Musical maverick

Not just another cookie cutter disc spinner, Marantz’s new Universal Blu-ray deck has a mind of its own. Steve May explains

To say the UD7006 Blu-ray player is a bit of a maverick is like saying Monty Python’s Flying Circus is only mildly amusing. This spin-‘em-all player has a distinctly idiosyncratic way of doing things. But it’s worth sticking with, not least because it sounds gorgeous and looks great. Build quality is formidable. The centrally positioned disc loader is no clattery tray, more a precision- engineered, super-slim disc feeder. Its substantial 5.1kg weight is a good sign. Some of this is down to the inclusion of a secondary top plate for enhanced rigidity.

Meanwhile, the curved fascia ensures the UD7006 looks better than almost every other BD-spinner on the market.

Rear selection

On the back panel there’s a single HDMI output, plus a bank of 7.1 analogue audio outs, a coaxial digital audio port, Ethernet and component video. The latter has been hobbled by the AACS copy protection regulators and will only output Blu-ray at 480i. This makes image quality via this connector worse than DVD (which is delivered at 576i). Frankly the only thing worth plugging into a component output these days is a sock. Rather maliciously, none of the phono connectors are colour coded, which is somewhat unhelpful when you’re lacing the thing up in a partially lit cinema room.

Custom installers will be interested to note that there’s also an RS232 control port and IR flasher mini-jack on the rear. This makes it useful for integrating with sophisticated control systems. The front of the unit features a USB port for media playback.

The UD7006’s glow-in-the-dark remote is large and comprehensively festooned with buttons which allow you to cycle through video output resolutions or toggle modes. The instruction manual that accompanies this player talks a lot about toggling modes. I think it does this primarily to keep the hoi polloi at bay.

Memory master

The UD7006’s set up GUI is best described as functional, with drop down text menus from simple graphics that represent General, Video, Audio and Network settings. From here you can achieve a high level of picture customisation. Menu options allow users to moderate mosquito and block noise, adjust gamma, squeeze contrast or inflame the chroma level. Values can be consigned to five different memory banks.

In amongst the player’s other feature wrinkles is the provision of a Playlist function, which allows you to add files from your network sources. There’s also a choice of wallpaper colours for the menus. The UD7006 even enables you to dim the display, from Normal to Off in four increments; a nice home theatre-savvy touch.

Four icon buttons dominate the main Home screen: Media Player, Set up, YouTube and Quit.

The MediaPlayer icon immediately takes you onto your local network. DLNA 1.5 compliant, the UD7006 instantly identifies connected DLNA and uPnP NAS and PC devices. Plug a USB stick in and this appears at the top of the same list. You can then navigate all connected sources for sound and vision files.

Audio file support is limited to MP3, WMA, AAC and WAV. There’s no compatibility with FLAC, Ogg or APE file extensions. Video fares better in that hi-def MKVs play alongside AVI, MOV, MP4 and TS extensions. The player’s at its best with Blu-ray, disgorging ravishing levels of detail, with beautiful gradated colours and no self- generated artefacts. Battle: Los Angeles, a wondrously sharp video encode, is made all the more extraordinary by the onboard Anchor Bay ABT2015 video processor.

The Marantz is 3D compatible out of the box and again provides impressive images. Step Up 3D (I fancied a change from Avatar) comes across in all its depth- enhanced high-school dance-drama glory, with plenty of sharpness.

The deck’s delivery of DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD bitstreams is predictably exemplary, but more significantly its PCM performance is first class.

The UD7006 isn’t too slow to loads Blu-rays, though not as fast as its mass-market rivals. And it does take a good while to wake up from standby and eject the tray.

Potent upscaling

Those with a large legacy disc collection will be pleased to hear that DVD playback is solid. Deinterlacing and upscaling come courtesy of the Anchor Bay processor. It makes a lot of sense to adjust a set of parameters specifically for DVD, so they are ready to engage at the press of a button. The player also gives you the option of outputting content as Source Direct. This is helpful if you’d prefer your AV receiver, an outboard processor or even the display to handle video upscaling duties.

As a music player, the UD7006 is extremely accomplished, with provision for both SACD and DVD-Audio. SACDs output as PCM only (there’s no DSD direct), but both multichannel and stereo feeds exhibit fabulous clarity and separation. You need to manually guide the player to these formats via the mode selector on the front panel if you’re using a multi-layer disc, though.

The UD7006 also does an astonishingly good job with standard CDs. Heard at their best via the player’s analogue output (which measured well for jitter in our Tech Labs) and routed through a 32-bit PCM1795 DAC from Texas Instruments, the UD7006 paints a beautiful soundscape.

When it comes to AV fidelity, the UD7006 is an undeniable star. Not only can this plucky Marantz hold its own with the best of today’s Blu-ray players, but it also thrils with music.

Sure, the user experience can at times seem a little clunky, the VOD services are limited to YouTube and it’s disappointing that audio file support doesn’t extend to FLAC. But this is a Marantz and for many that will be compensation enough.


HCC VERDICT

Marantz UD7006
Price:
£800 Approx

Highs: Sharp Blu-ray performance; ultra high grade CD playback; integrated YouTube playback
Lows: No FLAC streaming or secondary HDMI output

Performance: 4/5
Design: 5/5
Features: 4/5
Overall: 4/5


Specifications

3D: YES
Upscaling:YES to1080p
Multiregion: NO Region B BD/R2 DVD
HDMI: YES one v1.4a
Component: YES one ouput
Multichannel analogue: YES 7.1 phonos
Digital audio: YES coaxial digital output
SACD/DVD-A: YES/YES
Dolby True HD/DTS HD decoding: YES/YES
Dolby True HD/DTS HD bitstream: YES/YES
Profile2.0:YES with1GBinternal memory for BD-Live
Dimensions: 440(w) x 331(d) x 107(h)mm
Weight: 5.1kg Features: Ethernet; USB; network media streaming with album art support; DLNA 1.5 and uPnP cetrified; YouTube integrated; source-direct output; ABT2015 video processor; RS232 jack