Marantz SA8001 SACD player Measurements

Sidebar 3: Measurements

I tested the Marantz SA8001 using Sony's "provisional" Test SACD. The maximum output level at 1kHz was 2.4V with both SACD and CD, or 1.6dB higher than the CD standard's 2V RMS. This output was sourced from a low output impedance of 148 ohms at middle and high frequencies, this rising inconsequentially to 154 ohms at 20Hz. The Marantz preserved absolute polarity; ie, was non-inverting.

Error correction was the best I have encountered: like the Muse universal player also reviewed in this issue, the SA8001 produced no glitches in its analog output until track 37 on the Pierre Verany Test CD, which has gaps in the data spiral 3mm in length!

With CD, the frequency response with both pre-emphasized and regular data was perfectly flat from 10Hz to 20kHz (fig.1). With SACD, the output began to gently roll off above the audioband, reaching –1dB at 50kHz, –3dB at 65kHz, and –13dB at 100kHz. Channel separation was superb, at better than 100dB below 5kHz (not shown).

Fig.1 Marantz SA8001, frequency response into 100k ohms: SACD data at –3dBFS (top at 30kHz), CD data at –12dBFS without pre-emphasis (top at 20Hz), CD data with pre-emphasis (bottom at 20Hz). (Right channel dashed, 0.5dB/vertical div.)

With its low level of noise, the SA8001 offered excellent resolution. Analyzing the spectrum of the player's output while it played back CD data representing a dithered 1kHz tone at –90dBFS gave the top pair of traces in fig.2. All this reveals is that the recorded dither noise on the CD is higher than the Marantz's intrinsic noise. Repeating the analysis while playing back the same signal from SACD gave the middle pair of traces in fig.2. Although the noise floor drops by up to 15dB, leakage of the DSD encoding's high level of ultrasonic noise into the 1/3-octave filter's passband can be seen at high frequencies. At low frequencies, a slight amount of 60 and 180Hz hum is evident, though this is almost 130dB down from full scale, and thus negligible. The bottom pair of traces in fig.2 is a similar spectral analysis with the SA8001 playing back dithered DSD data representing a 1kHz tone at –120dB. The Marantz clearly resolves this very-low-level signal.

Fig.2 Marantz SA8001, 1/3-octave spectrum with noise and spuriae of dithered 1kHz tone at –90dBFS (from top to bottom at 2kHz): 16-bit CD data, SACD data; dithered 1kHz tone at –120dBFS, SACD data (right channel dashed).

The plot of the SA8001's linearity error with CD data again shows only the dither noise, so I haven't reprinted it. But playing back undithered CD data representing a 1kHz tone at exactly –90.31dBFS (fig.3), the three DC voltage levels representing this signal are clearly evident in a 'scope shot of its output. Playing back dithered data from the Sony test SACD gave a reasonable facsimile of a sinewave (fig.4).

Fig.3 Marantz SA8001, waveform of undithered 1kHz sinewave at –90.31dBFS, CD data.

Fig.4 Marantz SA8001, waveform of dithered 1kHz sinewave at –90dBFS, SACD data.

The Marantz featured very low levels of harmonic distortion, even into low impedances. Fig.5, for example, is the spectrum of its output playing a full-scale tone into 5k ohms. The THD (true sum of the harmonics) was just 0.0025% in both channels, with the subjectively innocuous second harmonic the highest in level, although at –93dB this isn't close to being audible. Intermodulation distortion was also vanishingly low (fig.6).

Fig.5 Marantz SA8001, spectrum of 1kHz sinewave at 0dBFS into 5k ohms (linear frequency scale).

Fig.6 Marantz SA8001, HF intermodulation spectrum, 19+20kHz at 0dBFS peak into 5k ohms (linear frequency scale).

Finally, tested for word-clock jitter rejection with the Miller Analyzer, the Marantz SA8001 produced just 243 picoseconds peak–peak of jitter sidebands with CD data (fig.7). Data-related spuriae (red numeric markers) were at the test signal's residual level, and the only significant sidebands visible in this graph lay at ±760Hz (purple "3") and ±1477Hz (purple "7"). Their cause is unknown, but both pairs are low enough in level to have no audible consequences.

Fig.7 Marantz SA8001, high-resolution jitter spectrum of analog output signal (11.025kHz at –6dBFS, sampled at 44.1kHz with LSB toggled at 229Hz), 16-bit CD data. Center frequency of trace, 11.025kHz; frequency range, ±3.5kHz.

It may be affordably priced, but the Marantz SA8001's measured performance is beyond reproach.—John Atkinson

Marantz America, Inc.
100 Corporate Drive
Mahwah, NJ 07430-2041
(201) 762-6500