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Marantz had them first!
One of the most useful physical enhancements the ProntoPro NG has to offer over older models is the addition of more hard buttons, and we probably have Marantz to thank for that. Their RC5200 remote control was the first Pronto-derived model to come with the familiar menu cursor and four surrounding hard buttons employed by the TSU3000 and TSU7000. Marantz has since used that same layout in the RC9200 and RC5400, and now the RC9500.
Starting from the top of the remote are [Volume Up/Down], [Channel Up/Down] and [Mute] buttons, placed along the right edge of the screen in reverse order compared to the RC5000. Immediately beneath the screen are two small unmarked keys that match up with customizable on-screen labels – two fewer than the TSU7000. Centered between these is a large circular four-way menu cursor pad, with [M] (“Menu”) and [Home] buttons on the left side, plus [OK] and [Ex] (“Exit”) keys on the right.
Although the RC9500’s buttons are shaped and finished differently than the TSU7000, they generally offer similar tactile feedback levels. Overall I do prefer the RC9500’s feel: buttons are more defined and easier to find without looking. The [Volume] and [Channel] buttons in particular are a definite improvement, although they still don’t protrude far enough. Curiously, the [Mute] button provided very little tactile feedback on my sample.
The RC9500 is finished in sparkly jet black paint complimented by a wide platinum colored band running around the IR emitters, screen and lower hard buttons. The lower buttons encircled by that band are finished in silver and surrounded by a matte silver case section. Most of the RC9500’s housing is finished in a super piano gloss that looks absolutely fantastic, but has two serious drawbacks: it really collects fingerprints, and it’s slippery. I’ve noticed that due to that paintjob the RC9500 tends to have a somewhat slick feel to it unless perfectly clean. Overall the RC9500 has a very upscale, professional look to it, but the remote doesn’t feel quite as solid as the TSU7000, an impression confirmed by a large battery compartment door that can flex and creak at the latch.
The RC9500 uses the same bright active matrix screen as found in the TSU7000, but it changes how hard buttons are backlit. Instead of using a dim green EL panel like the TSU7000, bright blue LEDs shine through the laser cut labels – although only the four-way cursor, [Volume] and [Channel] buttons are illuminated. Compared to the ProntoPro NG the RC9500’s button backlighting is actually useful and isn’t overwhelmed by the screen, although it would have been even better had Marantz thought to backlight the other six keys as well...
Gold, grey and glass.
The RC9500’s on-screen interface is quite different from the ProntoPro NG. Yes, all of the base elements are the same, but they’ve been rearranged and given a shiny new look. A particularly golden shiny new look – as befits the Marantz high-end heritage, the RC9500’s interface is almost completely made up of shades of gold and grey, with snazzy transparent “glass” buttons. The effect is rather unique, even though it doesn’t particularly show off the LCD’s full range of colorful capabilities.