on December 28, 2011
For comparison sake, I demoed a NAD 356BEE, Rotel RA-1520, and the PM8004 with a pair of KEF Q300 and B&W685. The NAD appears to be $200 cheaper than the Rotel and Marantz, but it does not include a phono pre-amp stage, which cost an extra $200. So if you add that MDC module, it would cost the same as the Rotel and Marantz, which both of those amp include a phono preamp stage. The MDC slot does give you the flexibility of adding a DAC or phono.
Note: I tested all amps in Pure Direct Mode. My computer fed audio in WAV 44.1KHz into a Cambridge DACMagic (upscales to 192KHz). The DAC was connected via AudioQuest interconnect into the "CD" input. The KEFQ300 were the preferred speakers (B&W685 is my zone2 speaker set). I also used 14 guage Audioquest X2 speaker wires that ran 12feet each - connections between speakers and amp were bi-wired. Speakers were set about 8feet apart, about 3-4 feet from wall and 20-30 degrees toe-in. Speakers were set on 24 inch stands. Speakers probably had about 150 hours on them. Each amp was left on for three days of continuous use for break-in.
On to the comparison. I started out with the Rotel RA-1520. In terms of build quality, the Rotel is top notch and best of the three. The chasis, the knobs in the front, the binding post are all built with exceptional quality. The 60watts rating is very conservative, it felt like it was outputing close to 90-100 watts. The amp provided more power than most bookshelf speakers will ever need. The bass and midrange is top-notch. Bass is tight and controlled, it is probably the best amp for bass and midrange. Imaging and soundstage is exceptional and airy. The treble is a bit bright and edgy, though not harsh - and I'm using more laid-back speakers too. The Rotel is no slouch, but there was something missing from this amp. The sound that emanates from this amp sounded life-less and cold - some people calls it analytical or clinical - which is not for me. So if you like that kind of sound, the Rotel is the best choice. I would not pair this amp with bright speakers.
The NAD 356BEE was next. This unit is very plasticy and I would probably rate it the lowest in build quality when compared to Rotel and Marantz. Regarding power output, this amp sound the most powerful. It has very powerful bass (best out of the three), but it was a bit more splashy and boomier (relative to the other two amps). This amp appears to be built to be driven at very high volumes - so if you want to crank it up, this is the amp for you. Soundstage and imaging was good. The one thing, and most critical to me, was that the amp sounded a bit dull. The treble was missing something to it. It just didn't really click with me.
The PM8004. The sound was airy, warm, smooth, and full of life. The moment I got goosebumps listening to Adele's powerful voice, I knew this was THE amp for me. Norah Jones timbre voice came through with smooth and emotional impact. Frusciante's guitar licks screamed with authority when I popped in Stadium Arcadium. In addition, I felt this amp did the best in creating that center image, but it's only marginally. Some more observations: Power output is comparable to the Rotel. Bass is not as tight as the Rotel, but better than NAD. Imaging is not quite as clear as the Rotel, but a tad bit better (maybe even the same) than the NAD.
In summary, the Rotel amp was like that hot chick that you drool over, but you didn't like her personality once you went out a date with her. I really tried to like the Rotel amp and even gave it a longer audition time. The NAD didn't impress me. The Marantz, although technically not as good as the Rotel, the warmer sound was a better fit for me. Also one thing I almost forgot to mention is that the Marantz does the best job at resolving details at lower volume - which is super important to me.
Build quality: Rotel>Marantz>>NAD
Bass control (tightness and timing): Rotel>Marantz>>NAD
Bass impact (volume): NAD>Rotel>Marantz
Total power output: NAD>Rotel>Marantz although they are all sufficient for bookshelf speakers.
I can't recommend one over the other, but if you like warmer sound, stick with the PM8004. If you like the clinical sound with tight and accurate bass, the Rotel is the best choice. I'm not sure about the NAD since it didn't really do much for me.
on February 21, 2011
I have been most active with vintage Marantz gear for over 20 years. But the last few years I have been enjoying new gear.The speakers I used were both full range 10" woofer three ways as well as a 2.1 setup using a 6.5" woofer DIY monitor with a powered sub.
The first thing that pops out at you is how stylish and well built the 8004 is. The feel and look just scream quality and class. It is not just another "black box" stereo. This amp has personality and looks. Marantz seems to be getting back to it's roots of making good looking gear like their big 70's receivers. As well as going back to the Tritone tone controls.
After both the honeymoon and break in period I did some serious listening on both sets of speakers. I was quite taken with the clarity, detail and 3D like imaging. But it does differ from many other new amps as described below.
The treble is very nice. Not beamy or harsh but very smooth and airy. Easy to listen to with no listening fatique.
The midrange and upper bass is were this beast seems to come alive. A tremendous amount of detail, force and Razor sharp dynamics in the midrange. This amp had dynamics and clarity in spades!!!!! Here is were the major differences begin.
The bass is very lush and full. This amp has NO problem in the bass department when using either a powered sub or a passive three way speakers with a 10" woofer. The bass is strong, dynamic and Very well controlled. Not boomy or slow. but well balanced.
The overall sound I would describe this amp as: "very full and dynamic sounding and made for listening". Reminiscent of the sound of the big 70's receivers. But again with far more clarity and razor sharp dynamics.
I use my Marantz 8004 almost entirely for classical low level listening. So detail, clarity and imaging at low levels are my main needs. The 8004 carries it off without missing a beat. At low levels this amp maintains it's great dynamic sound.
I really can not say enough about this amp other than that I am very happy with it. And I consider myself an audiophile. If you are reading this a trying to decide between two amps, and the other amp is cheaper, my advice is save up and get the Marantz 8004
Addendum: After about a year of listening I still like this amp. However to make this review a little more complete and fair I would like to add this: The amp does have what I would call a "polite" top end. What I mean by this is if you have bright speakers this amp will work out VERY well. If your speakers are laid back on the top end you will have to adjust the treble up a ways.
I still find this amp to have an amazing midrange and full bottom end. Even with my monitor speakers I find myself, at times, not using my subwoofer. It does have a great deal of clarity, but not as much as my NAD. I think that is because the NAD has such a strong top end and the Marantz has a gentler top end. But if you are inclided to - just adjust the treble and it will be as strong and clear as the NAD's.
on November 17, 2011
I just replaced a Carver setup (C1 and M400t) and couldn't be happier. I always thought my speakers sounded a little dull in the higher frequencies (AR9LS) and just figured that was the price you paid not to get ear fatigue. While the ARs are not necessarily know for their top end (awesome bass though, and I'm a bass player so there you go) the Marantz made the upper frequencies come alive while still maintaining authority in the lower frequencies. I also noticed much better imaging. The clarity and openness of the sound is impressive. I am VERY happy with this piece of equipment.
A note about the person who gave this a one star rating. If you look at their feedback history, they gave a one star rating to everything they reviewed. There's obviously something else going on there and their assessment of this amplifier is pure BS. It's an amazing piece of equipment.
on November 7, 2010
This is an impeccable amp, especially at this price range. I picked one up from my local retailer for $750.00 when they were supposedly having a buy it at our cost sale and it is a great value for that amount. I have heard Rotel, Peachtree, Bel Canto, Denon, Onkyo, Classé, NAD, Yamaha, and many other integrated amps, but this amp stands up to, and in most cases, exceeds every one of those in sound quality. Unless you are talking about a high dollar monoblock or tube amplifier from a manufacturer such as Mcintosh, I am going to recommend this Marantz PM8004 all day. I am obsessed with electronics, I have tons of technology in my collection, but at the moment I have this Marantz hooked up to a pair of Revel F-12 floorstanding speakers for my music and I could not be more pleased. You won't find a better amp in the 700-1100 dollar price range, I have tried.
on September 1, 2012
Here's a brief review of the Marantz PM8004 integrated amp.
My initial impression when I removed the amp from the box was that this is a quality Japanese product, robustly made. You can tell it's made to last.
Construction high points: Large toroidal transformer, Nichicon Capacitors, unusually massive speaker terminals (two sets), weighty Japanese quality construction (27 pounds).
Appearance high points: Large stylish curvy chassis cool blue LEDS, simple layout, all black.
Features: Bass, Mid, Treble tone controls, source direct option by-passes all tone controls, preamp-out drives my subwoofer, direct power amplifier input jacks in back with a direct power amp on/off switch on the front, decent remote, earphone jack.
Sound: Clean clean clean, deep wide sound stage, voiced very slightly to the warm side and very detailed. Imaging is strong and stable on a good recording. The depth of the sound stage is above average. The bass is punchy. The high-end is silky and extended. I love this amp for my jazz collection.
One thing I noticed was just how quiet this amplifier is by putting my ear next to the speaker with the volume turned up. It's dead silent. Indeed the specs say the amplifier S/N ratio is 125dB!
This amp is rated a modest 70 watts @ 8 ohms, 100 watts @ 4 ohms. Every bit of it is high quality amplification. The Marantz manual says the amp is capable of greater than 25 amps of current available for peaks.
on February 7, 2012
A rainbow can be a metaphor for hopes and dreams. I've learned to adjust the size of my rainbow to my budget. A thousand dollars for an amplifier, while not much for many audiophiles, is knocking at the door of high end. My decision to choose Marantz was made when my scorecard showed the competing models were not good enough in (1) looks (2) touch (3) features and (4) sound. And few amplifiers have a 3 year warranty.
Looks is the techno-elegance of Marantz with aluminum and glass reinforced resin and curved corners. The knobs and buttons are solid and smooth as is the remote. In the features category there is the muscular power supply (25 amps peak), power amp direct (can integrate with a home theater receiver), preamp out (feeds subwoofer or different power amp), robust speaker terminals, A/B switch for speakers and a moving magnet phono stage (outstanding 87 db s/n). Other features are the standard quarter inch jack for headphones and a remote control input and output with volume control.
The fourth quality is the sound. Sound quality is subjective. People listen for different things and judge according to personal preferences. One amplifier may have plenty of "slam" and edge, another one is smooth and rich, another one tightens the bass or makes the violins sweet. These are matters of degree and shadings rather than night and day differences.
The Marantz sound is harmonically rich and full bodied. Let's talk about harmonics. There is the single note such as middle C on the piano that sends out sound waves at 262 hz. There are secondary waves called harmonics that come at different frequencies and strength (called the amplitude envelope). The harmonic structure is what differentiates two instruments playing the same musical note. There is the ethereal beauty of the flute and the rich tone of the violin. A trumpet produces intense high harmonics and therefore sounds "bright". A French horn produces intense low harmonics and therefore sounds "warm" or "dark". A trumpet and a French horn playing the same note will sound different because their harmonic structure is different. The Marantz brings out the harmonics in the music, just a touch "warm" and "dark" whether it is Haydn, Miles Davis or Jennifer Lopez.
This Marantz amplifier without hard edges should not be interpreted as soft and plummy, but rather slightly warm and relaxed. The rich tones complement and contrast the listening experience which is what the Marantz does best. It's a pleasure to own the Marantz PM 8004 from the way it looks, handles and sounds.
Postscript, July 6, 2013.
Associate equipment: Martin Logan Theos Electrostatics, Conrad Johnson Synthesis LM260 bass reflex floor standing speaker (discontinued), Marantz SA-15S2 SACD player, Rega 3 turntable, Shure M97Xe phono cartridge.
on January 5, 2012
I have never owned an integrated before, having used either receivers or multi channel separates throughout my audio listening experience. I was struggling with the stereo sound from my latest receiver, a Marantz 6005. Don't get me wrong, the receiver excels at home theater and multichannel music, but I have owned some decent equipment and could tell that 2 channel listening was just lacking a little something. I had avoided stereo preamps and integrateds because of having to try and integrate them with my current home theater setup. And the wife wasn't exactly willing to give up an extra room and money for a dedicated stereo setup. When I saw the Marantz, the ability to bypass the volume control and run the preouts for my front speakers into the PM8004 for movie watching was quite appealing.
I was able to compare this to the Rotel RA-1520, another excellent integrated that I purchased at the same time to compare the two side by side. They both retailed for the same price. The Rotel did not have a home theater bypass, I had to run a calibration with my Marantz receiver and set the volume on the Rotel at the halfway mark to get it dialed in for home theater usage. The Marantz is much easier, just hold the power amp bypass button down for a couple seconds and voila home theater use is ready.
The Marantz has a phono input, for MM cartridges only but it is quite capable. I run my Technics SL-1200 through it and am quite satisfied with the results. I don't understand the review that states that the amp has no push, I have not been able to make it sweat yet, running my two old Definitive BP2002TL towers. It is quite bassy, and I do mean bassy. Kick drums hit hard, bass lines are very distinguished. Midrange is smooth and easy to listen to, top end is a little laid back. I can have this amp on for hours at high listening levels and I don't get fatigued at all. I will admit that sometimes it is a little too laid back, but I find that my listening tastes have changed as I've gotten older and I approve of a more mellow sound. If someone wanted to make the top end sizzle a little more, there is a treble adjustment that can be used (along with a bass and midrange). I generally use source direct, so can't really comment on how the tone controls work.
Now comparison to the Rotel: The Rotel comes in at 60 watts per channel and this just wasn't enough for me. At loud volumes it started clipping and shut off on overheat, after about fifteen minutes of usage. The Marantz weighs in at 70 watts per channel and has the power to listen for hours at high volumes without even getting hot. The Rotel is more detailed, it is brighter. Drums and cymbals sound amazing with this amp. First thing we noticed when we hooked the Rotel up and listened to Tool's 46 and 2 was that we had never heard the snares, toms and cymbals like they were in the room before as we did with this amp. The Marantz again is more laid back, with a focus on the midrange and bass. It absolutely thumped through the same song. The bummer was the Rotel was almost too detailed, we weren't even halfway through the song and our ears were hurting. Fleetwood Mac's Tusk on vinyl sound excellent through both integrateds, the Rotel has great dynamics and clarity with detail, but again almost too much. With the Marantz we sat looking at each other like wow, instead of a bunch of top end sound, we could actually hear the midrange of the song and it shocked us how good it sounded. On the other hand the Rotel looked absolutely amazing, silver face, brushed aluminum, blue lights. The Marantz doesn't look bad but certainly does not have the same beauty.
Not sure what the reviewer meant before when he said not to use any CD player but a Marantz with this integrated, I have a Pioneer DV-59AVI and it sounds quite nice through the Marantz. Listening to Alice and Chains on SACD in stereo as I write this and it is heavenly, great soundstage and balance sound. I also have a Parasound DAC 1100HD that I use and it sounds wonderful also.
Bottom line, get the Rotel for detail and top end sizzle, if that is your taste or you have laid back speakers. Get the Marantz 8004 if you have bright speakers (like me)that need calming or you really like the smooth midrange and fantastic bass that it can bring. I sold the Rotel to a friend and kept the Marantz and have not regretted it one little bit.
on October 16, 2012
All I can say is that this amp is a slice of heaven. The build quality and the speaker cable inputs are ridiculous.
I am feeding it Pc Foobar>Audioquest Dragon Fly>Audioquest Golden Gate>Marantz Pm8004>Hifi-Man He-400 headphones.
I DON'T KNOW HOW IT COULD GET BETTER!
GET THIS AMP!!
on July 16, 2013
For so many years I have refused to purchase ANY Marantz product due to poor quality control. Let's face it, Marantz was owned by Phillips who perpetrated the SACD-1000 debaucle and dumped customers and retailers alike. So what I am I doing purchasing a Marantz product? Well, after reading several reviews and scrutinizing many blogs about the "New" Marantz line, I became intrigued. Finally, I was looking at the back panel picture of the PM8004 and discovered this unit was MADE IN JAPAN! Hmm, good audio products coming from Japan nowadays (Accuphase, Esoteric, etc.) Well I decided to take the plunge when I saw the Marantz CD-5004 for only $350. This unit not made in Japan but supposedly under the same umbrella. I found one locally and played with it for a week. Suprise, Suprise. Turned out to be a nice little (affordable) CD player. Went well with my Cambridge/NAD stuff. Overall, somewhat impressive. So I turned to the Marantz PM-8004, SA-8004 combo. Both made in Japan. (I went through many integrated amps and CD players built in Japan through the 70's and 80's). Now the review: Top of the Mid-Fi list and just breaching audiophilia. Took a little time for the combo to soften up. A little too much detail at first. A little air hosey for a while. You know, when a cymbal sounds like an air hose instead of a cymbal. Then I decided to turn off the "DIRECT" switch. The switch that bypasses tone and balance etc. Goosed up the bass a titch! Warmed up the sound field. Now it's gellin! Geesh, I think I discovered how to squeeze some of that Analogy sound from this stuff. ( I did have to struggle with cables also). Sometimes I play a poorly produced CD/SACD and get a little too much schting instead of a ting. That's OK, for the most part I still get plenty of detail and quality listening sessions. Not 5 stars but not bad. If this combo goes on a serious sale, a second set may be in cards...
on February 25, 2014
Actually, I am giving 41/2 stars.. I love the amp.. plenty of power, sounds great, tri-tone function is great..never runs hot..essentially
does its job.. build exudes quality.. made in JAPAN.. I wish the darn thing had an LED on the volume knob..the knob is black
and in a dark room, difficult to see rotation when using remote.. otherwise, very pleased with purchase and would recommend...