When I wrote the review I mentioned about “equipment break-in” which of course applies to almost everything you buy which can be classified as “hifi”, be it source, amplification, speakers, headphones etc. It’s been close to three months now that I have had the player and it has, most definitely “come of age”. I reckon my mileage as far as the unit is concerned, is close to anywhere between 175 and 200 hours. A lot more, than what my finding was initially, of about 100 hours based on my research.
So, what does it sounds like after the said break-in period? Well, for one thing I certainly can say that the Marantz is no longer in the race. The unit is sounding very controlled with excellent low end resolution. Not just the Paradigms that are sounding more authoritative with this unit but I can also say that the newly acquired Rel Strata III which I purchased recently gives a very good idea of what the player’s capabilities are at low end of the spectrum. I even connected the combination of the LS3/5a (ruthlessly revealing the midrange quality of any gear upstream) Rel Strata III (considered a fast and musical sub by many) and they both really start to sing. The midrange is sounding very refined and smooth to my ears. I tried few CD’s namely, Diana Krall, Suzanne Vega (Tom’s Diner), Patricia Barber, James Taylor, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong etc. Dare I say the midrange is as good as the Quad 67 CD player, if not better. However the Quad 67 remains in the race unlike the Marantz CD 63SE. The high end of the Quad 67 was such that it made the player sound very civilized in the sense that it was sweeter. In comparison the 963SA is very open and probably has better resolving capability. Quad 67 was forgiving but 963SA is not. Now, this aspect of the unit again is a matter of personal taste. Some like it hot so to say! But certainly it is no sizzler. I personally do not like players which give out tizzy top end as they tend to turn out to be very fatiguing rather than anything else. I have spent many hours at a time on weekends (like 6-8 hour sessions) and never felt the high end of this unit was anywhere near being tizzy. For a $500 unit it is extremely civilized. No worries there!
The other point which I touched upon in my review was the upsampling feature on the unit. Initially I was having problems with it as the sound on some of the disks was not to my liking and I used the player with the upsampling feature turned off. Now the scenario has somehow changed after the break-in period, no, I am not listening to the feature turned on all the time but it does make a difference on some of the CD’s, even the new recordings tend to sound very different which I did not notice as much initially. When the feature is turned on, the sound is much smoother on most of the recordings and somehow the high end sounds sort of extended and clean. It also does something to the soundstage, expanded, airy, giving an illusion of addition of an extra layer. I also came across some CD’s sounding odd but the number of them is not a concern here as they are in minority. Could be that the recording does not favour the feature. But, I must add that all those recordings that are great, not just my opinion, but also the opinion of the majority of the audiophile fraternity, sound great. I would advise anyone to use it and see for yourself if the feature works for you or not, since it may be attributed to personal preference, rest of the equipment in the chain, upstream or downstream and the room acoustics.
Another feature I touched upon in the review was the button on the front panel which switches off the video circuitry. Well I have tried the tweak many times and expected some change to come about, but, my conclusion is, in one word NOTHING! Some golden eared audiophile out there may write a few pages on this feature alone, stating how much difference it makes to the sound but not me! The only thing I can think of (since this unit boasts a twin laser) is that, it is there to enhance the life of the video circuitry and the laser. It may also reduce the possibility of heat being generated by the circuitry and let the system run a bit cooler thereby enhancing the overall life of the components. So this feature, as I see it, is not really useless but has a purpose.
My initial findings and impressions were that it was a good player for the money, but, after the break-in period, it is even better sounding and has more to offer. It is a bargain for sure at the particular price point.