|Marantz PM-KI Pearl Integrated Amplifier Review|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Integrated Amplifiers|
|Written by Todd Whitesel|
|Wednesday, 16 December 2009|
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http://www.marantz.eu/kipearl/) dedicated solely to the KI Pearl and its brethren SA-KI Pearl. I'm always wary of quoting and seemingly confirming views of a company's product in question, but I doubt anyone would question Marantz's and Ishiwata's ideals that “... specifications are just facts. We're interested in feelings. The feelings you get when you listen to beautiful, powerful and uplifting music.” I struggle to say it better.
Marantz touts the PM-KI Pearl as successor to the PM-15S2 (an integrated amplifier that retails for $1,100 less than the Pearl but,in my opinion, totally outshines it for looks) with better parts engineered specifically for the Pearl. An HDAM-SA3 amplifier module serves to provide better circuit stability and high-speed processing, but the Pearl is not to be viewed as a sonic “upgrade” to anything Marantz has done in the past; rather, it's Ishiwata's tribute to music and the spark it ignites in the human psyche. That's a heavy charge, loaded with responsibility. What's the verdict? Read on.
The PM-KI Pearl features a robust build and weighs in at a beefy 44 pounds, reinforced with a copper-plated double-layered chassis, 5mm aluminum top cover and large capacity block condenser and dual-shielded toroidal transformer. It's rated at 90 watts x 2 into 8 ohms and 140 watts x 2 into 4 ohms and can drive most any speaker, but like the shy girl at the dance may require some coaxing before coming out of the shell. The PM offers five audio inputs, two audio outputs and a headphone output, covering nearly every playback option. A pair of rock-rugged speaker cable terminals dominate the back panel, flanked by phono-, CD-, Pre Out- and P. Direct In-Jacks along with an amp-mode switch, F.C.B.S. In/Out jacks (more on this later) and AC IN. A detachable power cord is supplied with the PM-KI Pearl, though I doubt most who throw down $3,600 for the amp will stick with the stock cable.
In my review of the SA-KI Pearl, I mentioned being less than stunned by that player's finish, mirrored by the PM-KI Pearl's barely-different-than-all-other-Marantz gear coating. I just don't get it, when this is supposed to mark 30 years of audio innovation and marked by a 500-only production run, why Marantz couldn't come up with something other than a pea-sized pearl to stamp the product's front panel! The Pearl deserves some truly defining styling to indicate that it's not just a 30-year Marantz special offering, but that a 2-channel hi-fi audio component has somehow survived to tell its tale in 2009. The back of the amp, in a stamped copper finish, is far more eye-appealing than what's presented up front. Do we really need another virtually “black” component in a sea that's already awash in such dressing? I know, Marantz calls it “silk black,” but in my opinion it needs much more silk and far less black. OK job Marantz.
Fortunately, the outer linings aren't indicative of the amp's inner beauty and capabilities. The Pearl sports a dual Moving Magnet/Moving Coil phono stage and constant current feedback phono equalizer to ensure consistent low-feedback vinyl playback. I really like how Marantz accounted for both cartridge designs, particularly since most integrated amplifiers have a moving magnet stage if they have one at all. Since most high-end cartridges are of the moving coil variety, and since the KI Pearl is an upper-end integrated, it makes sense to serve those whose vinyl setups will likely be spinning under moving coil cartridges. With the Pearl, there's no need for an external phono amplifier, regardless of your cartridge preference. Good job Marantz.
I've had opportunity to listen to several integrated amplifiers in 2009, and it seems that most come with default tone settings and no way to adjust if you want. Thus, I found it refreshing that the Pearl – even with Ishiwata's sonic signature firmly engraved – is equipped with bass and treble controls. They are defeatable, surely, but I think many manufacturer's miss the boat by dismissing such options. I personally want adjustable tones, not necessarily to introduce artificial highs or lows into a recording but to compensate for recordings done poorly. Again, good job Marantz.
The Pearl features a CD Direct Input Buffer Amplifier mounted directly after the input jacks for premium SACD playback. So I probably should give the PM-KI some credit for the SA-KI Pearl's excellent performance with SACD. Should you choose, the PM-KI can serve strictly as a power amplifier by employing the unit's power amplifier direct input. And should you have another $3,599 (or more) to spend, a floating control bus system (F.C.B.S.) makes it possible to connect up to four PM-KIs for linked operation and applications including complete bi-amping (two units) or 5.1 multi-channel connections (three units). If so, as they say in Australia, “Good onya.”