Marantz SA-14 vs Sony XA777ES

Coments on these 2 players, has anyone A/B them?
I'm not a Sony fan and the Marantz is a much better looking machine. The Sony gets great reviews, but I haven't heard much about the Marantz. How well do they play redbook cds stock. After they have been mod how do either compare to higher end cdp? I'm concerned about owning a Cd only player if rumors are true about hybrid disc, but I dont want to give up the sound of a high end CDP for the unknown or poor play back a one of these machines.
I'm awaiting the arrival of a SA-14 so I will keep you posted. For redbook I will be able to compare to my Wadia 850. Unfortunately I do not have the XA777ES to compare it to although I do have one of the inexpensive SONYs SACD (the DVD 500 whatever) that I am listening to now. My impression of this player is that, with SACDs that are properly recorded the sound is effortless and natural and may even rival top quality analog. For CD, the SONY is lightweight - it ain't no WADIA - and is probably a prime candidate for modifying.
I checked with a reviewer who knows the SONY XA777ES but he said he had heard the -14 at shows only so had no definitive impression. The reason I purchased the Marantz is because of the updated DACs, the HDAM, and especially the balance outputs. I find that makes a difference in a truly balanced system. I am concerned with the "horror stories" I've heard from custom installers of multichannel systems with single ended outputs and a patchbay of cables, mysterious groundloops and so-on.
Just received the SA-14 and have tried it with the Tony Bennett disk (SACD) which was a bit edgy on the SONY SACD player. The edginess is now completely gone, the applause is better, and the layering of instruments is more exact. Sounds more like an intimate venue. Clearly it is better than the entry level SACD players on SACD which are a stone bargain, nevertheless.
I will burn it in on CD later and get back to you.
I do not wish to comment on the SA-14 but I can say that I prefer the XA777ES to the Marantz SA-1.

While the SA-1 is a fantastic player, after a few months with it, I realized it was too hyper-detailed in my system. It has much the same characteristic as the Sony SCD-1 and 777ES in that regard. Initially very impressive but fatiguing in the long run.

After the Marantz, I went back to Redbook only players for a while.

However, I recently purchased a XA777ES. I must say that as it is now well broken in, the Sony XA777ES has much more ease than the Marantz SA-1 - more of an analog character and still maintains very good detail. It is not as magical on Redbook CD's as an Audio Aero Capitole or an AudioMeca Mephisto but it has that same feel... it really wants to be less digital sounding than previous SACD offerings from Sony and Marantz - and it makes a valiant effort.

Tonally the Sony XA777ES is not perfect - the SA-1 might be slightly better in that regard - in fact, I like the tone of the Marantz SA-1 but as I said, the Sony makes up for it with its ease & pace. For a $2-->3,000 CD player it is as good as almost any high end player at sucking you into the music. With the Marantz, I couldn't relax - I couldn't drift into the music. I just sat on my couch amazed - with my eyes popping out of my head as I listened to all the things I never heard before - sounds flying all over the room. While that was fun, it was a different way of listening to music and ultimately not the way I like to listen.

Compared to the Marantz SA-1, SACD is not as outwardly impressive on the XA777ES to untrained ears. If you listen to a few of the top Redbook players before you listen to the Sony, you will quickly understand what Sony was trying to build when they engineered this player. It is different.
Bwhite makes some great points. Other commentators have said similar things about the sound. One of the reasons to choose the SA14 is because of the new generation DACs that are an improvement over those in the SA1 (and other 1st generation players.)


Right now the SA14 continues to improve its smo0thness, detail, and 360 degree soundstage in SACD. For example, in Roger Waters SACD In the Flesh "Brain Damage" beginning I finally recognized the voice 90 degrees to my left (!) is that of HAL from 2001 and the noise of the astronaut breathing is clearly articulated unlike the Sony players. This is kinda like the Linn versus DD demos of the 80's. Fantastic.
I sold my Wadia 850 - still a great unit though - and kept the 14. Oh yes, make sure you compensate for the pin three hot configuration on the 14 if you use balanced cables. The phase inversion can really screw up the sound, most notably in image focus and front/back depth. I am using both Transparent Ultra Balanced and Cardas Golden Reference Balanced with good results, but I think I favor the Cardas presently after having compensated for the phase issue. The CGR are detailed, focused, and inviting. Another tip is to try the Custom filter setting. I have not tried the machine in the RCA configuration. (However, I have corresponded with a listener who feels that the Cary 3xx players are better on Redbook but I have no opinion having heard none of them.) I guess if you don't need multichannel and can benefit from balanced operation the 14 is the way to go. At least it's the way I went.