- Jan 19, 2011
It's not an expensive device - I paid only about the equivalent of USD$300. Every minute that someone spends testing it in the factory eats significantly into Marantz's (small) profit margins. If I was running that company, I'd check as little as possible. It's probably more economical to repair one broken headphone output on an amp already sold than to test 1000 headphone outputs at the factory to find one dodgy one, and repair it anyway.
TL;DR - It doesn't make economic sense to routinely check the infrequently used features on cheap devices.
It's an inexpensive device, but if you took the components out of it and checked how much they're worth, you'd realize they're worth about 10-15 times more than the components in that Lehmann headphone amp that costs twice as much. Why is the Marantz so cheap then? Because of economics of scale. 90% of headphone amplifiers on the market are very, very small production volume items. Even stuff that is very popular here on head-fi is not very popular in the real world and most people who are into hi-fi don't know about them. On top of that, 90% of companies that make headphone amps are young companies, small companies, usually ran by people with not much experience in the industry, and the amps are build in small quantities, usually hand built by just a few people, they buy small amounts of components (buying 50 volume pots from alps is much different than buying 10,000 of them) and are heavily overpriced because of that.
That's what people don't seem to get and that's where people are so wrong. People assume that if an integrated amplifier from a big company (and every mainstream hi-fi company like Marantz, Denon, Yamaha, NAD, Onkyo, Cambridge Audio, etc. is very big compared to any headphone amp manufacturer) sells for 500 dollars it should be worse than a headphone amp that sells for 500 dollars. Why? Because the headphone amp is made exclusively for headphones and the integrated is made for speakers primarily? And what makes you think that designing an amplifier for speakers is so different than designing an amplifier for headphones? It's uses the exact same physics, exact same electrical engineering principles, usually exactly the same components (but far more of them), etc. Fact is, headphone outs on integrated amplifiers are NOT an afterthought. They pull the signal from the exact same place and use the exact same components that the speaker outputs do. So if the speaker amp portion of the device sounds good, the headphone output will sound good too. The only advantage that dedicated headphone amps have is that they have low output impedance, because they have weak outputs and don't need resistors in the chain to prevent them from blowing up the headphones like integrated amps could. But that's the thing about headamps...people (in 100% without technical knowledge) assume that they're worth more money because they're specifically made for headphones, not realizing that they're pretty much exactly the same as speaker amps, but on a smaller scale in terms of design and amount of components used. It's basically exclusivity that boosting the prices of headphone amps. You take the best headphone amp out there, if it costs 5000 dollars....a company like Marantz could make an amp with exact same performance, higher standards of build quality and quality control and sell it for less than 1000 dollars. But they don't because the market for headphone amps, believe it or not, is VERY small and it makes no sense to mass produce headphone amps that sell for more than 100-150 dollars a piece, even those don't sell as much as people on head-fi think. If you were to compare how many headphone amps are sold worldwide to how many integrated amplifiers or receivers are sold...you come to a ratio somewhere in the 1:1000 neighborhood.