Marantz SA-1 SACD player Page 4

Listening to the SACD version of Mighty Sam McClain's "Too Proud," from Joe Harley's BluesQuest, I noted a very special illumination from the midrange up, a subtle openness that moved my soul (according to my effulgent notes). Vocals, both male and female, were entirely open, palpable, and captivating on SACD. As a format, it never missed.

Now what?
There was some kind of metaphysical change that came over me every time I listened to the SA-1. Call it relaxation, an inner acknowledgment that, yeah, that's music. It wasn't just my intellectual self that recognized it; there was some kind of physical reaction that let me relax into the music. For me, the SA-1 completely fulfilled the promise of SACD.

While I didn't have the Sony SCD-1 on hand for direct comparisons, I'd have to say that, in SACD mode, I preferred the Marantz. The Sony was more opulent, more eager to please, especially given the adjustable filters for CD playback. The SA-1 was entirely more purist in its presentation.

As regards 16/44.1 media, well...I still prefer upsampling on both the Accuphase and the dCS 972-driven Elgar. But there wasn't a single recording I didn't enjoy more in SACD mode when that choice was available, and by a wide margin.

"How's that Marantz?" a good friend demanded. Before I could draw breath to answer, he was proclaiming, "Before I buy digital again, I'm waiting for a player that'll do it all!" I think he waits in vain. Such a mythical beast, in my view, will never be made.

The wild card in all of this is the 20-grand Linn CD12, a sample of which has been resident in our system of late. I noted in my Krell 350Mc monoblock review in August that 16/44.1 just didn't do it for me anymore, but to that I must add a caveat: the Linn CD12 is an incredible player! I don't understand why it's so great, but it is. It, too, embodies something of that awesome clarity found in the SACD-driven Marantz, if still shaded toward PCM sound. Compared to SACD, even upsampled 16/44.1 sounded a bit more "reconstructed" and unnatural. Which, in fact, it is.

The SA-1 made discovering music a thrill again—the very thing audiophiles live for. Some say we reviewers worship too much at the Altar of Equipment. But for me, the foundation, the basis, the kernel of my love affair with the High End is fundamentally linked with some higher need—spiritual, mathematical, I just can't say—to receive the music into my mind and body. Taking things at face value, and ignoring for the moment whether CD and SACD masterings are the same or not, the Marantz SA-1 always moved me that way. I loved it. I will miss it.

440 Medinah Road
Roselle, IL 60172
(630) 307-3100