Review: RAM Modified Marantz SA-7S1 CD Player

Category: Digital

I just wanted to say a few very positive things about Reference Audio Mods (RAM)and Kyle their spiritual leader and CEO ( These folks are true believers in customer satisfaction and responsiveness. They continue to demonstrate a steadfast commitment to product quality and the absolute state of the art performance for their modifications. Kyle's positive attitude, clear communications and timely execution were so far beyond most of my experiences with high end suppliers, that I felt compelled to speak up about his efforts and this company.

Sorry for all the gushing, but I really do feel this way and the results back me up.

I can only speak from personal experience, but in my case, Kyle went way beyond the call of duty. I have a Marantz SA-7S1 CD/SACD Player. It was modified for a considerable sum by another source that was highly recommended at the time. Without going into all the details, I felt that the modification was an improvement but was not living up to what was promised. I was extremely frustrated if not angry about all the time and money I had invested. I was still not satisfied with the sound.

Kyle generously offered his services at a very minimum fee. After opening up the unit and reviewing pictures with me, he clearly explained what problems existed
and what needed to be done. His philosophy on modifications and the direction that was recommended was very logical and comprehensive. The mod changes were significant. Within two weeks, the issues were corrected and the unit was back in my system. I was impressed by the quick turnaround and even more impressed by the results.

The change in sound quality was astounding. Remember, an off the shelf Marantz SA7-S1 without any modifications is still a wonderful sounding unit. There must be at least
a dozen reviews on the Internet and via several major periodicals that stand behind this claim. Despite my frustrations, the first modification was a step in the right direction and did slightly improve upon the sound of the base unit. Yet, the work done by Kyle took the SA7-S1 to a whole new world and exceeded my expectations.

Again, this is a not a full blown comprehensive review and I want to keep my comments brief.

Detail and speed are now incredible on the highs - especially on strings and cymbals. Incredible but natural without excessive edge and artificial whiteness. I am
hearing clean tight deep bass with speed and slam like never before. If there was ever an issue with PRAT (pace, rhythm and timing) as some reviewers have noted,
it is now gone for good.

After break in, the midrange became very smooth and warm. Vocals seem to have the detail and harmonics that I remember with some of my old school tube amplifiers. Vocals do seem a little more distant and behind the speakers instead of up front as before the mod. This is significant change but I am getting used to it.

The sound stage is huge and well beyond the speakers on appropriate recordings. Imaging is very specific and tight - better than anything else that I have had in my system. This did require considerable burn in and time to be realized.

In general, everything is just more. More detail. More speed. More slam. More natural. More real.

Bottom line - I am amazed. I have not heard all of the SOTA digital front ends out there, but I have had some experience with a few exceptional machines in my system: Meridian 808.2, EMM CDSA SE, APL NWO 3.0 and the Goldmund 39 (a highly respected cult favorite). They all have their positives and negatives, but the RAM modified Marantz SA7-S1 can compete with any of them on any level or variable.

So, thank you RAM. Thank you Kyle. My trading up days have now ended. I am still curious about the RAM modified Oppo BDP-83 SE, but only because of the added flexibility for external DACs, DSD and PCM and the ability to support Blu-Ray, DVD-A, and HDCD. For CD and SACD I have finally reached the end of the rainbow.

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System
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I incorporated many of Kyle's ideas and piece parts into my modified SCD-1. This DIY project unfolded gradually over several years, in the course of which I got to know Kyle fairly well. As you indicate, he is a thoughtful & honest pro who freely discusses his methods. When you get down to it, most CDPs can be significantly improved through a repeatable process of modifications to clock, power supplies, together with replacement analog stage. It is remarkable how much improvement can be made to CDPs at all price points. It is not inexpensive to touch all of these areas. However Kyle has found a reasonable combination of drop-in PCBs and custom engineering. Doubters will remain skeptical about the subjectiveness of mods and issues relating to resale, warranty, etc. IMO most of this criticism is far of the mark. Good mods are a way of learning to live with an excellent piece for the long term, and over the long term the cost is fully depreciated.

I was very impressed with the RAM Oppo at RMAF and CES.
I would be interested to know how much the RAM mods to the SA7-S1 cost and can the Sony XA5400ES be similarly improved and at what cost ?