A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away ... a company named Marantz introduced a series of CD players named CD43, CD53 and CD63. In their time and day, they represented probably the best available at their respective price points, or at least, among the best available. And they lived long, happy lives, evolving into models like 67, 67 Mk.2 and 67 KI Signature.
However, while evolving, they nevertheless misjudged the competition, which was hard at work, and gradually caught up with Marantz. In early 1999, Marantz was not nearly such a hot deal as it was some years back.
All that time, Marantz engineers were hard at work preparing not a simple evolution of a well known line, but a truly new product. And their job was not an easy one - they had to follow up on a legend, never an easy task, in addition to once again offering what the competition at a given price point could not do.
The new Millenium series, comprising of five models, is what Marantz has to say about CD sound today. The first two models, 4000 and 5000, are, to the best of my knowledge, repackaged Philips models 723 and 753; I could be wrong about the repackaging, but I know I’m right about their sound because they sound more or less exactly the same as the two Philips counterparts.
They use the same transport throughout the line, namely Philips VAM1201, a new transport Philips claims resovles important problems from the past. The lower models use SAA7378 decoders, model 4000 uses the TDA1545 DAC, model 5000 the TDA1549 DAC, while models 6000 and 6000OSE each use two SM5872BS DACs in a differential configuration.
Both models 6000 maintain Marantz's tradition of having separate active low pass filter (LPF) stages from dedicated output stages, but here differences again begin to appear. Model 6000 uses the well known and traditional to Marantz op amp, NJM2114D, for the LPF filter stage and Marantz’s proprietary HDAM discrete modules for the output stage, while model 6000OSE eschews the NJM op amp for another pair of HDAM modules, uses better quality caps, better transformer and so forth, for a price bonus of an extra 23% over the price of model 6000.
On the subject of electronics inside, I noted that Marantz now uses more stabilized lines with full electronic regulation than before, and most importantly, the power transformer has grown substantially. Greater size doesn't necessarily mean proprotional power yield increase, but it must be greater than before with a smaller transformer.
This is most welcome, as one of the typical tweaks on the older series was to swap the transformer for a bigger and better one; I'm not saying this is no longer an option, but it certainly is less of an option than before.
The insides are still as neat as ever, and Marantz was always very good on that point, the only large change now being that instead of having everything on one plane, a smaller board is piggybacked to the motherboard.
I also note provisions for still more piggyback boards, though I don't know what they might be. Fortunately, the NJM2114D are still standard, 8pin DIL chips, so tweakers may want to exchange them for better op amps. However, the HDAM modules are firmly fixed in place, so forget them, they are there and that's it, period.
On the back of the case, also some welcome changes. The RCA Cinch connectors are now gold plated (though still of commercial quality), another welcome improvement. Just as important, the back of the case is now perforated along the upper edge; if you think that's no big deal, just put your hand there after an hour or so of work and you'll have the opportunity to note the warm air escaping. I wish others would do the same instead of relying on metal heat transfer characteristics of their cases.
Last but not least, the handset. Older Marantz CD players had rather large remote commands, which while functional were also crowded with all sorts of buttons; not so here.
The new remote control set, dubbed RC6000CD, look almost exactly like their Philips TV set counterparts, have less buttons than before, yet most required commands are there.
This includes the volume command, which is available only from the remote control set, so if you want to stick in a pair of headphones into the provided 6,3 mm receptacle, the only way to control volume is via the remote.
Very nice, very tidy - let's see how it plays music.
At low levels, the Marantz will surprise you if you're used to their older series models, and especially if you have their model 67 KI Signature. It will also surprise you if you have one of typical products in this price class.
The 6000 manages to maintain what was always regarded as one of Marantz's greatest virtues, and that is complete control over the music it plays. You feel nothing, but nothing, could ever catch it with its pants down.
However, in the older series, the price you paid for this was a definite lack of dynamics, and it was possible to catch the old models out with some very fast electronic music by say Vangelis and Enigma, which left them gasping for air.
Not so here. The 6000 is faster, much faster, than its forebears, and the dynamics lacking then are now here all right, and then some. No way you're going to have this one gasping for current or air, this boy's fast and he's going places.
There is now a liveliness about this payer, a joy of life, that was so direly lacking before. In fact, it's better sounding that the 67 KI Signature of old, if you ask me.
The precision that was always a hallmark of Marantz is not only maintained, but further evolved than before. It's still an uncommonly precise player (for its price, of course), but there is more coherence than before, it's as if the music is more in focus than it used to.
And there is a sense of warmth, not false, it doesn't gloss over music, and in fact it may not be warmth as such, but more like a relaxed feeling. The player just lets the music go and tries to move out of the picture - it can't compete with the much more expensive models, of course, but so far as it goes, it walks with assurance and certainty, always knowing exactly what it's doing.
Lest I forget - the mechanism is unusually silent in operation. I have heard still more silent, but at prices which are not mentioned in polite company. Touche.
When testing this, I always let Billy Idol take the lead. That's because his music is meant to be played very loudly indeed, it doesn't cut it if played quietly. The same goes for Boris and Dieter, better known as Yello. Also, these boys have plenty of bass lines, many of them obtained from synthesized instruments, which tend to show up deficiencies in that department, if any.
Model 6000 has what I would call an exceptional bass department for a budget player; to be honest, I have to say its bass lines are better than those of some much more expensive players.
For a start, its bass is deep, it really digs deep down, not like many budget players which feature a thin and artificial bass. And it has warmth, it's not cold and false.
This does not come at any extra cost, I'm glad to say, and there is no common trade-off in the mid range and treble. Speaking of treble, the quality of model 6000's treble is also above the norm for its class, but is not as impressive as its bass lines. Treble is clean, no fatigue even after 10-12 hours of playing (I usually start around 8 AM and boogie until after midnight, switching to headphones when required, but it's go, go, go! all the way).
Nevertheless, while up there with the best of them for the price, it's not what I would really be happy with - I realize I'm also saying go for a more expensive player here, but I can't help it.
Soundstage One of this player's stronger points. The soundstage is essentially as large as a given recording will let it be. When the recording is good, the soundstage will be both wide and deep, in other words quite 3-dimensional. And again, I can't remember when was the last time I heard a soundstage as good as this one on a unit in this price range; for better, you'll have to pay more.
The reason why I brought this up as a special item is that I love to tweak, I can't help tweaking or trying to. This model was no different; however, since it was with me on loan, I couldn't very well replace the capacitors and the op amps just to see what I get.
So I settled for my favorite add-on, SoundCare spiked feet (see test on our site). Fortunately, the original CD player feet are bolted on with screws, so it was no big deal to remove them and install Soundcare spikes. I did it because I know from experience that they can do wonders for turntables and CD players, as well as other equipment.
And sure enough, the additional outlay brought me significant clearing up of what was already a pretty clean player. The bass was less heavy, true, but in return, it was better controlled and generally cleaner.
The treble and mid range improved too, but by far the greatest improvement was in the soundstage. Again, it was good to start with, and SoundCare just made it better, so from good it went to very good indeed. I should probably say impressive, given the composite price of the two, but I refrain simply because I need to try out the 6000OSE version first, as it may turn out to offer a still better end result, and the price difference isn't all that great, something like +23-24% over the price of the basic model.
But after installation, the sound was a joy to listen to. I mean that.
Is it perfect? Of course not. This is obviously an outstanding product for its price, just as the old CD53 and CD63 were when introduced - believe it or not, but Marantz has pulled the trick off once more. But perfect it is not.
Let me add that I can't help comparing it with my two trusty players, Harman/Kardon's CD730 and my tweaked Philips CD721. The H/K also boasts a completely discrete, fully complementary, dual differential output stage, using two basically same modules for I-V conversion and LPF filtering and output proper, much like Marantz boasts for its 6000OSE model. But the H/K is a straight 1-bit, no nonsense model. And it did cost 31.5% more than model 6000 under review here.
Well, the H/K beat the Marantz in terms of overall sound balance, managing to sound both a little more coherent and with more authority on the bass, keeping in control any loose ends.
In terms of soundstage, I would say they came out about even. Yet the H/K ultimately sounded just that little bit livlier than the Marantz, at the threshold of perception, but just audible.
The Philips had a tough time with the Marantz. Sure, the Philips now has three power transformers, has more regulated supply lines and has a very fast output stage, but all this in fact brought its price up to Marantz's. In terms of total clarity and coherence, the Philips might be just a bit better, but it could not keep pace with Marantz regarding the soundstage. Model 6000 was quite simply better at it, and that was that. On balance, today I'd settle for model 6000 rather than the tweaked Philips 721.
So, in conclusion, I have two things to say to you. If you are after a very good CD player for a reasonable price, you won't do much better elsewhere, if any better at all for the money.
And second, you will be making a serious mistake if you buy anything in this price bracket without listening to this model. You may still buy something else in the end, but at least let it - whatever it may be - have a run for its money, let it sweat and pant.
I think the Jedi is back in town. And not a moment too soon - whatever kept them