Are the new Marsh preamps really giant killers?

The new Marsh preamps are getting a lot of good press. Are they as good as some of the magazines say?
I had a P2000 ( SS ) when it first came out ( 2 1/2 years ago ) and my opinions are pretty varied. I will say that the unit takes a LONG time to settle in and is very system dependent. I wrote a review about this unit that can be found in the AA reviews section but this was based on a short term loan of the unit from a local dealer. I ended up purchasing one of these units shortly thereafter and was able to form a more solid opinion of this device.

In the first system that i put it into, the bottom end was very pronounced and had tizzy treble. Prat seemed to take a hit in the nose but this was probably due to the overly weighty bass response. Outside of that, everything seemed to come from a VERY black background i.e. the unit has a very low noise floor. Midrange was seductively warm and smooth but maybe too much so i.e. the system seemed to lack attack and dynamics. I experimented with various cabling, but kept coming back to the same basic impressions: bottom heavy, tizzy and a little slow. I ran it in this system for about two months, giving it the benefit of the doubt and hoping that it would open up and blossom into the beauty that i was looking for.

In this amount of time, i became extremely attached to the remote control capabilities of this unit. Having such a feature is truly convenient, especially when the remote is truly full function and very easy to use. Besides the remote, all of the functions of the unit are very straight-forward and easy to use.

After taking the Marsh out of this system, i took it over to my Brother to try out in his system. His initial thoughts after getting things dialed in as best possible were that the bass was bloated, the unit lacked transient "snap" / prat and that the treble was tizzy. Two near identical strikes in two different systems.

I ended up putting the Marsh back in the box and it sat for a few months. After selling the Pre / Pro in my HT system and not knowing exactly what component i wanted to replace it with, i pulled the Marsh back out of the box and hooked it up as a temporary measure in that system. As mentioned, the Marsh has full remote operation, so it was the most likely candidate to do the job. Watching movies without a remote volume control is a tough thing to do sometimes.

In this system, the Marsh seemed to soar with the eagles rather than cluck with the chickens. I was utterly amazed at how well it worked here. Granted, i had different amps, cabling and speakers, but the Marsh was no longer slow, tizzy or boomy. The system took on new life and sounded absolutely fabulous. It was the best that i had ever heard this system sound, by a long shot. Bare in mind that i had tried other 2 channel preamps and never gotten these results. It was so good in fact, it made me re-think some things about this system and my other systems.

With that in mind, i didn't mind watching movies in two channel as the music that this system produced was quite good. In fact, the next time my Brother came over, he asked me what i had done to the system to make it sound so good on music. When i told him that i had installed the Marsh, he too was incredulous at how good it sounded and the drastic differences from system to system.

In the long run, i ended up selling the Marsh as it simply didn't have the features that i needed in order to keep it in my HT system and for some reason, it simply didn't blend with any of my other two channel systems. It was this experience, with such drastically different results, that kind of made me shy away from writing reviews of products. I did not want to "blast" a product and then find out later that it was capable of being "great" somewhere else under different system conditions. As such, i've learned to rotate equipment amongst several systems prior to passing final judgment. Having said that, i have run into a few products that just flat out "suck" regardless of what you try to mix and match them with. If you can't get the product to perform at least "decently" in ANY system, you know it is a piece of junk. I am not shy about blasting those products.

As such, i would suggest doing a home demo of ANY equipment that you are not directly familiar with, especially one of these pieces. The early units seemed to be a bit of a chameleon. I do know that Marsh and the company that distribute Marsh products are aware of the tizziness within the 2000 SS preamp and may have since corrected it. Since Audio Advisor sells this unit and offers a 30 day trial period, you can do just that with one phone call. I would suggest leaving the unit on 24 hrs a day and letting it play as much as possible though, even if at phenomenally low levels. Sean

PS... This unit has a LOT of gain and the volume control tracks quite quickly, much like what one experiences with a tubed preamp and an SS power amp. Just cracking the volume a hair or two might have the system roaring, so exercise caution until you familiarize yourself with it.
Nice post Sean. Unusually good for the 'gon.