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I've have the Marantz SA-15S2b and really like what I hear with it. I didn't know a SACD player could make redbook sound so much better than on a regular CD player.
Before the Marantz, I had a Consonance CD player that played just standard redbook (no over/upsampling) and thought the world of it, but the Marantz had much deeper and better articulated bass, richer (more fuller and developed) mids, and extended highs. All of it amounted to greater presence.
Before anyone flames about streaming and that the CD is dead, the best digital I've heard was a few shows ago at Newport and it was in the MSB room when I listened to what I thought was the best PC audio at the show and it was "just" a CD playing. One can go on and on about the limitations of CD and what can go wrong but it doesn't mean that it necessarily will go wrong.
Luddite that I am, I'll eventually dip my toes in the PC water, but as for now.....
All the best,
I have two Marantz SACD players, the 11s! in one system and the flagship 7s1 in my main system. I've had both for several years. Obviously, I've been happy with them. One thing I would suggest is that you upgrade the fuses in either player. It made a big difference for me in the focus and breath of the soundstage. As others have said, Marantz gives you a full rich sound and a player that is built like the proverbial tank.
The Marantz Reference players are special. I've had my SA-7S1 for a LOT longer than I've owned any other previous digital player. As others have stated, if you're looking for a sharp, hyper-detailed sound, look elsewhere. But if you want a player that gets all the fundamentals of the music right, and presents them in an amazingly coherent, musical whole, then the Reference players are an excellent choice, particularly on the used market.
Oh, and lest you think these players aren't detailed, rest assured: they deliver BOATLOADS of detail--but that delivery is so natural and so relaxed (in a good way) that it makes many other comparable players sound forced and hurried.
The fuse suggestion is a good one; it does make a significant difference. And these players, though built like the proverbial Panzer, do respond well to quality isolation.
KJ, When I bought my sa11s1, the dealer suggested we change out the two primary fuses. I readily agreed and he took care of it after I had it for a couple of weeks. I could tell the difference right away. I bought my sa7 used and the previous owner had already change out all the fuses. Again, according to him, it made a big difference. All I know is it was one reason I bought his player in stead of somebody else's. I've never regretted that purchase either. There are a myriad of companies you could go to for fuses. Its really your call.
I've owned the X0-1, 5, and 7 Esoterics, and they were/are all excellent spinners, particularly the X0-1 (in my case, modded). That said, my Marantz SA-7S1 is a cut above in the musicality department. It just has a way of disappearing into a soundstage (I know that's a weird phrase) that has eluded the Esoterics in my room. But I'm really splitting hairs. The Esoterics are fabulous machines.
I have heard several models of Esoteric players, they are a very different animal from the Marantz players, IMHO.
The Esoteric are very resolving and articulate, a bit too analytical for my tastes though.
I am a fan of vinyl, and the Marantz players allow me to listen to digital music without grinding my teeth.
The 7S1 is an older, discontinued CDP. It was the most expensive model that Marantz ever produced. It listed for $6500 - $7000 and was discontinued about 4 years ago. You can find them used for under $3K.
The top current Marantz model is the SA-11S3, which lists for $4000.
The lower the first number, the higher up it is on the Marantz food chain.
The SA (Super Audio) 1 was their top model about 15 years ago. It listed for $7500. Then the SA-7S1, which came out about 8 years ago, and list for $6500. Then the SA-11S1, which came out about 10 years ago and listed for $3500. It was followed up by the S2 version, and currently is in the SA-11 S3 version listing for $4000.
Look through the Audiogon Bluebook, you don't have to have a subscription. It will tell you model numbers, their release date, and original list price.
FWIW, whether you like a high end Marantz CD player or not may more depend on the rest of your system than anything else. I have a Wadia 302 and a Raysonic 128 CDP. I tuned my system (using tubes in my integrated amps) to a give me a sound with a bit of warmth in the lower mid-range/upper bass. I then bought a Marantz SA11SA3 for SACD playback.
In my system the Marantz sound was bloated in the bass/lower mid range. This was particularly notable in a lot of new orchestral (classical) recordings including both formats. Interestingly a lot of old, somewhat sterile CD's, such as DG's for example, were much more listenable. I found that solo piano music this player was excellent. This probably has more to do with nature of the piano sound which just presents a warmer lower frequency sound, not a bloated or congested sound as it might when made by a large orchestra in a big hall.
What this suggests to me is that the Marantz probably works best when it is used in a more linear system where it's bass emphasis will be nothing more than that, i.e. a bit of added warmth.
Re, the Redbook vs CD issue. I find that the difference in recording format is far below the importance of the performance - once the CD starts to spin I really don't hear all of the benefits of the SACD format. The only thing I have noticed is that frequently on new SACD's, which seem to have some additional warmth built in, these SACD's actually sound better on my Wadia. Go figure.
Hope that helps a bit.....:-)
I am a big fan of the Marantz since I have three models.
They take on a significant improvement when the power fuse is replaced with a Synergistic Research RED fuse. The SR RED fuse comes with a 30 dail trial. This is time well worth spent.
Plus you get to take the top off your player and see the beautiful layout and workmanship of your unit.
Haven't heard the Lite, but the original Pearl was/is a VERY good player. Limited to 500 units, as I understand. A guy I knew had one, and I heard it at his house compared with an ARC spinner (I forget the exact model, but I remember it was MUCH more expensive). He liked the ARC a little better (and eventually sold the Pearl), but I thought the Pearl was a bit more resolving and even more musical. Given the price difference, I thought the Pearl acquitted itself really well. If I hadn't already had an SA-7S1, I think I would've tried to pick up a Pearl.
Hi, you will need to get a fine flat head screwdriver and pry the top back (the top is also the sides). Looking down at the top, there is a lip at the front where the top butts up against the front face. Put some cheesecloth or other material around the tip of the screwdriver so not to scratch anything - put the tool in the tiny gap and twist the screwdriver a little at a time and you will see the case move backwards. Once you see this you should be able to slowly work the case backwards to remove it. It's easy once you get where you need to put the screwdriver. I had same problem with mine. I would love pics on where the power fuse is to replace it with a Synergistic or whatever.