In the mid of the 70s I decided to buy a Marantz amplifier, attracted by the reputation that the American firm had among audiophiles. I was so excited to put my hands over a Marantz component that, after having connected it to my system, I didn't believe to my ears: it was the worst sounding HiFi component I had ever listened to!
It was the Model 1070, not exactly the cheapest amplifier of the Marantz HiFi range ot those years.
This amplifier, matched with a pair of Visonik David 6000, was simply unable to drive these tiny speakers and its clipping was evident for everyone. Switching to a honest Pioneer 8800 was a relieve to my ears...
Thinking at this sad event now, 25 years later, I suspect that it was MY own 1070 to sound that bad but then I decided that EVERY Marantz HiFi component sounded bad (well, I had also a Marantz tuner which wasn't exactly a wonder).
Since then a lot of things have changed: now Marantz is owned by Philips and thanks to some clever ideas the old American firm has started to make some pretty HiFi components again. Some of these have soon become a reference (think, for example, at the budget CD players).
Some gear used for this test
Spendor SP2/2 loudspeakers
Sonus Faber Concertino loudspeakers
Suono Riferimento loudspeakers
Audioanalyse PA 60 amplifier
Orelle 100 amplifier
Orelle CD 100 player
Yamaha CDX 1030 player
Monster Cable Interlink CD, Interlink 300 e Esoteric Audio CD interconnects
Esoteric Audio Premier, Supra 2.5 power cables
Monster Cable Discus+ CD stabilizer, ART graphite pads, Tip Toes and other similar stuff :-)
How does it look like
The Marantz CD 17 is available either in a classical black finish or in a gold luxury vest (the one in the picture above), in both versions this player is very good looking.
The overall construction appears as quite sturdy (ok, let aside the transport...) and, thanks God, the top cover isn't the ubiquitous (and resonant!!!) U or C-shaped thin metal sheet. This should protect the CD 17 from nasty external vibrations coming out from the loudspeakers. The transport here is the classical CDM-12.3 while the D/A conversion uses bitstream DAC7 circuits.
Putting your hands onto it
Few buttons on the front panel allow you to play and stop the player, to put it in pause, to skip a track and to turn on/off it. In the rear panel you have standard RCA outputs, both analog and digital and a bus output for similar Marantz components (amplifiers etc.). The power cord isn't (sadly) detachable.
The remote control is quite easy to use though it works only if pointed directly to the player, probably because the IR sensor is hidden deeply inside the display. Similarly to other Marantz players (even the old CD 63) the display can be *trimmed*, some audiophiles swear that the display light circuits can affect the quality of the reproduction...
Since the CD 17 is a CD player oriented to the audiophile crowd, it is quite strange that the level of the analog output is adjustable by means of a volume control (remote). Also, if you decide to use this feature to couple the CD player directly to your power amplifier, please consider that the CD 17 isn't able to remember the previous volume settings...so, you've been warned!!!
The headphones output isn't available, since many audiophiles consider this as a non-purist device that can affect the quality of the sound... The overall feeling, using the CD 17, isn't particularly enjoyable and the especially the transport seems weak and *cheap* (light plastic, that is).
How does it sound?
The CDM 12.3 transport is considered a very good device but then I simply can't understand why its performance can be CLEARLY improved using a simple CD stabilizer like the Moster Cable Discus+
Simply put, any CD player is affected by some problems due to the fact that the disc spins very fast, vibrating and resonating so that any device that can dampen these vibrations does have an audible effect on the sound.
Is it so difficult to design and build better (vibration-free) transports? Maybe these would be outrageously expensive but please think that some HiFi Companies have started designing better trasports (Teac VRDS, Pioneer Stable Platter etc.).
So I've decided to use the Moster Discus+ during the whole listening test, its effect on the sound of the CD 17 is so audible that it would be a crime to listen to the CD 17 without this stabilizer.
The CD 17 does sound good, so good that every time I try to focus my attention on some aspects of the reproduction, I end up listening to the whole CD and to the played Music instead.
It is very airy but not *light* or overbright. Indeed the mid-to-high range is smooth and sweet exactly like the low-mid range, clean and articulated. The bass range is slightly soft, though it remains controlled even with not-so-good recordings.
Indeed this is one of the big pluses of the CD 17: it allows you to listen even to mediocre recordings without fatiguing your ears. I don't know which is the cause for this behaviour: probably the ability of the CD 17 to extract so many informations from the disc, especially allowing the creation of a virtual soundstage which is large and deep, where the instruments are perfectly focused, with much air among them, very natural to say it in a word.
The CD 17 costs here in Italy (as usual, your mileage may vary, HiFi is pretty expensive here) 1800 $ (black finish) and at this price it is one of the better sounding CD players I've heard. Also let me add that the CD 17 is very easy to match with different HiFi systems.
I'd be glad to test the Ken Ishiwata Signature (KIS) version of the CD 17: it costs a bit more (2200 $ more or less) but it could be money well spent.