A Low-Cost Alternative to the Marantz AV 10 and AMP 10

With the launch of Marantz’ latest separates, the AV10 and AMP10, I was surprised to find that Marantz decided to use ICEPower Modules – with the addition or HDAM – for their 16-channel amplifier with 200 watts per channel into 8 ohms. However, remember that Class D modules DOUBLE their power into 4 ohms so you get 400 watts per channel.

Of course, Class D makes a lot of sense. Class D can have excellent performance, run very difficult speaker loads effectively following the impedance curves very precisely without losing drive and as a bonus run very cool.

However, I was surprised because I was expecting more recent Class D design based on Purify and Hypex. Of course such a design might have cost a lot more than what Marantz is asking for here, especially in a 16-channel build.

Instead, Marantz decided to supplement the latest ICEPower modules with their own HDAM modules. We still don’t really know what HDAM does exactly. It is supposed to suppress noise and improve transient detail, however in the past they added noise due to poor design choices which Marantz seems to have resolved in its latest iteration.

A Poor Man’s Alternative

Well, if you don’t need quite as many channels or as much power per channel, then Rotel’s class D designs are very solid. Rotel has been building amps based on Class D design since about 2005. In fact, I am using one of their older designs – the RMB-1077. I have to say, it is a very very nice amp for home theatre. It drives my very difficult to drive 4ohm speakers effortlessly and is plenty loud. It has a very neutral and accurate delivery. In fact, I prefer it to most A/B designs I have heard – at least for home threats. It also runs super cool so it doesn’t heat up my home theatre.

Now Rotel makes a 12-channel amplifier called the RMB-1512. While it is marketed as a distribution amplifier, it is actually based on the same design as Rotel’s hifi Class D designs. The positive here is that this amp is sold cheaper than if it was made for the home theatre market.

However, the specs between it and its home theatre-focused designs are the same: very high (105dB) signal to noise ratio, the correct gain structure to use an AVR as a pre-amp (such as any of the new Denon or Marantz AVRs with pre-amp mode), and this amp will also double its wattage with all channels driven into 4 ohms at 200 watts per channel, which is plenty for driving even difficult to drive speakers in smaller home theatres as long as you sit around 4 meters or less from your speakers.

What saves the money here is of course the halving of the maximum dynamic wattage and the lack of XLR inputs, which you don’t need anyway if you are using an AVR as a pre-amp.

There is also something extra here: the Marantz is only able to pull a maximum of 500 watts from the wall when it gets going, while the Rotel is able to pull 660 watts from the wall. What this means is that while the Marantz will drop its wattage as all the channels get going, the Rotel will keep its power delivery to the speakers at maximum. In fact, it would be able to delivery 35% more power than the Marantz with all channels driven. While Marantz will only guarantee the power specs with 5 channels driven, Rotel normally makes guarantees with all channels driven.

Conclusion

Yes, the Marantz AV 10 and AMP 10 look really nice. I’d love a pair, thank you!

However, you could achieve 95% of the performance using the Denon X3800H and the Rotel RMB-1512 and still have money left over to spend on room treatment and maybe better speakers or subwoofers that will elevate your home theatre’s performance more than spending all that money on the very best from Marantz.

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