I bought this product looking for the ultimate in CD reproduction... Having previously owned the Marantz SA-1, which developed an incurable intermittant fault of sudden burts of distortion, I decided on the SA7s1 as its replacement. The SA-1 is a fabulous player, thoroughly musically enjoyable, and giving also a lot of excitement from it's realism with the right material. i.e. good quality recordings... Upon purchasing the SA7s1 - for a very hefty amount - I couldn't help feeling a pride of ownership due to the beautiful finish & heavy, solid construction. I also like the champagne gold colour... How did it sound. Well, first impressions were of a very big warm sound, slightly soft, but powerful. Huge bass, which is very powerful, with good 'wallop '! A word here about this: In spite of it's very solid construction & weight (about 25 kilos), the SA7s1 is it's own worst enemy, because of this very powerful bass, you MUST have it mounted on a VERY solid support, and I'm talking about something like a 6 inch thick slab of granite sitting on a steel-framed wallshelf, screwed to a two foot thick solid stone wall... OK. I'm exaggerating slightly- but not much - If you don't do this, & stand it on a sideboard or something, you will get a bloated wallowing, indistinct, overblown bass, due to structural feedback, that will spoil your listening. Get it right & you will have a punchy deep bass sound...
The midrange is sweet & detailed, and the treble well balanced, if a little soft... You can choose from 3 different filters for CD & 3 for SACD... The sound I have described so far is for CD, as although the SACD sound is excellent, I hardly used it because of the limited choice of material... I have diverse tastes, and most of what I want to listen to is not available on SACD...
OK, now for the downsides... What don't I like about it, & why did I sell it on..? First, you have to wonder where the large amount of dosh you spent went..? Look inside & you see a large PCB full of tiny weeny components, a few large electrolytic capacitors, and the drive... A lot of the space on that PCB is taken up with the six different filters, FIVE of which are not being used at any given time... These filters are quite useful in fact... They can help to balance your system as they sound different tonally. No. 1 is the brightest, and sharpest; No. 3 the softest... You also have some other choices concerning feedback, which help too... Although this can create paranoia, if you can't decide which settings are best... I think a lot of the money has gone into the solid build quality & development of this thing... The component quality & count certainly don't have the wonder of an old Pioneer PD75 for example - crammed full choc a block with goodies... There's a lot of air inside...
Onto the drive... With every CD player I've owned, including the SA-1, I want to be able, and WAS able to periodically clean the laser lens... Obviously performance deteriorates if this begins to cloud up like a living room window does... So, a quick wipe with the appropriate cleaning fluid & a cotton bud will be an easy yearly task, and keeps the sound quality at it's correct level... Oh no... I'm afraid not...! Upon dismantling the top of the drive to gain access to the lens, in the usual manner, I came upon a sealed container, impossible to open, without a crowbar, after serious examination, and scrutiny, so I left well alone... So how do I clean it then...? Don't tell me it doesn't need it... The CD can get in there, and so can AIR, so it WILL eventually fog.... Reading the manual, you will discover that Marantz do not recommend the use of those laser lens cleaning CD's, so that's out... It was then that it dawned on me... Of course.. You can afford to buy one of these things, so you're a millionaire... Of course... A millionaire would have his bulter run it back to the shop where it came from, and have them send it away to the Marantz service centre... He would then watch television for a few weeks instead of listening to music, or play golf or something, and then resume listening after having sent James to get it, and pay the bill.... How wonderful... only, I'm not a millionaire, and I bought it to listen to... I used a cheap cleaning CD...
Overall, after a year or so, I tired of the SA71, as I found it to be too restrained for my taste, it never quite seemed to let go & boogie... You can sit back in wonder at the sound, but I didn't find it as musically involving as the older SA-1, which is now long in the tooth, and very hard to find... I replaced it with a LEEMA Antila, which beats SA7s1 musically, for me... I also don't have to worry about that giant ingot sitting there when I go out, or what my friends would say if they knew I'd blown 7500 euros on a CD player... My excuse is that that is how much music is important to me... Some people pay 3 times as much for a car, which is a lot less enjoyable... I wish I hadn't now, but hey, maybe my experiences and losses can help you... The SA7s1 is a good player, but I found it to sound like a bit of a soft ' brute ' and whilst detailed, does not have the precision allied with the enthusiastic musicality of the SA-1 or the much cheaper LEEMA... Also check out an E.A.R. Yoshino... Listen & compare, first...!
Buy if you like it & can afford it!
Associated equipment: Cabasse Altura Bahia speakers, KEF reference 203, Epos M22, JM Lab 918. Amps: Unison Research UNICO SE, Copland CSA14, Siemel TU10/TA20, Marantz PM17 'M', AA Puccini. Cables: Van den Hul. Music: Progressive Rock/ Light Rock/ Pop Rock/ Folk
Truth be told, despite Marantz’s legendary status as a hi-fi pioneer, I never considered them a “true” audiophile brand. Every product I heard from them up until the SA-1 CD/SACD player left me a little ambivalent—definitely good stuff, and mostly good value, but not nearly what I’d call state of the art. Snobbish? Maybe. But that’s how I heard it at the time.
But that impression started to change dramatically with the SA-1. Despite a few quirks, it was a tremendously involving player with overall extremely impressive performance. It was then that I started to reconsider Marantz as a serious hi-fi contender. It was as close to SOTA as the company had ever been—at least with digital products—and a lot closer than most companies ever get.
With the SA-1, it was obvious that someone at Marantz was deadly serious about reestablishing the brand’s audiophile credentials. And, boy, have they hit the mark with the SA-7S1.
Mind you, I’ve owned some pretty serious CD players over the years—Wadia, Goldmund, Krell, Linn, MBL, Accuphase, EMM Labs, and most recently a HUGELY modified Esoteric X-01—as well as a few top-flight analog rigs, and the SA-7S1 is the most complete and enjoyable source I’ve ever owned.
Until the SA-7S1, my personal benchmark for digital performance was my battery-driven, extensively modded Esoteric X-01. When I was preparing for the A/B, I was pretty sure that the Esoteric was going to leave the Marantz burned and mangled at the side of the road. How couldn’t it? I mean, battery supplies, a world-class clock and power supply, great internal wiring—totally custom—versus a bone-stock player from a company, until recently, more known for mid-fi products. I was afraid that it was going to be like putting Waldo, from Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” video, up against a 19-year-old Mike Tyson. :)
Well, consider me speechless when the SA-7 not only hung with the Esoteric, but actually beat it in many areas. The X-01 *might* have had a very slight edge in see-through transparency, but the Marantz was its superior in terms of fluidity, overall involvement and enjoyability, bass weight, dimensionality, soundstaging, and, most importantly, *musical* transparency—i.e., the ability to disappear as a sound source and leave just the music.
In fact, in this latter regard, I have yet to hear a player that can match the SA-7S1. Its ability to simply vanish into the music and involve the listener in the experience is without peer, IMO. With most players, and most audio components in general, the music disappears into the player, which inevitably places the sonic character of said player ahead of the music. Not so with the Marantz. It’s totally and utterly at the service of the music, which makes it special in a market dominated by “Hey, look at me, look at what I can do” products. One can listen to this thing totally without fatigue for hours on end. But here’s the truly special part: It can provide that type of stress-free listening without *any* rolling off of the frequency extremes, blurring of transients, diminishment of resolution, or other sonic compromises. It may not be the ne plus ultra in every category—no product is, no matter how expensive—but it’s damn close in most.
Mind you, in the audiophile world, the word “subjective” rules. Everyone’s opinion of what constitutes the absolute sound is different, and no product is going to satisfy everyone. I know people who have been unimpressed with the SA-7S1, and feel it doesn’t justify all the praise it’s received. That’s cool. I don’t expect universal accolades. Not in this hobby! But, to my ears, and in my system, the Marantz SA-7S1 is as good as I’ve heard. Does it blow away every other source I’ve owned? Of course not, but it does provide a unique sense of “balance”—an impressive fusion of involvement and long-term enjoyability and the typical audiophile checklist items.
One quick word about build quality: As with most of Marantz’s Reference-level products, the build quality of the SA-7S1 is simply awesome. The first thought that came to mind when I saw it was, “A jeweler would be proud to own this thing.” Fit-and-finish is nothing short of world-class.
To summarize, the Marantz SA-7S1 is quite simply a stunning achievement in audio reproduction. It shows what a large manufacturer with huge economies of scale can accomplish when it truly wants to make a statement. Several friends of mine in the industry have said that if the ‘7 were built by a small, boutique company, it would probably cost close to, if not more than, $20,000. Considering its performance and build quality, I don’t doubt it. The price of entry ($6,500) certainly isn’t cheap, but in audiophile terms, where I’ve heard products costing more than 10 times its price not sound as good, I would consider it a stone-cold bargain. Bravo, Marantz.