- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 20 July 2009
Listening to music played on the SA-7S1 was so pleasureable, I spent entire afternoons, and some occasional mornings, having a great time with my favorite discs. There is an audible difference between the SACD and CD version of the same music (most SACDs have a CD layer). The differerence is very subtle, and is one of having more texture with SACD. Maybe that is one reason SACD discs have not been very successful. The difference is not something that really jumps out at you. It is enough for the audiophile market, but apparently not the mass market consumer.
Russian Nights (Telarc) is a disc that was recommended to me by a friend, and I have to thank him for that. The music is spectacular, and the SA-7S1 made it even more so. Scary Music (Telarc) is such an interesting disc, my wife uses it in teaching her exercise classes (after converting the CD tracks to mp3s and playing them through a PA system - they sound somewhat, shall we say, different than through the SA-7S1). Of course, the Telarc 1812 Overture SACD is a standard for testing performance at the limits of recording capability, and it truly sounded wonderful with this player. I also have the ability to play this disc in 5.1 SACD in our home theater lab, using other equipment which has a bit more distortion. Trying to decide which I like better (the SA-7S1 at vanishingly low distortion vs. 5.1 SACD with more distortion, not necessarily audible, but being a purist . . . .) is moot, since I can listen to the disc in either lab depending on my mood.
The last disc in the photos below is an DSD remaster of the most successful jazz recording ever made, called Kind of Blue, with Miles Davis on trumpet. I can imagine it is the most successful, as I have three copies myself, one on LP (remastered at 45 RPM), one on CD, and the third on SACD. The SACD comes closest to the analog sound of the LP, minus the pops, ticks, and surface noise, but the visceral connection between listener and music is a separate phenomenon when you play LPs. I don't think any digital format will ever actually make LP aficionados toss their turntables and LP collections. The controversy goes on, and on, and on. We have an article series on this topic ourselves. When CDs first arrived, I was so enthralled, I (gasp) gave away my turntable and LPs. Part of that fascination was the fact that the music was digital, and going into that world of digital was going "high tech". That in itself was part of the motivation in those days. I tearfully regret giving my LP collection to the local St. Vincent de Paul charity. In that collection was a complete set of Beethoven's works, and most of the LPs had not been played (my interest was mainly in the nine symphonies at the time). Some lucky %*@# laughed all the way to the cashier's desk I suppose.
I now have a pair of turntables, both of them high performance, but I limit my LP music collection to jazz. What I have found is that LPs sound more congested when there are a lot of instruments, such as a classical orchestra, than CDs, and certainly with high resolution recordings such as SACD. To get the most out of these high rez discs, it is important to use a high performance player, and the Marantz SA-7S1 is certainly in that category.
Violins are a good test for separating the high frequency nature of the instrument from the rest of the orchestra, such as this SACD of Mozart Violin Concertos (2L38SACD).
Choral music is also a stress test, in that you have so many instruments (the human voice) in the same frequency range. Do they sound mushy, or do they sound distinct? It's the latter for the Marantz player (2L43SACD).
And finally, percussion, with its cymbals that have very high frequencies. This new release (2L39SACD) has synthesizers, natural percussion instruments, and to top it all off, a soprano human voice. This disc in particular is one I recommend for showing off your system, as it has a typical dual layer with SACD on one and CD on the other. But, in SACD, it is somethinge else. The Marantz just blew me away with the sound. No overly sibilant cymbal crashes. Just clarity as far as the ear can hear it.
The bottom line on my listening tests is that the SA-7S1 is sinfully smooth. It's like the difference between satin and cotton sheets. Or between grocery store ice cream and the high-butter-fat tongue-smackin' stuff I get at The Marble Slab (Chocolate Swiss with pecans and crunched Heath candy bar bits in a waffle cone that is dipped in melted Heath bar). When the distortion is as low as it is with the SA-7S1, there is not much more one can say than it sounds like whatever is recorded on the disc.