Last month I reviewed a terrific preamp from a small company, and I mentioned that great products can come from small artisans that build per order. I also mentioned that large, multinational companies can also produce great products, with the power of economies of scale and resources that are very difficult to compete with. Marantz is clearly one of those companies. I have yet to evaluate a recent Marantz product that was not built beautifully, and did not offer excellent value. Everything I have heard off their assembly line offered true high-end sound. The most recent review I did was of the $599 PM6004 Integrated Amplifier.
Up for review here is a product I frankly did not except to review, the Marantz SA-152SB Limited Edition SACD player. SACD is a medium whose health is either in great decline, or going strong depending on your point of view. Boutique record labels still put out low volume, pricey SACDs of classic rock, pop, and jazz tiles. There are still quite a number of classical SACDs releasing on a regular basis as well. On the other hand, the major record labels have all but abandoned SACD, and many desirable titles released during the initial push are getting collector level prices on eBay and Amazon.
SACD is based on DSD (Direct Stream Digital) recording technology. In a nutshell, Sony and Phillips jointly developed DSD. DSD uses a sample rate of 2.8224 Mhz, 64 times that of CD, at 1 bit. It has a much greater dynamic range and frequency response than CD. DSD can be used to archive analog tape or as an original recording format. SACD is not compatible with regular CD players, and cannot be copied on a computer. This is one of the reasons record companies made a big push for the format early on. Many classic rock and pop releases were made available as hybrid discs, with two layers, one being Redbook CD, the other SACD.
The Marantz SA-15S2B Limited Edition SACD Player retails for $2000 and is built to amazingly high standard in Japan. The matte black casework is exemplary, and the overall appearance is superb. The player weighs in at 30 lbs and is loaded with features. There is a TosLink optical digital input that handles 24 bit, 96 Khz data. There is a headphone jack, and digital outputs for non-SACD data. You can turn off the digital outputs, and you can switch between SACD and CD layers via the Sound Mode function. And a high quality full function aluminum remote control.
On the inside, the unit uses a Marantz designed, linear power supply. A highly engineered transport mechanism employs resonance control using advanced materials. The SA-15S2B Limited is outfitted with Cirrus Logic 24-bit/192 kHz CS4398 DAC. Two user-selectable filters allow for a bit of customization. Marantz says there are many other “audiophile” grade parts used in critical areas, and their HDAM SA2 modules are utilized throughout the analog output stage.
Set Up & Listening:
Setting up the SA-15S2B was a snap and required no special considerations. I used a Transparent PowerLink AC cord and Stager Silver Solid Interconnects. I pulled out my medium sized collection of SACDs, including titles from Bob Dylan, The Moody Blues, RCA Living Stereo, Elton John, and more. These are all hybrid discs, with Redbook CD data layers included. The CD layer on these hybrid discs can be played on any CD player.