Product: Integrated Amplifier PM7000
Serial number: XE000042004416
Manufacturer: Marantz - Japan/Holland
Price: approx. US$ 450
Reviewer: Dejan V. Veselinovic
Reviewed: January 2001
Saying that Marantz is well known for its amplifiers is like saying God is well
known for creating the world; the late and much lamented Saul B. Marantz all but
invented audio, starting out by manufacturing hand-made, gold plated products for
wealthy sheiks and going along to making a number of legends, each in its own time.
Many now famous names started out in his day and his company, such as Mr Richard
Sequerra, to name but one. In the late sixties and early seventies, Marantz was THE
reference maker of stereo receivers and integrated amplifiers. However, the company
was edged out bit by bit by the onslaught of the Japanese, and was eventually bought
out by SuperScope.
SuperScope subsequently went bust and Marantz was acquired by Sony. Sony didn't know what the hell to do with Marantz, and those were the company's darkest years, full of uncertainty and dull models. Finally, in the grand deal on CD patents and tights, Marantz was sold by Sony to Philips, who fortunately had the vision and Marantz started climbing in the world again. They reached their present fame, oddly enough, not by virtue of their amplifiers, but their CD players.
Since then, and then was the early 90-ies, with some good marketing strategy, which includes promoting the widely advertised talents of one Mr Ken Ishiwata, Marantz has been on the way up again. Wish Philips would do the same for their audio ...
Anyway, the model under review was voted by an international jury as the European Amplifier Of The Year 2000-2001. This is done by having audio magazine journalists all over Europe vote on a list of nominees and the one with most votes receives the honors. The point is, it's not easily received, so this award should have a considerable specific weight.
From the outside, the unit is full of clean lines, with soft rounded edges rather than classic corners. It's solidly made, as attested by its weight of 12.3 kg (app. 28.3 lbs). Marantz quotes its specifications as 2x95W into 8 Ohms, 20-20,000 Hz, with no more than 0.03% THD. This rises to 2x150W into 4 Ohms. Maximum power output is quoted as 120/195W into 8/4 Ohms, the damping factor is quoted as 150 into 8 Ohms and response is given as -1dB down at 10 and 65,000 Hz. It is fully remote controllable using the supplied RC8000PM control, itself a longish, cluttered but still very useful affair.
The fascia is made of aluminum and is very uncluttered, despite a fair number
of controls. The large left knob is a source selector, while its right side counterparts is
the volume pot. Between them is a row of seven LEDs, signaling what has been
selected. Just below them are, left to right, Tape Monitor switch, Mute on LED
(activated from the remote control only) and CD-R/MD activation switch.
The lowest tier contains, again left to right, the power on/off switch, headphones jack, Speakers A and B switch selectors (which activate respective relays, thus eliminating wiring, but placing relays in signal path), Rec Out selector which has a very useful "Off" central position, bass and treble pots, Source Direct switch which bypasses all but the volume pot and finally the balance pot.
The front has a bold "HDAM" insignia in the top right corner; this refers to Marantz's discrete and shielded discrete equivalent of an op amp, which are used for voltage gain on the power amps. On the back, beside the usual speaker binding posts and RCA Cinch jacks, you will also find three convenience AC outlets, a practice I welcome, as its is most useful. Assuming you have a tuner, a CD player and a cassette or MD deck, one wall outlet wire will neatly cater for it all.
At the back, beside the usual connectors, those for CD and Phono being also
gold plated, you'll find three things worth mentioning. One are three mains
convenience outlets, with a total power rating of 100W, more than enough for a tuner,
CD player and a cassette, MD or even CD recorder.
This is a very handy feature I wish more manufacturers would use. The second is a pair of output and a pair of input jacks, connected by a pair of U shaped plastic bars, labeled "External processors In/Out"; very handy, if you want to use such a device, now or later.
The third are speaker binding posts. They appear chunky, but in reality, they are
not nearly as convenient as they may appear. Inside, they are soldered directly to the
power amp circuit board, which is very good as it eliminates any and all wiring.
But, the problem is on the outside - they will just barely accept 4 mm wire. No way they will accept my van den Hul 352 Hybrid cable, which is 5.5 mm thick, I'd have to peel off some of the plastic.
I had trouble sticking in 4 mm wire as well. Now, this is damn ridiculous - first they use binding posts, presumably to allow the current transfer to be as good as possible, and they limit the wire gauge, which is doing exactly the opposite. Just another episode of the old, old story of impressing the gullible public with sales blurb: "Look here, we gave you binding posts! They may be junk, but they are binding posts! Binding posts here!". A minus here in my book.
Notwithstanding that, the level of overall finish is very good indeed, I'd say a little above the norm in the commercial class, and the feel is very positive, from the clicking of the relays to using the remote for turning the volume up or down. Marantz deserve praise here.
Marantz use a pair of 12,000uF/63V capacitors marked as their own; by the look of them, I'd guess they were made by Philips. The bridge rectifier has its own heat sink, though it's not a big one. There is also a separate bridge rectifier for low level circuits, and there are three pin voltage stabilizers around, mounted on their own local heat sinks. Each channel uses a metal cased HDAM for voltage gain, the rest being totally discrete circuits using individual transistors. Each output stage uses two pairs of 2SA1941/2SC5198, these being 100W devices; in that respect, Marantz is in line with the rest of the competition in this price range, who also use similar transistors.
Looking from the front, on the right side there is a generous bank of sealed relays, which are used for source and tape out switching. More relays are used for protection, speaker pair switching and stand by mode. All told, a generous complement.
The preamplifier uses several op amps, these being JRC 2068 and 2114, both long standing Marantz favorites, also found in their CD players. While they no doubt work, I believe changing them for something better will improve this unit as it improved others before it. This change shouldn't be too hard, as the op amps use classic dual-in-line 8 pin packaging.
Its lineage to models of the past is quite clear - it has "PM68" labeled boards all over the inside, but notwithstanding that, this is not a revamped PM68, this is a new model. It is neatly laid out, with tidy boards and no stray wires, while all wiring is very purposeful and appears well thought out.
Of the components, most are of standard commercial quality, but there are some close tolerance resistors in evidence, presumably for feedback, and there are some high quality capacitors present, such as Elna Silmic and Cerafine.
The bias current for the left channel was 4.1/4.5 millivolts across 0.18 Ohms; for the right channel, this was 4.0/4.0. This works out to 22.8/25 mA for the left and an even 22.2 mA for the right channel. This is very much class B operation. In addition, the difference between the two pairs on the left channel seems to indicate a not so good transistor pair matching, since it should have been as on the right channel; however, the total difference is small and should not be taken as very serious.
DC offset was 9 mV for the left and 5 mV for the right channel, both very good results, not at all usual in this class of amplifiers, where +/- 50 mV is a quite common occurrence.
PM7000 will take about half an hour to reach its normal operating temperature, which, by the way, is not much warmer than the ambient temperature. After that, it will come into full focus it is capable of.
At low volume, this amp did nothing to either recommend or condemn it. It played the music in its own fashion, which is better controlled and warmer than most similar Japanese units, but below par compared to some others in this range, such as for example Harman/Kardon's HK630 (see review on TNT site). Detail was there, but not as much as I would have like to have heard; not obscured, just sort of left out. Left to right separation was fine, but front to back was quite average for this price class, which is to say mediocre at best.
Speed and tempi were good, but not outstanding. Bass was clean but unexciting, midrange was on the good side of "good", and treble was relaxed if anything. Emotions were just not on the menu, the chef was definitely out. All in all, something of a slight letdown.
Here, things changed, and for the better. It soon became obvious this amp likes to be driven harder than most, without overdoing it, of course. But it enjoyed being pushed out of the slow lane, it finds its way much better in the fast lane.
With the unruly AR94s, the Marantz simply sailed through and showed some of its better sides. At loud levels, much more ambience came through, and for a change, some front to back perspective also turned up, allowing performers to sit not only next to each other, but also in front of and behind others.
In opposition to most others, the bass did not harden up when pushed harder, but instead gained in definition, still with no discernible overhang. The midrange also seemed to gain some focus and definition, "color" so to speak. The treble range stayed just as clean as when driven at low volume, but because of greater sound pressures involved, it also came across as better defined.
Regarding types of music, while the PM7000 can rock'n'roll, it prefers more sedate music. It played Hevia's "Tanzilla" and "La Linea Trazada" well, but not as well as some of its competitors, which it then proceeded to beat with some more conventional music, like for example British folk songs (The Johnstones, Bert Jansch, etc). Peter Sarsted's "Where Do You Go To, My Lovely" was as good, if not better, on this amp than on any of its immediate competitors.
Classic music, such as Vivaldi, fared better on PM7000 that on most of its competition. It will not quite manage the best of large symphonic orchestras, it doesn't have that kind of control, but much more to the point, it lacks that kind of dynamics, but it will do a fair job of it all.
That just about sums it up - it will do a fair job of whatever you throw at it, but no more. Occasionally, it will rise above its price class, as with some jazz for example, especially the sax, but overall, it's nothing to write home about.
I cannot help comparing it with its immediate competitors. These would be Yamaha AX596 (which supercedes the older AX592 model) and Harman/Kardon's HK630. Only the Yamaha has notionally a bit more power, at 100W/8 Ohms, the other one is considerably below it in terms of power (HK630 has 45W/8 Ohms, or about 3.1 dB less power). Both have been reviewed on TNT.
The Yamaha has a better mid range, but poorer treble and a slightly less powerful sounding bass. The HK630 somehow manages to sound far more powerful that it really is, possibly because it is much more biased towards class A and turns very warm soon after switching on; it has those wonderful dynamics and speed so much appreciated with fast tempo that the Marantz lacks.
In such company, the PM7000 can give Yamaha a run for its money and probably win due to its composure and overall balance, while I'm not sure the Marantz is as load tolerant as the Yamaha (but I have not verified this in practice). The H/K will make the PM7000 sound a little slow and lifeless, but cannot match it for sheer power, though it comes surprisingly near (small wonder, given that it uses virtually the same output transistors and has almost twice Marantz's filter section).
In other words, Marantz PM7000 offers its own blend of views on how music should sound like, and as such, it is subject to your own, purely subjective judgement. But judge none of them until you have heard the rest.
The problem with awards, and the more meaningful the awards, the larger the problem, is that they invariably raise the expectation floor. So it was with PM7000; it has been awarded probably the most significant prize on the Old Continent, and this has led all, myself most probably included at least to some degree, to expect much of it. And while it has no obvious vices (Marantz people are far too experienced for that), it doesn't offer any significant benefits either.
Instead, it is a decent, economy class integrated amplifier, with very creditable power ratings into both 8 and 4 Ohms, well constructed, but musically unexciting. It plays fair notes, but no more than that, and you may find you like what the competition offers better than the award winning champ of the year. Must have been a lean year.
Solid, but unexciting. The competition may be better.
© Copyright 2001 Dejan Veselinovic - http://www.tnt-audio.com
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