- Written by Jared Rachwalski
- Published on 10 May 2012
The Marantz PM6004 Integrated Amplifier and CD6004 CD Player In Use
I used four different albums to evaluate this budget amp and CD player system, starting off with Tom Waits 1980 release Heart attack and Vine. The sound quality of this CD is exceptional for its time with little compression and lots of punch. Focusing on the track Downtown the opening organ notes were clean, no distortion and easy to listen to. Systems that are overly bright will break up and get ugly right off the bat. No such issue was found with the Marantz combo and even when Tom pushes his gravelly vocals hard there was nothing I could find fault with.
After that I switched gears and loaded up the Melvins and their 2006 album (a) Senile Animal. This is an interesting album, not only because it is a clean sounding heavy rock album, but there are two drummers playing most tracks together which is a great test for cohesion at high volumes. And not just because they have fused 2 drum kits together and the band uses both a left handed and a right handed drummers who used complex timings which created detailed and intricate bass lines which can easily blur together. Listing for the details of the drums was easy with the PM6004, albeit the bass was a tad lighter than with my reference amp and the high-hats and cymbals were slightly recessed. This amp would do a good job at taming overly bright speakers.
Moving on to the Violent Femmes second album Hallowed Ground and the opening track Country Death Song. This song recounting the 1862 news story of a Man who took his own life after he succumbed to cabin fever and threw his daughters into a well, a macabre song to say the least. However the redeeming quality is the minimalist arrangement with a focus on the banjo. This song is great for analyzing the attack of the notes from the banjo combined with the emotional vocal delivery by Gordon, of which the Marantz system handled very well. Even at the end, when all the instruments ramp up to a frenzy, all had a distinct space in the sound stage. The light drum beats from Victors simple kit are audible and not lost in all the complex string work.
Which then brought me to my last choice, the third album from Tool Ænima. This album was intentionally recorded to sound ugly at louder volumes as that was the sound Tool was going for and Bob Ludwig nailed it when he mastered this unique sounding progressive metal album. What I like about this album is that it either sounds great or horrible depending on the system and can help identify the sonic signature. If your system is highly detailed and overly analytical it does not sound pleasant and can be fatiguing at high volumes. However in those systems which lean towards a warmer presentation this album can be very enjoyable. And what was interesting with the Marantz system was just how enjoyable the album was at a wide range on the volume dial. Even at low to mid volumes the energy and emotion was easily conveyed. It did ultimately show some ugly artifacts at very loud volume but was not offensive. While the bigger brother the PM8003 was able to drive the difficult Martin Logan Vistas to higher volume without fatigue the lower priced PM6004 was easier to listen to than my media rig (Denon 4308 AVR with Parasound new classic 5250v.2) driving the same speakers.
As the CDP features a USB input I wanted to evaluate the system with both CD and USB (WAV) sources. To create the WAV files I used the excellent and free EAC (Exact Audio Copy) software to create exact audio copies on my Windows PC. These were then transferred to a Lexar 16gb USB stick. As I switched back and forth between the CD version and the WAV version I was unable to notice any difference in sound quality. The detailed imaging and warm presentation found during the CD listening session was unchanged when moving to USB playback. Aside from not being compatible with FLAC files I found the USB input to be a useful addition to the CD6004.
I was curious to hear how the $699 PM6004 held up against the $999 PM8003. Feature wise the PM8003 has the edge with the ability to be used as a pre-amp, power amp or both. A feature that allows it to be more easily integrated into a Home Theater system. When it came to sound the larger PM8003 showed better bass control, more impact and the top end was slightly more detailed.
My reference CDP was the highly regarded Onix XCD-88,which by many accounts, was a great value at $299 in 2005. While it does decode HDCD it does not provide a USB input. Back then USB was not considered for use in HiFi, yet today it is a must have for many audiophiles. While I enjoy the sound from the Onix, it always felt like a rushed product built to a price point. Not so with the CD6004 with its smooth CD drawer, easy to read display and a remote that can control other Marantz components.
Sound wise the Marantz CD6004 was on the warmer side with the Onix having an almost clinical detailed sound in comparison. This was first evident with the Violent Femme's Country Death Song, not noticeable with the banjo presentation but obvious with Gordon's vocals, especially when he strains to put more power and emotion behind his delivery. Where the Marantz's smoother sound really helped was with Tool's Ænima, the title track was less fatiguing at high volumes without sacrificing any of the grit and power that make this song enjoyable.