I realize this thread is somewhat dated. However, both receivers are still available as clearance models. I am looking to upgrade my Marantz SR6004 and came across this discussion. I recently bought the Sherwood R-972.
Simply comparing 2 channel music using the "Pure Direct" mode (Marantz) against the Sherwood's "Pure Audio" (essentially the same mode), they sound nothing alike... at all. All other components and music were the same, and I matched the sound pressure level. Again, they sound completely different. Whether it's the digital to analog processing or something else, anyone with decent hearing could easily discern the differences.
In summary, my impression are as follows:
The Sherwood has a tighter soundstage and more focused imaging. It is also quicker and more detailed through all octaves. Bass is more controlled, mid-range is clearer, and the high frequencies have more air. Other descriptive words are clinical, lean, dry, and even a tad bright.
The Marantz has a larger soundstage and imaging is less precise. The sound is much fuller and laid back. Bass and mid-range are thicker and the highs slightly less present.
It may sound as if I found the Marantz to be inferior. In fact, I thought it was more musical....although, I did like the speed and articulation of the Sherwood. The choice would depend upon listener preferences and the associated speakers (i.e. faster speakers such as electrostatics should mate better with the Marantz, conventional speakers with smoother treble may pair better with the Sherwood). Again, this is my opinion of these two receivers. I have never spent significant time comparing different model class AB amplifiers while using the same preamp.
Being not completely satisfied with either receiver, I've ordered the SR7005 in the hope that it will sound like SR6004 but with more precision.
I intend to post an update within the next couple weeks.