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Marantz’s Model 30 sounds like how a big warm hug feels

  • There are many storied names in hi-fi but few have a stronger heritage than Marantz. Founded in 1953 by Saul Marantz, collectors of classic hi-fi gear are still battling for Marantz Model 5 power amplifiers and 10B tuners as if they were newly discovered Da Vinci’s:

    The Marantz Model 30 integrated amplifier is a fully discrete, dual mono, two-stage design that marries custom (Hyper-Dynamic Amplifier) HDAM-SA3 modules in a feedback-free pre/driver stage to a pair of Class D amplifier modules (Hypex NC500 OEM) on the output stage for 100wpc into 8 Ohms, and 200wpc into 4 Ohms. According to Marantz, HDAM was developed in 1992 as an improvement over Op-Amp-based circuits. A rather large toroidal transformer sits inside the Model 30 to supply the preamp and phono amp stages, which helps account for the Model 30’s 30lb+ weight, while the power amplifier stage is fed from its own switch-mode power supply.

    The Model 30 offers five line-level RCA inputs labelled CD, Tuner, and Line 1 and 2 along with a power amplifier input for use with an external preamplifier. There’s also a recorder input and a pre-out for feeding with an external power amplifier or a subwoofer. The discrete phono stage’s RCA inputs sit below the line-level inputs alongside a signal ground screw. A single pair of hefty high-purity nickel-plated speaker binding posts, remote control input, and IEC inlet complete the rear panel. If you’re looking for a matching DAC, CD player and/or streaming device, the Marantz SACD 30n Streaming CD Player has got you covered.

    The front panel is central to the Model 30’s good looks: a backlit raised matte black section that allows light to peek out either side onto a wavy textured backplate, which looks a bit like carbon fiber from a distance. This lighting effect can be dimmed or turned off using the included remote. The classic Marantz “Porthole” display sits dead center on the raised section and is joined by six control knobs for input selection, phono input selection – MC Low (33 Ohm), MC Mid (100 Ohm) and MC High (390 Ohm), bass/treble (which can be bypassed using the remote), balance, and volume. The power button and 1/4” headphone jack reside on either side of the faux carbon fiber backplate.

    The remote is more than full function as it can also control the matching SACD 30n Streaming CD Player while also performing all of the front panel functions plus mute and dimmer for the subtle but pleasing front panel lighting effect.

    In the accompanying literature, Marantz shares that the Model 30 was Tuned by a Marantz Sound Master:

    Making sound the Marantz way is a seamless fusion of art and science, practiced by artisanal creators who balance and select components individually for their sonic qualities – they are the Sound Masters, the magicians.

    In the case of the Model 30, we are talking about Yoshinori Ogata who follows in the footsteps of Saul Marantz, Ken Ishiwata, and Ryuichi Sawada. I find this idea rather fascinating, as it speaks to the notion that hi-fi products are voiced by ear as opposed to rigidly following some measured ideal.

    Is Warm Bad?

    The Marantz sound is invariably described by listeners as warm and enveloping.

    That’s from the Marantz website and I couldn’t agree more when it comes to the sound of the Model 30 which I paired with a number of speakers including the EgglestonWorks Osso, the Sonus Faber Olympica Nova III, the totaldac d100, and the DeVore Fidelity O/96. On the digital input side, the totaldac d1-tube DAC/Streamer took care of the audio stream, while a Rega P3 mounted with the wallet-friendly Nagaoka MP-110 MM Cartridge played my records.

    Regardless of the speaker, music coming out of these systems powered by the Model 30 sounded warm, rather soft in terms of dynamic snap, and altogether pleasing. Of the aforementioned loudspeakers, I spent the most time with the DeVore O/96 and I know their sound inside and out and upside down, having paired them with any number of amplifiers and source components. It’s why I used the O/96 to dig into the Model 30’s sound in detail. I spent a few weeks with the Model 30 driving the DeVores, playing all manner of music from old chestnuts to new releases.

    I’ve been grooving to Shannon Lay’s laid-back Geist, released in July on Sub Pop, digging its relatively simple singer-songwriter vibe. With the Model 30 doing the driving, this album, streamed from Qobuz, sounded rich, sweet, and burnished as if her guitar had been dipped in honey. The upper registers of those metal strings didn’t have quite the amount of bite I’m accustomed to, feeling ever so slightly soft. I have a few acoustic guitars in Barn which I strum on a regular basis, so I get a regular reminder of their sound and feel fairly confident in saying the Model 30 comes up a bit shy of bright.

    As you might expect, this voicing makes even the roughest of recordings sound more palatable, sanding off the sharpest sonic edges so they don’t hurt. This made for a very enjoyable listening experience when Roon Radio was at the helm, playing all sorts of music of varying recording quality.

    Moving to Richard Goode and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s take on Mozart’s piano sonatas, the Model 30 excelled at delivering the micro and macro views, with individual instrument voices on full display without losing the overall movement and flow. I’ve been using this recording, Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 18 & 20 (Nonesuch 2005), for more than a decade as part of my test track arsenal and here, through the Model 30, it sounded rich and inviting albeit tinted by a sepia-like glow.

    Moving to LPs, I was wowed by the sound of vinyl through the Model 30. Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & the London Symphony Orchestra’s Promises is all beauty and I was completely captivated from run-in groove on side A to run out on Side B. Promises is among my favorite records of the year (so far) and the mix of electronics, orchestra, and Sanders’ sax proved nearly too much of a good thing. I heard into this wonderful recording as far as I wanted to hear. The sound image was presented as if the speakers didn’t exist, filling the Barn with sweet, sweet music. Add in the flexibility of the Model 30’s phono stage with its MM and flexible MC handling, and I’d say we’ve got a very good case for highlighting its appeal to vinyl collectors looking for a one-box solution. Bravo!

    With the AudioQuest NightOwl headphones wrapped around my head, I let Phoebe Bridgers serenade me all up close and personal with “Moon Song” from Punisher and was once again hearing a warmer, slightly softer version than I’ve heard through other integrated amplifiers. While perfectly pleasing, the patina-like coating lent to “Moon Song” by the Model 30 makes it a bit less exciting, a bit less engaging. I never thought I’d find myself looking for a bit more air bite, a bit more edginess but there I was: thirsting for just a little more crispness. On the plus side, “Moon Song” sounded silky smooth, finely detailed, and pleasantly inviting.

    Regardless of input or loudspeaker, the Marantz Model 30 offered a finely detailed view into my music collection and did so via a solid and expansive sound image. I’ve heard integrated amplifiers with more oomph, more grunt and growl like the burly Line Magnetic LM-845iA. I’ve heard them with greater fine-grained resolution and upper register sparkle like the Ayre EX-8. I’ve also witnessed a more solid and stiff bottom end as offered by the Technics SU-R1000. And yet each of these rivals is more costly than the Marantz Model 30, and only the Technics includes a phono stage. By contrast, the Marantz Model 30 offers a very nice sense of detail, air, and flow, making music come on like a big warm hug.

    Further information: Marantz

     

     

    Written by Michael Lavorgna

    Michael Lavorgna was born in Paterson, NJ into an audiophile’s home. He’s been listening to music on the hi-fi since the ‘60s and has been writing about this experience for some 15 years. Michael has contributed to 6moons and Stereophile and was the editor of (the recently-disappeared) AudioStream from its inception in 2010 until 2018. Michael's new home is TwitteringMachines.com.

    Letters to the editor – Weeks #41-43, 2021