Marantz PM-15S2b first thoughts


After my Marantz SA-15S2b broke in to my hearts delight, I went and bit the bullet and bought the companion piece, the Marantz PM-15S2b integrated.

My first impression was of being hit with pure mountain spring water. The spring water being the amp and the SACD player the sluice. Too much of a good thing I thought as it was weighted towards the top but the combo could unravel the Gordian Knot. The last time I heard such clean sound was the AVM/Legacy setup two Newport Audio shows ago. But this combo holds the title when it comes to communication. Perfect diction one can say.

As beautiful as the SACD player was when paired with my Burson integrated, it paled comparatively when it came to revealing information when with the Marantz. Performances are now lit up from within. When I read the HiFi review, they stated that this combo is extremely valve like and I took that to mean rolled off in the highs, euphonic, and with undefined bass.

Silly me. They were referring to SET sound. I'm not overstating this as the closest I've heard to this kind of illumination was with some Audezes on a Eddie Current headphone setup.

I don't know what Ken Ishiwata did to address the issues with the previous model as I've read that things were a bit smoothed over with it but this beast has extension, depth, layering, reach and a cleanliness that has to be heard to be believed. I know it involved using the same capacitor brand from an upscale amp of theirs along with some circuit revisions and what not but it seems to work very well indeed.

At first it was too much of a good thing and I wondered how long it would take to flesh out, mature. Some favorites were captivating and some frustrating as they'd delaminate the musical onion but in a cold manner. It came tonight and is the reason I pen this. Gradually, as it came along, the highs lost some of their prominence but not at the expense of detail and layering. It was a slow process and I thought that maybe the new Darwin ICs were too revealing as they were a perfect match when the Burson was in the equation.

So I started swapping ICs and the others I tried smeared too much, losing the air, clouding the picture. I wouldn't have know the difference had I not already used the Darwins. It was when I reinserted the Darwins that everything gelled. Timing, they say, is everything. Mids now have weight along with the bass. Things have fleshed out and not at the expense of that clear, clean revealing presentation. Things are more evenly weighted.

Until then, the Burson had the emotional advantage. Now it sounds like a good tube amp and the Marantz holds that honor as it can make that emotional connection and not give an inch.

Before I sign off and pour another two fingers of Quimay Pinot Noir, allow me to admit that this was the first time I've been frightened by a gunshot in a movie. The dynamics of this amp are amazing. It can swing with the best of them. I'm not only hearing more, as in a note here, a note there. This thing excavates music. It needs a permit. But it does it oh so gently when called for and then parks them in the cheap seats. It's built like a tank and is the heaviest amp I've ever lifted, has a great remote and features like digital volume (half db increments), tone controls, and things you can customize.

All in all a great amp and the ticket for getting off this merry-go-round. Who would of thought Marantz? I didn't, at first.

All the best,
Nonoise
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Congrats! I always enjoy reading your conmments. The sheer joy you express is enthralling! Thats what this hobby is all about right? Enjoy!
Tboooe, You're too kind.

All the best,
Nonoise
Nonoise,
Thanks for the insight; I've been looking at that integrated amp for several months now; I'm most intrigued about how it would sound in a bi-amp operation, which is how I would use it with my B&W805's.

I'm saving up, and will hopefully add two to my system by the end of the year.

Glad to hear, from your experienced ears, it sounds as good as it looks.
Jeff
Nonoise,
If you're getting SET sound(which I love when done right) from your SS Marantz amplifier that's quite an achievement. Congratulations and continue to enjoy your music.
Regards,
Arcamguy,
Yes, it can be bi-amped and if you're inclined, you can slave up to 4 units for surround sound (which would be overkill but it can be done with the F.C.B.S. feature).

Charles1dad,
I believe that people who hear this in a store setting will pass on it not realizing the potential. Lest anyone paint me with a broad brush, let me say again that it comes the closest I've heard to a SET headphone setup. It doesn't have that bubble that surrounds each and every performer and it's not as delicate in unraveling the musical mystery. It's more frank and direct and yet you can follow anyone playing anything no matter what. The soundstage is pretty much wide open and it's only the limits of my room that keeps the stage depth limited but still layered, detailed and nuanced.

Last night I listened to an age old Norah Jones cut "Don't Miss You At All" on SACD at a low setting and was dumbfounded. I've never heard it like that before. What she does with here voice is amazing.

Anyway, time to stop raving and get back to listening.
All the best,
Nonoise
Very nice write up Nonoise. I have a good feeling for the sound of the amp through your words. SOunds like you found your amp.
Please excuse my ignorance: I'm fairly new here. What is "set sound?" Is that the sound recorded, and intended, by the musician?
SET sound refers to the sound characteristics of a SET tube amp and not the sound a "set" of musicians make in a studio.

My experience is limited compared to others here but what I did hear with a SET tube amp with Audeze headphones finally clued me in to what all the ado was with that SET sound. I never found it quite so fetching in a standard system: amp, source and speakers (lack of exposure) and discovered just how scary good it can be with a headphone set up.

The performers will have that "in the room" quality and appear to be "lit up from within", including the very air that surrounds them at the time of the recording. With all of this comes subtlety, shadings, tone and other qualities that make it a convincing recreation. Admittedly, there are inherent limits in what SET can do as they are very low powered amps that can easily clip and require very efficient speakers. The highs tend to be soft and though the bass is there, it's not as taut and deep as other designs. But what it does with that midrange is magic.

For the experts out there, please don't take me to task as this is what I understand it to be. My comparison of the Marantz to a SET setup was in reference to that magical midrange that it recreates and the ability to present something as "lit up from within".

You'll get a lot of debate about this and even better and more thorough explanations but that is what I've taken away from it.

All the best,
Nonoise
Hi Nonoise,
I agree with your general description of SET amplifiers except the bass and high frequencies.The individual SET amp quality and proper speaker choice make all the difference, ranging from just OK to the sumblime level.SET well implemented can provide subperb naturalness and realism.
Regards,
Hey Charles1dad,
Thanks for letting me down gently. :-)
It's just my limited experience playing a hand here. It's good to know I got some of it right.

All the best,
Nonoise
Nonoise,
Actually you got a lot right right!The"thereness" factor, tactile presence and lit up from within are spot on.Your comments about bass and treble are also right in some cases.I was just pointing out that a "good" SET amp driving an appropriate speaker load can provide very good bass and extended high frequency performance.
Charles,
Nonoise, Charles1dad,
Thanks for the answers.
Jeff
Silly question then: I am on a crossroads between this pair and Yamaha xx-S2000 pair. Anybody had a chance to compare those in real life?
Merci
Would the PM-11S3 integrated be considered an upgrade to the PM-15S2b integrated?
From what I've read and been told, the PM-11S3 is a big step up from the Marantz PM-15S2b. Ken Ishiwata paid more lavish attention to it as it's their statement piece.

I will continue to believe that it's not that much better simply because of ego and that I haven't heard the 11S3 myself. :-)

All the best,
Nonoise
A big step up is also a $2500 step. That's a big step IMO. I'm glad you enjoy your new integrated. You've peaked my interest in the Marantz Reference series. I must hear one of these integrateds.
I've always loved Marantz gear having had the SA-15S2B, I recently upgraded to the SA-11S3 cd/sacd player and the new network player NA-11S1. The NA-11S1 network player is outstanding.

Nonoise, please enjoy your Marantz PM-15S2b integrated. It is a superb piece and you should be proud to own it. Enjoy it in great health for a long time.
Joeinid, thank you. That was most kind and yes, I will. Coming from someone who's owned one means a lot. It's nice to know it's not all in my head. :-)

All the best,
Nonoise