Best Vintage Marantz Speakers – Tested in 2022


Marantz Imperial at home

The generalized idea is that speakers from a company that makes receivers are not very good. In the same way, great speaker manufacturers often don’t make the best headphones.

Marantz, though, made some excellent speakers. 

The older HD series was really excellent speakers and are often overlooked. They were developed by Edmund (Ed) May, formerly an engineer at JBL. 

The earlier Marantz Imperial series relied on cone-based drivers and are well respected.

Marantz from the ’60s & ’70s is highly viewed, especially the HDs, particularly the HD-88s, which I’ll talk about.

Let’s get into the best vintage Marantz speakers and see why they had some actually good units!

1. Marantz HD-88

I found a pair of Marantz HD-88 speakers a few years back and renovated them a little.

HD-88s must be fairly rare because not many said they had a pair or knew about them. Most folks were more familiar with the HD-880, a more recent version of these.

These are very big and heavy speakers. They are 41.5 inches tall, 16 inches wide, and 12 inches deep. 

They weigh about 50 lbs. each. The HD-88s were considerably larger than the next speaker in the line.

Except for the boring color of the front mousse, I find this HD88 rather good-looking and well-proportioned.

They have a pleasant walnut veneer finish on all sides. The terminals are on the footing. There’s a 12-inch woofer, a nice dome midrange, and two tweeters, one of which is a super tweeter.

If you didn’t know, HD stands for high definition:

Marantz, aka SRC in Japan, aka Superscope, employed small tricks to execute ‘high definition’: polyester hemispherical membranes and an acoustic plug permitting tilting the response between acoustic suspension and bass-reflex.

While the latter was a gimmick pioneered by Sony in 1970/71 with the ULM series, SS-7600 (the current equivalent is SS-CS5 (Amazon link)), the former composite materials proved to be the future for many.

Listening

When I completed making a new pair of grill frames and covers for my 88s, I moved them inside my room for a serious listen. 

The size must matter because these are some profound speakers! The bass response is wonderful! 

The power handling score and the frequency response plus at -3 dB are impressive. The 0.05% distortion is down to 35 Hz – also impressive! 

One thing is for sure… with the 90 dB efficiency rating and up to 300 watts input, you can make them rock! 

The bottom end was killer for its day. Mids were ok but not precise, and the high end was a little bright. 

The bonus is that they are a beautiful speaker, and they are – Marantz. That aids a bit to the impact when you have them connected to a solid Marantz receiver or amp.

2. Marantz Imperial 6

Imperial 6 was the first speaker Dawson Hadley had designed after Bart Locanthi taught his speaker design methodology to him. 

It has a paper-cone 10″ two-way with a phenolic ring (edge) cone tweeter. 

The woofer has a doped cloth surround, and all cabinet parts were of ¾” veneered particleboard. In the Audioholics lab, the Imperial 6 measured ± 1.5 dB, 60Hz to 17,000Hz

Some folks don’t fancy the cone tweeters because they don’t have as extensive extension as a fine dome tweeter, but they are very slick and non-fatiguing. 

I used to listen to the Imperial 6 all day long in between setting up other tests. Every time I listened to them, I said, “wow, these sound so GREAT.” 

The bass is flawless, very tight, and articulate. The midrange is slightly laid back, contributing to the easy-on-the-ear sound. 

Overall, the Imperial 6’s are great speakers. They can do pretty much anything right. 

Marantz marketed the Imperial 6 with the 4415 receivers, but there is no reason to believe they were “matched” in any clear way. 

In fact, with a standardized sensitivity measure of 87dB and the rather low output capability of the 4415, I feel a more sensitive speaker (low to mid-90s) might be a more suitable match.

I have a biased frame of reference, but the Marantz sounds far and away better than any of my other speakers.

I’ve read similar words from other people who say, in effect, that these speakers amazed them. Not, “well, these are not bad for 2-ways,” but more like, “holy cow, where did these come from??”

I feel like these are extremely underrated speakers, and I am going to go on a limb and say that their worth will go up as more and more people hear them.

3. Marantz HD-880

Marantz HD-880 speakers. These famous speakers were made from 1978-1980 and are considered among the finest Marantz speakers.

They were developed by legendary JBL engineer Edmond May who left JBL in 1977 and entered Marantz until he died in 1980.

During his tenure, May was free to design the finest speakers available to compliment their legendary audio reputation.

These 4-way speakers were rated as one of the best by Stereo Review in the $800-$900 range back in 1978 and are a real gem to listen to.

I expected quality when my grandpa showed me these due to the name alone (and because I’m pretty sure they weren’t from the short stretch in the 1980s when quality dropped), but these are giving me the chills every time a new song comes on.

I could notice every. single. peep. in the songs and (particularly with Pink Floyd recordings). 

It’s the strangest and coolest thing – the HD-880 only needs to be set to a comfortable listening level, and while all the sounds you’re anticipating stay right where they are, you now hear every little sound between them in flawless clarity as well.

Voices appear to cut out sooner from the absence of reverberation, the tone is 100% natural, and the totally FLAT linearity from bottom to top is second to nothing I’ve ever listened to.

The only way I can explain it is going from analog cable TV to 2160p Blu-Ray on the same size screen. 

It’s seriously that great of a difference, and these speakers cost me less than the cables and connectors I employed to wire up my theater.

4. Marantz Imperial 9

My grandparents have had a perfect pair of these for a couple of years now, and I have to say they’ve had many outstanding speakers come and go.

But my grandpa says Imperial 9’s are not going anywhere. He owned all of the rest of the Imperial line, and he says they are pretty boring compared to the early production of Imperial 9s.

He runs them with 15-watt tube monoblocks in a medium-sized living room, and they are stunning sounding. 

They dig extremely deep and do so very cleanly, the mids are smooth and non-fatiguing, and the highs are good for cheesy cone tweeters.

I’ve had their Imperial 9’s to a few audio meets (not easy to carry around), and along with some Klipschs, the Imperial 9’s were crowd favorites. 

After extensive time with many different speakers, I could listen to 9’s for hours without listening fatigue. 

The tweeters do not extend much past 18khz, but neither do the beloved EPI air springs.

They are extremely efficient. Anything you have tube-wise will drive them to wall flexing levels when it may be called for.

They truly have quite clean and flat bass down to about 20hz, -3db at about 18hz.

I’m not claiming them to be the world’s best speakers, and everyone’s tastes are different but set up correctly, they won’t disappoint. 

You may see those cheesy blue-dyed drivers embarrassing many considerably ‘better’ speakers.

Tray Fiddy

Tray has come to terms with the fact he will probably never be a famous DJ.... but that hasn't stopped him from mixing and throwing parties around the town. Tray has over 10 years experience of DJing at home and events.

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