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Hi-Rez Highway: REVIEW: Marantz SA8004 CD Player/Recorder by photomensch

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REVIEW: Marantz SA8004 CD Player/Recorder

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Model: SA8004
Category: CD Player/Recorder
Suggested Retail Price: $999.99
Description: CD/SACD Player
Manufacturer URL: Marantz
Model Picture: View

Review by photomensch on July 16, 2011 at 12:32:43
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Summary – The Marantz SA8004 is an excellent CD and SACD player for someone looking for audio-only, two-channel playback. Better performance will be hard to find, even at prices higher than the $1,000 price point of the SA8004.

Why I Bought the SA8004 – For a long time I considered myself a candidate for an Oppo to replace my 10-year old Sony DVP-9000ES CD/SACD player, and was waiting for release of the BDP-95. Then I read Paul Seydor’s TAS review (issue 211) and thought the SA8004 might be a better choice since I wasn’t interested in video and multi-channel playback. I also reasoned that a unit with a minimalist approach might yield better performance than a universal design at the same price. I decided to roll the dice and take advantage of Music Direct’s 30-day return policy since I didn’t have easy access to any dealers in New York and New Jersey who could let me audition either the Marantz or the Oppo models. My plan was that I could always return the SA8004 to MD and try the BDP 95 if I wasn’t satisfied with my initial choice. There’s a lot more I could add to my comments below. However, I’d rather direct you to Mr. Seydor’s review since he’s done his job extremely well. It’s available online by just Googling Seydor Marantz.
Note that my benchmark for all comparisons is my DVP-9000ES, which, back in the day was considered an outstanding CD/SACD player. So this review isn’t intended to denigrate any of the many fine digital players I’m sure are available.

CD Performance – Out of the box I sensed the silence of the SA8004 immediately, no doubt due to its S/N ratio being more than 10dB better than my Sony – not that my Sony could be considered noisy. The first CDs I listened to were noticeably better sounding. I think Mr. Seydor gets it exactly right by using “warm” to describe my initial impressions, although “relaxed” also came to mind; and absent was virtually all CD edginess. Weight, tonal balance and soundstage were also excellent. After about 10 hours of listening, bass response became stronger and musical detail better. It’s worth mentioning that I listen mainly to jazz and classical music. Here are two CDs that do it all for me: Worth the Wait on Fuzzy Music, with drummer Peter Erskine and a big band playing what has to be one of the best ever recorded live jazz sessions. Check out Erskine on track 3. If you like using a great female voice to evaluate your system, Karrin Allyson on ‘Round Midnight (Concord) is the CD to use. Stereophile’s RTDF, Passage of Time with Liz Callaway also gets my vote.

SACD Performance – Initially SACD playback wasn’t at all jaw-dropping the way CD playback was. Sound was a little thin with lower bass anemic. However, after about 25 hours of listening I couldn’t believe the improvement. Music is considerably more detailed and layered than with the Sony, with complex passages having much better resolution. Two SACDs worth using for demo are: Julia Fischer Russian Violin Concertos (Pentatone), and Telarc’s Prokofiev Sym. #5 with Lt. Kije. So whether you’re committed to CD or SACD media, or both, you won’t be disappointed.

Why Not the Sony XA5400? - In case you’re wondering why I didn’t consider this player, it’s more to do with Sony’s bizarre marketing, and distribution. If you doubt me, try to buy one risk free.

Here are just a few of other CDs and SACDs I used for my initial evaluations:
SACD – MoFi: Concierto, Modern Cool, Invitation; Prestige: Gil Evans and Ten; RCA Living Stereo reissues; various.
CD – Impulse: Out of the Cool; Concord: On the Moon, Ballads; MoFi: Dad Loves His Work; Blixstreet: Eva Cassidy Live at Blues Alley.

Product Weakness: No text display capability for SACD and CD media. Size of alphanumeric characters surprisingly small for such a large display area. Through away the cables that come in the box even though manual says to use only enclosed AC cord, which is IEC std.
Product Strengths: Outstanding CD and SACD playback quality that should rival much more expensive models.

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: AES-Cary Six Packs
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): ModWright 9.0SE
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Marantz SA8004/Rega P5/Signal Cable pwr. cords.
Speakers: System Audio 1550 (Denmark)
Cables/Interconnects: Audience AU24e/JPS Superconductor 2
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Jazz and classical
Room Size (LxWxH): 18' x 14' x 8'
Time Period/Length of Audition: One month/30 hours
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Channle Island Pwr. Conditoner
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Marantz SA8004 CD Player/Recorder - photomensch 12:32:43 07/16/11 ( 2)