Marantz Reference SA-KI-Pearl SACD/CD player Page 3
The SACD wasn't available for my review of the SA-S11S2, but you can be sure that its warm mix of violin, cello, and piano, recorded not in a dry recording studio but in a hall, will pose a challenge to any audio system. There's no way the SA-S11S2 could have unraveled the merged lower-midband warmths of the piano and cello, or the piano's attack and pizzicato strings, all of which the Pearl managed effectively.
The Police's Every Breath You Take (SACD, A&M Chronicles), a collection of their hits, just didn't cut it through the SA-S11S2: Stewart Copeland's cymbals didn't sizzle as they should, and the kick drum sounded soft and a bit flabby. The SA-KI-Pearl restored the sizzle and the bass drum's pop, and the grit returned to the voice of the young Sting in those simple, spacious old recordings. I could turn the volume up and enjoy the natural sizzle and sheen because they were unaccompanied by grit or grain.
The cushion of air around Miles Davis' trumpet on a reissue of Steamin' with the Miles Davis Quintet (SACD, Prestige/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDSACD 2019) was reminiscent of the original pressing, as was Paul Chambers' nimble yet slightly overripe bassthat's how they were recorded.
Tonally, spatially, and dynamically, the SA-KI-Pearl struck an inviting balance of speed of attack, resolution of detail, harmonic richness, and warmth. The player's bottom end was well extended, controlled, and texturally expressive, its midband richly but not oppressively drawn, and its top octaves were airy, extended, and daringly pristine for the player's reasonable price. Cymbals in particular were pinpoint clean, correctly sized, and free of artificial edge or added grain, thus obviating any need for a syrupy cover-up.
Even if you have an original LP pressing of The Band's Music from Big Pink, and even if you don't have an SACD player, MoFi's hybrid reissue is a must-have (SACD/CD, Capitol/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab). Mastering engineer Bob Ludwig recently told me that the bass below 80Hz was lopped off for the original LP pressing. When you hear this reissue with that low-end weight restored, you'll know it. (MoFi's 1980s vinyl reissue of Big Pink also got the bass right.) The Pearl did a credible job of decoding the considerable bass energy on this disc.
Peter Gabriel's So (SACD, Geffen Chronicles 069 493 626-2) can sound downright nasty in the upper octaves through poorly designed gear, but softening and rolling off the top diminishes the intended crystalline impact. Correctly reproduced, it has plenty of bite, grit, and ice, but no sandpaper smear. The SA-11S2 softened the sound too much; the Pearl struck an ideal balance.
Listening to CD
Switching to "Red Book" CDs produced equally attractive results. Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko's Live at Wigmore Hall, recorded in 1993 by Ken Blair (CD, Hyperion CDD22024), surrounds an impressively well focused, properly sized, timbrally vibrant piano with a rich hall sound. Both transparency and clarity were impressive with the CD played on the Marantz.
Two years ago in Munich, someone generously gave me an autographed copy of Visions, a terrific CD by Hans Theessink and Terry Evans that features Richard Thompson on two tracks, and Bo Diddley speaking on a third (LP/CD, Indie Europe/Zoom). It's a rich, warm recording of mostly acoustic blues collaborations. The Pearl kept it warm, but never let it sink into the murk.