Marantz MA-5 Review

Japanese manufacturers were fighting tooth and nail in 1980 to provide the cleanest and most powerful transistor amplification yet developed. Marantz was solidly in the Class A camp with a series of new-fangled MOSFET power amps, but Sony and Yamaha had lately gone down the V-FET road (with the TA-N7B and B2, respectively) and Pioneer was sticking to Class AB bi-polars with its enormous SPEC-2. The MA-5 was the company’s premium ‘Esotec’ monobloc model — the designation given to the company’s top line of products, which also included the TT-1000 turntable.

Each champagne gold-colored, ‘half-size’ 208x146x334mm box supplied 120W RMS into 8 ohms (at 0.01 percent THD), while a rear-mounted switch switched the MA-5 from Class AB to full Class A, delivering a respectable 30W into 8 ohms (at 0.01 percent THD) (at 0.008 percent THD). The not insignificant 10kg per unit was accounted for by bulky power transformers, 44,000F of capacitors, and a pair of 2SD757/ 2SB717 MOSFET transistors. Because each monoblock consumed 230W of power, it wasn’t something you’d want to leave on all the time! The massive brushed aluminium front panel had a clever cover that peeled out to reveal a hidden power switch and gain control. A row of green LED peak meters with dual scale calibration (for Class A and Class AB) displayed how hard those MOSFETs were working, and LEDs indicated whether they were in Class A or Class AB mode.

Even by today’s high standards, the MA-5 is a wonderful performer in Class A mode. There’s not much that compares to pure Class A done right, and the Marantz is a standout, sounding ultra-neutral, quick, detailed, and with a wide range of tonal color. It also sounds open enough to let the genuine timbre of any instrument shine through. These little golden monoblocks don’t sound like a thirty-five-year-old design; they’re razor-sharp, transparent, and dimensional, with a strong sense of rhythm and dynamic accenting. The only flaws are a smidgeon of light bass and non-atmospheric treble. Overall, the Marantz MA-5 is a fantastic classic product that is fully capable of cutting it in today’s market – implying that it was remarkable in its day.