Warning: This article contains opinions. If you are offended by people expressing their thoughts, you may wish to skip to the next page.
There, I hope that helps keep anyone from getting to upset, because I'm going to be honest about what I thought of some very highly touted equipment. Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to audition a Marantz 7 preamp and 8 power amp which were consigned to me.
Both pieces were in excellent electronic shape and very good to excellent cosmetic shape. The preamp had been checked out and a new filter cap installed by Audio Classics, the guys in New York who sell all the Mac stuff for huge prices. Both units had been freshly retubed with ARS tubes, and were driven daily by their owner, a high end audio dealer. The output tubes in the amp appeared to be relabeled GE 6CA7s, but I won't commit to that.
So I got the stuff home and listened to it. I used the Magnepans so as not to taint my impression with my yet to be debugged. Both Ways speaks. Sources were a Kenwood L-07T tuner, a cheap Technics CD, and a Thorens TD160 with Grado MC+ moving coil, all of which I have listened to extensively. Impressions were compared against the same system amped with my Triophoni amps. The overall impression was nice. Not cosmic, not The Best, just nice. I liked the preamp quite a bit. It worked nicely with the phonograph, and took the edge off the CDs. It's certainly a pretty piece of gear, and the controls have a nice feel to them.
The amp was nice and detailed and seemed to put out more than 35 watts per. But it was really bright. I mean really. That real pentodey, slightly irritating sound like a Citation II has. I will certainly agree with anyone who says that the tubes could have produced some of this edge, but it was too edgy to be only the tubes. The midrange just wasn't there enough between the bass and the highs.
If I had to compare, I would say that the overall sound was similar to a PAS/Stereo 70 setup, with more extension on both the high and low ends. I've been told that the major difference between a model 8 and an 88 is the output transformers. I would be curious to hear if the 88 sounds a bit warmer.
Now one thing you don't want to do is change anything on one of these Marantz tube deals, because you devalue it like crazy. That is unfortunate, because I opened the preamp and found a zillion striper caps. I bet a recap would make some nice changes to the level of detail and clarity, but I for one am not flush enough to buy one to satisfy my urge to hack!
The next treat was a Scott LK-150. Steve B., owner of one of the biggest radio collections in the area, found one at a swap meet and called me for advice on getting it running. Turned out only a couple of caps were bad. After getting a good jolt from an exposed floating ground, Steve got the thing running. I stopped by to hear a couple days later. It sounded ok on his Bozaks, typical bassy Scott sound, only bigger, and looked very cool, with polished champagne anodized chassis, dual 5AR4sand coke bottle 6550s. But I'm not running out to buy one. Why did they use those puny 7199s?
So anyway, don't feel like you'll never reach Nirvana because you haven't spent hundreds on any of these pieces. They sound very nice, but there are definitely other things out there that sound as good, if not better.