The Fifth Element #16 Marantz SA-14 SACD player

Sidebar: Marantz SA-14 SACD player, from September 2002 (Vol.25 No.9):

Marantz's $2900 SA-14 SACD player has been in the queue waiting to be reviewed, so I'll just sneak in a quick comparison of it here to the Accuphase DP-85, for those enticed by SACD but not prepared to spend $16.5k. Though the SA-14, too, has balanced connections, I ran it only single-ended.

Also very well built—especially given its reasonable price—and handsome to look at, the SA-14 didn't scale the SACD sonic heights reached by the DP-85, particularly when it came to transparency, liquidity, image dimensionality, high-frequency bloom, and ease of musical flow, but it did offer outstanding detail and fine tonal balance. The SA-14 communicated SACD's attractive sonic attributes, but was somewhat drier and less generous in its presentation of air, space, and overall flow. Its physical presentation was somewhat more flat and literal—kind of like the difference between a very good $1500 phono cartridge and one of the greats costing far more.

Switching to the CD layer of SACD/CD hybrids was always a letdown—as it should be—but, surprisingly, not quite as much of one as doing same with the DP-85. But that was mostly because of the DP-85's stunning, almost overwhelming SACD performance—the best digital sound I've heard in my system. Though it had a very substantial bottom-end foundation, was very well balanced, and had no serious flaws, the SA-14's CD performance sounded more mechanical, and somewhat more closed-in on top, than the Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 3D or the DP-85.

Basically, the SA-14 is a very accomplished, superbly built, $2900 CD player that tosses in SACD for an extra $500 (at street price). If you want to experience SACD's musical satisfaction, the SA-14 will give it to you without putting a sonic damper on your CD collection—unless you've already been spoiled by a far more accomplished and expensive player.—Michael Fremer