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Behold the Marantz SA-7S1! - Page 2

post #16 of 73
As the owner of a SA11-S1, I've been curious about this player. Would love to do a side-by-side comparison one day. If my experiences with my player are anything to go by, you should find a lot to like about the SA7-S1.

Yeah, that remote... awesome. One of the best I've used (it comes with the SA11 too).

Good to see they've ditched the blue light on this player. At least they had the forethought to ensure it was defeatable on the SA11 for those who aren't into it.
post #17 of 73
Beautiful... let us know how it sounds. The champagne gold finish takes me back to the days when I lusted for a Technics DVD-A10... an eternity ago in internet years.
post #18 of 73
Gorgeous setup you got there markl. Any chance we get a pic of the guts
post #19 of 73
Absolutely Lovely!!!
post #20 of 73
Since I love my Marantz CD-7 so much, I've been thinking of getting one of these too. But I don't have enough SACDs to justify the purchase unless the redbook on SA7S1 is much better than CD-7. I believe the SA7S1 has truely balanced output as CD-7, you should try it out. I think my CD-7 sounds better balanced in my fully balanced speaker system.
post #21 of 73
Thread Starter 

The SA-7S1 is an absolute dream to operate. It responds instantaneously to all commands, loads CDs quickly, and performs all its functions far better than any other piece of digital gear I’ve ever owned. The drawer opens and closes with authority; it’s all metal and does not wobble or jiggle like the cheap plastic ones when you insert or remove a disc. In the world of high-end, we often have to settle for quirky gear that performs erratically at best. We are sort of resigned that it just comes with the territory, and that’s a shame. It’s so refreshing to get a piece that actually operates in a way commensurate with its price tag.

I’m in love with the remote. It’s heavy, sturdy, made of hard aluminum. It looks great (classy!), and feels fantastic in your hand. It’s well laid out, and the player instantly responds to your commands. What more could you want?

That said, the unit does have a few minor inconveniences. The first is that the phase inverter button is not available on the remote, you have to push the button on the unit’s front. Second, you have to stop the disc in order to switch between the various filters and other selectable items detailed above, so there’s no way to instantly A/B between them (but that's the same on my Sony, so maybe it just can't be done on-the-fly). This adds to the frustration of trying to hear the differences between them.

Speaking of the filters, after a lot of playing around, my initial feeling is that Filter 2 is preferable. It seems to be a bit sharper and crisper than the other two. The unit is so new and I am still in the process of getting a baseline, it’s kind of folly to try to detect the subtle differences between filters, but I had to pick one at the outset, and so I’ve settled on number 2, FWIW.

First Impressions Day 2
Straight away, I can tell the SA-7S1 is a very high performer. Anything that it can’t do at least as well as my RAM modified Sony XA9000ES (which I have put back in my stack so I can do A/B’s against the Marantz) falls well within the range that can be corrected by complete burn-in (except one, which I’ll point out shortly). Anecdotal reports so far indicate the SA-7S1 has a protracted burn-in period (300+ hours).

My first impression is that even without burn-in, the Marantz does about 25% of things better than my modified Sony, 50% at least as well as the Sony, and 25% not *quite* as well (but again, these fall within the range of what can be corrected through burn-in, so they are minor). I expect fully burned in, the stock Marantz will come to outperform the Sony in virtually all areas except one.

There’s no getting around it, the hot-rodded Sony simply has bigger balls than the Marantz. It’s capable of greater heft, slam and punch. The output level of the Marantz is also several db lower than the Sony; I have to turn the volume knob on my amp from 10:00 to 11:00 to get equal levels. Not that the Marantz is feeble or weak, but the Sony delivers the dynamics in a powerful way thanks to the Audio Consulting output transformers I had installed by RAM. When I have the Marantz modified, I will have the output transformers installed, so they should equalize in that department.

The Marantz outperforms the Sony in unexpected ways. I’m used to hearing blacker backgrounds, higher resolution, better dynamics, etc. when I upgrade, but the Marantz’s secret weapon is more subtle than that. The SA-7S1 is simply more revealing of subtle shifts and shading of tone than the Sony. In fact, it makes the Sony sound almost monochromatic, while the Marantz is in full glorious Technicolor.

Which is not to say that the SA-7S1 is *colored*-- it’s not. It’s surprisingly neutral which is why it allows all the instruments to sound more distinct and more like themselves. As I wrote earlier, because of the HDAMs, I was expecting the stock player to be kinda mushy and warm and fuzzy, maybe even soft-focus, but it’s not. OK, there is a *touch* of extra warmth, but it is the kind of thing that can easily dissipate with burn-in. The Marantz is incredibly resolving, but not in a shove-it-under-your-nose intrusive way. It took me until today to realize that it’s even more resolving than my Sony, even though it seems so much more subtle and natural. I’m hearing all kinds of things I’ve never heard before. It’s a champ at making sense of complex mixes with dozens of separate audio tracks. Each element holds together and remains intact. If you choose to, you can follow any instrument or element in the mix all the way through and it won’t get lost or buried, smeared or garbled.

I think one of the reasons the player seems more subtle is that it makes the Sony sound almost compressed dynamically like a modern CD, so that smaller sounds are a LOT smaller on the Marantz, but still fully audible and complete. In fact, that’s a great analogy-- the Marantz sounds like an old Japan first pressing CD with all it’s dynamic range intact and a slightly warm, but generally unfutzed-with sound, while the Sony comes across as a more in-your-face, compressed and EQ-tweaked remaster. I’m exaggerating the differences, but you get the idea.

The noise floor on the Marantz is very very low, the background is quite black, but not pitch black as on my Sony. Again, this falls well within the range that can be corrected with burn-in, and obliterated altogether by mods.

The Marantz is incredibly clean (but not clinical like the Krell SACD Standard for example) and “un-digital” sounding. It revealed some grain inherent in my Sony I had not noticed before. Some gear can overly smooth things out in a clearly artificial fashion; the Marantz just lets it flow in a natural, liquid way. In my listening notes when A/B-ing, I wrote that the Marantz almost makes the Sony sound slightly “transistor-y” and mechanical. By eliminating that artificiality, the Marantz lets you get more lost in the illusion that you are listening to an actual performance rather than a recording. I dread that awful and almost useless word “musical”, but the Marantz is probably more “musical” than the Sony, which sounds more “Hi-Fi”.

On Music Direct’s page for the SA-7S1, it trumpets the player’s “unfatiguing” sound. That to me can actually be a red flag. That can be code for “boring” and “dull”, or even (gasp!) rolled off in the high frequencies. But the Marantz pulls off that near impossible trick of giving you that dizzying high-end extension without hurting your ears. IME, the only way to achieve this is by making the treble response immaculately clean and free from etching, grain, or grit. You only ever really seem to get this with the best (and more expensive) gear. The Marantz treble goes up, up, up, but inexplicably does not assault the ears. Nice. There is, however, a slight twinge of sugary sweetness to the highs, but it’s easily forgivable.

But that easy-going nature doesn’t come completely free. Electric guitars, for example, just aren’t as satisfyingly crunchy and gutsy as they are on my Sony. Instead, you get to hear all the subtle shadings of tone inherent in the guitar that are otherwise missing on the Sony. So, it’s a toss-up. I think musicians would love the SA-7S1 because it clearly reveals all the subtleties of their playing, the way their instruments are tuned, and the overall tone/timbre of the particular brand and model they chose to play on that song. But head-bangers might miss some of the crunch of unfettered electricity from amps that go to 11 that the Marantz can’t quite deliver.

Bass response on the SA-7S1 is fine and well balanced, but doesn’t quite have the same grunt force of the modified Sony. I could easily see some people calling the hefty bass on the Sony slightly intrusive, but that is strictly a matter of taste and system tuning. The bass of the Marantz is very well balanced and in perfect proportion to the rest of the sound; if you are looking for a source to goose your bass response, it won’t do that, at least in stock form.

The soundstage size of the Marantz is wide and deep and spacious, definitely bigger than that of my Sony. The Marantz spreads the sound out further left and right, but you are not quite as close to the performers as you are with the Sony; you go from the front row to about the tenth row (still nowhere near the back of the hall, though). The Marantz images very very well; when you close your eyes and listen, every musician is clearly delineated within their own space. Interestingly, on the Marantz (thanks I believe to its better handling of dynamic range), singers seem to take a step forward from the rest of the band, and this adds to an increased sense of depth to the soundstage.

To sum up my initial impressions, the chief adjectives I would use to describe the stock Marantz are “refined”, “nuanced”, “precise”, “clean”, “coherent”, with “accurate tone and timbre”. I recognize those aren’t necessarily the most exciting audiophile terms, but those are its strengths.

I’ve decided I’m definitely keeping the player and will have it heavily modified. I will report back in a couple weeks after the burn-in process is through and detail any changes. Of course, once the unit comes back from the mod man, I’ll add a new full report to this thread.
post #22 of 73
It's really premature to judge a high-end player this early, before sufficient break-in. But from what you're saying, at least it beats the Sony for getting rid of some of the "SS sound". That's always a good thing.

I've seen it happen with every high-end digital piece I've ever had, including Audio Alchemy, CEC, Denon, Genesis, Krell, Levinson, Pass, Sony ES, Theta - they all suffer initially from a rawness that nothing but play time will cure. Plus you have some "digititus" happening there too no doubt. I've yet to hear a digital front end - no matter how much it costs or how it's built - that can compete in certain areas with a good analog rig. I know that's a whole 'nother debate but that's not what I'm trying to do.

Give that unit about 2-2 1/2 weeks constant play time.

Looking toward your next impressions!
post #23 of 73
With what specific music did you encounter each of these impressions & comparisions against the Sony - artist, album, song, format (redbook/SACD)?

I know I've asked this before, but it seems the more I learn about the recording process & the multitude of possible variances that can result (even down to different points within a single song!). Essentially, the recording is part of the system (and possibly the most important).

Surely this complicates things, but must be taken into consideration when obtaining impressions of gear.
post #24 of 73
In your impressions post there is no insight into the level of detail this CDP is capable of. I bring this up because detail is important for the headphones that can reproduce it. How does detail compare to your other sources? I would have gone with the Esoteric myself (vacuums up details) but your reasoning was solid.

Good choice of a CDP that had an advanced custom transport. That is one important factor for CDPs at this price point and one major improvement in the >$5000 range. How do you think this affects the sound?
post #25 of 73
Originally Posted by dizzyorange View Post
Any chance we get a pic of the guts

The first thing that struck me was how spare the innnards look. I'm used to most Japanese hi-end gear being completely stuffed with parts.

So, a single toroidal transformer, which apparently was chosen to limit loop currents, mechanical noise and manufacturing inconsistancies. Cost too, I guess, if you had to otherwise make 3 or more smaller XFMRs with similarly pretty top caps.

The analog circuitry is completely balanced from I/V conversion, through LPFing, to the output buffer stage. Makes sense.

HDAM Rs for everything but the buffer stage, which uses HDAM R SA2s. Wow, so I guess Marantz got rid of those pretty covers for the HDAM modules? I'm seeing a lot of SOIC and TO-92 cased devices on the top surface of the PCB, which I'm taking to be the HDAMs? If they are, that's gotta be a good move in my book. I was sick of seeing the darn things in every piece of Marantz gear that I saw, and integrating them into the PCB means shorter traces and less solder connections.

NVE IL717 digital isolators to isolate analog and digital grounds in the pre-D/A conversion section of the boards, from what I can make out. Neato.

Capacitors in the PS section are apparently custom made for the job, chosen after repeated listening. I guess "undressing" them was also part of the listening tests? Rectifier diodes are already shottkey barrier diodes, so I hope markl doesn't go around changing those around...
post #26 of 73
Thread Starter 
With what specific music did you encounter each of these impressions & comparisions against the Sony - artist, album, song, format (redbook/SACD)?
Gotta run, will answer later this week.

In your impressions post there is no insight into the level of detail this CDP is capable of. I bring this up because detail is important for the headphones that can reproduce it. How does detail compare to your other sources?
Hi, it's in there somewhere (I prefer the term "resolution" over "detail"). So far, resolution is superior to the modified Sony XA9000ES, but we're talking about subtle detail on the Marantz, it isn't shoved under your nose (the way the Sony can at times), so it's easy to overlook. This is due to greater contrast in dynamic range, which makes louder sounds louder and softer sounds softer. So the extra resolution of small details is at a lower (more naturtal and realistic) volume level, but it is there. Again, it's like the difference between an early uncompressed, un-EQ'ed CD from the 80s vs. a modern LOUD COMPRESSED remast. Also, the subtle shades of tone the Marantz brings out over the Sony is another form of detail/resolution. However, the Marantz isn't yet as transparent as the Sony and background not yet as black.

Good choice of a CDP that had an advanced custom transport. That is one important factor for CDPs at this price point and one major improvement in the >$5000 range. How do you think this affects the sound?
My guess is that it ensures a more precise, cleaner sound, pulls more actual digital bits off the CD so the DAC doesn't have to guess at what they are, so you get a less "processed" or "digital" sound. Certainly in my description of the Marantz's sound seems to bear those guesses out.

Oops gotta run. Be back later this week.
post #27 of 73
Grey horse,

What do you mean by undressing the PS caps?

Do you mean they peeled the plastic shrink wrap covers off as a tweak?

Not that I understood anything else you posted!
post #28 of 73
Originally Posted by tin ears View Post
What do you mean by undressing the PS caps? Do you mean they peeled the plastic shrink wrap covers off as a tweak?

Not that I understood anything else you posted!
Yeah, those capacitors behind the transport look kinda naked. It could be some clear wrapping, but undressing capacitors has been done before as a tweek by some companies.

Sorry for all the abreviations I used. I guess one is a little unconventional.
XFMR - abv. for transformer
LPF - abv. for low pass filter
post #29 of 73
Since it is very well known that marantz always uses alot of philips components, i wouldn't be surprised if you would find the philips pro 2 transport underneath the top plate. It looks like they used the transport with a drawer on top. If you look closely on the picture, you'll see the bottom half is smaller the the top plate.
post #30 of 73
Very slick looking source!
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