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Marantz SA8003 Stereo SACD/CD Player Review Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Article Index
Marantz SA8003 Stereo SACD/CD Player Review
Listening Cont.
Going USB

Listening Cont.

Vashti Bunyan's Lookaftering has an intense, personal charm. The music is delicate and airy, and her voice wraps around the songs like fire in a hearth. The SA8003 seems custom-made for such music, reproducing the fragile tunes with loving clarity.

Where the SA8003 excels, however, is with SACD. Pop in one of these discs and the player truly comes to life. One of my favorite group of SACDs features several of Elton John's early albums. Honky Chateau and Madman Across The Water are two standout SACDs in a very good bunch. Both brim with energy and atmosphere you won't find on the redbook releases. The opening barrelhouse piano of “Honky Cat” is riveting; with a keen sense of immediacy and openness that just crushes anything else. Better bass, better drums, better vocals – better sound. 

Bob Dylan's Blood On The Tracks is one of my favorite SACDs. Through the SA8003, Dylan's “If You See Her Say Hello” was one of the most powerful listening experiences I've had. The despair in his voice toward the song's end is nearly unbearable, and there's a moment when the tempo and rhythm break as Dylan seems overcome with emotion and his body takes over the beat.  

Mobile Fidelity's recent SACD reissue of Foghat's Fool For The City makes another strong case for SACD. The British blues-rockers were at a creative peak on Fool, and the sheer force of the guitar sound coming from Lonesome Dave Peverett and Rod Price is only matched by the revealing detail of the individual parts. As a guitarist, I could hear and “see” the lines Peverett and Price were playing as I listened. Take a “Slow Ride” with the SA8003 for a new take on an old FM radio warhorse.


Marantz SA8003 back


One generalization about upper-end CD players is that while they can make very good recordings sound great, they can also expose poorer recordings in embarrassing light. My biggest SACD disappointment came with Sony's 2005 retrospective, Big Guns: The Very Best Of Rory Gallagher. Two discs and 24 tracks remastered for SACD. What should be a mind-blowing experience is little more than a choked and veiled mis-representation of Ireland's greatest bluesman's music. As bad as I thought the mixes were, the SA8003 revealed even less to like. A stodgy sonic brown cloud drapes these recordings and squeezes out any life. Rory deserves better.

Jeff Beck's instrumental Blow By Blow is a landmark guitar album, and another SACD reissue that I cherish. Expect better imaging of instruments and spacing. After all, it's what's not happening on tunes such as “Cause We've Ended As Lovers” that makes for such compelling music. Beck's masterful use of space and sound is at the forefront on the SACD mix and comes through on the SA8003.

Donovan: Storyteller is one of Audio Fidelity's early SACD releases, bringing 14 of the Scottish troubadour's best-known songs together under the ears of Steve Hoffman for remastering. The disc's leadoff cut “Catch The Wind” was featured on a GE TV commercial not long ago, but until you've heard on SACD you haven't caught anything. I can describe it only as sound given weight – the music has a tactility that makes it seem like it can be snatched from the air. Played through the SA8003, the song and entire disc are magical.

How Does it Rank?

Compared to my old Yamaha universal player, the SA8003 offers quicker initial reading of discs, better response via remote, much quieter operation and better sense of space and detail. The Yamaha also retailed for about $700 less than the SA8003 and is 5 years old, so I'd expect better performance from the Marantz player. When I put the SA8003 up against Bryston's BCD-1 (MSRP $2,695) player in a CD-to-CD playback shootout, the Bryston came out the winner it with a more neutral presentation and better balance between the low and upper end. But for the same price, you can buy two SA8003s and still pocket nearly $700. Given that the BCD-1 is a redbook-only player, the SA8003's value becomes more apparent. 

Marantz SA8003 Interior


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