SACD Players

Marantz SA-15S2 Reference Series SACD Player

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Marantz SA-15S2 Reference Series SACD Player

Because I've had the 15S2 for some time, I was able to use a variety of components including my Onix H6550 integrated tube amplifier and the Definitive Technology Mythos STS speakers and also more recently a Parasound P3 preamp and A21 amplifier with the extraordinary Canton Reference 5.2 DC floorstanding speakers. Cables were by either Wireworld or from Transparent Audio.

A couple of weeks after receiving the new SA-15S2 SACD player, I ran into Kevin Zarow, Marantz's VP of marketing at CES in Las Vegas and told him about my early positive impressions, he just smiled coolly and said, "let it cook" of course meaning break in time will continue to improve the experience - That I did!

Turning the unit on and loading a disk produces a "TOC Reading", or Table of Contents for tracks, time etc. The 15S2 works flawlessly reading and playing back without hick-up or misinformation. Perhaps minor to some, I love the reliability.

I acquired a couple of Monster Music Super discs; Ray Charles Duets, and George Benson with Al Jarreau. The package comes with both a surround disc and a "High Definition Stereo" disc. Naturally the surround disc doesn't play in the Marantz, but the stereo disc playsed beautifully. These 96 kHz studio recordings are actually quite good. Although the catalogue is limited, these are promising for CD's. I did listen to the surround discs, but that doesn't apply here.

The 15S2 reproduced the Ray Charles' duets (with such names as Norah Jones and James Taylor) faithfully and naturally. Voices were nicely shaped and delineated.

I was impressed with the spatial aspect of the Rene Marie Live at Jazz Standard in NYC where the nuance of the small stage is most evident. I always seem to pull this CD out when I want to hear a woman's voice that's both sweet and full-bodied. The SA-15S2 made the club atmosphere palpable and the sense of realism of Ms. Marie smacking her lips as she takes in a breath of air.

The JVC XRCD24 recording of Mozart's Serenade No. 7 "Haffner" with Jean-Francois was emotionally engaging, thanks to the SA-15S2. Gerard Jarry's violin was sweet and beautifully rendered. The sense of orchestra was powerful and open.

Dire Strait's Brothers in Arms is still one of the best Rock SACD's I've come across, (along with Avalon from Roxy Music and of course Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon). I found the recording transparent and dynamic. A bit "cool jazz" like, track 4 "Your Latest Trick" had a dominating horn section, brassy and haunting free of grain. The percussions in "Ride Across the River" maintained a warm and extended believability.

Linn Record's Handel's Messiah (Dublin Version, 1742) from the Dunedin Consort & Players SACD is spiritual and joyful. The soloist Nicholas Mulroy's voice was crisp, taut and sweet while the choir filled the space. The Marantz did such a superb job I'm always wary of the hair on my neck standing up!!

Musicality is a bit overused, but is the foremost term I can think of to describe the 15S2 It did what it's supposed to - immerse and absorb you in the music, thrill you with the earthy and natural tones, sparkle the highs with sweetness, and pound out the deep impact of bottom end. And most importantly, studio recordings and live performances sounded like they were intended.

When I attempted to try the digital input on the Marantz using the digital output from my OPPO DV-980H which I use for a second room DVD player mostly, I was successful playing everything up to 88.2 kHz, but anything over that would read "In:Unlock". This meant according to the manual that there was too much jitter and unplayable. However what did come across from standard CD or 44.1 kHz was excellent, and the difference was negligible between hearing it from the Marantz directly or the OPPO using the Marantz D/A converter. The OPPO sounded very much like the Marantz, suggesting the quality of the 15S2 DAC is exceptional.

Speaking of OPPO, towards the tail-end of my review of the Marantz, I was sent the OPPO Universal Blu-Ray player, the BDP-83. At about a quarter the price of the SA-15S2, the OPPO is an excellent competitor, but in the end I preferred the overall presentation made by the Marantz, which I found to be better balanced and full-bodied. The added digital filter option was nice to have on various occasions.