Integrated Amplifiers

Marantz PM6005 Integrated Amplifier and CD6005 CD Player

ARTICLE INDEX

The Marantz PM6005 Integrated Amplifier and CD6005 CD Player In Use

After I had everything connected, I put on Sheryl Crow's latest CD, Feels Like Home, as I am very familiar with how her voice should sound. Although this disc is promoted as her entry into the country genre, it is really a mixture of Pop, Country, and Rock. It sounded clean, detailed, and very familiar as played by the Marantz combination. Although my reference integrated amplifier (NAD C 375BEE), which I normally use in this setup is over three times as powerful and costs two and a half times more, the Marantz amp played as cleanly and loudly as I cared to push it without obvious distortion or clipping. Compared to my reference office setup, the sound was not as warm or full, and a bit more analytical, but not so much so that it sounded sterile or thin.

The CD6005 has a CD-Text display that can be toggled to display Artist, Song Title or Album Title using the Info button on the remote (in addition to the more commonly found Track Number and Time information.) This was my first experience with such a feature, and I enjoyed seeing the extra information on the display during playback.

Next up was James Taylor's live concert album One Man Band. Listening to the tracks "You've Got a Friend", "Shower the People" and "Sweet Baby James", Taylor's mellow, smooth voice washed over the room, and I was able to even get a sense of the performance hall as the audience reacted to their favorite songs.

I moved on to Paul Simon's latest album, So Beautiful or So What and listened to two of the more upbeat and catchy tunes, "The Afterlife" and "Rewrite". Paul Simon is my all-time favorite singer/songwriter. He sounds as good as or better than ever on this album played over the CD6005, with his rich, mellow voice coming through with no apparent distortion or tonal imbalance. The detail of his guitar and the accompanying instruments were very clear, allowing me to hear "into" the recording, somewhat like wearing a good pair of headphones.

Finally, for a change of pace, I slipped Keiko Matsui's latest album, Soul Quest into the player and listened to "Dream Seeker" and the title track "Soul Quest". Her album is at times energetic and other times a bit more mellow and laid back, but overall this album is just lovely and a real treat for those who love jazz or piano music or even music lovers in general. Piano can be a tough instrument to reproduce correctly, but the Marantz nailed the impact of the notes and also conveyed the decay or reverb very well as well as the changes in pace which Matsui frequently employed.

I then played tracks directly off a USB thumb drive that was loaded with an assortment of mostly downloaded 256 kbps mp3 files, but also including some much higher bit rate self-ripped WMA's. The interesting thing about listening to these files was that although most of them sounded good, the few that did not seemed to depend more on the quality of the original recording than the bit rate used for the rip. My conclusion from the varied sound quality of these tracks was that the player passes on the quality of whatever file it is asked to play without embellishment.

If your music collection consists of mostly mp3's downloaded from the usual sources (Amazon and ITunes), I think you will be generally pleased with how they sound played back using the USB input on the CD6005. I should also comment that I was quite happy with how quickly the player recognized all the files on this drive and also how quickly it responded to commands to pause, stop, or advance to the next track or album; other players I have used had more latency compared to the Marantz. The manual indicates that the USB port is iPhone and iPod compatible, and the Marantz' remote will control these devices, but I was unable to test these functions since I don't own any i-devices.

As with CD play, the bright, legible display indicates the artist, album, and track number for music being played via the front USB input from an external hard drive or usb stick.

Now it was time to try out the Phono input on the 6005. To be honest, I was not really expecting it to sound nearly as good as my external Cambridge Audio phono stage. I was quite surprised when the needle first dropped on The Stanley Clark Trio (with Hiromi and Lenny White) 180 gm LP- of Live at the Garden. The impact of Hiromi's piano attack was loud and clear! The Marantz' phono stage gave up nothing whatsoever to the separate Cambridge Audio phono pre.

Playing Sonny Rollins' 180 gm disc titled Saxophone Colossus, again, the sound was smooth, clear, and lively and "all there". Finally, for some vocals, I played Roy Orbison's first album, Lonely and Blue, and it was easy to tell that this was a young Roy Orbison, full of raw talent, but still not fully mature in his vocal skills. Being a Roy Orbison fan, it was a real treat to find this album (new) and hear back to where it all started via the Marantz ultra clean and clear phono pre/amplifier combination. I don't think you will be disappointed in the phono stage of the PM6005, nor feel the need to add a separate unit; it is that good!

Lastly, I tried the Peachtree DAC*IT via USB to the Acer Netbook, running JRiver Media Center streaming mostly Redbook FLAC files, but also some 88.2/24 and 96/24 bit FLAC files, and the sound was superb! However, I quickly realized I was not really hearing the amp's on-board DAC, so I switched out the Peachtree DAC and used an inexpensive USB/SPDIF converter (also a DAC and headphone amp) I had laying around (Fiio E10) as my more expensive converter was in use in another system. I wasn't sure how good this might sound, since the Fiio only costs around $75, but I connected it to the amp's coaxial input and what I heard was a very pleasant surprise. Again, the quality of the recording came through with crystalline transparency and full weight and impact.

I might mention here that although the CD6005 "only" plays Redbook resolution files, the amp is not similarly restricted, so I was able to send every hi-rez file I had, at or below 96/24, directly to the Marantz. Although the Marantz DAC will also handle 192/24 files, but, alas, the Fiio is limited to 96/24. These high resolution FLAC and WAV files sounded terrific without any digital grain or glare and a very low noise floor and even the Redbook files sounded great. Worth noting are the owner's manuals which are quite good and are available both online and on the supplied CD's.

Wishing to more fully evaluate the effectiveness of the Loudness control, I switched to a set of small DIY bookshelf speakers, which due to their modest 4" mid-bass drivers, are a bit bass shy. In the years before the digital age, most receivers and integrated amps had a Loudness control to help boost the bass and treble at lower listening levels. This feature could also be used to the benefit of speakers which were bass shy; the amount of boost decreases as the volume increases. The Loudness feature is a rarity today, but its inclusion on the Marantz PM6005 was both welcome and effective in adding some fullness to the bottom end of these small speakers. At no time during my use of the Loudness control with these speakers did the boost become overbearing, unnatural, or bloated, so I left it on for the remainder of my review. This was in contrast to using the Loudness control with the Wharfedale speakers, where their inherently stronger bass became bloated at anything above background listening levels.

Back to playing files sent from my netbook to the Marantz, I cued up Carly Simon's "The Right Thing to Do" from her No Secrets Album (96/24 FLAC) and was immediately struck with the clarity of her voice, again, one with which I am very familiar. The supporting instruments were all equally clear and sonorous.

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong's album Ella and Louis, and the track was "Why Can't We Be Friends" (96/24 FLAC). Ella's voice was like liquid gold pouring forth from the little speakers and was contrasted by Armstrong's trademark gravel and gritty voice in counterpoint.

For a change of pace, I cued up the late Eva Cassidy's album, Live at Blues Alley with her rendition of "Tall Trees in Georgia". In my opinion, this is one of the best live vocal albums around, and as usual, it did not disappoint, played on the Marantz. Eva has one of the sweetest and smoothest female voices of her time, with wonderful inflection and control, and it all came through this playback chain with crystal clarity.

Finally, I went to one of my reference guitar tracks, "Blues De Luxe" from Laurence Juber on his Guitar Noir (ITrax 96/24 WAV download) album. The attack of Juber's fingers on the strings was accurately reproduced, and the soft high hat accompanying was delicate and airy making for a delicious mix showcasing his wonderful guitar playing.

I briefly listened to both the CD player and the amp's headphone outputs using a pair of Sennheiser HD 598 over-the-ear headphones. The CD player was not able to push these relatively easy-to-drive phones to satisfying levels and would almost certainly be unable to drive higher impedance (150 to 600 ohms) phones such as the Sennheiser HD 650, 700 or 800, or similar high end headphones to acceptable volume levels. On the other hand, the amp's headphone output was quite capable of driving these same phones to levels far above what I care to listen. At normal listening levels, the amp's output was clean and dynamic, with very low noise levels. I would be happy listening to the amp's headphone output with the Sennheiser HD 598's without the assistance of an external headphone amp.