Integrated for B&W PM1

Here's my story, and it's a head-scratcher, but it is what it is, and I could use some input...

In my 12x10 listening room I have a pair of B&W PM1 connected to a Marantz PM8400. I bought them at the same time, they sounded good, that was that.

Our living room 5.1 system centers around a pair of Mirage OM-9 bipole towers running off a 2003 Onkyo TSX-R701 100wpc receiver. The living room setup is just for movies and casual loud music while cleaning the house, and it sounds good and the Onkyo and Mirage work well together (much better than the SF Grand Pianos which were a lousy match with the Onkyo, as you'd expect). The OM-9 aren't speakers you use for critical listening, in my opinion, because of the bi-pole sound, but I'm a big fan of the way they can fill a room as if you have much larger speakers, a very cool enveloping effect.

So this past weekend my gal asked me what the PM1 would sound like compared to the big Mirage towers, so I dragged them into the living room for the first time just for kicks. And we were shocked by what we heard - the PM1 sounded worlds better than they ever sounded on the Marantz. It was like they opened up and just completely filled the room with this amazing 3-dimensional wall of sound; it was like a wall of vocals, in front of a wall of percussion, in front of a wall of strings. Even the bass performance was incredible - not quite the equal of the OM-9 (which have multiple forward and rear firing bass drivers), but it was much closer than I expected. And of course, the mids and highs of the PM1 were much better than the OM-9, which was not a surprise. I actually got goosebumps, it sounded so good.

To make sure we weren't just hearing the difference in room acoustics, we dragged the Marantz into the living room and did an A-B comparison, and we weren't imagining the difference. The Marantz just could not keep up, and it was like someone threw a towel over the speakers.

Hence, the head-scratcher. I just can't understand a 10-year old $500 Onkyo making $2800 PM1s sound better than a $1000 Marantz. There is an output difference, 100wpc to 70wpc on the Marantz, but can that be the reason for such a dramatic performance difference (volume levels being equal)?

And now, where do I go from here? I haven't even hooked the Marantz back up now that I've heard what the PM1s CAN sound like. Do I hit eBay and buy a used $150 Onkyo? Or should I expect that if I go back to a nice integrated, I'm correct in assuming that I should be able to improve on the Onkyo? I've been reading up on the W4S STI-500, or maybe the Bel Cando S300iu, something with a lot of power. Or even a Rogue Sphinx. I don't mind dropping $1500 on something, but if it ends up sounding no better than a 10-year old Onkyo I'm going to bang my head on the wall!
As follow-up, trying to cover my bases, I contacted Marantz technical support to see if it's a power-draw issue maybe? Maybe I have voltage issues with my wall sockets such that I can't feed the Marantz enough power relative to what it needs when I turn up the volume? In my den, I can't have any electronics running when my computer printer is on - it trips the circuit breaker - so I'm wondering if that's a piece to the puzzle at all.
Check out the new Peachtree Nova 125 (Not the previous Nova)as it is a superb match for my B&W CM10's and suspect it will be equally great with your PM1's.
Do you mean the Marantz PM8004 (not 8400) integrated amp? I've heard that
unit really grab ahold of a pair of SF Cremona Ms and make serious music. I'm a
little puzzled that it couldn't work with your PM1s and also suspect that
something's wrong with the unit.

IMO you are shooting too low for amplification. The PM1 is a very high resolution
transducer and deserves the best amplification you can afford. Normally I'd say
the PM8004 would be a good place to start, but either it's a bad match or it's

You might want to check out the new Onkyo A-9070. It's about the same power
rating into 8 ohms (75 wpc), but is high current enough to make 140 wpc into 4
ohms and weighs 50% more than the Marantz. It also has a built-in DAC.

Otherwise, the PM1 deserves something of the quality level of Classe' or Hegel.

This amp is awesome and well worth more than its price tag.
Telescope_trade, I actually added the Peachtree to my short list last night, thanks.

Johnnyb53, yes my bad on the typo, it's the PM8004. And I agree - something isn't right. But I don't know that it's defective, because it sounds fine at low levels. It just has zero balls at elevated levels, and I don't even mean ear-bleed levels or anything insane. Sitting just 6 feet away from the speakers, going above 12 o'clock on the volume dial the soundstage shrinks to nothing.

When you say I'm shooting too low for amplification, are you referring to the short list I mentioned in my original post, i.e. Rogue Sphinx, Bel Canto, W4S? And if I'm getting you correctly, you don't mean in terms of WPC, you mean quality of the WPC, correct?

I'll read up on the Onkyo, but think the Hegel may be out of my ballpark. Thanks for the input.

Michaelkingdom, thanks for the reminder on the Outlaw. I've never owned them, but I've read lots of good things.

I can spend up to $2K - I realize that's below what many of you would spend in my situation, but I know there's something out there under $2K that will match the PM1s nicely. I'm going to check out the Rogue Sphinx today.
My search for an amp is done, the PM1s are now connected to an Audio Rsearch VSi55. I waited far too long to try tubes, and I don't know that I'll ever go back. So much for all the comments I've read over the years, here and on other forums, that B&W don't like tubes. That couldn't be more untrue, at least in my case with the PM1. And I've also learned to keep WPC and power requirements in perspective - the VSi55 is rated at 50wpc, but it's driving the PM1 with ease. Even at uncomfortable levels, I can't even come close to maxing out the volume. And there's also no comparison in bass control and quality with the ARC vs. the Marantz - the tube amp is far superior. Maybe a $5000 solid state amp would sound even better, but I may have given too much credence to the notion that tubes can't match solid state in the bass department.

Doing A-B-C comparisons between the ARC VSi55, Onkyo 701, and Marantz PM8004 was interesting and bewildering. The ARC bests the group, no surprise there. But it's still shocking to me how much better the Onkyo receiver not only drives the PM1, but matches up with them. I won't make the blanket statement that Marantz and B&W don't mate well, but in my specific case the PM8004 didn't work with the PM1.

Thanks to all who chimed in, it's much appreciated.
If your Marantz PM8004 is still under warranty, maybe you should get it tested; it may need fixing. Like I said, I heard one of those drive a $10K pair of Sonus Faber Cremona M floorstanders to near perfection, and it is a *heap sight* better than the suggested Outlaw RR2150 receiver. I had one of those and sent it back.

Anyway, congrats on getting the ARC integrated. If you ever decide to expand the PM1's range, B&W's PV1D sub is a perfect--and I mean perfect--complement.
Johnny, in what ways is the Marantz better than the Outlaw? I've been through quite a few integrateds: Rr2150, naim 5i2, musical fidelity a5, cary sli80, octave v40se, mcintosh mac6700, exposure 2010s2, luxman 505u. I can say that the synergy between the Outlaw and my B&w n805 is the best of that group of amps. However, that is to my ears. Also, i've owned the cremona auditor m twice because they are so amazing at what they do but I never really connected completely with them so it may just be a taste thing. They are visually stunning though.
Johnnyb53, thanks much appreciated, and thanks for the input on the PV1D. I was actually considering a sub, but the match-up between the ARC and PM1 is so great I no longer need one. The PM1 put out plenty of bass, far more than I expected given their size, and maybe a big part of that is because of the ARC. I don't know how B&W did it, but the bass output of the PM1 connected to the VSi55 is sort of shocking.

I don't think there's anything wrong with the Marantz, I think it was just a bad marriage. Some matchups work, some don't, I really think that's all it was. I'm sure with plenty of other speakers the PM8004 would sing.

Michaelkingdom, I think you nailed the right word: synergy. The Outlaw and your n805 work great together. Now that I've heard how my PM1 sounded running off a 10-year old Onkyo home theater receiver, I'm not surprised. Some matchups just work, even ones that one may not anticipate. It's a nice thing when it happens and you can stop shopping and just enjoy the music.

Side note - what was your impression of the Cary SLI-80? I'm working on a 2nd system for my fiance, and the SLI-80 caught my eye. I've heard/read that it can truncate the highs and lows too much and that it doesn't always work well for rock because of its tonal nature. Did you enjoy it?
Yes, I still hold onto the RR2150 and went as far as throwing away the box because I would like to grow old with it, along with 10-20 other components. It is just a great piece and I'm lucky to have purchased the N805 and the RR2150 simultaneously. Since then I have been through the list above - I forgot Classe CA-2300 (B&W house) and Bryston 2b. None of these "do it" for me like the Outlaw. Call it a mistake or synergy but there is a match there.

The Cary SLI-80 is a great amp. Rock solid construction, nice to look at. I was running Gold Lion KT88s. The sound of that amp has a rich energy in the upper midrange, as does the N805. Together, I think the match was not so good because that range was almost too strong/overemphasized, lopsiding the impression. Yes, it is rolled off. I found the pairing of the Focal Utopia Micro BE and the Cary SLI-80 to be the best combo I heard with the Cary. I am now using an Octave v40se with EL40 tubes and it is very B&W N802 friendly. I am amping the tweeters/mids with the Octave and the woofers with solid state. The result is a very rich/smooth presentation.
BCgator, good luck with the AR unit. The PM1's are a jewel in my opinion. Honestly, if I had no compromises to make I wish they were a little bit more revealing in their detail and a slightly bit less warm. However I have owned the 803S floorstanders (exceptional), the 805D monitors (disappointing), the Dynaudio C1 Sigs (very disappointing) as well as some others from KEF (mixed results but none great). All the above were paired with Bryston mono amps, B135 SST2 integrated as well as Classe and a Hegel H200.
I would have kept the Nautilus 803S floorstanders but they are monsters and I do not want to have to lug those beasts around when I I set out for monitors. The PM1's sounded very good from the beginning. However the turning point came when I introduced the Hegel H200 into the mix. What an integrated!! (again a lifestyle decision to not lug boxes). The detail, and warmth this has brought to the PM1's was out of this world. The Hegel unit performed so well IMO that I upgraded the H200 to an H300 with an integrated DAC. The DAC is not a 192 dac through USB (can through SPDIF/Coax) but sounds better than my former W4S, Peachtree and Arcam (with mac mini,audirvana plus). The H300 also puts out 250 into 8 ohms. These PM1's need power. The only lacking element in my room was bass and ultimately added a B&W PV1 sub. This combination (with analog also with a Rega TT/Sumiko and Clearaudio phono preamp) is wonderful! I have spent thousands and tons of time seeking this performance. This <$14,000 system including cables is just what I wanted:
it is compact but with a big full sound that fills my 14x16 is beautiful looking with the minimalist look of the Hegel design, and the progressively transitional, slightly modern design of the B&W speakers, stands (outstanding build quality...well worth the money!!) and sub.

Of course I cannot help myself and am now toying with the idea of testing the KEF LS50 monitors to determine if they may bring a bit more detail to the music.
Thanks Blackhawks6, I had not put the Hegel on my radar but will definitely do so and check it out.

I agree that the PM1 are warm, especially compared to the other B&W I've owned (704, 805, 805 Sig). Compared to my Proac D2, they're a little more laid back, not quite as lively on the top end. But that can also work in their favor as they make poor recordings much more listenable, and they can bail out certain female vocalists that can sound strident through forward or lively speakers. Patti Griffin is a great example - her voice can be just a little nasally to me, and through the wrong setup she's like nails on a chalkboard after 5 minutes. But through the PM1 she's listenable without fatigue. It's funny, some days I prefer the lively sound of the Proac D2, and some days the sound of the PM1 is like a warm bowl of tomato soup on a cold day :-)

And like you, I LOVE looking at them, just beautiful.
Now I am intrigued and will try and demo the Proac D2's. I read the review in Stereophile and they not only received a nice review but the speaker cabinet appears to be very well made and timeless looking. Thanks! t
I want a pair.
Blackhawk wrote, "it is compact but with a big full sound that fills my 14x16 room."

Does your PM1 & sub do all music genres equally well? How does the vocals sound on that speaker?