Marantz SA8001

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For those expecting a review of Marantz's SA8001 SACD player ($999.99), please be patient—I'm getting there. I've just spent several weeks doing my best to detect differences among three digital front-ends: the unit under review; Marantz's own, twice-as-expensive SA-15S1; and my Benchmark DAC-1 D/A converter (a more or less current version, with the recent Texas Instruments op-amps that some people say make the DAC-1 sound better than earlier incarnations). But weeks of comparative, level-matched listening through a decent system revealed only very subtle differences—so subtle that it took me weeks to gain any confidence that they were real. This is, of course, as it should be: all three are excellent players based on similar technologies (though the DAC-1's approach is distinctive) and playing the same discs. One would hope that they would converge on the same sound. Still, I can't help worrying that my conclusion—that they all sound very, very similar—won't sit well with some readers.

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