Hi-fi World september 2000
With a chipset culled from the mid-nineteen eighties, Marantz CD-7 has to be the world's first retro Compact Disc player. David Price puts on his stonewashed jeans and cues up his Rick Ashley CDs...
To me Marantz's new CD-7 is most striking for what it represents, which is the tacit acknowledgement that progress isn't necessarily a good thing. Indeed often it is simply what happens when companies want to sell you things at cheaper prices.
Bitstream DACs are a case in point. True, they did rid the listening public from the scourge of digititis - bleeding ears and headaches resulting from listening to CD for over ten minutes - but it wasnt all positive.
Where multibit stripped the wallpaper at one hundred paces, Bitstream stripped the excitement even from the most emotive music.
Looking to pen a statement CD player from Marantz, designer Ken Ishiwata showed quintessential Japanese pragmatism in electing to return to multibit. So what if he stuck two fingers up to all those press conferences, lectures and advertisements celebrating Bitstream virtues?
The problem was that one-bit simply wasnt misucal enough; the answer was to go back to something that was - Philips' TDA1541A continuous calibration DAC.
The result is the £3500 Marantz CD-7, using a 'Double Gold Crown' version of the aforesais digital convertor chip doubled in differentail pairs for maximum linearity. Working in conjunction is a brand new bespoke MZ777f digital Linear Music Filter, which is effectively two Motorola 56000 processors running the source code of Philips' SAA7220 digital filter chips. So although the player doesn't physically use SAA7220S (which partnered Philips original TDA1541- based players), its DSP chip emulates them to recreate their four times oversampling as well as offering three switchable algorithmes.
What of the transport i hear you cry? Sadly not even the cleverest microprocessor can emulate the heroic data retrieval talents of Philips' classic nineteen eighties swing-arm CDM9. So Ken decided to get his soanners out and re-fettle a propritery CDM12.3 disc spinner, selecting a metal chassis version and rebuilding it to his specifications, includigin diamond milled stainless steel slide bars for slick disc loading.
This, done, it was time to plug in the soldering iron for some vintage Ishiwata- style tweakery. No less than 14 selected Marantz HDAM (Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Module, if you must) op-amps are used, and the power supply has been breathed on with Shottky diodes, discrete transistor regulation and an ultra low noise ring-core toroidal transformer. Audiograde selected components are in abundance, the copper- plated diecast chassis and casing gets anti-resonance fixings and vibration damping feet.
Marantz's CD-7 is one honey of a Compact Disc player, and one i could live with until 16bit digital audio disappears for good. By any standards it's a gifted music maker, but neither is it perfect. Just recently the competition's been getting tough - Arcam's FMj23 CD runs it pretty close in many respects for two grand less, whereas Niam's similarly priced CDX is even more bouncy and rhythmic - if you can stomach its lack of tonal colour. All in all the Marantz CD-7 comes heartily recommended though, and you can bet your last Wham CD that it'll be a future classic.
Specifications Marantz CD-7
Channels: 2 channels
Sampling frequency (CD mode): 44.1kHz
Sampling frequency (D/A mode) 32/44.1/48kHz
Quantization: 16-bit linear/channel
Error correction: CIRC
D/A conversion: 1-bit linear/channel
Wow & flutter: precision of quartz
Optical readout system
Laser: AlGaAs semiconductor
Frequency range: 2Hz-20kHz
Dynamic range: >98dB
S/N ratio: >102dB
Channel separation (1kHz): >100dB
Output level (cinch Jacks): 2.2V RMS
Output impedance: 250 Ohms
Output level (cinch Jack): 0.5 Vp-p/75 Ohms
Output level (optical Jack): -19 dNm
K version: 110 / 220V AC 50/60Hz
/02 version: 230V AC 50Hz
Power consumption: 19W
Dimension (wxhxd): 454x139x344mm
Remote control unit (RC-7CD): 1
AAA (R03) Batteries: 2
Stereo audio cable with cinch pins: 1
AC power cord: 1