Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.
Somehow or another, I keep accidentally undermining my own arguments here on SoundStage! Access. First I questioned the need for standalone D-to-A converters in most modern audio systems. Then I found a standalone DAC compelling enough to add to my own reference system. Last month I took modern hi-fi manufacturers to task for not making affordable audio gear with anything resembling the sense of style or design found in vintage audio gear. Then—almost as if in response—Marantz dropped its new Model 40n integrated amp in my lap as if to say, “Hey, we’ve been rocking this high-style design for over a year now, since the launch of the Model 30.”
You don’t need me to tell you this, of course, but the Model 40n doesn’t look like a piece of vintage kit (nor did the Model 30, which was, I believe, the first Marantz product to sport this new vibe). If anything, it looks like it’s from the future. But it does share one thing in common with stereo receivers of a bygone era that’s lacking in so many modern offerings in its price class ($2499, all prices USD), and that’s a genuine sense that it was designed to be seen as well as heard.
And, hey, maybe that doesn’t matter to you. I’m not here to tell you that you should value industrial design as much as performance. But I think a lot of potential hi-fi enthusiasts do. And even if you aren’t moved by the two-tone design of the Model 40n, its textural elements, its edge-lit recesses, or its symmetrical layout, there’s still a lot to love here.
First off, the amp delivers a healthy 70Wpc into 8 ohms or 100Wpc into 4 ohms, which is frankly way more power than most people need in most rooms (assuming its power supply is well designed, which is usually a given with Marantz two-channel gear). Secondly, unlike the Model 30, it boasts a good mix of analog and digital connectivity, with stereo line-level inputs labeled Line, CD, and Recorder, as well as an MM phono input, coaxial (RCA) and optical (TosLink) digital inputs, an HDMI ARC port (two-channel PCM only), a rear-panel USB Type-A port (Mass Storage Class, with 5V/1A power), an ethernet port, and two antennae for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
It also supports the HEOS streaming/multiroom audio platform with native support for Amazon Music, Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, Deezer, Napster, SiriusXM, Sound Cloud, TuneIn, iHeart Radio, and Mood:Mix. Services unsupported within the HEOS app can still be streamed to the amp via AirPlay 2 or BT. It also has a subwoofer output and bass-management capabilities, with your choice of a 40, 60, 80, 100, or 120Hz crossover. And that last feature in particular hints at some of the unexpected capabilities of the Model 40n.
Setting up the Marantz Model 40n
By “unexpected,” I don’t mean “unprecedented,” mind you. But a bass-management system with that level of flexibility isn’t expected in a two-channel component in this class. There are also some other optional tweaky functions built into Marantz’s new integrated amp that I don’t take for granted at this price or in this form factor.
The first is that the DAC has user-selectable PCM filters. Filter 1 is described in the manual as offering “a short impulse response for both pre-echo and post-echo. Large amount of audio information clearly reproduces deep stereo imaging and the relative position of the sound source.” Filter 2, meanwhile, is described as having “asymmetrical impulse response. The post echo is slightly longer than the pre-echo. The sound characteristics is [sic] more analog like.”
Best I can tell, Filter 1 is a linear phase filter with a sharp roll-off, and Filter 2 is a minimum phase/short delay design. I have an academic preference for the former, but in practice I couldn’t tell much meaningful difference between them with most of the music that interests me (jam band, hip-hop, freak folk, Americana, singer-songwriter, yacht rock). That’s not to say that I couldn’t tell any difference; I simply couldn’t tell you objectively which one sounded consistently more pleasing. My preferences, slight as they were, often switched back and forth between tracks or between repeated playback of the same track.
There’s also a setting that will allow you to adjust the DAC’s sync input lock range (simply called “Lock Range” here) independently for each digital source (except that the Network, Bluetooth, and USB inputs all share a common setting).
Other than that, connections and setup are simple and straightforward, assuming you have the proper lighting conditions to read the buttons on the remote. The hefty controller is nice to look at and comfortable in the hand, but its silkscreened labels are so close to the gunmetal color of the remote itself that in oblique lighting, some of the labels simply disappear. But the volume controls and input-selection buttons stand out in nearly any lighting conditions, and let’s be honest—those are the ones you’ll need the most.
During my evaluation of the Model 40n, I spent a bit of time with a setup that included a pair of RSL CG3 bookshelf speakers and an SVS PB-1000 Pro subwoofer. A crossover of 100Hz resulted in a nice integration between the sub and sats, and the system as a whole sounded fantastic, with great imaging, wonderful soundstaging, exceptional detail, no audible noise at anything approaching reasonable listening levels, and excellent tonal balance.
Most of my listening, though, was done via my trusty pair of Paradigm Studio 100 v5 towers sans sub, connected to the amp via a pair of Elac Sensible speaker cables. My iPhone 12 Pro Max and the HEOS app thereon served as my main source, although I did connect an iFi Zen One Signature DAC to the Line input of the amp so I could connect my Maingear Vybe media PC to the iFi’s USB Type-B input.
I simply must give kudos to Marantz for designing another integrated amp that’s so thoughtfully laid out. The physical setup process is a breeze. The speaker-level connections, in addition to being beautiful and well-built, are easily accessible. The inputs, meanwhile, may look a little crowded in photos, arranged as they are off to one side of the back of the amp. But they’re well-organized, well-labeled, and uncluttered overall. Mind you, most people likely won’t be crawling behind the Model 40n often to tinker with the setup, but first impressions matter, and Marantz knows how to start a relationship like this on the right foot.
How does the Model 40n perform?
There are a handful of tunes in my music library that can tell me literally everything I need to know about a DAC, preamp, amplifier, or speaker within a couple of minutes. One of them—“City of Refuge,” from the album of the same name by Abigail Washburn (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, New Rounder / Qobuz)—was the first track I dug into when I sat down for my first serious critical-listening session with the Model 40n. From note one, the Marantz delivered the attack and decay of Washburn’s clawhammer banjo playing with precision and a wonderful sense of space. Image specificity was spot on, and the timbre and texture of the banjo strings rang through palpably.
When Washburn’s breathy vocals kicked in at around the 15-second mark, I was struck by the depth of the soundstage despite the overall simplicity of the mix. Washburn’s voice seems to step out in front of the banjo just a bit and emanate from above it. That tells me transients are being handled well, and there’s no significant noise or distortion to be concerned about.
The biggest test comes at around the 1:24 mark, though, when the percussion and bass kick in at full force. I don’t focus on the deepest notes of the bass or the lowest fundamentals of the percussion here, but rather some of the higher bass notes, as well as harmonics, in the range from, say, 100Hz to 200Hz. With my Paradigm towers, some amps can thin out in this region when pushed hard, resulting in a deemphasis of these frequencies that changes the character of the bottom end, making things sound simultaneously thin and bloated.
The Model 40n’s well-balanced delivery of the lower registers of “City of Refuge,” combined with the airy effortlessness of the vocals and instrumentation, the pitch-black background, and the utter lack of edge, told me that at every step of the signal chain—from decoding to processing to D-to-A conversion to amplification—the Marantz was doing all the right things and none of the wrong things.
Next, for reasons that were mysterious to me at first, I found myself drawn to “Can I Kick It?” from A Tribe Called Quest’s People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (25th Anniversary Edition) (24/44.1 FLAC, Jive / Legacy / Qobuz). In retrospect, it turns out the reason the song is stuck in my brain is that I’ve been playing a ton of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 remaster/remake here lately, but that’s of little consequence. What matters is that the Model 40n handled the track beautifully.
The song starts off with a scratchy, gritty, dirty, and pitch-shifted sample of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” and the baked-in crackling distortion can, with some DACs, be overly grating at any appreciable volume. Not so with the Marantz.
There’s another aspect of this song’s mix that can be somewhat difficult to reproduce: the scratching and reverb-heavy drum beats can somewhat obscure the voice of Q-Tip (aka Kamaal Fareed), who raps the first verse. But that never proved to be the slightest problem with the Model 40n. His voice rang through the mix with ease, and bass authority left absolutely nothing to be desired.
Another album that spotlighted the Model 40n’s strengths is the sadly obscure CD release of Conan the Barbarian: The Complete Film Score, composed by Basil Poledouris, conducted by Nic Raine, and performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus (Prometheus Records XPCD 169). It’s a shame this one isn’t available on streaming, but I have it ripped to my hard drive in AIFF at 1411kbps.
It takes an amp with really low noise and really low distortion to let you appreciate just how dynamic this recording is. Starting at around 40 seconds into the first selection, “Prologue / Anvil of Crom,” there are moments that get super quiet right before weird percussive attacks, and it’s the contrast between those extremes that really gives the percussion its impact. It’s often the case that the noise floor of the recording gets commingled with the noise floor of the amp I’m listening to, but with the Model 40n I could hear the subtle hiss of the recording during its quietest moments.
There’s also an explosively dynamic outburst at just past the one-minute mark, when the beat of the timpani decays to nearly nothing before a pants-filling onslaught of strings signals that the movement has gone into high gear for the duration. As with the Abigail Washburn cut, imaging and soundstaging here were simply spot-on for the recording, and bass authority was absolutely delicious.
Honestly, the only criticism I could muster for the Model 40n is that the transport controls on the remote were ever-so-slightly slow to respond when I used AirPlay 2 to stream music wirelessly from my phone. In terms of sound quality, though, Marantz has got another unequivocal winner on its hands here.
What other integrated amps in this price range should you audition?
Take your pick: Do you want super-sexy and distinctive styling, a higher level of fit’n’finish, a much better remote, and access to Sound United’s HEOS streaming/multiroom audio platform? Or do you want more coaxial and optical digital inputs, Dirac Live room-correction capabilities, more power, a more efficient topology, and access to Lenbrook’s BluOS streaming/multiroom audio platform?
There’s no right answer here, of course. But those are the choices you’re making in picking between the Marantz Model 40n and the NAD C 399 with its optional MDC2 BluOS-D module installed. Configured as such, the NAD sells for a little more than the Marantz at $2549, but I’d say these integrated amps are otherwise on pretty much equal footing, all things considered.
It really comes down to which of each amp’s strengths play more to your needs, wants, and desires. If you need room correction or dislike HEOS for whatever reason, that might pull you more in the direction of the NAD. If you already have some Sound United gear and want to add a stereo integrated amp to your existing multiroom sound system, or you’re setting up a two-channel system in a carefully furnished room or shared multi-use space, that might put a finger on the scales for the Marantz.
Frankly, I think they’re both incredible offerings, and I love them for very different reasons. But the bottom line is that both sound amazing.
TL;DR: Should you buy the Marantz Model 40n integrated amp?
It isn’t every day that we come across a product that could just as easily be reviewed on SoundStage! Hi-Fi, Simplifi, or here on Access, but the Marantz Model 40n integrated amp fills that bill to a tee. Its performance is uncompromised, its connected streaming and multiroom music platform (HEOS) is solid as heck, and it’s incredibly competitively priced for what it offers in terms of specs and design.
Aside from the aforementioned nits I could pick with the remote (which, if I’m honest, are mostly old-man problems), my only significant beef with the Model 40n is that I wish its edge-lighting could be brightened a bit more. Even on its brightest setting, the lighting accents are barely visible in my pitch-black cave of a listening room.
But if we’ve gotten to the point where I’m griping about the intensity of edge-lighting on an amp, you know there simply isn’t anything else worth grumbling about.
. . . Dennis Burger
- Speakers: Paradigm Studio 100 v5; RSL CG3.
- Subwoofer: SVS PB-1000 Pro.
- Speaker-level connections: Elac Sensible speaker cables.
- Line-level connections: Straight Wire Encore II analog interconnects.
- Sources: Maingear Vybe PC; iPhone 12 Pro Max; Control4 EA-1.
- Power protection: SurgeX XR115 power conditioner.
Marantz Model 40n Network Integrated Amplifier
Warranty: Three years, parts and labor.
Sound United, LLC
5541 Fermi Ct.
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Phone: (844) 298-5032