There is a definite, if still small trend toward two-piece, no-holds-barred CD players. Marantz version, the limited edition CD12, consists of the transport CD12 (housing the laser pick-up assembly, the rest of the mechanics for the CD player, and the servo electronics) and a separate digital-to-analog converter, the DA12. This CD player carries a suggested list price of $4.000, half what some other two-piece models cost but still twice as high as state-fo-the-art single-unit CD players.
According to Marantz, the CD12's D/A converter and digital filter use special 'select grade' Philips TDA1541A S1 single crown chips with four-times oversampling, and they are supposed to realize more than 15.75 bits of resolution out of the 16 bits available in the standard CD format.
The transport section features a Philips CDM-1 mechanism made of die-cast aluminium alloy. A single-beam laser pickup floats on a radial/linear swinging arm that is supposed to result in improved tracking ability and faster track access.
The transport and D/A sections of the Marantz CD12 can be linked via a coaxial cable or a supplied optical-fiber cable said to have diamond-polished connectors.
The two components are a champagne gold color - rather a welcome departure from the all-black finish almost every audio manufacturer has adopted as a de facto 'standard'for high-end equipment. The system comes with a sophisticated universal remote control that can learn 150 functions from other remotes of audio and video products.
Each of the Marantz CD12's components is fitted with a swingdown door, along the lower edge of the front panel, which hides controls. With the panel closed, the transport unit shows switches only for power, drawer open/close, play/stop, and track advance/reverse. An elaborate display is also visible; it shows the usual track number, shuffle play and repeat, FTS data, and in tiny numerals from 1 to 24, the total number of tracks present on the disc.
The front panel of the D/A unit, the Marantz DA12, has a power switch at the left and a central display divided into three areas. The first shows digital tape-monitoring mode (coaxial or optical), the second shows whether the current sampling frequency is 48 or 44.1 kHz (it's unit when playing material made with 32-kHz sampling), and the third shows which of the two coaxial and two optical digital inputs has been selected. Opening the hinged door reveals a stereo headphone jack and level control, a 'Digital Tape monitoring' selector and an 'Input Selector'. An abbreviated block diagram of the D/A converter is also screened onto the surface behind the hinged door.
The converter's rear panel is equipped with two digital coaxial inputs, two optical digital inputs, left and right unbalanced analog outputs, and left and right balanced XLR analog output connectors. A fuse-holder and a second power cord complete the rear panel.
Use and listening tests
The versatility of this system's remote control is truly awesome. Just about every function of the CD player was controlled, using the remote, both during the bench tests and subsequent listening tests.
Clearly, Marantz has attempted to design and build a reference CD player and has spared no expense in doing so. Aesthetically, the two units are attractive and, mounted one above the other, give the impression of elegance and style that i'm sure was intended. I doubt Marantz expects to sell this two-piece CD player in any great quantity. Rather, borrowing from the technology inherent in the Marantz CD12, perhaps Marantz will come up with somewhat more economical models incorporating much of the new technology in this, their reference CD player.