Marantz Project T-1 Amplifier Page 2

Parts quality? It's a parade of designer goodies, including Dale resistors, Johnson tube sockets, Aerovox caps, OPT transformers and specially selected tubes. The steel chassis is entirely copper-plated, with solid aluminium surfaces. The two power transformers and two chokes are fitted to the upper surface behind the valves, with the other transformers mounted internally to establish the shortest signal path. The binding posts aside, which only accept small spades or bare wire, there is nothing to criticise. This amp is so handsome, so physically commanding the most transistorised tube-hater on earth will be dazzled just by its presence.

sqnote Sound Quality
With the Marantz CD-12 player connected directly via Mandrake cables and the T-1s connected to the various speakers used during the listening with a set of Harmonix cables, I approached the system still reeling from the impact of the Audio Research Reference 600 monoblocks [HFN May '96]. I wasn't expecting anything to be joining their hallowed ranks quite so soon. In fact I figured Audio Research had the top of the heap to itself for at least the rest of the century. And in a way, it does. But the Marantz Project T-1 is breathing down its neck.


This amp isn't about power but about delicacy and subtlety. It does things which, if they involved flight, would make a butterfly seem ungainly. It is everything the single- ended crazies covet, but without the power limitations. Or, indeed, the politics. Yet by virtue of its push-pull topology, the T-1 is identified as declassé by the SET brigade, so its members might never know what they'd gain when freed from the shackles of single-digit wattage.

Power To Burn
If ever an amplifier steered you toward the type of music it prefers to amplify, this one must have its homing device set for female vocalists. From the sultry sweetness of Billie Holiday to the passion of mid-period Bonnie Raitt to the emotionless bloodbath of Nico, this amplifier knows how to caress a vocal, as if it were a pair of hands holding a rare blossom. It's not as though the T-1s fell to pieces when I entered lobotomy mode and wallowed in some Motörhead, for the T-1 has dynamic capabilities which could fool you into thinking it came from Transistorland, Connecticut, USA.

The bass? So rich and deep that anyone whose recent experience consists only of SETs and horns will wonder where the extra octaves were hiding. It rolled out of the Wilson WATT/Puppy loudspeakers, spilled across the carpet, bass so palpable that I thanked those who built my house for predicting the need for solid floors. And it reached the limits of a 12x22ft lounge.


As far as maximum levels are concerned, the T-1s would have to be sited in a room twice that size and populated by listeners with serious hearing problems before the word 'undernourished' reached anyone's tongue. But this amplifier is, despite its toe-tingling bass and slap-upside-the-head dynamics, a real midband/treble champion.

With speakers which never exploit its lower registers, like LS3/5As without a subwoofer or the old Quads, the T-1 behaves just like you'd expect of a classic tube design. Only you're not sampling all it can offer. Still, even those of you not using speakers which operate below 80Hz would still enjoy the textures with in-your-face realism, and not just the various vocal tics which help you to distinguish Crystal Gayle from Dolly Parton.

The amp's way with textures carries over to each and every instrument, enough to allow you to use a compilation like the tribute, Rattlesnake Guitar: The Music Of Peter Green, as a guide to different guitar models. lt also means that incredibly fine details come through without a fight, with spatial clues so vivid that you can picture the walls of Abbey Road's Studio 2 when you play the Fab Four. And you will hear vertical images just like the Cheskys said you would. It's a near- magical experience, restricted only by speaker sensitivity rather than frequency response, driver type or impedance. Still, it has power to burn, compared to a SET.

At around £30,000 a pair, the Project T-1 should be one of the world's finest amplifiers. For me? I now know what I'll buy first if my lottery numbers come tumbling out of the barrel, even before the Bugatti, the Patek and the Lempicka. It's the answer to a dream I didn't even know I harboured.