Marantz SA-1 CD Players

SA-1

Super Audio CD player

User Reviews (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6  
Daninthemix   AudioPhile [Jan 21, 2003]
Strength:

ambience, atmosphere, emotion - the SA-1 will never be the weak point in your system

Weakness:

the assumption that you will be putting SACDs rather than CDs in, and consequently a second or two delay when putting discs in for the player to read the TOC.

I like SA-1 a lot, although I use it almost exclusively for CDs (not SACDs). I find it slightly annoying that it assumes you are going to use SACD, then after a brief squint at the disc realises it is normal CD, then clicks the relays over to the CD path. Very small point though. The short answer is I don't think you'll ever need another CD player once you have this, as some other part of your system will ALWAYS be the bottleneck - or more often than not, the discs themselves. I proved this by simply changing my speaker cable and gained a massive increase in presence and clarity. If the rest of your system actually matches SA-1, you have a very special system indeed!!! Strongest points are warmth, presence, ambience, emotion - very good at giving you a window to the emotion of a recording. I use it with Marantz PM-14mkII KI Signature amp, and Kef Reference 201 speakers. ICs are Kimber KCAG (balanced), and speaker cable is Kimber 8TC.

Similar Products Used: Marantz CD-17KI Meridian 508 Linn CD12
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
melhsu   AudioPhile [May 30, 2002]
Strength:

larger than life ambiance.. natural and smooth high, larger than life dynamic contrast.. warmth.

Weakness:

transparency.. structural frames and outlines could be a bit solidier.

First of all, SA-1 is reverberant with a larger than life ambiance. The best ambiamce i've herad! Secondly, Every disc that I've tried with SA-1 brings out the most dynamic lower end I've heard from other CDPs... A tendency to lower the volume at high frequency and boost the lower end bass is very noticable to me... ( don't know if anyone ever mention this). I sense a greater dynamic contrast from this player all the time especially with CDs that have dinamic bottom ends. Thirdly, sweet and natural high frequecy is much better than 777es, which is not bad at high frequency all.. 777es is smooth, but SA-1 is smooth and organic at this region. The very best high frequency I've herad regardless of price.. A slight hardness at mid-range sometimes. Nothing is perfect, and I am not absolutely sure about this. A softer frames and outlines may contribute to a somewhat "indirect" presentation(not as straight forward). But the strong and reverberant ambiance adds the excitment into music... Above are for both CD and SACD, and only that SACD has a better organic texture and stronger lower end... weakness is transparency. A bit more detail is possible but not necessary according to my taste. I sold the player because i don't like to wait forever for new SACD titles... If you like the reverberant ambiance from this player, i don't think anyone can find a better performer... At the price I paid for it, a five star...

Similar Products Used: SACD: 777es, ce775 CD: AR CD2, Meridian 508.24, MSB platinum etc...
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
Carl   AudioPhile [Apr 01, 2002]
Strength:

Excellent SACD sound. Gives the impression of good build quality.

Weakness:

Decent, but not very good CD sound. Noisy drawer mechanism. Mediocre to non-excistent service/customer management.

I ordered my SA-1 last spring. When I finally received the machine after months of waiting in early June, I was immediately thrilled by the superb SACD sound. In comparison with good quality CD, the highs were smooth and clear, the bass very solid and extended. Although standard PCM sound seemed to be lacking something the best PCM players have, I was very happy with the product. Thats when the truble begun. Having had the machine for 6 weeks, it suddenly started rejecting discs. It was not able to get the TOC, and displayed an error message "Can''t read". First I thought that there was a disc specific problem, but over the next weeks the problem intensified and was clearly not dependent on the CDs or SACDs I was feeding to it. Having described the problem to my local Marantz dealer the machine went in for service. I got it back in six weeks. They had not managed to find anything specifically wrong with it, but said that there have been related problems with other players using the same mechanism. The cure, I was told, was to order a fix kit from Marantz. Waiting for the fix I retained the machine and continued listening. Superb sound when functioning. Unfortunately the read problems kept intensifying, and took the fun out of listening. On average every fifth disc was rejected several times before being accepted. On discs that the machine submitted to, a new problem arouse. It didn''t obey the controls. Pushing play, nothing happened. The machine was stuck. The only way to continue was to boot the machine by turning the power off/on. While I was becoming more and more annoyed by the malfunctions, neither my dealer nor Marantz managed to come up with any solutions. Finally in January this year, we agreed that I return the SA-1, and get my money back. I''m very upset by the way a well respected company like Marantz handeled this issue. The service and attitude were definately not up to the standard one expects when handling 7 grand CD players. Marantz is unfortunately still only a mass market MidFi actor. I now have an Accuphase DP-85. SACD sound is somewhat better than SA-1, but the real difference is in PCM. The 24/196 upsampling really does it. And of course - it doesn''t do any tricks...

Similar Products Used: Sony SCD 777 ES, Bow Wizzard, Accuphase DP-85
OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
4
mike lavigne   Audiophile [Aug 17, 2000]
Strength:

in sacd mode the best source i have heard on every aspect. good cd sound. beautifully built.

Weakness:

noisy drawer mechanism. remote won't open drawer. iec plug has no ground.

i recently upgraded my cd source from a levinson 37/36s to a linn cd-12. as i am a levinson guy i wanted to like the the levinson 30.6/31.5 combo better than the linn but it was not close imho. i also listened to the top wadia and the dcs elgar/972 upsampling combo but again the linn cd-12 was clearly better. i then concluded that in digital, the right 1 box solution would probably equal or surpass the swiss army knife approach of a do all dac and multiple transports. i wanted an sacd player and listened to the sony scd-1 3 different times at a local dealer. two design problems with the sony were the access times and the top loading design; my gear is next to my listening seat and i enjoy reaching over to switch discs without having to get up. the sony sounded great compared to the top of line krell gear at the dealer, but the difference was not as dramatic as i thought sacd could be. other issues with the sony were lack of a truly balanced design (i must admit the linn isn't either) and a feeling that the first machine to market might not take enough advantage of the design oppertunities sacd presents. then i heard about the marantz sa-1. it was a truly balanced design. marantz, while being percieved as a mid-fi company in this country, in japan is definitly high end, and much more likely to "do it right" than sony. the design of the dacs and analogue output sections sounded a little more high end to me than what i understood the sony to be. also, access times were like a typical cd player. so....i ordered the marantz. i have had it about 2 months. out of the box i was a little disappointed, there was some sacd magic but it did not bowl me over. it was sounding a little closed in and forward ,detailed but not natural. at that point the sony sounded a little better. on some discs the linn sounded better on cd. after about a week it started to open up, the bass deepened and quickened, the treble smoothed out, the music literally came alive. over the next 3 weeks it continued to noticably improve. the best way for me to describe the sound of the marantz sa-1 now is on an emotional level. it puts me in touch with the music. on my system in my room, the marantz reveals more information from the source and renders it in a believable way than anything i have heard. i don't percieve it as pieces but as a whole piece, if it is recorded naturally. if it is multi-miked or pieced together it will be revealed. i feel the music is personal and real. up to this time 45rpm vinyl has been the best source i have heard. the marantz improves on all 45rpm's strengths and eliminates the negatives. on "kind of blue"s openning cut "so what" miles' horn is totally real appearing in my room to a degree only hinted at on 45rpm vinyl. forgive me if i have not given enough audoiphile verbage and specific sonic checklist of virtues. as to the sony i feel the marantz sounds better to me and just takes sacd further than the sony. more detail, more dynamic, more live sounding; not dramaticly better but better. clearly, i am not totally objective and have not heard them side by side. the cd performance of the marantz is good--about on par with the levinson 37/36s combo. it is not in the class of the linn, but then no other 16/44 device is that i have heard. i own 2500 cds, therefore the majority of my digital listening will be with the linn, which for my listening priorities comes closest to the magic of sacd. both the marantz and the linn give the music a natural kind of weight and body, along with drive and rhythm not found in other digital sources in my experience. also, both of these machines avoid sounding "etched","hi-fi",or "mechanical". for the first time in my audiophile addiction i am not thinking about any equipment additions or changes, just new music.

my system-linn cd12,king cobra v.2,trans ref xl xlr, marantz sa-1, king cobra v.2, nord quat. fil xlr,basis 2500 tt,graham 2.0 dlx, koetsu signature platinum II, xlo ref. phono cable xlr, vpi sds,(2) viper v.2, aesthetix io phono stage, king cobra v.2, xlo limited xlr, levinson #32 preamp, synergistic desg. ref. sq.,ps600 , synergistic desg. ref. sq., levinson 33h, trans ref. xlss speaker cable, wilson watt/puppy 6, black diamond racing cones, shelf, walker tuning kit, hi-def links, shakti stones, zoethecus racks.

Similar Products Used: sony scd-1, linn cd-12, levinson 30.6/31.5
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
YMK Tang   Audiophile [Sep 24, 2000]
Strength:

An entirely new dimension and paradigm in naturalism sonic realism, and aliveness in conveying musical performance

Weakness:

Current shipments totally sold out in many places. Software is still expensive & not stocked in many stores. Range is limited, but growing fast.

CD players & sofware have been improving dramatically in the last few years, and mid-priced players no longer sound harsh and dead as before. Good players like the Bow zz-8 or Naim CDS2 manage to sound more smooth and musical than ever before, especially tweaked with A/C & vibration treatments, noticeably closer to the benchmark of vinyl/analog.

But SACD through the Marantz SA-1 brings sonic realism to an entirely different level than any CD player could. I listen mostly to classical & jazz recordings. On the best CD playback, each musical instrument ranging from the oboe, cello, piano sound the same - more homogenous/mundane, more electronic/synthesized, more CD-like. However with SACD through the Marantz, I hear the distinct tonal flavours of each instrument very clearly portrayed and delineated. Clarinets sound starkly different from Violins, which sound different from trumpets etc. Like Colour TV compared to Monochrome TV.

The second overwhelming difference is in the dynamic presence and impact of the musical performance. CDs are always like listening to an electronic portrayal of music performance: you never ever mistake it for reality. However, with SACDs, I continually feel deeply shocked by the PRESENCE of instruments at particular points in the music. "GOODNESS, that sounded like the impact of real piano was in here! The bite of that violin gesture felt like I was in the first row! That clarinet solo sounded eerily like it were floating in the room."

I have never heard these qualities from CD, and I have had a veritable parade of digital stars contending with the Marantz in my listening room. 24/96 DADs through the MUSE combo was much more detailed and analog than CDs, but did not seem to approach the Marantz's realism.

But if you have lots of CDs, they do sound as good on the Marantz (with its smooth, palpable presentation) as expensive machines like the Bow zz8 or Naim CDS2, and significantly better than mid-priced favourites like the EMC-1 & Meridian 508.24

The Marantz also reveals more of the miraculous realism of SACD than the Sony 777ES, but then Sony does not have the Marantz's dual differential output stage with 8 discrete HDAM amplifiers. Still the 777ES will still bowl you over with the wonders of SACD at an unbelievable deal of 4X less the Marantz's price.

Any audiophile with a passion for music, but without the patience for vinyl, needs to try an SACD machine at home. It is likely to change your listening paradigm. I thought of waiting for more software to be available before buying into the SACD format, but then, I have already endured the limitations of 16/44 for eighteen years, and want to enjoy the realism that SACDs bring during in the remaining years while my ears still work properly!

Similar Products Used: Sony 777ES, Bow ZZ 8, DADs on Muse 8/296, Mark Levinson 360S, Naim CDS2, Meridian 508.24, Electrocompaniet EMC-1
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Peter Earnshaw   Audiophile [Nov 17, 2000]
Strength:

On SACDs - unquestionably the very best digital audio I've ever heard. Warm yet clear, natural and powerful yet unforced.

Weakness:

2-channel only. The prototype was multi-channel, why not the release player?

I heard the prototype SA-1 at the 1999 London Hi-Fi show, at the Novotel in Hamersmith. When I wandered into the cramped and tiny demo room it was empty except for a few seats and a tired-looking Japanese executive in the corner politely smiling at anyone who dared set foot inside. Cheap Tannoy bookshelf speakers were sat either side of the SA-1 prototype (which was just a CD player as far as I knew at the time) and a battleship-build Marantz integrated AV amp, finished in Champagne Gold. Since this was obviously not a high-end, whiz-bang demo with huge amps and speakers I nearly turned around and walked out immediately as had, no doubt, most of the other visitors that day (a trade-only day). But I felt sorry for the Japanese man with no visitors and decided to stay a couple of minutes just to be polite and pretend to listen to his demonstration.

The tracks being played were on an unlabelled orchestral SACD, and obviously recorded specially for demonstration purposes. Almost from the moment the orchestra started playing I knew I was hearing something very special. In fact, my initial assumption was that I was listening to the recently-reviewed (at the time) top-of-the-line Marantz CD player, the CD-7 , and I was gob smacked that a regular CD player could sound as good as the one I was listening to. As my own equipment at home is decidedly high-end (dCS Elgar/Purcell, Jeff Rowland pre/power, Wilson speakers, Transparent cables) I was annoyed that a single-box CD player could sound that much better, especially with a cheap set of bookshelf speakers and an integrated AV amp driving them.

As the track continued and the hairs rose at the back of my neck I started to suspect something was not right. The CD-7 was very favourably reviewed by Martin Colloms in “Hi-Fi News & Record Review” magazine and my memory of the pictures in that magazine did not *quite* match up to the front panel of the SA-1. So I started to wonder what it was… perhaps an even-higher-end CD player than the CD-7…. but then just lost myself in the music.

In general, what irritates me about CD is that it isn’t all there. It’s just a facsimile of real music, obviously so, even with the most expensive high-end equipment. Mind you, I love the convenience, durability, and so on, but it’s taken a long time for me to get close to a CD-playing system I can really enjoy, despite the format’s inherent limitations. All CD players I’ve heard – including some extremely expensive and complicated models, and including (sorry to say) my own Elgar/Purcell combo - present a grey, two-dimensional view of music. Sure, they go deep, or have loads of detail, or throw a wide soundstage, all those hi-fi attributes…. but the real shimmering tone of, say, a Violin played right in front of you, the thrill of a real maestro playing with passion….. somehow, regrettably, not there. My Elgar gets tantalisingly close, as if it’s as good as 16/44 will ever get, but not quite close enough.

With the SA-1 prototype, richness and reality returned. I heard *real* warmth; not sickly, syrupy warmth which masks detail and rhythm, just the natural warmth of instruments playing as they should. I heard a deep soundstage painted wide across that tiny, cramped room. It made me relax and really listen and enjoy the phrasing, conduction, almost the playing of each instrument as it contributed to the whole orchestra. Forget the hi-fi attributes like depth of bass and tonal precision… these were, after all, cheap Tannoy bookshelf speakers…. but still far more enjoyable and listenable than any other digital source I’d ever heard. In a word, stunning.

As the track I was listening to came to a close, the audience started to clap. This gave me major league goose bumps as they sounded so incredibly real, and were suddenly clapping *behind* me. Yes, I’d been listening to a multi-channel SACD. The contribution of the rear channels, also bookshelf Tannoy speakers which I’d failed to notice, was extremely subtle as I listened to the track itself, but had made me feel part of the performance, really flowing with the music. The audience response was a total surprise.

Enthusiastically I tried to ask questions about what I now know is the SA-1 (the front panel was identical on the prototype to the pictures of the SA-1 I’ve seen in Stereophile and elsewhere). How much? Didn’t know what they’d be charging for it. When released? Didn’t know that either. What was it? Multi-channel SACD…….

This is the future of digital audio as far as I’m concerned. For audiophiles everywhere, if that degree of warmth-with-clarity and unforced musical realism is possible with DSD, then I’m a convert. Regardless of the two-channel versus multi-channel argument…. Except that the release SA-1 appears to be two-channel only (*shame* on you Marantz) and therefore hamstrung until an SA-2 is released that can output the other channels too. The SACD format allows for multi-channel recording, and people are obviously making use of it, so why did they restrict it to 2 channel only?? Pity.

At the same show Sony were hurrying through demos of their SCD-1 and the difference between CD and SACD on a dual-layer SACD. Taking great pains to dispel any rumours that dual-layer SACDs won’t play on “regular” CD players by taking an SACD and playing it through a small (Sony) boom box. Their demo was in stark contrast to the Marantz demo, with ushers shepherding people in and out, controlled presentations that lasted a strict 15 minutes, and lots of advertising. Unfortunately using Sony pre/power amps and obelisk-shaped speakers, whilst it was plain to hear the difference between SACD and CD layers of their test SACD, with SACD clearly better and more detailed, both of them sounded sterile and bland. Certainly by comparison with the Marantz, which was lush, realistic and detailed. Perhaps in another system the SCD-1 can shine….

A Pioneer demo of a prototype DVD-Audio player running at 24/192 was similarly bland and disappointing. I failed to generate enthusiasm for either DVD-A or SACD from these two demos, and had it not been for the Marantz demo would have written off all new digital formats as a waste of time…. The key point here is: listen to these in your own system!

So there you go. The Marantz is unquestionably excellent, probably the best you can currently buy for playing SACDs, and likely to be extremely good with regular CDs as well.

But I *won’t* be buying one…. because it won’t do DVD-A and isn’t multi-channel.

Whilst I fully expect to listen to stereo music the vast majority of the time, I don’t want to miss out on the truly excellent multi-channel recording I heard that day, and any that follow. Plus I just don’t want to have two boxes cluttering up my rack, when you only really need one.

Fortunately for me I just have to wait until a universal transport becomes available, and plug it into the Elgar, which I *know* will sound superb playing DSD material. It’s been a long wait…. but, since there is almost NO software anywhere, I guess we’re all in the same boat.

<< -- As an aside, would you really want to spend another £25 Sterling for a copy of “Kind of Blue” on SACD, knowing that it’s just another back catalogue rip-off? After all, they must *surely* have made enough money out of that album by now on LP, CD, cassette, Minidisc, so why charge so much for it just because it’s on SACD? Shades of the CD rip-off once again, I’m afraid…… but that’s another story. -- >>

If you own a Marantz SA-1, then my congratulations to you. You now own one of the finest pieces of audio equipment it’s been my pleasure to hear. If you own an Sony SCD-1, please tell me it sounds as good in your system as the reviewers think, because I’ve yet to hear it sounding like SACD should anywhere else. But that’s Sony’s fault for not investing in some good amps and speakers!

Similar Products Used: Sony SCD-1, dCS Elgar/Purcell
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
Showing 1-6 of 6  

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