The M-CR 503 CD-receiver is the entry model of Marantz' ‘Melody'-series. Typical to this series is the compact and beautiful design and the powerful amplifier. I was mainly interested in how it sounds. Does Marantz need any introduction? Not really. The Japanese company has been known for years as a manufacturer of mid- and high-end device. The last years they increased their focus on smaller devices. Not a bad idea, these do-all's are very popular to a wide audience.
The M-CR 503
The M-CR503 is a receiver featuring an integrated cd-player. Marantz consequently names it ‘CD-receiver M-CR503'. This Melody-series, as Marantz calls them, features three devices. The 503 or Melody Music, the 603 Melody Media and last the Melody Movie, the 803. This 503 is equipped with an amplifier, CD-player and a RDS-tuner. The 603 adds DAB-tuner and network capability and the 803 gets a Blu-Ray player. Of course there are other differences. The M-CR 503 is equipped with an amplifier of 30 watt RMS per channel at 6 ohm. Not too shabby, looking at the compact device and the sharp price. More important than the numbers are how it performs in practice. The component feels very solid, not to be compared to cheap mini hifi systems you can find in the local super market. This leads to believe that musically it performs equally different. The Melody Music is only available in the typical Marantz-silver. The very compact device looks very sleek. The sober front panel is laid out very logically. When dimming the display (in 3 steps) the enter-button on the left and the play/pause button on the right remain visibly lit. Very subtle and in a dark room very pleasant to look at.
Connections and features
There are two inputs and one recorder output. Note the second input is on the front as a 3,5mm mini jack. There is also a USB-connector and also iPod-users are not left aside. The remote control is large and intuitive. Some think it's less beautiful but I prefer it this way. It takes but a moment to learn where the buttons are. User friendliness is definitely a keyword matching the Marantz. It also features a clock, sleep timer and alarm clock. The ease with which this can be controlled, is remarkable.
The 503 can drive two speaker pairs or, less custom in this class, can be connected in bi-amp mode. Also unusual is the possibility for a Bluetooth audio connection. Through the optional RX101-module you can connect your computer or mobile wirelessly with the Melody Music. To finalize there is also a subwoofer output. I wasn't a big fan of these "all-in-one" device, that seem to offer everything for about 500€. The sound quality was miles away from that of even a basic set of separates. However I have to adjust this opinion more and more recently, as some makes made strong efforts in this area. Think of the Cambridge Audio one+, or the Denon D-M38M, that perform very well at a small price. They are both devices offering more than decent sound quality. The Denon was the most dynamic, but did not have the user friendliness the Cambridge Audio had. Where the Marantz is positioned you'll find out in a moment.
I'm starting off with a CD. The tray opens lightning fast and also the reading of the disc goes faster than what I'm used to. The sound is less typical Marantz than you'd expect. The warm base, typical for Marantz, is less pronounced here. The 503 sounds more like a typical hifi receiver, and that can be considered as a compliment. The sound is sufficiently detailed and everything seems very well controlled. This control remains nicely when the volume is increased. Not only reading a disc goes fast. After plugging in a USB-stick while listening to the radio, it took less than 5 seconds to automatically play the first notes of music on the stick. This is very fast.
The one feature I'm less enthusiastic about is the tuner part. Not functionality wise, but the FM reception was only average. The antenna was not a very high quality one. It's probably possible to get better reception when using a higher quality antenna. When connecting to the cable signal, the reception is perfect. Very convenient to incorporate this connection. There is no bass boost or ‘loudness' available, a thing I appreciate. It does offer a high/low tone control, and this by a large extent. Another reason the tone control is more than sufficient.
You can get the device for less than 500€. It does not come with speakers included, which is a good thing. This requires you to look for accompanying speakers. Please do not connect it to some old pair you found in the attic. Select decent quality speakers and you turn this mini into a real mini hifi.
Pro and cons
+ sleek, compact design
+ neutral, open sound
+ solid construction
+ high value for money
+ two speaker pair terminals
+ source input versatility
- tuner reception rather average than good
- not the typical Marantz warmth if you were looking for it
Speakers: Focal Profile 908 / Energy 3.1e