Review: Marsh Sound Design A-200s Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

Since I have had the Marsh P2000 pre amp for sometime and have found it to be all that TAS raved about, I was waiting for someone to post a review on one of their power amps. So this looks like the first on the Marsh Sound Design A200s on Audiogon.

I have this unit on evaluation from a local audio salon for the next 30 days. I need another amp like I need a case of the flu. This unit was not a trade in, the original owner fell on hard times and needed cash in the worst way. But nonetheless wanted to try the Marsh amp and see if it lived up to the TAS review.

I have only had this unit powered since late Friday June 4 so in all likely hood this review is somewhat premature and will post a followup after 30 days.

Powered down the Forte 4a and inserted the Marsh A200 into the system and let the Marsh A200 warm up for over an hour. In some ways comparing a Pure Class A amp to Class A/AB is like comparing apples to oranges, but most all my amps are Pure Class A output. But have to start somewhere.

First music put on using the Classe CDP.5 player was the album from Dotsero titled "Out Of Hand". The Saxophone and Guitar work jump to life,perhaps to much for my taste was a bit forward with some grain on the Saxophone. But was quite listenable. Soundstage was very good.

Next up was more Jazz this time from Bob James and his album "Restless". Usually piano music is a good litmus test for any amplifier. The Marsh A200s did very well indeed and captured the performances quite well. The Marsh combo has a very black background indeed and the music literally comes to life. Still a bit forward, however the grain was much less on this recording or the Marsh A200s is really stellar in this area. Soundstage remained good indeed.

Lastly played the CD from Hiroshima titled "Urban World Music". Chose this disc because of the wide variety of instruments and tonal qualities this group uses. The Marsh A200s really delivered on this album and it was somewhat of a shock compared to the previous music. Still the presentation was a bit forward, still a tad bit grainy on some of the instrumets.

Overall at this point the Marsh A200s is a very good performer indeed. Although it cannot match the Forte 4a in overall presentation,liquidity,transparency,detail, and depth of sound stage. For a Class A/AB amp it is very good indeed but in my opinion falls just short of the Muse 100.

But one has to keep in mind have only had this amp powered for about 42 hours now and the sonic signature can change with further use. I know the Marsh P2000 preamp I have has really come into its own, but took awhile to do so and 30 days may be not enough time.

Next week will test it against the Muse 100 as this will be a test of Class A/AB amplifiers head to head.

If any of the Audiogon Membership has additional first hand information of the Marsh A200s,I encourage you post to this thread. The more info the better.

Speakers used are the Alon Point V.

Specifications as follows.

MSD-A200s Specifications

Maximum Power Output per Channel 120 W both channels driven continuously into 8 ohms

load at 1 kHz

190 W both channels driven continuously into 4 ohms

load at 1 kHz

Frequency response, 20-20000 Hz +0/- 0.2 dB at 1W to 100 W output into 8 Ohms loads

-1 dB at 80 kHz

THD+ Noise at maximum output <0.02% from 20 Hz to 20 kHz into 8 Ohms loads

(<0.01% at 1 kHz)

Slew rate 40 V/uS

S/N ratio, A-weighted (ref. 100W) > 110 dB

Input Sensitivity for 100 W at 8 Ohms load 1 Vrms for Unbalanced and Balanced Input mode

Input Impedance 56 kOhms Unbalanced, 4 kOhms Balanced input

Input Power AC 110-120 V 60 Hz

Power consumption 600 W Max.

Size 19" W x 5 3/4” H x 13” D

Weight Net 30 lbs (13.2 kgs), Shipping 34 lbs (15.2 kgs)

Associated gear
Marsh P2000 PreAmp,Forte 40 PreAmp,Classe CDP.5 CD Player,Oracle Alexandria Turntable w/Sumiko Arm w/Dynavector Ruby Phono Cartridge, NAD C 420 Tuner,Sony MD 440 Recorder,Sony 545 5 Disc CD changer, with Forte 4a as Power Amp

Similar products
Forte 4a, Threshold SA3 & SA 3.9, Classe 70 and Muse 100.
Nice review, Ferrari. I have always wanted to read a private review about this amp. I look forward to reading from you the follow-ups on its performance throughout its break-in.
Have had the Marsh A 200s powered now for 168 hours continous. Using the Muse 100 power amp as it's comparison.Both are Class A/AB in their output and price wise new and used they are very close indeed.

Rest of the system comprised on the Marsh P 2000 pre amp,with the Forte 40 preamp providing the phono section for the Oracle Turntable,with Sumiko FT 3 arm with Dynavector Ruby Cartridge. The venerable Denon DCD 1560 was pressed into service due to the Classe CDP.5 player needing service. Remainder of the system is a NAD C 420 Tuner, Sony CDP-CE 5 disc changer,Sony MDS-JE 440 Mini Disc Recorder and speakers were the Alon Point V. Interconnects used are from Musical Concepts. Stock power cords were used through out to try to level playing field. Speaker wire from Signal Cable.

The Marsh A200s in course of it's burn in time has gotton better. However it remains somewhat forward,soundstage has widen some but not in depth. You can almost hear the Marsh P 2000 pre amp say come on get with it you're getting the signal. It just seems that the Marsh is somewhat lagging behind. On the Telarc CD Chopin - Malcolm Frager it pin points the image dead center but is lacking in left to right imaging as Frager plays the Borsendorfer Grand Piano. Ambience and decay are on the shallow side. Should be noted this disc is a real time CD without compression or limiting of any kind and this disc remains a true audiophile test due to how it was recorded. Very few disc today are recorded in this manner due to consumer electronics not being up to the task on handling such demanding material. However on non audiophile discs the Marsh A 200s performs quite well and that probably accounts for about 99% of all CDs in the market place today. Used another Telarc Disc which is another DDD pure digital disc recorded in real time. This one was Telarc CD 80078 Copland - Fan Fare for the Common Man,Appalachian Spring and Rodeo. This disc is a true work out for any system due to the wide dynamic range and caution must be used not to over tax the system, which this disc can do to any system out there.Cautiously set the volume control to no higher than 10 o'clock. The opening cymbal crashes followed by the kettle drum strikes are startling to say the least, then comes in the horn section. The Marsh A 200s was doing a very good job, although it was being pressed very hard on this material. The extreme registers of bass and treble were not as clearly defined as hoped for. The kettle drum made the Marsh A200s reach as far as it could go and the bass was not as tight as I have heard,while the upper registers of the treble were a bit smeared. The rest of the selections on this disc the Marsh A 200s was keeping up with demands. The Rodeo selections were played with strength and verve usually associated with more expensive amplifiers.

It was now time to put the Muse 100 into action. Let the Muse 100 have about an hour worth of warm up time. This amp is fully burned in. Used the same discs with the Muse as I did with the Marsh.

With the Chopin disc the Muse captured all the sonic nuances of the performance. Eyes closed you swear you were at the recording. The speed and definition were spectacular to say the least. Sound stage in all dimensions were right on. On some of the selections you could hear the hammer as it hits the strings - just amazing. Have to admit as I was listening, started to doze off the presentation was that liquid. On the Copland disc the Muse played with determination and resolve, however the kettle drum passages were a little laid back, but clealy defined, the upper treble registers were right on and without grain. Sound stage was expansive filling the whole room with sound that at times was almost holographic.

So at this point with only one week worth of use, it is my opinion that the Marsh A200s needs more time to season in.It remains a bit forward and the full soundstage has yet to develop. It took the Marsh P2000 pre amp I have about 4 months to come into it's own. I was about to give up on it, when the sonic signature developed and has become a true joy ever since.

The Muse 100 on the other hand is fully seasoned in and the sonic signature is all one can ask from a Class A/AB amp. This one dates from 1999.

For what it is worth will post my final conclusions sometime in July as the Marsh A200s continues to burn in.

At this point in time if I did not have the Muse 100 to compare it to, I would have found the Marsh A 200s to be right on par with some of the best out there. But the signature remains forward and the soundstage is not as wide as it should be and it seems to lack a tad in speed. Definition and clarity have improved.

On discs of today with compression and limiting used both of these amplifiers play music in a most convincing way and both sound very good in that realm. However I am testing these unit with very demanding recordings to see which will emerge with the better performance.
Well here it is a month later with the Marsh A200s. This has been a enjoyable test with a wide variety of program material.

The Marsh A200s has gotten better in all areas in terms of sonic signature. But in my opinion is just not quite there yet. The imaging left to right has developed nicely but the depth of the sound stage is still somewhat shallow. The forwardness is still present but has become less obtrusive. In other words it is just not in your face all the time. Accuracy and speed have improved with out being over analytical. That has been a nice surprise. What I have found with a lot of the new offerings out there. Is that a lot of manufacturers are trying to balance their amps to play not only music but work with HT as well. In my opinion not a good idea. Perhaps that is why some of the latest offerings have the pronounced forwardness as HT requires this. Make no mistake the Marsh A200s is not a Levinson or Pass Labs at a bargain price. It just cannot compete in that arena. But it is certainly more musical than anything I have heard from Adcom,Parasound,B & K and others in that category.

Of all the new offerings out there the Marsh A200s is clearly the best of that lot. The TAS review in my opinion was just about right on, and given the price point of the Marsh A 200s is one of audios true bargains. I have no doubt that what I found less than exemplary will improve with use, because it just keeps getting better and better with each day. Keep in mind I threw the most demanding material at it, which would expose faults. For the majority of audiophiles the Marsh A200s is going to be dead solid perfect, it is that good in its own right and the Marsh people have just cause to be proud of these initial offerings. Few manufacturers past or present get the product right from the get go.

So if you are in the market for a Class A/AB amp in this price range, you would be pressed very hard to do better and I can say the same for the Marsh P2000 preamp. If I wasn't already knee deep in gear around here, I would add the Marsh A200s to the collection.

Keep in mind it took the Marsh P2000 premp I have about 4 months to really come in. It may take the same for the Marsh A200s to do the same. I just did not have more time to continue with the evaluation.