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Amplifiers

Launched alongside the SACD 30n disc/network player, the Model 30 amplifier marks a new departure for the Japanese brand – not only is the styling a throwback to the classic style of Marantz products of half a century ago, albeit channelled through a modern look (if that makes any sense), but the duo also brought with it a new corporate identity: the old ‘Because Music Matters’ line has been sidelined, if not dropped completely, and we’re told the 30 Series epitomises ‘Modern Musical Luxury’.

But as marketing doesn’t make the music, what do we have here? Well, while clearly influenced by the flagship SA-10, from which some of its technology has been trickled down, this very different-looking Marantz integrated amplifier is designed to combine performance and designer appeal – which, provided you like the new look, with its hint of a smaller amplifier slid inside a larger housing thanks to that split front panel, and a design built to ‘replicate the sensitivity and feel of a vintage analogue amplifier’, is a trick it pulls off with great success. For all the very deliberate retro hints, including a modern take on the classic Marantz ‘porthole’ display and a symmetrical layout of controls, the secret of the Model 30’s success is something much more fundamental – the company has kept this amplifier simple, and built it to perform with all the amp knowledge at its disposal.

Going against the trend to include network streaming, Bluetooth and more, this is an all-analogue integrated amplifier, its only digital circuitry being there to provide remote control. That fits in with the wide-ranging capabilities of the partnering SACD 30n player, meaning functions aren’t duplicated, but also allows the Marantz engineers to strip back the design, building the Model 30 as a two-stage design, with separate preamp and power amp sections, each optimised to its function.

That minimises interference between the two, and allows the incorporation of facilities such as the in-house-designed ‘Marantz Musical Premium Phono EQ stage’ for use with record players. Far from the nod to the ‘vinyl revival’ fashion one often finds in amps these days, this phono stage – derived from the SA-10 has been designed to keep the signal path for the delicate phono signals as clean as possible, and offers more adjustment than in common in integrated stages of this kind. It has switching for moving magnet and moving coil phono cartridges, the latter also having three-stage impedance switching for better matching. Also present and correct are the company’s fine-sounding ‘Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Modules’, built for audio speed and clarity.

The rest of the input section offers a dedicated CD input plus four more line-ins, plus direct connections for an external power amplifier and even a direct input to the amp’s power section, allowing plenty of set-up and upgrading flexibility. Bass, treble and balance controls, subtle in their action, are provided, while the volume adjustment uses the same combination of ‘Analogue-feel Volume Control’ and Marantz-designed electric volume control to combine that retro impression with a low-loss adjustments, maintaining detail and stereo imaging.

Sound quality

With a 100W per channel power output, rising to 200Wpc into tricky speaker loads, there’s no denying that the Model 30 has plenty of power on hand to deal not just with demanding speakers, but also the dynamics of music. And it demonstrates that with a big, solid, dramatic presentation of music able to grip the listener from the off, allied to that usual Marantz trait of a sound that seems so easygoing, but is actually delivering a superb insight into the recordings being played. 

Load up some live rock music and the Model 30 will slam hard, as it will with full-orchestra classical performances, but within all that power is a mass of detail revealing what all the performers are doing, plus all the cleverness involved in creating the impression of a big group of musicians laid out before the listener. Soundstaging – that sense of a three-dimensional sonic ‘picture’ before you – is both realistically scaled and beautifully focused, giving you that real ‘close your eyes and you can point at the bass player’ experience, and that’s also the case when you scale the music down to a small group or even a solo musician. Also impressive is the way the size of the recording space is evoked in subtle reflections and reverberations of the sound, but the beauty of the way the Marantz plays music is that all this hi-fi subtlety is employed to enhance the music, not distract from it.

This may be a new look for Marantz, but it’s backed up with all that’s come before.

Living with the Model 30

The obvious point is that this amp, with its machined main fascia and controls on a sub-panel, is going to be the focal point of a system rather than just blending in – well, unless you’re using it with the matching SACD 30n player. However, there are no such qualms about the sound: it will reveal all the qualities of the source components with which it’s used, and has the ability to drive a huge range of speakers to exceptionally fine effect.

Conclusion

This is another very fine amplifier from Marantz: it comes close to the performance of the range-topping PM-10 for a fraction of its price, and is capable of delighting listeners with both the sheer power it can muster, and also the way it conveys those small nuances in a recording able to convey more of the spirit of the performance. The phono stage will please vinyl enthusiasts, and – provided you won’t miss all the digital stuff that’s absent here – is an excellent buy.

Listening notes

ELP Tank

It’s hard not to think of prog rock without a wry smile at Emerson, Lake and Palmer, but delve beyond the flying pianos and tours seemingly defined by how many tons of equipment were on the road, and you find superb, complex musicianship skilfully recorded. That’s what the Marantz delivers here in all its pomp

Lang Lang Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence

The superstar pianist delivers a thoughtful reading of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s theme for the wartime movie, here on his Piano Book compilation in a wonderfully reverberant acoustic fully realised by the Marantz, with the solo instrument having superb scale and definition

Neil Cowley Trio Rooster Was a Witness

More piano, but this time in the percussive hands of Neil Cowley, backed by his crisp, hard-driving bandmates to create a relentless metronomic beat. Add in a small string section, and there’s a lot going on here for the Marantz to keep under control. Which it does!

What the press say

Hi-Fi News described the sound  of the Model 30 as‘ a complete blast,’ adding that ‘if you're not enjoying it, it's because you don't like the music,’ while Germany’s Stereo magazine thought It was an absolutely great, contemporary integrated amp with the unmistakable Marantz DNA. Reviewer Michael Lavorgna loved it too, saying its sound was ‘like a big warm hug.’

Why you should buy it

Marantz has pulled off a real stroke here: the Model 30 harks back to its past, while building on its 70 years of amp design to create a model with the power, poise and finesse to bring out the most from any recording

Video review

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