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Larry Kart

Marantz amp problem, sudden "gargly" sound

89 posts in this topic

My out of warranty Marantz PM-15S1 integrated amp has suddenly developed what I can only describe as a "gargly" sound -- an annoying, almost breaking-up sound, particularly evident on upper-register percussive notes on the piano (sounds like vibes being played under water). Any thoughts on what could be the cause of this and what I could/should do about it?

I should add that it's not my CD player that's at fault because I hear the same problem when I play LPs. Could be a problem with my hearing aids, which have a previously quite good "music" program in them that boosts treble and bass, but I'm about to ask my wife to have a listen. If she hears the same treble-breakup thing I do, then it's not the hearing aids. BTW, when I'm not listening to recorded music, what I hear through my hearing aids sounds the way it always has.

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Very bizarre! I've never heard anything even close to what you've described. Is there a way to reset everything to factory defaults? If so, I'd start there. If not, unplug it from the wall for at least one minute and see if that helps. 

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Thanks for the ideas. Further info -- it's not the amp, so it seems, but my two B&W speakers, because (and I should have checked this first) everything sounds perfectly OK through headphones but gargly and rather diffuse through the speakers. Reverse polarity, I thought, but the polarity it is now is the polarity it's always been. And why would two speakers go all funny at the same time?

As for factory defaults, those are the only settings I've ever used.

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Hmmmm...

Well, the speakers can only reproduce the signal sent to them. Do you have another set you can hook up to the amp? I seriously doubt it's the speakers. And reverse polarity wouldn't sound gargly. Not to mention the chance of both speakers magically going bad at the same time are about one in a billion. 

I'd still reset the amp. I really think the problem is with the amp. Though, again, I can't even begin to imagine what it is. The headphone preamp is completely separate from the main amp outputs. 

Edited by Scott Dolan

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Larry, apologies if this is a stupid question, but are you sure it's the amp and not the speakers? Have you noticed the problem through headphones?

I've often found funky noises in the high frequency range trace back to loose speaker wire connections (they seem to work loose periodically). First thing I'd do is make sure that all screw-in wire connectors (wire to banana plugs or directly to back of speakers) are really tight. Also that there are no frayed wire strands sticking out anywhere (in above places and where wire inserts directly into holes).

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Headphone preamps are separate from the main amp outputs. Headphones won't tell you much of anything. 

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1 hour ago, T.D. said:

Larry, apologies if this is a stupid question, but are you sure it's the amp and not the speakers? Have you noticed the problem through headphones?

I've often found funky noises in the high frequency range trace back to loose speaker wire connections (they seem to work loose periodically). First thing I'd do is make sure that all screw-in wire connectors (wire to banana plugs or directly to back of speakers) are really tight. Also that there are no frayed wire strands sticking out anywhere (in above places and where wire inserts directly into holes).

Yes, upon further review, I thought it was the speakers because there was no problem with headphones. But  then, as Scott explained, headphone preamps are separate from the main amp outputs, and thus the fact that the headphones sound fine doesn't tell you that you don't have a main amp problem. Further, the sheer unlikelihood of both speakers developing this problem at the same time points toward the main amp.

BTW, Scott, how would one reset the amp? I did unplug everything and let things sit for a while, but I think you have something else in mind, though I don't see any reset options. Nice though it is, this Marantz has very few this-way or that-way options to it, other than two filter settings and treble and bass tone controls, which I never use. I make those changes, when needed, with my hearing aid program, which is much more precise.

My guess? Some piece of hardware inside the amp (a filter or something) went bad. The unit is about nine years old.

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Electrolytic capacitor/s failed in the amp, perhaps? - requiring changeout.

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Larry, do you have a menu option you can dig into? I have one on my Emotiva preamp that allows all kinds of silly adjustments/tweaks. And one of the tabs has an option simply labeled "reset". If I choose that, it resets everything to factory settings, powers off, and back on. 

 

The reason I mention this is because about once a year, my preamp will simply stop sending a signal through my sub pre-out. The only way I have found to remedy it is to do a reset. Now, keep in mind, I change nothing FROM the factory preset. No tone controls, noting at all. But, the reset does something magical that gets everything back in line, regardless. 

That amp is too new and too expensive to have such a critical failure, though anything is possible. 

Edited by Scott Dolan

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8 hours ago, sidewinder said:

Electrolytic capacitor/s failed in the amp, perhaps? - requiring changeout.

That's the sort of thing I'm thinking. The unit is about eight years old and has gotten heavy use.

5 hours ago, Scott Dolan said:

Larry, do you have a menu option you can dig into? I have one on my Emotiva preamp that allows all kinds of silly adjustments/tweaks. And one of the tabs has an option simply labeled "reset". If I choose that, it resets everything to factory settings, powers off, and back on. 

 

The reason I mention this is because about once a year, my preamp will simply stop sending a signal through my sub pre-out. The only way I have found to remedy it is to do a reset. Now, keep in mind, I change nothing FROM the factory preset. No tone controls, noting at all. But, the reset does something magical that gets everything back in line, regardless. 

That amp is too new and too expensive to have such a critical failure, though anything is possible. 

Thanks again, Scott. I'll take a look.

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6 hours ago, Scott Dolan said:

Larry, do you have a menu option you can dig into? I have one on my Emotiva preamp that allows all kinds of silly adjustments/tweaks. And one of the tabs has an option simply labeled "reset". If I choose that, it resets everything to factory settings, powers off, and back on. 

 

The reason I mention this is because about once a year, my preamp will simply stop sending a signal through my sub pre-out. The only way I have found to remedy it is to do a reset. Now, keep in mind, I change nothing FROM the factory preset. No tone controls, noting at all. But, the reset does something magical that gets everything back in line, regardless. 

That amp is too new and too expensive to have such a critical failure, though anything is possible. 

Thanks again, Scott. I'll take a look.

P.S. Don't see any menu or reset options.

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My pleasure, brother. Wish you lived around the corner. I'm sure between the two of us we could troubleshoot far easier in person. 

Have you tried a different set of speakers?  I'm very interested in completely ruling out your speakers with a physical test. Because if you take it in for repair, that'll be one of the first questions asked, I'm sure. 

Edited by Scott Dolan

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To me it sounds as if it could be dying capacitors. . . and amps these days are built so that things may fail a bit after warranty, sadly.

It could also be speaker damage. . .surrounds becoming too aged or cones damaged. I've heard speakers sound "garbled" like this when they were overdriven long enough. If someone was cranking your stereo Larry you'd probably know about it . . . but it's a possibility to investigate by trying another pair.

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Yeah, I'm leaning towards a failing capacitor, as well. 

I found the specs for this amp, and it has an output of 90watts @8ohms/140watts @4ohms. I'm not aware of any B&W speakers that couldn't handle that, and with plenty of breathing room left. Not to mention Larry would have had the cops at his door pretty quick if it were being cranked with that much juice. ;) 

I realize some companies have cut corners in recent years, but I still find it incredible that a mid-level Marantz would experience this type of failure, as relatively "young" as it is. Stranger things have happened, I guess. 

Edited by Scott Dolan

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1 hour ago, Scott Dolan said:

I realize some companies has cut corners in recent years, but I still find it incredible that a mid-level Marantz would experience this type of failure, as relatively "young" as it is. Strange things have happened, I guess. 

This is not a mid-level Marantz integrated amp. This model is in their reference series.

Larry - just for the heck of it, when this garbling sound is happening, press several of the front panel buttons to turn on and off the Tone settings, turn on & off the speakers, press the ATT button to mute and un-mute the amp and the ILL button to turn on & off the display light. Maybe you have a sticky switch? I'm hoping on of these will clean it up.

Also, for the heck of it, are you using a power strip? Is anything else plugged into the outlet adding hash to the AC feed? These digital amps can do weird things if lots of noise gets onto the AC feed. Can you plug it into another outlet? Maybe a filtered outlet?

BTW, how are the speakers connected - bare wire or bananas? If you have extra speaker wire around, try swapping that in. Some speaker wire oxidizes with age and eventually could get very resistive. This one is a long shot in my book.

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You've ruled out the hearing aids, then?

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Good stuff, Kevin. I was hoping you'd pop in. This is more in your wheelhouse than mine. 

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1 hour ago, Kevin Bresnahan said:

This is not a mid-level Marantz integrated amp. This model is in their reference series.

Larry - just for the heck of it, when this garbling sound is happening, press several of the front panel buttons to turn on and off the Tone settings, turn on & off the speakers, press the ATT button to mute and un-mute the amp and the ILL button to turn on & off the display light. Maybe you have a sticky switch? I'm hoping on of these will clean it up.

Also, for the heck of it, are you using a power strip? Is anything else plugged into the outlet adding hash to the AC feed? These digital amps can do weird things if lots of noise gets onto the AC feed. Can you plug it into another outlet? Maybe a filtered outlet?

BTW, how are the speakers connected - bare wire or bananas? If you have extra speaker wire around, try swapping that in. Some speaker wire oxidizes with age and eventually could get very resistive. This one is a long shot in my book.

Thanks for the ideas. Already did all the things you mentioned in paragraph 2. I run everything through a Tripp-Lite line conditioner. Speakers are connected by bananas. Again, though, if it's a speaker wire problem, why would it suddenly affect both speakers in the same way at the same time?

If I close my eyes, I can just "see" that malfunctioning capacitor.

What I'm going to do is take the amp back to the place in Chicago where I've bought all my equipment. They say they'll check it out. Then, if it has any trade-in value, or maybe even if it doesn't, I'll probably get a new Marantz amp, thinking that there must have been lots of improvements over the course of nine years. BTW, I sat down and figured out that over nine years my old amp cost me 60 cents/day.

1 hour ago, JSngry said:

You've ruled out the hearing aids, then?

Yes, because the sound through headphones (which runs through the amp's separate headphone preamp), is just as it should be.

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DACs continually improve, Larry. So if you're running digital in, you may notice a little improvement. But if you're running analog in, you may not notice any difference, to be honest. You already have an outstanding unit there. 

And by mid-level I was simply speaking to the price point. It wasn't meant to downplay what you have. My apologies for not being more careful in my wording. 

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Scot --  It is/was a very good amp, but it also was not at all their top -level amp.

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2 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

 

Yes, because the sound through headphones (which runs through the amp's separate headphone preamp), is just as it should be.

Not yet wearing hearing aids myself, this is a serious question - do you keep them on while listening through headphones?

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1 hour ago, Larry Kart said:

Scot --  It is/was a very good amp, but it also was not at all their top -level amp.

Their Reference Series is their top of the line. There is an Reference Series integrated amp with more power (PM-10), but it is still in the same series. http://us.marantz.com/us/Products/Pages/ProductListing.aspx?CatId=ReferenceSeries

FWIW, I have a Marantz PM7005 integrated in use in one of my audio listening areas, actually the one I use most often, and it's been great. I don't think you need to pay the extra money to get into their Reference Series. The PM7005 or PM8005 are excellent amps.

Edited by Kevin Bresnahan

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2 hours ago, JSngry said:

Not yet wearing hearing aids myself, this is a serious question - do you keep them on while listening through headphones?

Coming out of lurkdom because "gargly" is a pretty good descriptor of the high-frequency musical sounds I'm hearing with the hearing aids I've been trying out (and am finding unacceptable as a result). So Larry, I have the same question re whether your hearing aids are in or out while listening through headphones. If they are out, that keeps open the possibility that the hearing aids are the culprit.

Edited by riddlemay

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2 hours ago, Kevin Bresnahan said:

Their Reference Series is their top of the line. There is an Reference Series integrated amp with more power (PM-10), but it is still in the same series. http://us.marantz.com/us/Products/Pages/ProductListing.aspx?CatId=ReferenceSeries

FWIW, I have a Marantz PM7005 integrated in use in one of my audio listening areas, actually the one I use most often, and it's been great. I don't think you need to pay the extra money to get into their Reference Series. The PM7005 or PM8005 are excellent amps.

Reminds me of the VSX and Elite series from Pioneer. 

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6 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

That's the sort of thing I'm thinking. The unit is about eight years old and has gotten heavy use.

10 years for electrolytics requiring a changeout would be about right.

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