RogCAD World

A comparison of Sony and Marantz receivers/amplifiers

February 1, 2024
Roger Luebeck

Our assumptions color our perceptions.

Fortunately, I put my assumptions to the test before purchasing a new receiver/amplifier -- saving myself possibly a thousand dollars.

In 1979, I bought a new Marantz 200-watt (100W/channel) AM/FM receiver/amplifier and a pair of new Genesis II speakers.

In other words, I had the best sound system a modicum of money could buy.

I had already known about the unmatched sound quality of Marantz from reading the audiophile magazines. It had its trademark "liquid" sound along with every other descriptive noun employed by audiophiles: clarity, depth, spaciousness, richness, fullness..

I discovered the Genesis II speakers on my own in the listening room at The Sound of Music (a high-fidelity retailer which later became Best Buy). I took my time doing A-B switching. The Genesis II was superior to the other high-end speakers at reproducing instrumental music and it left the others far behind at reproducing the human voice.

After my purchase, I read about the Genesis II in the audiophile magazines. No audiophile reviews from that era rated any products as high as the Marantz receiver or the Genesis II speakers.

My entire sound system was stolen after just two years (in an apartment break-in). 34 years passed before I purchased a new receiver or speakers. (During that interval, I got by with a decent-quality hand-me-down system from my parents.) In 2015, without doing any research, I went to my local Best Buy and purchased a Sony 200-watt (100W/channel) AM/FM receiver/amplifier (STR-DH130) for under 200 dollars. I figured one couldn't go much wrong with Sony, while at the same time assuming that it would be a noticeable step down from my 1970s vintage Marantz.

I then found used Genesis II speakers online.

And here is where my assumptions took over. I lived with my new sound system for nine years and was always "aware" of its inferior sound. Boosting the richness by turning up the bass and treble still did not satisfy me, and I was never sure such a boost was a good idea anyway, as we've always read that the "defeat" position for bass and treble gives us the most realistic sound reproduction.

About five years ago, I purchased a used Marantz 200-watt (100W/channel) AM/FM receiver/amplifier (1970s vintage model 2265). Since the radio was not working on the Marantz, I decided to just set it up in my basement along with a pair of good smaller speakers (Aiwa SX-N999 1990s vintage). I used it with a CD player.

I eventually hooked up a portable Sony FM receiver to my Marantz, and that worked great.

For these past five years, I kept thinking that my downstairs Marantz-amplifier system sounded better than my upstairs Sony-amplifier system.

It was bugging me, so I decided to bring my Marantz upstairs, where I do most of my listening. But before committing to the switch, I did A-B switch testing, using the Genesis II speakers hooked up to both the Sony and the Marantz.

I optimized both units for richness of sound. This meant having the Sony's bass set anywhere from +5 to +10, depending on the musical selection. (The range is from -10 to +10, with 0 being "defeat".) I found that having the treble permanently set at +10 was optimal. The Marantz sounded best with bass set at +3 (visual approximation with the knob) and treble set at "defeat".

(I also removed the fabric panels from my speakers, upstairs and downstairs. The clarity is noticeably improved. I will leave them off permanently.)

I utilized a variety of "telling" music -- both instrumental and voice. With about 80 or 90 percent of the music, I could not tell the Sony and the Marantz apart.

With the other 10 or 20 percent, the Marantz leaned more to the liquid sound quality while the Sony leaned more to the airy/spaciousness, and the difference was mostly subtle. One was not more appealing than the other. How could anyone even choose one over the other.

Next, I A-B tested the Genesis speakers against my smaller Aiwa speakers. The Genesis speakers had a fuller sound and better clarity, articulating both the high and low range better. While the difference was plain, it was not extreme. The Aiwa speakers sounded so great that it would be hard to justify spending money to replace them with something better.

The upshot of all this is that I saved myself somewhere between 600 and 1000 dollars, as I was thinking about purchasing a new Marantz 150-watt (75W/channel) receiver/amplifier so that I could have the highest quality sound both upstairs and downstairs. No need for that now. I brought my Marantz back downstairs.

Another upshot is that I instantly found myself totally in love with the sound quality of my Sony system (which now has bass most often set at +7 and treble most often set at +7). My assumptions had colored my perceptions. I am hearing clarity, purity, richness, depth, fullness, sparkle, spaciousness.. to the max.

I could spend 5000 dollars and not see any improvement in sound. This is my new assumption. And it's working for me.

And by the way.. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos are my first choice, not only for testing high fidelity equipment, but for listening to in real life.

My Genesis II speakers and Sony receiver/amplifier:

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