is the reason all music stored digitally is dithered. The only disadvantage to dithering is a slight increase in the level of the noise floor. You can see that without dithering the noise floor is well below –140dB, whereas with dither added, the noise floor sits just above –140dB. Since this level of noise is well below the level of electronic noise of most hi-fi amplifiers, it’s of no consequence.


The IMD result was interesting, because the immediate sidebands are extremely low, and there is a high-level component at around 25kHz that’s just 40dB down and another at around 26kHz. This is fairly atypical behaviour, but because they’re well above the limit of human hearing, they’re merely interesting artefacts of the particular DAC Marantz is using, and presumably related to the signal at 15kHz. The signal that is usually present that you don’t want to be audible is the difference signal down at 1kHz, and you can see that it’s around 125dB down, which is more than sufficient. The same sampling artefact is obvious when the NA6005 is reproducing a single 20kHz tone at 0dB, though this time it’s just a single component at 25kHz, but at –37dB.

Overall THD vs. Frequency is shown in Graph 11 for both a –1dB signal (red trace) and one at –20dB. The levels are very low, and also uniformly low across the audio band, so excellent performance again from the Marantz NA 6005.

Linearity errors were very low, as you can see from the tabulated chart, averaging around 0.02–0.04dB at around –60dB and around 0.04–0.06dB down around –90dB.
Overall wideband signal-to-noise ratios were very good, as you can see from the tabulated figures, with Newport Test Labs measuring 97dB unweighted, improving to 107dB A-weighted using CD standard signals, and 114dB CCIR-RMS weighted when using 24-bit/48kHz (AES) test signals.

Power consumption was measured at 16.98-watts when the unit was operating and at 3.42-watts when it was in standby. This slightly higher-than-usual standby consumption suggests that despite being in standby, wi-fi and Bluetooth are still operational so the unit can be ‘woken up’ remotely. Although this is obviously very low power consumption, it does mean you should turn the unit off completely when you won’t be using it for long periods of time.

Superb performance all-round from the Marantz NA 6005.  # Steve Holding