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Amplifier Marantz PM-80 mkII review

Finally, however, it has come up with the PM-80MkII: a heavyweight integrated amplifier that shares many of the features of the original, albeit executed in a more innovative form.

The disc, line and tape inputs (now marked up as DCC) have been condensed onto a single rotary selector while a subsonic filter is added in place of the extra tape/processor inputs that provided on the earlier PM-80. Incidentally, because of the very extended response of the PM-80 MkII, this filter should always be engaged when phono (MM or MC) sources are in play.

Like its predecessor, the PM-80 MkII may be fired-up in either Class AB or Class A modes, the latter providing a sweeter sound at the expense of power and headroom. Nevertheless, the guts of the MkII are highly evolved as Marantz has deployed discrete op-amps (known as HDAM or Hyper-Dynamic Amplifier Modules) in both the MM/MC disc and active volume control stages.

Sound quality

Given the ponderous but hefty thump that announced Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, the PM-80II seemed able to convey the weight and power of its music without quite realising the quickness, the dynamics and fleeting quality of lighter percussive elements. In Class A mode, the treble was undoubtedly smoother and sweeter in tone but also slightly subdued, even rather soft at times.

Up-beat pop tracks like Sting’s Seven Days sounded cleaner and more civilised in Class A, yet the speed, excitement and energy is perhaps better reflected by the ‘dirtier’ power of its Class AB setting. As a consequence, cymbal crashes could sound uneventful in Class A but harder and grittier, if more impressive, in Class AB.

This distinction was maintained regardless of input, though the phono stage sounded warmer and smoother still. It’s a clean sound, if one that was described as valve-like because of the full-bodied but suspiciously tailored presentation. A listenable amplifier then, but not entirely convincing.

Conclusion

Despite its MkII badge, this particular version of the PM-80 bears little relation to the original save for its basic specification. Once again the Class AB route provides plenty of power for the money. Nevertheless, it’s the rose-tinted perspective of the Class A option that remains Marantz’ strongest asset, if one that actually thwarts an all-round recommendation at the final post.

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