KNOWLEDGEABLE readers will need no reminding that Marantz are effectively Philips owned and therefore, whilst much Marantz equipment comes to us from the Far East, their CD players in particular are based on Philips designs—even when the external appearance may suggest otherwise. In practice, Marantz are allowed a fair degree of autonomy in planning which models to aim at particular markets.
This new Marantz CD-45 is very clearly based on the lightweight budget-priced Philips CD I 50 which I reviewed in January, page 983, with considerable enthusiasm. It even has the same UK retail price of £229 (though I hear that the CDI50 has in the meantime come down to £199.95) but there are minor differences in•the layout and scope of the controls. For instance Play/Replay and Pause are switched by pressing either end of a double-length key. Pressing the Play/ Replay end during play causes the machine to re-start the track being played.
The Stop/Clear button will either stop play, returning the display to total number of tracks and total playing time, or clear any programmed sequence in the memory. A pair of Select keys will move the laser forward or back one track at a time either during play (track skip) or during programming numbers into a desired order.
The two Fast Search keys are rather confusingly labelled Index but provide the expected high-speed forward or backward search function: this takes place slowly for the first three seconds, then a bit faster (both speeds with audible sound) and finally at top speed with no audible sound. The "Index" labelling indicates that these keys are dual-purpose and enable play to be begun from the start of one of the Index points (so far encoded on only a few opera and orchestral discs). The pro cedure is first louse the Select keys to select the required track, and then set up the Index number by pressing the Index keys. There is also a Repeat key for whole-disc or programmed sequence repeat-play, and a recall key for reviewing the sequence of tracks stored in the memory.
The display has small green digits and will show total number of tracks plus total playing time when a disc is first loaded. During play this changes to Track Number and Track Elapsed Time, but a Display changeover key alters this to show total time remaining if peeferred. As well as the standard pair of output phono-sockets on the rear panel, there are Sync Rec, Easy Bus and Remote Bus sockets to be used for automatic operation with suitably equipped Marantz cassette decks and rack systems. Special green and orange phono cables are supplied for these connections, as well as the standard white and red cables for signal connection. The two-wire mains cable is detachable, and a set of spacer feet is supplied for use where extra ventilation is desirable, e.g. in an enclosed rack cabinet. The eight-language user's handbook is well enough illustrated but the English translation is of very variable quality.
Not surprisingly, the performance and ease of operation of this Marantz CD-45 closely resembled those of the look-alike Philips CDI50. The standards in technical terms were well up to the best now available from current mid-price designs, which means that frequency response is well balanced and extends smoothly over the full 20-20,000Hz spectrum, whilst noise and distortion fall below normally audible levels.
Figure I shows that the measured frequency response was effectively flat on both channels. The crosstalk has been held to an unusually low –96dB at all frequencies. Figure 2 is my usual I kHz square-wave plot and we see the symmetrical ringing effect typical of these Philips-type fourtimes oversampling/digital filter models. Measured signal-to-noise ratio was an excellent 96.5dB unweighted, or I12.5dB A-weighted, and the total harmonic distortion (including noise) came close to the claimed 0.004% figure.
Error correction was first class, passing all the standard tests easily. Mechanical noise during play was helpfully low, perhaps a by-product of the light non-metallic casing on this model which does not store energy to the usual extent. Proof against external vibrations was also respectable, but a firm base would be sensible, adding the extra push-on feet if ventilation seemed inadequate. Access time was fair, rather than spectacular, taking about 2 seconds to start Track I and 5 seconds for Track 15. I sometimes found that a disc would not start until I re-set the disc in the drawer. Experiments established that the reason was the shallow sides of the central and outer portions of the disc platform. Some discs of Japanese origin needed to be carefully centred on the platform or they would not enter the Play mode properly.
Subjective sound quality was very persuasive, detailed and yet totally devoid of that hardness produced by some CD players. Music of all types, choosing well-recorded discs like the Berlioz Symphonic fantastique (Montreal/Dutoit, Decca 414 203-2) and Beethoven Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 and 4 (Gilels, DG4 I 5 481-2) exhibited perspective depth and a natural tone at all levels. My rather smaller collection of pop CDs, swelled recently by the best-selling Dire Straits album "Brothers in arms" (Vertigo 824499-2) presented to me on my recent PolyGram Hanover visit reported on page 1474, similarly sprang to life. Transients, extreme bass, wide dynamics; this player showed itself to be an excellent performer in all these respects. At just £229 (even less in some shops) it is a strong recommendation.