SACD Players

Marantz SA-7S1 SACD Player

ARTICLE INDEX
Marantz SA-7S1 SACD Player


Introduction

Marantz has been a renown audio company for nearly half of the 20th century. Although it changed hands several times over the years, the quality never wavered from being superb. The average consumer these days may think of mass market receivers when the name Marantz is mentioned, but they also build some of the best high performance products in the consumer arena. The SA-7S1 is Marantz' top-of-the-line SACD player. It is fully balanced throughout - thus having XLR outputs along with the standard RCA unbalanced outputs - and has some of the lowest distortion bench test results I have ever measured. It sounds as smooth as satin whether playing SACDs or standard "old fashioned" CDs, and is built to make sturdy equipment racks creak when you place it on the shelf. Last, but not least, it is beautiful to look at whether it is playing or not.

Saul Marantz (1911-1997) was a classical guitarist before becoming an audio designer, and in the 1950's, when he heard a friend's hi-fi set, he decided to build his own. The first product was the Consolette Preamplifier, in 1952. Although it was successful, the company suffered some hard times, and the company was sold to Superscope in 1964, and then to Philips in 1980. In 2002, Denon and Marantz Japan merged to become D&M Holdings, which is the current situation (Philips had a stake in D&M, but sold their shares to D&M in 2008).

In the 1960's the Model 9 monoblock power amplifier and 10B FM tuner were hot items, followed by the 2200 series of receivers in the 1970's. Of course, in those days, a receiver was two-channel only. There was a brief period where four channel music was a novelty that Marantz responded to with receivers, but that died quickly. I guess we were not ready for surround sound yet. My first "high-end" component was the Marantz 2270, which was a 70 watt per channel receiver. That was a lot of power back then.

Then, we get to the 1980's, 90's, and the 21st century, where surround sound took off and is in most of our homes now. Funny that we were not ready to accept four channels back in the 1970's, but now we are talking about 7.1 surround and height channels, which would make it 9.1. There are some receivers coming soon with that feature. High resolution audio has had a difficult time, because the current generation of young people have their mp3 players with them wherever they go, and even use the attached phone once in awhile, between text messaging.

SACD is one of several high resolution formats, which includes DVD-A, and just recently, 5.1 music on Blu-ray, sampled at 24 bit - 96 kHz or 192 kHz. Sony originated the DSD format actually to archive its library of older music, and it ended up as a consumer format for new (and old) music released for sale as well.

Universal players, such as the OPPO BDP-83 and Denon DVD-A1UDCI, will play all disc types, including SACD, DVD-A, and Blu-ray, along with mp3 if you really must. I think that the generation of players arriving on the shelves which will handle everything might tempt mp3 addicts to try out some of these high resolution discs and suddenly discover what music really should sound like. Also, a company called HD Tracks has a growing catalog of 24 bit - 96 kHz stereo albums for download as FLAC files. It is only a matter of time before other companies jump into this type of high resolution album delivery method. Music production companies who shy away from releasing an album in high resolution format (DVD-A or SACD) because they don't sell enough albums to cover the production costs (making and packaging the discs), will be able to simply put the high resolution version on one of the websites that can sell it to you electronically as a download, eliminating the cost of producing hard copy versions on discs for distribution through the normal channels.

Specifications

  • Design: Two-channel SACD and CD Player
  • Outputs: Analog XLR, RCA; Digital Coax, Toslink Optical
  • DAC: NPC SM5866A5
  • MFR: 2 Hz - 50 kHz, ± 3 dB
  • THD+N: 0.0009% (SACD); 0.002% (CD)
  • Dimensions: 5.4" H x 18.1" W x 16.8" D
  • Weight: 49 Pounds
  • MSRP: $6,999 USA
  • Marantz America

The Marantz SA-7S1 is the subject of the current review. It's been around for two years and is still their flagship SACD player. A universal Blu-ray flagship player, the UD9004, is in the works, which will have an audio section derived from the SA-7S1. They are just now announcing the SA-KI-Pearl, which is part of Marantz' celebration of Ken Ishiwata's 30th year of design work with Marantz. It is priced at $2,999.99 and has a different chassis, transformer, DACs, signal path, and layout than the SA-7S1, including only RCA unbalanced outputs rather than balanced XLR.