Marantz PM6004 Review

Marantz PM6004

“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.”
  • 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

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.

Video review

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.

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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.

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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.

Performance

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.

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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.

marantz-pm6004-review-remoteOn 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.

Conclusion

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.

Highs:

  • Ample power
  • Tight bass, transparent mids, warm-yet-detailed treble
  • Phono pre-amp included
  • Two sets of speaker outputs
  • Source direct mode

Lows:

  • Lacks muscle needed for deepest sub-bass
  • No ⅛-inch input for portable media players

Editors' Recommendations