Marantz PM7000N Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

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Marantz PM7000N Integrated Amplifier Reviewed


Like it or not, we've entered a new era where most audio enthusiasts are now opting to stream their music rather than relying on physical media. To keep up with the times, Marantz's new PM7000N integrated amplifier ($999) is the first stereo hi-fi component from the company to support HEOS multi-room audio streaming integration, allowing owners to enjoy music from a variety of services without the need for a dedicated source component.

Through the dedicated HEOS app, owners can stream audio directly from popular services such as TuneIn, Pandora, Spotify, SiriusXM, Amazon Prime Music, and TIDAL. If you haven't fully embraced streaming, or if you still have a large library of downloaded files, the network card still allows for UPnP audio playback, allowing you to stream downloaded files on your computer or NAS as long as the amp is connected to your home network. The network card also adds in new-age features such as voice control from the likes of Josh.ai, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant.

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At the PM7000N's launch event, Marantz discussed their embrace of streaming, citing that with so many lossless and high-resolution options currently available, they see these high-end subscription tiers as a convenient way for consumers to enjoy music at a quality that artists and producers intended people to hear it in. With Marantz integrating a network audio card capable of streaming and rendering these subscription tiers, it has the potential to make the PM7000N a complete all-in-one audio solution, where all owners need to do is add speakers for a complete two-channel system.

Of course, the PM7000N still includes many of the features typically found on a modern integrated amp. So, for those not looking to use the amp as an all-in-one, you'll still find a selection of analog and digital inputs on the back of the unit to connect additional source components.

Ma_MP7000N_internal.jpgTaking a look at the specs, Marantz says the PM7000N will output 60 watts per channel into eight ohms and 80 watts per channel into four. The PM7000N utilizes a shielded toroidal transformer for its power supply and features a fully discrete Class A/B current-feedback topology. The amp also employs Marantz' highest-performing SA3 Hyper-Dynamic Amplifier Modules (HDAM). Marantz says their amplification circuit provides wide-bandwidth, low phase distortion, and excellent transient response and transparency across all audible frequencies. This is partly due to the HDAM-SA3 modules use of discrete surface mount components with short mirrored signal paths for each channel, which Marantz designed specifically so the amp circuit can offer better dynamics, accuracy, and more detailed sound compared to off-the-shelf IC op-amps most other manufacturers are using.

The PM7000N features a newly designed electric volume control circuit and DAC section. Not only does the new volume circuit offer more linear control, Marantz designed it for improvements in distortion, channel separation, and dynamic range, while the new AKM AK4490 DAC chip decodes PCM audio up to 24-bit/192kHz and DSD up to double rate.

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If you're planning on mating the PM7000N with a turntable, you'll be happy to know the phono preamp section has seen upgrades over previous generation integrated amps as well. Marantz has gone with a FET for the input stage, which the company says simplifies the signal path, resulting in lower distortion for vastly improved signal purity.

Marantz went into the design of the PM7000N knowing that digital audio processing can be a noisy task. So, to isolate the analog section from noise created by the network audio card and DAC section of the amp, Marantz encased them in a shielded enclosure. To take things a step further, the PM7000N features three separate Pure Audio modes, allowing you to fully disable individual digital sections of the amp if it's not needed to cut down on superfluous noise. If you're using an analog source component, all of the digital operations of the amp can also be completely disabled, allowing the audio signal to be amplified in its cleanest form.

The Hookup
The PM7000N follows Marantz's familiar design aesthetic, though with a few minor deviations from the norm. Instead of the normal porthole display, the front of the unit features a rectilinear OLED screen, along with dedicated controls for power, input selection, volume, menu navigation, balance, and source direct mode. You'll also find a quarter-inch headphone jack, as well as knobs to adjust EQ, with dedicated adjustments for treble and bass should your system or sonic preference require some adjustment. The amp features a mix of metal and metal-look plastics, and measures in at 17.3 by 4.9 by 14.9 inches, with a rather hefty weight of 27.9 pounds.

I installed the PM7000N in my living room system, on a shelf below my LG OLED television, and connected a pair of Monitor Audio GX50 bookshelf speakers to the set of SPKT-1+ binding posts on the back of the amp. Marantz says these terminals use dense brass and thick nickel plating to provide excellent contact with your cables. I opted to use banana plugs and found, in practice, the fit was indeed tight.

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To provide bass frequencies in my living room, I use a pair of Bowers & Wilkins PV1D subwoofers. While I wish the PM7000N offered a pair of subwoofer outputs, I ended up using a simple Y adapter plugged into the dedicated single subwoofer output on the back of the amp. The output features low pass filter options in 20 hertz increments, starting at 120 hertz and going all the way down to 40.

If you're placing the PM7000N in your living room like I did, you're probably going to end up connecting your television to the amp. To facilitate that, the amp offers several digital and analog audio input options. I opted to connect my television to one of the optical inputs, but owners can also choose to connect a television or other source components to a coaxial input or one of three unbalanced RCA analog inputs.

For the vinyl heads out there, as previously mentioned, the PM7000N features a phono input option as well. Just be aware that Marantz specifies the phono preamp section to be compatible with moving magnet cartridges rated for 47k ohms loading only. So, you may need to swap out cartridges in order for your turntable to work properly with this amp.

Once you've got your equipment hooked up correctly and power the unit up for the first time, you're greeted with a one-time setup process. It's pretty straightforward, with the most difficult task being network setup, either wired or wirelessly.

As mentioned above, the PM7000N supports HEOS, and as such you'll want to download the HEOS app to get the most of it. The app is available for both iOS and Android, and if you have other HEOS compliant devices in your home, the app works similarly to Sonos, allowing you to control and send audio to those devices individually or in groups.

If for some reason you don't want to use the HEOS app, you don't have to for all of the streaming options available within HEOS. I found I could enable Spotify Connect directly within the Spotify app and bypass HEOS altogether. Alternatively, the network card is DLNA compliant, meaning pretty much any UPnP app out there can send audio to the PM7000N over your home network without using HEOS, though the option for UPnP is there within the HEOS app if you aren't already using another app for this task.

Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...

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HTR Product Rating for Marantz PM7000N Integrated Amplifier

Criteria Rating

Performance

5

Value

5

Overall

5

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Performance
For critical listening sessions, I fed lossless and high-resolution audio to the PM7000N via UPnP, sourced from both local files stored on a PC attached to my home network and from Qobuz's large library of music.

I'm not the kind of person who likes to beat around the bush, so I'll say this up front: the PM7000N is mighty impressive. Nearly everything I listened to, be it rock, acoustic, indie, Americana, and even some progressive metal was an absolute treat. No matter the music, the sound always seemed to possess pinpoint resolution and clarity. What's more, these sonic attributes combined with Marantz's slightly warm house sound (yes, this amp has it too), providing a satisfying level of weightiness and scale to the music that I really enjoyed.

I started off my critical listening with Zac Brown Band's "Sweet Annie." Brown's vocals on this track are characteristically raspy, and some amps can emphasize this trait and make them sound a bit harsh and grating. But that wasn't the case here. Vocals remained appropriately raspy, but smooth enough not to warrant concern.

Another thing I look for in this track is how an amp handles the reverb of the band's instruments, especially in contrast with the relatively dry vocals. If the amp were adding something, the vocals wouldn't stand apart from the instruments as distinctly as they do.

Next, I cued up a classic, Elton John's "Benny and the Jets." This track was mastered to sound as if it were recorded in front of a live audience, and through the PM7000N, this illusion really works. The intentionally holographic sounding music, noise from the crowd, and reverberating vocals from Elton were spot on, completely living up to the track's intended aesthetic.

What's more, the PM7000N delivers excellent soundstage and imaging. To test this, an album I use on a regular basis is John Mayer's Born and Raised. Mayer makes excellent use of these stereo effects on nearly every track on this album, but with the title track in particular, I found that piano, harmonica, and backup vocals could be found almost entirely in the left channel as intentionally mixed, while acoustic guitar and percussion could be found mostly in the right. The remaining bass notes and Mayer's vocals were rendered appropriately smack dab in the middle between the speakers with pinpoint precision. If you're an imaging and soundstage junky like I am, the PM7000N won't disappoint.

To test something a bit bass heavier, I cued up Chris Stapleton's "Death Row." With the PM7000N's warmer tone overall, I wanted to make sure bass heavy music didn't sound overpowered. I use this track for testing purposes because it features some heavy-handed bass guitar notes throughout. I've noticed that through other warmer toned amps, these bass notes can come through sounding somewhat homogenized, as if they've lost definition and fidelity. Thankfully, the PM7000N rendered the bass guitar just fine, finding that sweet spot between satisfying bass impact and realistic detail.

Like Zac Brown, Stapleton's singing can sound harsh and a bit grating overall, especially when listening through lesser performing equipment. This is partly due to Stapleton's tendency to tiptoe right up to the edge of yelling. Again, the PM7000N managed to cut through this just fine. His loud and raspy vocals remained appropriately so, without being glossed over or perhaps sounding like they've been clipped as I've heard through other hardware.

I was curious about the PM7000N's source direct and Pure Audio modes, so I played around with them a bit on some of these tracks, but I couldn't make out much of any difference in overall sonic character when enabling these modes. Then again, the amp was setup in my living room, which isn't the best for testing modes that typically offer only relatively small increases in sound quality. If I were to set the amp up in my dedicated two-channel space, with better acoustics and higher-quality speakers, it may have been easier to spot sonic differences if they were there. 

Let's switch gears a bit and talk about how the network functionality performs. After all, this is one of the main selling points of this amp and a feature Marantz has pushed quite hard in the literature. I'm happy to report good things overall. A true test for the amp's network stability and reliability was a dinner party I hosted a few weeks ago. Anyone who's hosted such an event knows what a pain it is to try and juggle serving food, drinks and be the dedicated DJ all night. It can be a nightmare made worse if your sound system isn't working properly.

With my trusty Samsung Galaxy S10+ in my pocket all evening, I was able to seamlessly switch between Spotify, Qobuz, and local tracks found on my desktop PC without a hitch. I could even control the volume through my phone, too. I know this doesn't sound all that impressive, but there are a lot of audio products out there that might get hung up switching between these various streaming inputs and require the device to be restarted to regain normal functionality.

What's more, I was happy to find that the PM7000N supports gapless playback, something a lot of network renderers don't support. Again, this doesn't sound like a big deal until you don't have support for it and realize how many albums out there require gapless playback for an authentic listening experience.

Streaming music isn't the only area where the PM7000N offers a seamless experience. The amp's source detect function works extremely well, too. Normally, I listen to music with my television off, but when I want to watch something, I'm typically forced to manually select a new input when using other integrated amps. That's not the case here. As soon as I turn my television on, the amp detects the new source and switches over to the appropriate optical input, and when I'm done watching television and begin to send music from Spotify or Qobuz, for example, it automatically switches back.

When you add all these little software niceties together, it really goes a long way into making a product of this sort feel truly premium. 

The Downside
While I absolutely love the PM7000N from a sound quality point of view, I feel its lack of native support for Qobuz is a letdown. You may have noticed that I talked about using Qobuz with the PM7000N throughout this review. Doing so meant relying on a workaround that involves using a piece of software called BubbleUPnP for Android. This app allows you to browse Qobuz on a mobile device or tablet and send audio to the PM7000N via UPnP. While I found this solution to work quite well, you do lose out on the far more aesthetically pleasing and intuitive user interface found within the actual Qobuz app. Of course, iOS users can rely on AirPlay 2 to achieve the same ends much more seamlessly.

Comparison and Competition
Denon offers the PMA-150H as a direct competitor to the PM7000N. Priced at $1,099, you'll find a number of shared features between these two integrated amplifiers. For instance, both feature similar power output ratings and integrated HEOS network audio functionality.

The most striking differences between the two is in chassis design. The Denon is far more compact and lighter, making it a great option for those in need of an amp that needs to fit in a tight space. It also features a far more modern design aesthetic when compared to the Marantz.

Each uses a different DAC chip, allowing the Denon to stretch PCM and DSD compatibilities a bit higher in resolution. The Denon also features a USB-DAC input option, which the Marantz lacks, making the Denon a potentially better option for those who use a computer as a source device. However, the Marantz includes a phono preamp section that the Denon lacks, making the PMA-150H a nonstarter for those who own a turntable.

For those considering the Denon, check out our review here to see if its features and sonic characteristics are a better fit instead. 

Conclusion
Over the past couple years, I've had the opportunity to listen to a number of integrated amplifiers near the Marantz PM7000N's price point. And while some of these integrated amps do offer more watts per channel and more features, none of these other amps have matched or exceeded the raw sound quality the PM7000N delivers. Combine this excellent sound quality with the PM7000N's network capabilities and I think this is one of the most well-rounded integrated amps out there right now near its price point.

Additional Resources
• Visit the Marantz website for more product information. 
• Visit our Amplifiers category page to read reviews of similar products.
• Marantz NR1200 Two-Channel Slim Receiver Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.


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