Update: Removing the Marantz and substituting the Carver cube (right from my DAC, volume controlled by the Mac) reveals how bad the Marantz amp is. It sucks the life and ambience and musicality from everything it touches. The eighties were a sad time for a once proud american brand icon. The brand has come back, and makes some insanely expensive new gear that I'd love to even see, but this is the worst amp I've ever had here.
A few pieces of gear from the eighties fell into my posession recently, and since all my other amps are in the shop, I was forced to check out the Marantz IA-2322 integrated amplifier. Once I was at it, I thought it would be interesting to listen with context, and take a few minutes to see how 2 icons from the seventies were faring a decade later.
The Marantz amp is part of a rack system from the late 80s. I also have a dead CD player, a tuner, and a dual cassette deck, which I haven't checked out. The matching Marantz tower speakers (3 way 12 inch sealed systems with 3/8" paticle board cabinets), and turntable (all plastic with masonite bottom) were dropped off at Goodwill before I even brought the rest home.
The amp is just ugly to me, but the construction is ok, the transformer is heavy,and it sounds pretty good. It has none of the charm or warmth of the seventies vintage stuff, but it's not bad at all. I haven't tried the phono section, but the cd input works well, and is noticeably cleaner with the CD DIRECT button engaged, which bypasses the tone and balance controls. I have no specs for this amp, but checking quickly on the 'net suggests that it's rated at 100 watts/channel. If that's true, they are not old school Marantz watts. If they were, I'd estimate it at about 40.
The JBL LX500 speakers depart drastically from the company's superb modernist, function aesthetic. They are poorly designed, graphically and industrially, with a multitude of 80s postmodern aesthetic cliches. James B. Lansing and his engineers would cry.
He wouldn't be uncomfortable with the construction. The speakers have heavy, well built and braced cabinets. The drivers, while they have stamped metal baskets, not cast, were still made in the USA, and have high quality, heavy magnets and are well made. JBL has known it's way around titanium tweeters for a long time. I refoamed the woofers (one of which also had a run in with a cat- ablack on, I bet), and they were as easy as any other JBL driver I've worked with. The midrange drivers have sealed backs, like the great models from the seventies, and the crossover components are good. They weigh 38 pounds each.
The speakers sound pretty good, not overly bright, and are quite well balanced. I would rather listen to a pair of L19s, but I'm lucky, I have a set!
The Marantz IA-2322 and JBL LX500s are orders of magnitude less well designed and built than the great pieces from the seventies, and give none pleasure that comes with owning a beautifully made piece of vintage gear. Soundwise, they're ok (but not exciting), particularly the speakers.
Update: Removing the Marantz and substituting the Carver cube (right from my DAC, volume controlled by the Mac) reveals how bad the Marantz amp is. It sucks the life, ambience and musicality from everything it touches. The eighties were a sad time for a once proud american brand icon. The brand has come back, and makes some insanely expensive new gear that I'd love to even see, but this is the worst amp I've ever had here.