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A super-integrated for the rest of us: Marantz’s PM7000N

  • Clothed in traditional attire, the Marantz PM7000N squeezes the full monty under one roof: HEOS streamer, DAC, MM phono stage, headphone amplifier, pre-amplifier and Class A/B power amplifier.

    Marantz set the scene like this: “[the PM7000N is] the first Marantz fully discrete, current feedback integrated Hi-Fi amplifier with HEOS Built-in technology…the PM7000N includes high-grade audio components, current feedback HDAMs, a toroidal transformer and a high-speed instantaneous current power supply.” 

    Future-Fi? You betcha! The newcomer also resets expectations on super-integrated pricing, ducking under the four-figure barrier in two of the most oft-specified currencies: £999, US$999 and €1,199. That’s under half what NAD asks for its M10 and Naim for its Uniti Atom. In fact, it was Marantz’s sharp pricing that prompted this review. The PM7000N promises much — does it deliver?

    Key features
    The device has four analogue inputs on RCA connections, one of which fronts a moving magnet phono stage. The two analogue outputs also use RCA. The fixed output is a stereo pair but the variable output – for subwoofer connection is a single RCA connector and includes a software-adjustable low-pass crossover to simplify subwoofer setup.

    Streaming? Bluetooth 4.1 and AirPlay 2 are present, the latter connecting us to Roon in lieu of proper Roon Ready certification. The PM7000N is formally Roon Tested but not Roon Ready. The PM7000N’s DAC section is built around an AKM4490EQ chip that handles 24bit/192kHz on all inputs with support for DSD 64/128 added to USB and streaming.

    HDAM modules turn up in the phono stage and preamplifier sections. H what? A Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Module (HDAM) is a Marantz-developed board that features surface-mount discrete components and reportedly outperforms an op-amp tasked with the same job.

    The all-discrete amplifier section takes elements of other Marantz amplifiers – the PM6006, PM7005 and PM8006 models – and blends them into a new amplifier module that’s unique to the PM7000N. Rated at 60wpc into 8 Ohms – or 80wpc into 4 Ohms – the PM7000N should be powerful enough to drive most medium- to high-sensitivity loudspeakers.

    Defeatable tone and balance controls together with a 6.3mm headphone socket sit on the front panel. Round back, four digital inputs: one coax, two optical and one USB-A input, the latter for USB storage devices. Wired Ethernet is complemented by two wireless antennae on the rear, each a combined WiFi / Bluetooth aerial.

    The PM7000N is clothed in the familiar Marantz style. According to the manufacturer, keeping it traditional helped their product engineering team keep to that £999 price point. Besides, I like the house-style, particularly in its silver/gold finish (my review sample came dressed in black). The PM7000N is also surprisingly heavy at 11Kg, in part due to its substantial toroidal transformer.

    Operation / HEOS
    There are three options for controlling the PM7000N – on-device via a multifunction ‘dial’, remote control (supplied) or the HEOS streaming app (Android, iOS, Kindle). Basics such as input selection and volume are easily handled by all three. The three-line OLED display on the PM7000N helps us keep track of what’s going on. To go beyond the basics required the HEOS app.

    HEOS is the streaming platform developed by Sound United (owners of Marantz and Denon) and is deployed in over fifty products, from wireless speakers through AV receivers to super-integrateds like the PM7000N. All HEOS-equipped devices can work together in true multiroom fashion.

    The HEOS app itself works well – blah blah it’s not Roon blah blah – particularly for streaming services, where the choice is slightly different from what’s normally available. Tidal is available but not Qobuz. Also present are Amazon Music HD (not found on many other streaming platforms), Soundcloud (also not common), Deezer, Napster, TuneIn and Spotify Connect. There’s even Mood Mix – music streaming for businesses.

    Harnessing UPnP, the HEOS app also handles playback of files from a USB storage device inserted into its rear, or network-attached storage. That’s fine for small libraries but laborious for large ones; loading and scrolling through 3500 albums takes an age. Thankfully, gapless playback works as advertised on all inputs tested by yours truly: Spotify and Tidal plus NAS & USB storage using HEOS.

    The HEOS interface is a reasonably intuitive affair. With the app foregrounded, the smartphone’s side buttons work volume – surprisingly useful. Overall HEOS is more than serviceable, in line with the likes of mConnect.

    Review system
    This Marantz box invites us to ‘just add speakers’, so I did: Graham LS6 standmount loudspeakers (£2,300) for the majority of listening. Comparisons came via the (60wpc into 8 Ohms) Ayre AX-7e amplifier ($3,950) fronted by a Pro-ject Stream Box S2 Ultra / Mytek Liberty DAC / SBooster supply (total £1800).

    Sound quality
    Big, bold and energetic – right from off, the Marantz’s sound exceeded initial expectations. A rhythmically propulsive quality stood out. Even seemingly simple music benefitted. Like Zsofia Boros’ subtle guitar work on ECM, which through the PM7000N trades between-the-notes delicacy for a touch of urgency.

    That impetus makes up for a slightly dull treble. Bass isn’t overly honed either, more Tyson Fury than Deontay Wilder. Grace Jones’ Hurricane is a veritable low-end onslaught. Overall the sound communicated by the PM7000N was more infectious than refined.

    These initial findings were derived from playing Roon over AirPlay 2. Switching over to HEOS brought forth a big ‘wow’. HEOS takes the previously noted momentum and charge, adds tight bass and a treble that goes further north.

    HEOS streamed, the ‘Refrains’ from John Potter’s Care-Charming Sleep sounded quite beautiful. The guitar was crystal clear, notes hung in the air. That late-career Grace Jones record now sounded more organised, the complexity of the mix made clearer around better-controlled bass pummeling. Performers were more clean-cut and better fleshed.

    Treble is more direct than silky, hinting at where things might improve – the sound can harden at higher levels, particularly on poorer recordings. That’s being somewhat picky. Look again at the PM7000N’s price sticker.

    Comparisons
    My Ayre-based earns its price premium, adding some warmth, taking palpability up another level. Treble gains a little of that silkiness. It’s not night and day though. The Ayre can sound a bit tube-like, the Marantz not. Double bass has a juicy/fat quality through the Ayre that the PM7000N cannot muster. That’s how I like it. Others will prefer the Marantz’s machined precision. Detail dig is something the PM7000N is especially adept at.

    Ultimately the PM7000N isn’t a giant-killer. But, it does deliver a big chunk of the Ayre setup’s sound quality for a fraction of its cost. Pareto principle advocates will find this Marantz to their liking.

    The PM7000N also spent some time powering the Elac Debut 2.0 standmounts (£250) and the Spendor D7.2 floorstanders (£4,500). Its performance proved consistent, the same characteristics showing up with both alternative loudspeakers. The only shortcoming of note was a marginally lighter bass through the Spendor.

    Conclusions
    What’s not to like? The PM7000N sounds big, detailed and slightly forward in a don’t-want-to-ignore-it kind of way. Like the book you can’t put down. It gets the essentials right, bringing musicians into our room in a way that would impress most people.

    Sure, Roon over AirPlay 2 doesn’t sound quite as good as the Sound United’s HEOS system but this is Apple’s shortcoming, not Roon Labs’. Does it matter? Probably not when the Marantz is paired with entry-level speakers like the ELAC. Although, given the PM7000N’s long legs – its ability to take the £2.3k Graham LS6 in its stride – maybe making it Roon Ready wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

    HEOS itself is fine, its different mix of services interesting – just check your use case. And then there’s the phono stage that I wasn’t able to test, the headphone amp that is half decent.
    The bottom line? Marantz’ design decisions with the PM7000N are well-considered – it does a lot and it sounds really good. At its price point, my expectations were exceeded. That marks it out as a solid choice for ‘first amplifier’ choice; and with so many features onboard, the upgrade path will be littered with potholes.

    Further information: Marantz

    Phil Wright

    Written by Phil Wright

    Phil is a Brit living in deepest Devon. Think: Tolkien's Shire but with killer cream teas. He's been around since digital audio's inception - he even wrote his dissertation on the introduction of the CD - but today's developments in both music and audio gear make him think 'we have never had it so good'. Phil is a Music-First audiophile with wide ranging tastes (Trad Jazz excepted): 5000 albums in his local library with the remainder coming from Tidal.

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