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Marantz PM 57 integrated amplifier

[Marantz PM-57]

[Italian version]

Product: integrated amplifier Marantz PM-57
Manufacturer: Marantz - Japan
Approx. price: 350 $

Marantz, during the Seventies, had a very good reputation for the quality of its amplifiers, built like battle-ships and generally good sounding.
I myself own a Marantz Model 125 (1975) tuner which is astonishing, both for its sound (it's playing right now...) and the quality of craftsmanship. This were the good ol' days of Marantz USA.
Nowadays, thanks to a series of CD players with a very good quality/price ratio, Marantz name has become a synonym for good sounding and honestly-priced HiFi.
Slowly, even the Marantz amps are earning a good reputation, not as the one they used to have in the past, though.
The PM 57 under test is a 50 Watts integrated amplifier, equipped with everything any audiophile may dream of: loudness control, tone controls, remote, double speakers outputs etc. Thanks God there's also a small, almost invisible, switch, called Source Direct, that allows to shorten the signal path, jumping at once all these useless circuits. The PM 57 does even have a phono input, a rarity, nowadays.
Now, considered all the features, and the power output rating, this PM 57 is very cheap so, one may suspect the designer should have saved on something, somewhere. It is exactly what I want to discover with this listening test.

This integrated amplifier has been tested with several set-ups, both of the budget-oriented kind and with more esoteric components.
Since, in Italy, the PM 57 was part of a very special offer together with the Marantz CD 38 cd player and the Tannoy Mercury M2 loudspeakers, I have listened to this amp even into this budget combo.

Tonal balance

The PM 57 is clear and even a bit bright, with the mid and high range slightly above the rest of the spectrum. This doesn't mean the amp is ears-tiring because the quality of highs is good enough to avoid any unwanted harshness. The high range, in particular, isn't extremely refined and introspective but it still is sweet and bearable.
As for the mid range, let's divide it into two parts: the upper mid is a bit forward and open, sometimes grainy and rough. The lower mid is on the light side: male voices, for example, lack a full body while the female ones are bright and crystal-clear, apparently undistorted.
The mid-bass is still on the light side, though it appears to be decently articulated and fast. A similar performance can be found in the bass range, powerful though not exactly impressive, a bit shy, indeed. It is harmonically rich, though, and this adds a plus to the overall performance.
Just to summarize a bit, the PM 57 pretends to sound classy and refined, though it partially fails in this intent, because of the limited introspective ability which reveals, without mercy, its price tag.
Let's have a look at the phono stage: it is a bit different from the line inputs, being delicate and very musical, with a very good mid-bass range. Then, again, it sound thin and shy in the bass.


OK, it is cheap and it has tons of features for the price. Compared with simpler minimalist integrated amps in the same price tag the PM 57 offers a lot of stuff for the money. A miracle? No, here's an explaination: though the tonal balance of the PM 57 is fairly good, its dynamic performance reveals where the savings have been made. It sounds compressed, especially in the bass: it tries to give a lot of energy to the mid-high range, leaving the bass range quite lifeless.
This is a clear sign of the power supply section being unable to deliver the proper amounts of energy to the power stages. Actually the PM 57 lacks some punch, that kind of liveliness one may find in those hi-current small integrateds such as Rotel, NAD, AMC, Proton etc. This sounds pretty logical to me. These minimalist integrateds have very few features, so you just pay for the quality of the design and components. The PM 57, at a very low price, offers many features (even a remote!) and delivers 50 watts per channel...all these things come at a price.

This amplifier, because of the lightweight bass range, appears to sound faster than it actually is. Too fast, indeed, as it lacks to reproduce the natural breath and pace of Music.
The dynamic performance of the phono stage is just acceptable.


The 3D image created by the Marantz PM 57 is quite wide and airy, thanks to the tonal balance which favours the high range.
The soundstage is hence adequate to the price tag of this amp, though the depth of the image is remarkably pretty good.
One can easy see the instruments and the singers into the soundstage, though the contours are blurred and soft, because of the limited ability of introspection and detail.
Surprisingly, the center of the soundstage is quite empty (and no, it does not depend on the position of the loudspeakers, believe me...) and the image is located mainly behind EACH loudspeaker.

Some advice

The cabinet of the PM 57 is very weak, light and resonant. Instead of the dozens of copper plated screws, as in other Marantz HiFi components, I'd have preferred a sturdier mechanical construction. This mechanical weakness affects the overall performance of the amplifier. Indeed it is sufficicent to install four Vibrapod Isolators (or anything similar) to get a quick improvement of the sound: the PM 57 becomes better tonally balanced as the bass range gains some weight and the high range becomes smoother. Not surprisingly, the dynamic performance and the punch of this amp also improve, and the listening experience becomes far more enjoyable.
I still wonder why HiFi designers do not take into proper account the effects of resonances on their projects.

The Marantz PM 57 isn't exactly a drive it all amplifier: indeed it has had some trouble driving the Tannoy Mercury 2 bookshelf loudspeakers it was matched with by Marantz Italia, the Italian distributor. With these loudspeakers the 50 watts of the PM 57 were necessary and, if the listening room was quite large (more than 25 m2), not always sufficient to give the right impact to the Music.
So, please, avoid matching the PM 57 to a pair of hard_to_drive, low-efficiency loudspeakers unless your listening room is small.
Also, choose loudspeakers with a good and punchy bass range, if possible.


Let's state this clear: are you looking for a do-it-all kind of amplifier, cheap, quite powerful and plenty of features (phono stage, remote control, tones, loudness etc)? The PM 57 could be the right amp for you.
If you're searching for a die-hard audiophile amp, with few features but with a great sound, have a look at something else.
Hence the PM 57 is a good do-it-all amp and, considering this, I have very few complaints to make, apart the mechanical construction and the poor stock feet.
As an audiophile amp (and the PM 57 is not into this league, by design) I complain about the lack of punch and dynamics, not to mention the lightweight bass range.


If you're someone who's in the market for a good cheap amp, plenty of features, the PM 57 won't disappoint you since a quite good sound is included in the package. If you are a die-hard audiophile searching for the ultimate sound/price ratio and if you are ready to say NO to a remote control and other useful (useless?) features, take a look elsewhere.
Do you want it all (features and audiophile sound together)? Be prepared to open your wallet wider or charge your credit card heavier :-)
Life is always a give & take game.

© Copyright 1999 Lucio Cadeddu

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