When word came around that Marantz had given its already well-reputed PM6003 integrated amp a design refresh in the form of the new PM6004, we found ourselves scratching our heads a little. The PM6003 was very well received; so, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Perhaps because integrated amps seem to be catching on again, and Marantz is looking to get the jump on its competition in this recently reinvigorated market. Indeed, the woo of surround sound is still strong, but the rampant popularity of digitally stored and delivered media (i.e. iPods, iPhones, iPads and NAS players) has music lovers looking for more streamlined and high-quality sound solutions. We think that is straight up awesome. Bring on the high-performance stereo amps, people!
We recently raved about the Anthem Integrated 225, a $1,500, 225-watt-per-channel (WPC) beast of a stereo amp that has earned its place in our reference system. It might seem unfair, then, that we would plan to compare the 45 WPC Marantz PM6004 directly to the Anthem 225. But we felt that, should the PM6004 offer decent performance, its $600 price might appeal to those looking for a more budget-friendly solution; plus, we have a soft spot in our heart for Marantz gear. So, we requested a review sample.
Boy were we ever in for a surprise.
Out of the box
Our PM6004 review sample was simply packaged with an AC cord, remote control, batteries and a user manual. The amp weighs a respectable 16.3 pounds and measures 4 ⅛ x 17 ⅜ x 15 ⅜ inches (H x W x D). Marantz continues its curved-edge cabinet design with this model, along with its almost cobalt-blue LED lighting scheme.
Features and design
The biggest change for the PM6004 over its predecessor from the prior year is that the company designed the unit with carefully separated pre-amp and amplifier sections. In the world of audio electronics, this is generally accepted as a very good thing. High-end A/V receivers attempt to keep these two functions as separate as possible, and now we’re seeing it as a point of focus for integrated stereo amps as well. It’s an effort to get one-box solutions to sound more like separates.
Marantz also incorporated what it calls “current feedback circuit technology,” which is intended to enhance sonic clarity and maintain a recording’s dynamics.
Most everything else stays the same. With the PM6004 we get five line-level inputs, two line-level outputs (for looping with recording devices) a moving magnet phono input, two pair (A and B) of speaker outputs and an amplified headphone output.
Marantz provides a clean user interface on its very attractive, curved-edge front panel. A large input selector dial resides on the left side with an equally large volume dial situated on the right. Three smaller but robust dials allow control of bass, treble and balance. There are only four buttons to be found on this piece: one for loudness control, one for Source Direct mode (which bypasses the tone control circuit) and one each for A and B speaker outputs.
The PM6004 features a toroidal transformer, which likely feeds the amp with all the power it needs to do its job and then some. Our experience with amps that use toroidal transformers is that they are quite stable and dynamic. Our guess is that the PM6004’s rated power output of 45 wpc is indicative of classic Marantz understatement. Our bet is that this amp will deliver power that rivals most amps rated at 100 wpc or better.
The PM6004 oozes of quality build. Everything we touched had a solid feel to it. Marantz offers a three-year warranty on this unit but we have a feeling that few, if any, will ever have to make use of it.
The only features this integrated amp doesn’t include are the sort that rarely appears in this price segment anyway. Marantz isn’t big on balanced XLR connections, and we find none on the PM6004. The phono pre-amp isn’t designed to handle a moving coil cartridge and we find no ⅛-inch input for or USB input for iOS devices (which can be dealt with using a simple adapter cable or by opting to use Marantz’s CD6004). These are all features that the Anthem Integrated 225 does offer, albeit at its much loftier price point.