What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Tue, 24 Jul 2007, 10:00am

Marantz SA-7S1

Tested at £5000
100100
5

A great SACD/CD player, but give it a proper listen or you won’t realise what all the fuss is about

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For

  • It has a refined, informative and natural presentation
  • excellent build and finish

Against

  • Understated sound might not appeal on a short listen

First impressions don't count, at least when it comes to Amaranth's new range-topper. Take a quick listen to the SA-7S1 SACD/CD player, and it comes across as overly polite.

The player initially seems understated, lacking the punch, bass power and impressive dynamics that you'd expect for this kind of money – which is five grand, remember.

Listen longer, over hours and days, and that impression changes. This is not a machine that goes for the quick hit. This Migrants is in it for the long run, and its balance will keep you listening year after year, rather than exciting you today, and letting your interest wane after a couple of weeks.

Regardless of format, this is a supremely smooth and clean-sounding disc-spinner. There's no trace of undue harshness, which makes it a really easy listen, even over extended sessions. The subtle approach to dynamics and punch isn't the weakness it first appears: take a closer listen, and you realise the SA-7S1 isn't half as polite as you first thought, and the impression is mainly to do with the lack of edge and hardness.

Makes rivals seem mechanical
This is the kind of player that revels in the subtleties, revealing bags of low-level detail when required. Want to follow Big Boi's rapid-fire lyrics on Speakerboxxx? Or hear the organ-pedal sounds from the opening of Eric Bibb's Where the Green Grass Grows? In that case, this machine delivers the kind of in-depth listening experience you'll want to linger over.

Complexity doesn't faze the SA-7S1, either: it replays dense music like Ravel's Bolero with ease. Perhaps the machine's greatest strength is its fluidity: instruments and vocals are delivered in an ultra-natural and convincing manner, making most rivals sound mechanical in their approach. It's this quality more than any other that makes the SA-7S1 such a likeable machine.

More power to the bass
Weaknesses? Timing isn't particularly crisp, though it's precise enough to keep fast-moving rhythms alive. And it would be better to have just a little more authority in the bass. Also, we'd prefer Marantz to get rid of its user-adjustable filter and noise-shaping options, and settle on what it considers best. That way you concentrate on the music, rather than messing about with the player.

Marantz has a long history of making top-class CD players, and the SA-7S1 simply adds to that long-established and extremely admirable reputation. It's beautifully built, easy to use, and sounds excellent. Whether for CD or SACD, the Marantz SA-7S1 is a must-hear product.