It was the box it came in that surprised me about the new Marantz MCR612 network CD streamer; it was smaller than a Marantz box should be. For as long as I can remember Marantz equipment has been 44cm wide, but the 612 is just 28cm across, and 30cm deep. Hence the smaller box.

Marantz dates from 1953, a veteran brand of quality hi-fi, and the 44cm width became a standard in hi-fi in those days because components could be put in a stack with enough space for a turntable securely on top. Audiophiles still like it because lots of them have racking or cabinetry specifically designed for it. But Marantz isn’t looking at audiophiles with the 612, it’s aiming at people who want a system that will do everything and fit in tight space. This is not a dumb idea; even in this wide, brown land almost one-third of the population lives in apartments.

The 612 gives you everything you need, except speakers, in one compact box.

Appreciating good reproduction of music and being an audiophile are not always the same thing. If you don’t have the kind of dollars audiophiles spend, if you don’t have the space for all that equipment and all those cables, but you still like your music clean and precise, this is great buying at $1320.

But you’ll also need speakers. There are one-box systems that have speakers built in, the problem being that they give very little, if any, separation of the right and left channels. So the music is essentially mono. Marantz obviously couldn’t come at this; stereo relies on the right and left speaker being separated by at least a couple of metres and if it had put speakers in the 612, well that low rumbling you’d hear would be Saul Marantz turning in his grave.