The Marantz Way
Lossless audio is a buzzword at the moment. Apple Music has recently started to offer lossless tracks, Spotify has promised a new lossless tier in 2021, and for a while now, Amazon Music has offered HD and Ultra HD audio. So you may ask why, in this world of digital streaming, Marantz has made an all-new, all-analogue integrated amplifier? The answer is both simple and complex.
Since 1953, Marantz has made its name fusing art and science to create The Most Musical Sound. Generations of Marantz Sound Masters have labored to get listeners as close to the music as possible, committed to creating emotional sonic experiences. This craft is now more relevant than ever with high-quality streaming moving to the mainstream. “The Marantz sound is warm and layered,” says Marantz president, Joel Sietsema. “This is thanks to the craftsmanship, and attention to detail that goes into every component of every product.”
At the final stage of reproduction, all sound is analogue. Marantz chose, with the Model 30, to move the conversion from digital stream to analogue wave out of the amplifier altogether, and focus on the musicality of the sound in it’s analogue form.
“The Marantz sound is warm and layered…This is thanks to the craftsmanship, and attention to detail that goes into every component of every product.”
Marantz Model 30 is a wonderful example of a modern amplifier creating an unfettered, timeless sound. “Model 30 is the equivalent of choosing a mechanical Swiss timepiece over an Apple watch,” says Sietsema, who for the last 20 years has helped to shape the market for premium and luxury audio brands. “After all, sound is in its essence an analogue phenomenon.”
“So much has changed since Saul [Marantz] started the business, but through all that time - almost seven decades - Marantz has been at the forefront of pushing sound forward, using both time honored and cutting edge techniques. So for me, it’s important to create relevant products that last, and connect to our core purpose. Model 30 is a perfect example - a contemporary amplifier, intended to last for decades.”
In 2017, Marantz paused to take stock of how best to express its huge heritage and sonic philosophy, and also how to speak to a modern customer – those who care deeply about quality, authenticity and craft. A three-year intensive design and engineering project ensued, and Model 30 was the result; an integrated stereo amplifier that builds on the brand’s rich history and fuses it with modern architecture and thinking. “We launched MODEL 30 as the new, premium flagship design,” says Emmanuel Millot, Category Director at Marantz. “We wanted to create a new place in the range without replacing an existing product. Rather, the Model 30 was a statement of a new strategy. Looking at listening behavior and the revival of the vinyl market, we developed a brand-new, dedicated and shielded phono stage with impedance adjustment for MC input, as we noticed that the newer generation of turntable cartridges have a higher impedance than the older generation. All of this was done to optimize sound quality.”
“Model 30 has a direct relationship to some key landmark Marantz products through re-imagining our historic product design DNA,” says Sietsema. “The central ‘porthole’ feature is a key feature on Marantz amplifiers. The precise controls refer to some of Saul Marantz’ first products, and the placement and care in the execution of the graphics and marks of the product celebrate our heritage and history of considered quality.”
Modernising, but at the same preserving tradition, can at times be a precarious balancing act. “The early Marantz products have always been highly regarded by collectors and aficionados. They are the products that directly connect to Saul Marantz’s original vision, communicating the values, quality and sound production that are an ongoing part of Marantz moving forward.”
"Principally, we wanted to keep a pure analogue amplifier to demonstrate Marantz savoir faire,” says Millot. “We wanted to show that we could deliver The Most Musical Sound using a state-of-the-art Class D amplifier.” He adds, “We created the SACD 30n, the ultimate digital source hub, to complement the Model 30. When the two are connected, the power on/off stages and display sequences are completely synchronised. It’s a beautiful way to convey that these products are meant for each other.”
As with all Marantz products, it was important to convey a sense of musicality in the design. One of the key ways this is achieved is by replicating the warmth of the Marantz sound in the hue and finish of the metals. The deep muted tones are complemented by soft lines, seamless instrumentation and contemporary detailing. “We carefully considered the proportions of this piece - the relationship between the control surface, porthole and brand mark,” explains Sietsema. “Golden ratios informed the overall impression of the amplifier, and surface textures were based on Fibonacci patterns that can be seen in water, sound and light throughout the natural world. The front fascia uses abstracted rippled ‘waves’ to convey the movement of sound and its interaction with the environment, and we’ve included a hidden light source, to create something of an aura while highlighting the musicality of the product.”
When looking for ways to import such musicality into the look and feel of the amplifier, Marantz designers looked to acoustic musical instruments for inspiration. What they found was that “musical instruments display features that are just intrinsic to the production of sound,” says Sietsema, “symmetry in construction, a method of amplification, and projection of sound. Symmetry is important for several reasons. When we hear stereo sound through a stereo reproduction we are able to place the source of that sound in space. The recreation of this – in a stereo scenario – requires a symmetrical speaker and amplifier system. This allows the sound to be placed in space in the same way that is recorded or mastered, recreating the intention of the artist faithfully.”
Saul Marantz understood this from the start - there is beauty in symmetry. His first amplifiers captured this concept and these are the foundations upon which the balanced Marantz design is built today.
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