With its curved fascia, finely finished controls and blue indicators, the Marantz PM8006 is a handsome piece of kit, with a features set to match. But it’s how this stereo amplifier treats the music that really counts …
Stereo amplifiers used to be the main building block of most audio systems, until home theatre made its appearance, and AV receivers stole the show. Today, most one-system households will have opted for some form of multichannel set-up, usually linked to their TV and DVD or Blu-ray player.
However, stereo is making a comeback. The unexpected (and seemingly sustained) resurgence of vinyl, together with the growing popularity of quality music streaming services, as well as the convenience of downloading music, are all conspiring to create a greater awareness of stereo’s sonic appeal.
Consumers are finding that a half-decent, well set up stereo system can provide staging and dimension to rival that of multichannel systems, with the added benefit of simplicity (only two speakers, three if you really feel the need for a subwoofer) and ease of use.
No wonder then that stereo components continue to feature in the catalogues of most of the bigger brands, while specialist and high-end audio marques have remained resolutely stereo-centric.
All of which brings us to the PM8006, the latest addition to the extensive Marantz stereo amplifier offering.
AT FACE VALUE
The PM8006 is a handsome amplifier, reflecting the current Marantz design aesthetic. The design’s curved faceplate, and the deep vertical grooves behind the primary rotary controllers are distinctively Marantz, and certainly distinguish the amp from the many plain, DIN-sized boxes of electronics out there.
The all-metal enclosure feels reassuringly substantial, and the control layout is tidy. The two aforementioned rotary controllers (for volume adjustment and source selection) frame four smaller controls that look after bass, midrange, treble and balance settings. The inclusion of midrange adjustment is unusual, but used to often feature in vintage Marantz amps of the 1960s and 70s.
Four pushbuttons that illuminate in a pleasant blue when activated look after speaker A/B selection, power amp direct mode and source direct mode. More about those later.
A row of blue indicators provides visual confirmation of source selection, while a power button and a stereo headphone jack complete the front switchgear complement.
The rear panel offers some surprises. For starters, the dual speaker binding post sets are particularly nicely turned out, with grippy screw-down terminals and protective sleeves to prevent errant wires from shorting.
Also pleasing is the inclusion of a MM-compatible phono stage, complete with signal grounding post. There are five line-level input sets plus a recording loop.
The Marantz also offers a pre-output set (if you want to hook up a separate power amp) and a power amp direct input for easier integration in a home theatre system. An IEC kettle-type power input socket also allows the use of upgraded power cables.
UNDER THE COVERS
Marantz is not shy to describe the PM8006 as an audiophile product, and it warrants that tag with elaborate internals. The amp employs a fully discrete current feedback design with symmetrical circuits and a beefy, double-shielded toroidal power supply.
As we’ve come to expect of Marantz, its proprietary Hyper-Dynamic Amplifier Modules (or HDAMs) are used instead of chip-based op amps. They feature surface-mounted surface components and short signal paths.
According to the company, the MM phono stage isn’t just a run-of-the-mill device, but a new design that makes its debut in then PM8006. It’s been optimised for sound quality by simplifying the signal path and employing two-stage amplification to reduce per-stage gain, while RIAA equalisation is achieved via a dedicated HDAM module running in Class A.
Finally, the volume control is IC-driven in a quest for improved channel separation, dynamic range and reduced distortion, while offering the tactile heft of an analogue, resistor-based control.
The PM8006 is rated at 70 watts/channel RMS into 8 ohms, and 100 watts/channel RMS into 4 ohms, with THD at 0,02% and a signal-to-noise ratio of 106 dB @ 2V.
You’ll find a more detailed run-down on some of the PM8006’s technical highlights here.
The review unit was brand new out of the box, and was afforded a good 50 hours of playing in time before any listening commenced. As it turns out, it continued to improve, but seemed to reach sonic stability at about the 100 hour mark.
It arrived at the same time as the Marantz ND8006 CD/network player reviewed some time ago (review here) and was listened to in partnership with that unit for part of the review, although I also used our Lumin D1 network player.
Speakers were our trusty and still absorbing KEF LS50s, as well as a pair of revealing Spendor A2s on review at the time (review here)
SOUNDS LIKE …
From the outset, the Marantz sounded bigger and bolder than its elegant aesthetics suggest. It displayed plenty of grip and control, but never to the detriment of the music.
The integrated amp maintained an eager and agile pace, with a light-footed, effortless approach that underlined its ample muscle. To its credit, the PM8006 always allowed the music’s own, inherent heart and soul to come to the fore.
The upper trebles displayed a slight sheen which could be deemed too tonally eager, and should be kept in mind when speaker matching. That said, after those first 100 hours or so of playing, this became less pronounced.
The midrange was smooth and even, with a cleanly linear approach that added to an overall sense of musical honesty. It was partnered by a bass response was punchy and authoritative, but never overpowering.
The Marantz displayed plenty of low-down oomph and momentum, adding substance to the sound, but not to the detriment of the delivery’s overall suppleness.
Switching to Source Direct mode resulted in a slight opening up of the soundstage, together with an enhanced sense of clarity and more pronounced upper-frequency detail. But the overall sound was slightly less tonally cohesive and a little more clinical as a result.
Invoking Source Direct model also cuts the tone controls – bass, midrange, treble – and the balance adjustment from the signal path, which is exactly what the purists will expect. But it’s worth considering that those tone and balance controls can be useful to tailor the sound to personal taste, even if it flies in the face of audiophile practice …
Staging was a highlight. The Marantz sounded expansive and accessible, spreading its musical wares wide, deep and high on a generously proportioned soundstage. The amp painted a seamless sonic picture that was vividly and realistically presented, creating an engaging rapport with its audience that made for satisfying listening.
On Sting’s The Last Ship the mix is lucid and approachable, always placing the vocals at dead centre, with arrangements that allow the often delicate ensembles of acoustic guitars, accordions and strings to show off their timbre and lustre to full effect.
The Marantz did well to embrace and promote these traits with conviction and composure, projecting the recording with just the right balance of momentum and transparency.
It preserved the delicate guitar and wistful accordion on ‘I Love Her But She Loves Someone Else’ while ensuring the bass was delivered with ample impact. Sting’s vocals remained unimpaired and clearly rendered throughout.
For something livelier, I swapped Sting for Santana’s Corazón, and the Marantz easily coped with the often crowded arrangements. It picked its way through the densely layered percussion and the energetic keyboards, while showcasing Carlos Santana’s searing, always articulate electric guitar.
On ‘Besos De Lejos’, the music filled the listening room to the brim, making the available space sound larger than its physical boundaries suggested, and deftly exploring the interplay between guitar and vocals, while the intricate percussion was presented with potent and presence and precision.
The evocative Brahms Double Concerto for Violin and Cello, Op 102 is a dramatic and engrossing work, dominated by the passionate dialogue between the two instruments, set against the sweeping sonic vistas of the orchestra.
The PM8006 never sounded in danger of losing its composure. It kept a close rein on the music, but again without robbing it of dynamics or lustre, and providing ample insight and dimension. The amp managed to convey the full majesty of the orchestra, while also doing full sonic and emotive justice to the solo violin and cello.
The Marantz wasn’t in the least intimidated by the dynamic extremes of the recording, while its layered, generous and accessible staging provided plenty of breathing space for both orchestra and soloists.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Marantz likes to tout the PM8006 as an audiophile-grade component, a kind PM-10 Lite with the credentials to be considered above the run of the mill. Certainly, the execution is first class inside and out, while the facilities on offer are comprehensive, too.
But – more importantly – the PM8006 also delivers on the sonic front. It sounds pacy, punchy and commanding, with a penchant for wide-open staging and pin-point imaging that makes for inviting, engrossing listening.
The amp’s tonal approach is neutral, as it should be, allowing it to accurately reflect the characteristics of the source signal, while there’s never any indication of running out of steam: it always sounds more muscular than its 70 watts-a-side rating implies.
In short, the Marantz PM8006 is class act, demanding partnering components of equal stature, and capable of putting a smile on any music fan’s face.
Loads of grip and authority from this sleek, well-featured stereo amp
Revealing nature requires source components of equal stature
Power output: 2x 70 watts (8 ohms), 2x 100 watts (4 ohms)
Frequency response: 5 Hz – 100 kHz
Signal-to-noise ratio: 106 dB (2V input)
Inputs: 5x RCA stereo, 1x MM phono, 1x power amp direct in
Outputs: 1x stereo record out, 1x stereo pre-out
Binding posts: 2x sets, five-way
Dimensions (WxHxD): 440 x 379 x 128 mm
Weight: 12,0 kg
PRICE: R24 990
SUPPLIED BY: HFX Systems
Lumin D1 network player
Marantz ND8006 CD/network player
KEF LS50 and Spendor A2 loudspeakers
Lumin L1 and Synology 214se NAS devices
TelluriumQ and XLO Reference cabling
Sting – The Last Ship (Universal 96/24 FLAC)
Santana – Corazón (Sony Music CD)
Brahms – Double Concerto for Violin and Cello, Opus 102 – Spivakov/Kniazev/Temirkanov – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RCA Red Seal 44/16 WAV)