POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 33
Our readers respond…we respond right back!
Hello Mr. Stern,
Without knocking other knowledgeable journalists for their lack of rigueur I must say that your writing stands out like a hundred-watt bulb in a Christmas tree. Now that I know who you are I know why.
Reading you is a breath of Internet fresh air!! I hope to read you for a long while still.
Everybody is obsessed with burn in time frames whether it be cables, speakers, amps or tubes, it's open season on the burn in pick of the week.
Why argue whether there is such a thing or not? Some people hear the difference and most reviewers love to wax poetic at how the amp was transformed after a couple of hundred hours of burn in and kept right on getting better then off to another reviewer, who probably burns it in for the required time before he judges it's sound.
My point is this, why don't manufacturers build a time keeping device into their gear so that when you buy that vintage Mac you can see that it only has 500 hours of playing time. Or that Levinson has close to 20 years of 24/7 listening hours on it. Think of it as an odometer reading for HI-FI gear. You can see the merit in this can't you?
This makes more sense to me, than a five ,10 or 20 year warranty. I am a casual listener who sees his warranty time elapse on gear that has not been played that much. This could help manufacturers in a number of ways as there would be real proof of the reliability or lack there of. Just think of the fun everyone could have especially reviewers who could do follow ups and compare if the gear ages well or doesn't. It might also help the great unwashed from getting burnt on a an amp that has been burned in a little too long.
Dear Dr. Sardonicus,
I had heard of John Fahey and how great he is but for some unfathomable reason I had never heard him. And I'm a guitar player! He'll be taking up some room on my CD shelves along with a few others from your list.
Hey Dan ... thanks for the nice note.
Historically I don't get all that much feedback on the music reviews, including holding the world's record for the most music reviews in a single issue of any magazine by one author, so it's nice to know someone is reading them.
As to tempting you to buying more music than is prudent, remember what some old famous guy said, "Give me the luxuries of life and I will forgo the necessities."
Have you heard their 2A3 preamp and 300/805 mono blocks either separately or preferably in combination. What was you opinion? Do you have an opinion as to how they compare to your EL34 at 1/3rd the price? Any booby traps in that particular set of minefields?
I read your piece, how is Pacific progressing?
Thanks in advance for any input you have time to provide.
The Ming Da has performed flawlessly. I will do a short follow up in my next piece. It is out of service now, simply because I have a new tube amp in to review.
I have not been successful with Pacific ... they are very anti-reviewer, and require outright purchase (at least securing the piece with a personal credit card) which is not acceptable, so we will probably not be doing any more of their gear, unless another reviewer buys some.
No idea about the other pieces you mention. I would have liked to have continued with some of their more interesting imports, but apparently one of their owners got stiffed by a reviewer and can't separate that experience from the rest of the world.
Ah well, c'est la vie.
1.) When is your update gonna appear in Positive Feedback Online?
2.) How long did the break in or burn in take?
3.) Were there any important or noted time frames where the sound changed dramatically (good or bad) but had still not reached final burn in status?
4.) Did you find that you had to burn in separately for both CD and SACD mode to get the best sound out of each format?
5.) Which filter did you use most of the time and why?
6.) I did not read much comment in the reviews on the noise shaper function. I don't even really understand what it is. Can you explain it? Do you use it often and why? Thanks again for all your help.
I am pleased you got a unit, and yes ...Marantz appears to have underestimated demand for this "declining" SACD format. To your questions, in order.
1. Soon, very soon. I was going to wait for a new 11 for comparison, but that don't appear to be happening any time soon.
2. 200 hours of
play, not "on" time
4. I am not a hair-shirt reviewer. I listen to music. So, that is what I did, and the distribution of SA to CD was simply what arose out of my normal listening habits. I suggest you not worry about burn in, just relax and enjoy the player. I promise you, you will hear the changes and enjoy that too.
5. I am sure there are those who will change setting with each recording and drive themselves nuts trying to figure out what filter is best, especially since the numbering system is not the same for CD and SACD filter functions. Because the machine inverts polarity when using balanced outputs, I did mess with the polarity switch, but since my preamp has one on the remote and the Marantz does not, if I hear something hinky I think may be polarity related, I hit the pre-amp inverter. As to the other things, frankly, I listen to it like it came out of the box and I am happy. When Jennifer Crock gets hers I am sure she will "optimize" and then I may ask her to do mine, but for now ... I am a happy boy without fuss and muss.
6. Nope, and no, and because.
Let me explain. You spend countless hours and dollars tweaking that already outrageously expensive rig with the latest "best of" cables, cords and thingies. You are satisfied it is the best you have ever heard Pat Barber sound. Then the next evening and all is shambles, "what happened!" you cry out loud, loud enough for the wife to realize it's upgrade time, that new bathroom is on hold again.
I knew a wise (some called him wise-ass) audio dealer who never minced words, call the gear swappers a bunch of "audio junkies looking for a new fix". Doesn't that hit home?
This was a wake-up call. Why do I seem to get bored so fast? Then it clicked in. It's all in your mind. The system didn't change, the sound didn't deteriorate, and it didn't morph into a one box boom box. Everything was just as it was. It was all in my head, my ears had nothing to do with it. It was my state of mind; I wasn't in the mood to listen. Then a week or so later all was well with the universe. The theory was proved. The secret is to know when to listen and when not to. It can save you some big bucks and years of frustration when you downsize, and then try to get back the magic. When I was in the nine-to-five rat race, I looked forward to my 2 hours of de-stressing to music. Now that I am retired, I hate to admit that I listen less. But the listening is when my mind tells me the time is right. Sort of like that commercial.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Chuck.
I think you raise a valid point. In my experience, fine audio synergy is a continuum that extends from the room and its power configuration (including the larger context of RFI, EMI, the power grid) all the way through to the mindset and spiritual condition of the listener. I don’t discount the importance of assembling a synergistic system per se, but I believe that the listener is the far end of the audio performance chain. For example, I find that music sounds better with the lights low, or off, and I strongly prefer listening with one or more friends to listening alone. And I never listen critically to a system or to music while I’m under a great deal of stress.
While I don’t think that it’s all in our minds…that would be nothing more than audio solipsism, another dead end – there is something out there, and that something may be of greater or lesser worth…I do believe that our mindedness, our hearts, represent the final resting place of our audio performance. And we need to take heed to how we feel just as much (if not more) as we do our cables or our amplifier. Otherwise, audiophilia nervosa can take over, and we’ll become nothing more than the sort of obsessive consumers we are accused of being.
Our audio systems should be doorways to liberation, and not the road to bondage.
All the best,
Dear Mr. Lawton,
You should—if you'll allow me to push the pun, here—lay down a ton of laws (!) on the use of headphones for auditioning equipment. (I'm referring to the 'Critics Corner' board at Audio Asylum where there are 3 criticisms lodged against your review of a Marantz player, one of which is the use of 'phones).
Considering how a) loudspeakers are SO, SO, SOOO affected by room environment and b) so very varied from brand to brand, it seems more 'fair' and consistent to use headphones to evaluate a CD player or amplifier than speakers. ALSO, their qualities are higher priorities (to me, at any rate) and what I look for and demand in a component: neutrality (first and foremost); immediacy, and transparency (a close second). I believe most audiophiles would rate these highly and these qualities are what 'phones offer over loudspeakers and without any 'deflection' or 'distraction' from room surfaces.
I hope you start a revolution. At least, a revolt. (Let the others find it revolting.)
Thanks for the encouraging words.
Diving headlong into the fray of the speakers vs. headphones debate can be about as appealing as stepping into the ring to fight the age old tubes vs. solid state or CD vs. vinyl battles. The debate, though passionate, seems to bring out the worst in people; feelings get hurt, and nothing is ever resolved.
Sometimes, we audiophiles need a referee to pull us apart and shout "girls, girls-- you're both pretty!"
Speakers and headphones each bring something unique to the table. Each one offers insights the other can't provide.
That said, yes, I am aware that we headphone-o-philes can be somewhat marginalized by the "mainstream" audiophile community, and there is a disproportionate need to defend them. When speaker-centric audiophiles dismiss headphones, it's most often out of ignorance. If you haven't looked into the better headphones of recent years, you might be quite pleasantly surprised. Also, you may have missed the dedicated headphone amplifier revolution that's still in full swing. I imagine many of them have never even heard of a headphone amp, as this category of audio equipment has only really come to the fore in the last 10 years or so. Well, there are now $12K headphone amps out there for your $500 headphones, gentlemen, if you are so inclined.
As far as using headphones as one's chief tool for
evaluating components, I agree with you Laurence, they can be incredibly
illuminating, providing the listener with that up close and personal, one-on-one
musical experience. The best headphones are an audio microscope, an x-ray or MRI
scan with which to evaluate every musical molecule of your upstream gear. Every
hairline fracture or burgeoning cancer cell will be revealed in stark relief for
you to diagnose. In the best headphone systems, there simply is no place for a
bad tube, a bad cable or power cord, bad amp, bad source, or bad recording to
hide. With the most transparent phones, there is no barrier between you and the
musical signal, and no room to influence or color the sound.
Dear Mr. Clark,
Thanks for the correction! Must of been too busy taping... err tapping away at the keys and missed that one!
I don't mean to belittle you, and you've been entertaining to read in the past, but offering feedback—albeit not positive—is the best thing that I can do for you. Ultimately this is self-serving, as I have been a periodic consumer of your website and should it continue in this vein, I won't bother to come back.
So take the feedback, if you will, for the betterment of your site. Even better yet, don't accept a review of a product you can't make a commitment to, good or bad.
Thanks for the note.
Well, my comment was that functionally the remote was the best I have seen and I stick by that. I think I also defined why I thought it was the best. Everyone is different, if it does not work for you as well, that is unfortunate. Compared to the EMM Labs dCS, Sony and others I have used, I stick by my observation. I can use the remote without looking and fumbling for buttons, and the machine responds very rapidly to input.
As to your observations about "recessed midrange" and "harshness," I found this player to have some issues in performance up to the 200 hour level, when it really starts to bloom, which tracks with a number of other observers. But if you like a very forward sound like the technicolor Esoterics, you are not going to get it. The detail is there; it's just not shoved in your face. This is part of why the fatigue level is so low.
As to your point about working with it: sure, you can change power cords, change the amp stand, or whatever, but please do not ruin this unit by 'modding' it!
I enjoyed your review ; it was very good . I have had my unit for 7 months now, and I cannot say enough about it.
Get your updated review online! It seems that after 200 hours of use my SA-7 S1 really shines!
PS: My friend brought his Meitner [EMM Labs] by the other night. He too agreed (that the SA-7S1) sounded better in some ways. He is not selling his Meitner, though, because he likes it, but he said, “I have to admit, your Marantz sounds more natural in your McIntosh system. I cannot believe the sound for the money.”
Thanks for the note. I think the SA-7i is going to be very difficult to beat for the money.
Make a perfectly centered metal insert, like they used to have for 45 rpm records. Market a device that punches or cuts the exact size of this insert from an LP. Insert true centre insert and play the record.
Shouldn't be too hard to do, or expensive and I'll bet you could sell a couple, hey maybe Mickey would buy one.
Just give me some credit and a Scout upgrade.
I am not listening to a boombox. I use incredibly transparent Apogee Duetta Signatures with a Cary V12P preamp, a Consonance Droplet CD player, and yada yada yada. Some CDs are too bright, even for RCA 6SN7 tubes. So how do I cope? I have to use a Musical Fidelity X-Tone and PSU through the tape loop to get access to tone controls. The X-Tone is a very nice product if you can find one, adding no noise or degradation that I can hear. It does come in handy now and then, but of course it's no longer made, since audiophools were conditioned to think that tone controls are bad or low brow.
I wish that the high end would get over themselves and get practical. With all the engineering talent around, certainly they can figure out a way to switch tone controls in and out of the circuit. My home theater processor can do it. Any degradation is probably mostly in the minds of the listeners who are not listening to music, but are listening to the equipment.
Got that off my chest.
Ah Tom, you are singing my song, testify brother, TESTIFY!
The Marantz is by far the best CD player I have heard or owned, it reproduces music to sound like music, in fact my analog rig has is being surpassed my this unit on CD that are currently being mastered properly of course my LPs from 30 years ago still sound great, but that is more due to the master tape being 30 years younger!
The only CD player I ever heard that reproduced CD to this extent was the Linn CD12, that was a jaw dropping experience, I just got not pay that much for the unit, but it stayed in my mind from the first time I heard it.
I got my Marantz in December, and it sound fair at first, then after a month of normal use it click in and my jaw dropped, it was transformed, width, depth and most of all REAL detail and natural overtones and a detail and dynamic bottom end.
I won't say it sounds analog, that not my criteria for good sound, it too has many problems, like CD, it starts at the source (the medium itself) some LP sound great and a lot did not, much like CDs.
Compared to some players that hype digital sound, for detail, snap and speed to a point where you cannot live with them for long, the SA-7S1 just settles in and let's the music speak for itself.
No matter what I play, I can hear the era and the intent of each recording and in the end that what a music system is supposed to do, make you feel the event of the recording.
I cannot find a fault in its reproduction, and I tell you this for the first time in 20 years, I feel no need to keep looking for a cd player regardless of price and that is a first for me. So my Sota Cosmos turntable now has an able partner, and I now enjoy the best of both mediums.
Doctor Sardonicus was right about this unit, it is special.
I would disagree with one point, SACD sounds better in every regard then the CD layer, having said that though I will say this, this unit does red-book so good that it makes the good ones sound close to SACD quality and once you hear that then SACD CDs do not jump out at you as much.
The SA-7S1 keeps DSD in DSD to the output, unlike the Esoteric and the Accuphases. SACD just sounds better depending on the disc was mastered, again it always gets back to the care taken in the mastering process.
All in all a good review that I would agree with, but the Marantz is not colored, or rosy sounding, it sounds so real that it makes listening to digital music so enjoyable.
World-class unit regardless of price, so to me that makes it a bargain to say the least! Yeah a mod may change the sound, but like all mods it not always for the best, but they sure sound different.
Thank you for your thoughtful comments on the SA-7S1, I certainly agree it's a very special player.
Reading your observations about the unit's sound, I think it's pretty clear we are hearing the same basic sonic qualities displayed by the Marantz. Reading between the lines of what you wrote, we concur the unit is incredibly non-fatiguing, with a relaxed presentation and ease to the sound that can be very soothing and seductive. I agree it is a very "un-hyped" and "un-digital" sound, just as you say.
But here's where subjective preference enters the picture and we each must interpret how we feel about the above objectively observed qualities and how they fit (or don't fit) within our own systems, and our own listening styles. Do you want to close your eyes and float away, or do you prefer to bob your head, tap your foot and participate with occasional air guitar and air drums?
You make an interesting statement about the SA-7S1 saying that you cannot find fault with any aspect of its reproduction. I can fully understand what you are saying, but as I tried to point out in my review, I think that's part of my issue with the stock unit. It's an incredibly well-voiced player, (almost too well-behaved); any potential point of distraction has been subtly flattened out. It has that extra warmth and slight sweetness to the top-end that we audiophiles tend to love, even if it varies slightly from strict neutrality. As a result, it bathes you in warm, mellow, audio goodness. All well and good.
As I noted in the review, I think for many people all of these qualities will be perceived as positives (clearly they were for you). For me, if a player is making every recording sound great (or at least listenable), it's probably exhibiting some kind of coloration. To some, this may sound like a ridiculous criticism-- why would you want any recording to sound bad? But for me, a bad recording should sound bad; buzz-saw, ear-shredding treble should hurt. Hyper-compressed modern recordings should leave your ears ringing. Bloated bass-lines should rattle your skull. If it's on the master tape, I prefer to hear it.
For me, the Marantz lacks a bit of transparency and is a bit too reserved to allow that to happen. But I don't want to exaggerate my issues with the player; as I said in my review, one would have to go well out of their way to actively dislike it. If I didn't feel it was a world-class machine, I wouldn't have spent good money after bad by having the unit modified. I am actually hoping (and fairly optimistic) that the Marantz can maintain a modicum of its easy-going nature post-mods compared to my current reference, a modified Sony XA9000ES. It would be great to get the best of both worlds, but we'll have to wait and see.
With regard to CD vs. SACD performance, I think you nailed it; it's not that it does SACD poorly, it's more that it does CD so darn well. I expect that if some of the transparency issues can be resolved with the mods, the differences between the two formats should be clearer for me.
I should have the player back shortly and will follow up my review with some additional comments on the modified SA-7S1. Cheers.
I'm glad I could be of use to a few potential buyers. I may have written this somewhere, but I can't remember where. In a direct comparison of balanced and unbalanced drives within one headphone amp, I could hear a difference between the two and balanced was a little cleaner, a tad freer from a hint of tizz. That was apparent through a very high quality headphone system, with the finest HeadRoom gear, the finest Sennheiser 'phones, the finest Cardas Teflon insulated interconnecting cables, etc. That is to say, the overall impact of Balanced lines is real but subtle.
If you intend to play your new system in a room through speakers, I'm certain that unless you have a tuned and treated room your listening area will account for larger anomalies than un-Balanced lines will give you. So, instead of spending for the Balanced lines, I'd save the cash and try to do a bit of room treatment yourself (a little goes a long way). Some very sharp people say the listening room accounts for the largest variable in setting up a good system. Do a Google search for "Room treatment, Audio." See where that gets you.
In particular, read the John E. Johnson, Jr. article. And check out his bibliography at the end. Hope that helps.
I was a magazine subscriber to PF back in the day when Harvey was running loose, and visit your online site almost daily to see what's new. I honestly feel your coverage is balanced, professionally written and engaging. Your writers are articulate, passionate and write with creative flair. I recently saw that Mike Lavigne was on your staff. His reputation as a person and audiophile is of the highest standards in the audio community, and I applaud this decision to bring him on board.
To the many years ahead of you as you light the path before us ...I salute what you have done for all of us in the past, as well as looking forward to the many exciting products and issues you will seek to cover.
Brent Rainwater, Audio Addict
Thanks for sending along such kind and enthusiastic comments …we certainly appreciate hearing them.
We work very hard to make PFO educational and entertaining for our readers, all the while maintaining the integrity of the journal. Our writers don't always agree with one another, and there is a wide variety of interests represented, but I believe that our diverse group serves a very broad array of audiophiles. (And you're right: Mike Lavigne is certainly a respected member of our community. He's been with us for a while, and is a good audio friend.) They are all unique voices—honoring those voices makes editing quite the challenge!
Gizmo was certainly one of the truly remarkable people here…I still miss him.
Anyway, thanks for taking the time to compliment our work. It was a lift in the midst of "Monday as usual."
All the best to you,