- Written by Jared Rachwalski
- Published on 15 June 2009
I focused on two distinctly different recordings with the Marantz PM8003 as a stand-alone integrated amp. First up is the funk-folk trio from Montreal, Okgiraffe. Their eponymous debut album is a delight to listen to. Dual upright bass players, interesting percussion and beautiful female vocals blend together to both challenge and reward your HiFi. "Yosemite Sam" is a delightful track about everyone's favorite rabbit-hating outlaw contains some light shimmering percussive work that can easily be lost behind Rosa's strong vocals. Not so through the Marantz, as there was clear definition of this instruments and a nice even weight to the vocals. The upright bass has depth, with only a slight reduction in the impact of the plucking at very loud volumes. Overall the track sounds excellent with great rhythm and dynamics.
"Jackson Said" is the last track on the album and is a nice melody bordering on slowed down surf-rock, with Rosa's voice seemingly swaying in front of you between the front speakers. When Kevin Betram adds some harmony to the mix the soundstage is so well defined you can place his location in regards to hers. The songs slows pace and the upright-bass comes out in full force. Here the Marantz does an admirable job of reproducing the dynamic range of this instrument with clearly defined attach and release of the strings. This little integrated showed great control over the open-baffle midrange with this track. At loud volumes there was some loss of bass control adding a slight bloom to the lower mid bass, this only happened at volumes usually regarded as "too loud" by others.
Now to switch gears and really put this little amp to the test I loaded up Lateralus, Tool's 2001 HDCD release. Never an easy task, heavy progressive rock can all too often cripple low-powered amplifiers. The large dynamic swings, heavy bass and complex percussions will often blend together into a muddy mess. It takes a decent amplifier to be able to hit hard, go loud and stay clean all at the same time. This is exactly why I like using this disc. First track up is "Ticks and Leeches". This track has great dynamic range, plenty of layers and an very refined drum track. This track is a great indicator of the systems ability to define soundstage while under pressure. It is one thing to hear the individual location of the skins, it is another to hear this despite distorted guitars and assorted noise. Sure enough the opening drum sequence is tight and presents a wide sound stage. Even when the guitar kicks in followed up with the vocals by Manyard no instruments take over, all seemingly have their own space.
Next up was using this integrated as a power amp to drive my front left/right speakers in my home theater rig. In "power amp direct" mode the unit functions purely as a power amp, and is engaged by simply holding the 'power-amp-direct' button for 3 seconds until the light glows blue around the button. There is a separate input on the back that I connected to the front L/R outputs from a Rotel RSP-1069 processor. My HTPC uses Foobar as the software and an ATI video card with HDMI output sending both video and audio. For this test I chose two high quality downloads from the excellent B&W Music club, first a blues rock album by Little Axe, titled Bought for a Dollar, Sold for a Dime. The electric bass was controlled, decent, and well defined on the second track, "Soul of a Man". While the harmonica infused track had good dynamics, the soundstage lost some detail when pushed very hard, perhaps in part to the slight upper treble roll-off. The next track, "Come Back Home", has a solid bass line foundation and through the PM8003 the bass is tight and does not overwhelm the other instruments. The harmonica on this track seemingly floats right-of-center which creates noticeable depth. Compared to the Rotel Class D amplifier that normally occupies this position, the sound is smoother and the high-frequencies not as forward.
Second up was Gwenyth Herbert's Ten Lives. "Narrow Man" starts out simple with just an upright bass and the sound is just plain gorgeous. The attack and release of the strings is clearly defined, the bass is tight and well controlled. There was some loss of detail when the track picked up the pace and added more instruments, and the sound was a tad strained under the complexity of it all. A minor complaint which was easily forgotten by the time the track had finished.