The test bench for our Marantz PM6004 review included the Oppo BDP-95, Aperion Audio Verus Grand tower speakers, Martin Logan LX16 bookshelf speakers, Anthem Integrated 225 and a Pioneer PL-61 turntable with Ortofon OM-5E cartridge.
We spent almost two hours going back and forth between the Marantz PM6004 and Anthem 225. It was simply amazing to hear how well the much lower-powered PM6004 held its own, test after test. We did end up hearing a few mentionable differences, but before we get into that, let’s discuss the PM6004’s unique sonic stamp.
In our opinion, Telarc has made some of the best, natural-sounding SACD discs ever produced (and we hope they will again, some day) but our favorites have come through a partnership with Sound and Vision magazine which has turned out a selection of sampler discs that tend to be heavy on jazz recordings.
One of these samplers features music from the likes of Oscar Peterson, Michel Camillo and the Jaco Pastorius Big Band — all personal favorites — but the track that keeps us coming back is a collaborative effort between pianist Monty Alexander and vocalist Kevin Mahogany. The cut, titled “Hallelujah I Love Her So,” starts out with funky, New Orleans-style solo piano riff that repeats several times, adding in five-string electric bass, percussion and drums on each pass before finally unleashing Mohogany’s vocal.
On this single track we get to hear how well any particular piece of gear resolves complex piano overtones, deep sub-bass resonance, dynamic drum patterns and naturally recorded male vocals. The PM6400 did exceptionally well with all of the above.
The PM6400’s treatment of the piano was uncolored and open, with plenty the percussive attack that comes with the hammer hitting the string. With the electric bass added in, we noted that the amp was extremely quick at starting and stopping the deep bass tones, though it didn’t manage to plunge into the deepest sub-bass regions with quite as much oomph as we’ve heard with other amps. The drums were reproduced with excellent dynamic contrast and plenty of tone. We also appreciated that the forceful thump of the kick drum didn’t lose its potency as things got busy. Finally, Mahogany’s vocals, which we’ve heard get recessed in the mix with less capable amplifiers, were presented dead center and right between the other instruments. Had it been pushed too far forward, we would have had cause for concern. The vocal track simply wasn’t recorded that way. Again, the PM6400 stayed very true to the recording and added in nothing that wasn’t already on the disc.
Nor does this amp take anything away. On Rodrigo y Gabriela’s album 11:11 there’s plenty of fat, in-your-face percussive sounds, guitar pickin’ clickin’ and luscious harmonies to feast the ears on — pretty impressive stuff for just two people on guitar — but we’ve heard some of the intentionally big sound get tamed a bit in past amplifier reviews. The PM6004 maintained the big, closely mic’d sound without showing signs of strain, even at challenging volumes.
The phono preamp built into the PM6004 sounded excellent as well. Though we found it just a tad brighter than the Anthem 225’s, its sound was quite good with excellent separation between the channels, ample bass and a warm, rich midrange. To be sure, it sounded far better than most of the phono pre-amps found in the few A/V receiver models that manage to include them.
The Marantz PM6004 is one of those pieces of stereo gear that makes life difficult for manufacturers, audio dealers and audio reviewers alike. While we wouldn’t exactly call the PM6004 a budget component, it does offer a premium sound quality that has a way of blasting away its competition’s price-performance justifications. When you can get sound this good for under $1,000, it gets tough to justify spending more.
This $600 integrated amp knocked our socks off with abundant power, authoritative bass, transparent midrange and clear, slightly warmed treble. While it doesn’t deliver the girthy sub-bass we get from more powerful (and much more expensive) integrated amps, it does serve up a rich and rewarding listening experience that most will feel extremely proud sharing with friends.
While the Anthem Integrated 225 remains our top pick for a stereo amp in the $1,000 to $3,000 category, the Marantz PM6004 stands as the sub-$1,000 integrated to beat, thereby earning our Editor’s Choice award for its category.
- Ample power
- Tight bass, transparent mids, warm-yet-detailed treble
- Phono pre-amp included
- Two sets of speaker outputs
- Source direct mode
- Lacks muscle needed for deepest sub-bass
- No ⅛-inch input for portable media players