PM5003 vs PM5004
In the context of reviewing the CD5004 CD player ($349.99), I thought it would be useful to also listen to its sister component, Marantz's PM5004 integrated amplifier ($449.99), and compare it with its predecessor, the PM5003 integrated (also $449.99), which I reviewed in the January 2010 Stereophile.
It took a good deal of scrutiny to see any differences between the PM5003 and PM 5004. The only thing I found is that the Speaker A and B terminals are reversed on the PM5004. Marantz told me that this is because the Speaker A terminal had a shorter signal path to its binding posts than the B terminal. The PM5004's preamp and power-amp sections have been upgraded from the PM5003, and the newer model has benefited from some additional sound tuning.
I enjoyed the PM5004's silky reproduction of the midrange of both voice and piano in "Some People's Lives," from Janis Ian's Breaking Silence (CD, Morgan Creek/Analogue Productions CAPP027), and the rich, clear bass and fast, clean transients of "Walking on Sacred Ground," from the same album, made for involving listening. I enjoyed the rhythmic pacing in "If I Were a Bell," from Miles Davis' Relaxin' (CD, Prestige VICJ 7129); and the PM5004's reproduction of the transients in Shelly Manne's drum solo in "I'm an Old Cowhand," from Sonny Rollins' Way Out West (CD, Contemporary/JVC VICJ-60125), was natural and cleanthough I've heard more expensive amplifiers render this track a bit more involvinglyand Ray Brown's bass sounded naturally warm and woody. The highs on Arturo Delmoni's disc of works by Ysaÿe, Kreisler, and J.S. Bach (CD, John Marks JMR 14) were silky and sweet, though the upper register of his violin sounded a bit dry. I also found Marc Ribot's dobro in "Hey Sweet Man," from Madeline Peyroux's Dreamland (CD, Atlantic 82946-2), to be a bit metallic.
Comparing the PM5004 to the PM5003 was a bit of a choreI had to switch back and forth several times before I could hear any differences at all, using more revealing associated equipment than the typical buyer of a PM5004 is likely to have: Creek Destiny CD player, Epos M5i speakers, MIT wires. That said, I'm convinced that the PM5004 is a sonic improvement over the PM5003, with even greater dynamic contrasts (particularly in high-level passages), a bit more delicacy, and an overall sound that was a touch more rich and involving. All in all, an improvement more evolutionary than revolutionary.Robert J. Reina