Vintage Marantz integrated receivers aren’t just cool retro novelties; they also stand up against today’s hi-fi offerings (often at much better prices). More than a few audiophiles will contend that Marantz receivers from the 1970s epitomize the pinnacle of the solid-state hi-fi era, a time when great sound was a common interest and not a niche hobby.
Marantz was founded in 1952 in New York, but the company had moved its primary manufacturing facilities to Japan and Belgium by the late 60s and 70s; this allowed the fast-growing company to maintain its high-quality standards while keeping prices reasonable. They’d mastered the art of solid-state stereo design and produced enough integrated receivers to whet an international appetite for hi-fi sound.
During the 1980s Marantz entered a series of mergers and acquisitions that banged the company around like a pin-ball racking up points for shareholders. But in the 1970s Marantz was serving the era’s fussy consumers first and foremost, and thus positively crushed the home stereo game for about a decade.
1970s Models Are the Best – Here’s Why
• Incredible sound. When a 70s Marantz integrated is working at full capacity, few stereos can compete with the warm, full, graceful and 3D sound. Throw your spec sheets aside and just listen to the depth of an excellent orchestral recording, or crank the Stones and feel Keef’s riffs enter the room, or put on your favorite jazz LP and hear it come to life on the kind of stereo it was intended for.
• Vibe. No one is going to argue with the visual appeal of those blue lights, the brushed aluminum faceplates, the funky serif fonts, or the knobs, buttons, and sliders that are weighted perfectly for the human touch. But there’s also an intangible vibe akin to the road feel of a vintage Benz, or the way a 1970s Rolex feels on the wrist, or the way Brigitte Bardot and David Bowie smoked cigarettes. Hard as some companies try, modern stuff just doesn’t have that kind of vibe.
• Upcycling. In 2006, the United Nations estimated worldwide electronic waste discarded each year to be roughly 50 million metric tons (over 100 billion pounds) – and that was before the iPhone got us tossing out mini computers, chargers, earbuds, cables, and packaging every couple years. When I turn on my 40+-year-old Marantz receivers I don’t imagine I’m saving the whales, but I am exercising a small measure of sustainable consumer behavior — and,if nothing else, this enhances my user experience.
• Reliability. Both of my vintage Marantz receivers are as solid and reliable as anything modern, and they’re already four decades old. I’ll go further: these units are built like tanks. To get anything this robust from a modern offering will cost you dearly. Once they’re running right, they just run and run and run.
• Easily serviced. Vintage Marantz integrated receivers have an avid cult following, which has resulted in a slew of currently produced replacement parts, from LED lamps to capacitors to tuning wheel cables, faceplates and lovely hardwood cabinets. More importantly, there are a number of people who specialize in servicing vintage Marantz receivers. All of this cult activity makes acquiring and maintaining a vintage Marantz downright do-able.
• Features, features and features. You’ll get a great power amplifier, an excellent pre-amplifier, plenty of inputs, a simple and effective EQ, a radio receiver and a tape input matrix (useful for cassette nerds, but also useful inputs for TVs and other devices). Importantly, you also get a built-in phono pre-amp (sometimes two), which you’ll need to run your turntable. Need Bluetooth? Just get a small BT receiver and plug it into the Aux input or one of the spare Tape inputs and you’ll be streaming wirelessly from the web to your Marantz.
What To Look For
There are two ways to go: get a beat up model and have it serviced or buy one fully restored and ready for another half-century of trouble-free service. Obviously, the latter approach is a more ready one, but for those willing to take on a DIY or hired-out project, fixing up a beater can be quite rewarding. Here are some things to consider when shopping for a vintage Marantz receiver.
• How’s the visual condition? Make sure it looks good and clean. Any heavy visual damage like a dent or water stains indicates misuse, while scratches are just normal wear and can be tolerated. Any pitting on the metal faceplate indicates the possibility of mold or corrosion from having been stored in a wet environment like a basement, so avoid that. Try to get a picture of the inside; even if you know nothing about electronics, massive amounts of dust, pet hair or corrosion indicates the possibility of electrical and mechanical damage.
• Are the functions functioning? Make sure to ask if there are any malfunctioning features, including sticking buttons or malfunctioning pots (the electrical thingy that turns behind the knob). Scratchy pots are tolerable, and sometimes just need to be used to discharge dust and static, but anything that cuts the sound out entirely on either or both channels should be avoided. Make sure all inputs are working. Perhaps ask for a video of the seller running the unit through its paces on all inputs (some sellers offer these videos).
• What’s the seller’s reputation? This is easy to see via the feedback systems on eBay and Etsy. On forums and Craigslist, however, be careful and make sure you’ve got a return option or can see the unit in person (many forums offer a measure of security within their classified system). If you’re buying from a website that specializes in vintage stereos, look for customer testimony, how much business the seller does, and scrutinize the photos. Better yet, get on the phone and discuss your purchase with the seller.
Navigating the Models
A basic thing to understand with vintage Marantz receivers is: as the numbers get bigger, so too does the power and the feature set. You can find just about any model after a short google search. Often the difference between the two models is far less important than the difference between the condition of two specific examples, so keep that in mind. For example, if you find a clean 2235 (35wpc), it’ll probably be a better purchase than a murky 2245 (45wpc). As with purchasing anything vintage, vet both the products and the seller as much as possible, cross your fingers, and — once you’ve found that clean example or had one fixed up for you — get ready to travel back in time to the sonic wonderland that was the 1970s.
It’s true that Marantz made a bunch of interesting Quad (4-channel) integrated receivers back in the 1970s, which can be used for stereo operation, we’re choosing to focus on the 2-channel stereo models, which are the more desirable and less fussy to own and operate. Effectively, we will look at the 22xx series integrated amps. These constitute the bulk of Marantz’s 1970s offerings, though the 20xx series (smaller, less powerful) and 23xx (larger, more powerful) models represent the far ends of the continuum. The following are exceptional units, but any integrated stereo Marantz that lies in between these model numbers will suffice. Just pay attention to the feature set and power ratings to get a sense of the in-between models that aren’t haven’t covered below.
The Baby: Marantz 2010
The Marantz 2010 is a 10 watt-per-channel beast built on a smaller chassis and, typically, costing much less than the larger 22xx series receivers. Mine has served me trouble free every day for 13 years. My 2010 delivers enough volume to fill up my small office well beyond my personal loudness threshold (which is pretty loud). By total coincidence, I once met the electrical engineer who developed the 2010 and he told me that it caused a stir in the company because it was outperforming some of their larger models at half the price. As such, the 2010 is a real sleeper model that’s perfect for a smaller space where you want to drive bookshelf speakers. The phono preamp is top notch.
Power: 10 watts / channel (see also: 2015 with 15wpc)
Year Manufactured: 1972-73
Estimated Used Price Range: ~$200 and up
The Middle Weight Champion: Marantz 2245
The Marantz 2245 hits a real sweet spot in terms of power and price. It’ll drive inefficient speakers with ease, and the feature set is robust. It’s got enough power to deliver a deep and wide sound stage that’s appropriate in a larger space but might not have quite enough oomph to blow your 808 kick drums through the neighbor’s walls. If you’re into articulate and warm sound at robust-but-not-stupid levels, however, you’re going to swoon hearing the 2245. A friend just picked one up for $450 in perfect working order. They’re out there.
Power: 45 watts / channel
Year Manufactured: 1971-1976
Estimated Used Price Range: ~$400 and up
Your Last Stereo: Marantz 2270
In perfect cosmetic condition, a Marantz 2270 is going to cost around $1200. That’s what I got mine for, plus another $189 for a solid walnut case from Vintage Hi-Fi Audio. The 2270 is meant to be played loud. It’s ready for your disco party, your action flick explosions, or your death metal jam, but don’t worry about losing oomph and fidelity when turned down, as the loudness button (really a pre-set EQ curve) is there to give the appearance of a bigger sound at lower volumes. There really isn’t anything the 2270 can’t do, and you’ll be hard pressed to find such a deep and wide soundstage from anything modern without paying more than double this price.
Power: 70 watts / channel
Year Manufactured: 1971-1975
Estimated Used Price Range: ~$700 and up
The Monster, Part II: Marantz 2285B
Marantz started offering B models toward the end of the 1970s, which saw some aesthetic changes and a few mechanical improvements. With the Marantz 2285B, you’ll be getting an updated silver-backed radio dial (the earlier 2285 was black), and there are a few internal heat management improvements. This sustains the life of capacitors and other components and helps the amp perform more efficiently. The B is also easier to find, as they were in production longer than the standard 2285. Other notable features include dual phono inputs, stereo tone controls on concentric knobs (this can be helpful in managing frequency response in an asymmetrical room, for example), and a unique tone control master knob that lets you defeat the entire “tone stack” for a more straightforward signal path, turn the tone stack on, and/or select different center frequencies for the bass and treble controls. That may sound complicated, but it’s easy to operate and allows you to dial in the sound for your space.
Power: 85 watts / channel
Year Manufactured: 1977-1980
Estimated Used Price: ~$850 and up
The Holy Grail: Marantz 2385 Black
If you’ve got a pair of enormous vintage Klipsch LaScala speakers, for example, you might want to think about the Marantz 2385. The black one, in particular, is one of the most sought after Marantz receivers ever made. The features are about what you’ll find on any other model, but the power amps and all that goes into running them cool and calm are beefed up — you could get the polyester shaking in a small disco club. Clean examples can top out over $4,000, but you’re still coming in under the price of a comparable, yet less powerful, new McIntosh integrated unit.
Power: 185 watts / channel
Year Manufactured: 1977-1980
Estimated Used Price: ~$2500 and way up