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HiFi Review: Marantz CD6003 CD Player

Marantz is one of the few mainstream hifi manufacturers still making dedicated CD players. In fact, they make quite a few, ranging in price from affordable to very expensive. We take a look at a machine which is somewhere in-between, offering pitch control and a USB input so MP3 and other files can be played.

Review by Leo Simpson

Features:

•Pure high-quality CD Player with MP3, WMA and WAV playback

•CD-R/RW compatible; CD-text

•HDAM-SA2 circuitry

•High-quality D/A conversion (CS4398)

•Customised audio components

•Quick replay

•Pitch control

•iPod-compatible USB input

•Coax and optical digital outputs

•Headphone output with level control

•Dedicated remote control

These days, most people happily play their CDs through a DVD player, which might be a run-of-the-mill model or a Blu-ray player. And while the better DVD players do give a reasonable performance when playing CDs, it is certainly not the best sonic result and there are often problems with hum and other interference.

It may surprise some readers just how much RF interference can be superimposed on the analog audio and video output of DVD players, particularly on the cheaper models. Sometimes this can be enough to severely interfere with AM and FM radio reception.

So inevitably, using a DVD player for CDs means that you can be feeding significant RF signals into the inputs of your amplifier. That is bad enough but the fact that just about all DVD players are of double-insulated construction and use a switchmode power supply means that there can be significant buzz, hum and other extraneous noises to mar your enjoyment of the music.

We investigated these problems fairly thoroughly in the October 2007 issue of SILICON CHIP.

One way to circumvent most of the problems of DVD players is to feed the TOSLINK (optical) digital output to the digital input on a home theatre receiver but even there, the results might not be optimum. Better still is to feed the TOSLINK output to a high-quality digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and to that end, we published a high-performance DAC in the September to November 2009 issues of SILICON CHIP. This had the added feature of remote control of the volume level.

Well, that solves most of the issues to do with sound quality but DVD players still have drawbacks. For example, they often take an age to power up and then recognise that they have loaded a CD. And since they tend to be designed with on-screen display of their features, they don’t do a good job of indicating CD tracks and other functions.

And then, when you press PLAY or change tracks, they often have to cogitate about it for a while before responding to your command.

All of this came to mind just recently when I decided I wanted a new CD player for my study. Having made the decision, I was immediately confronted by the limited choice on offer – just a few well-known brands and at prices considerably higher than even for a good quality Blu-ray player.

But I also wanted a high-quality player with the facility of pitch control and that limits choice even further. Sure, there are some reasonably priced “professional” CD players with pitch control but these are geared more to installations in clubs and other similar venues and their audio performance is not up there with the high-quality audiophile brands.

Which brought me to the Marantz CD5004. This is their “entry-level” player which does have pitch control, along with the capability to play CD-Rs, and CD-RWs and it will play CD-DA (PCM) alongside MP3 and WMA formatted files at 42, 44.1 and 48kHz sampling frequencies. As well, it has the ability to read music data on MP3s and WMA files as well as text-data encoded CDs. This means that it will show the title of each CD track as it begins playing.

It also uses the Cirrus Logic CS4392 DAC chip and the HDAM-SA2, the company’s proprietary Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Modules which were originally developed for their premium Reference Series products. This means that its audio performance should be very respectable. So I checked prices and some on-line reviews, all of which were encouraging.

But then I considered the next machine up in the range, the CD6003. It uses a better DAC, the Cirrus Logic CS4398 and it also has a USB socket on the front panel which means that you can plug in a flash drive, iPod or other media source so you can get a really good result when playing these files. In all other respects, it appears quite similar in features to the CD5004.

Indeed, all the Marantz CD players have the same styling and general presentation with the differences being mainly confined to the internal circuitry and possibly the ability to play SACD disks.

Some of the more up-market models in the range have been specially tweaked by the noted audiophile designer, Ken Ishiwata but I think he has had a hand in the design of most of the Marantz range. He really knows his stuff.

So I decided to purchase the Marantz CD6003; just like that, sight unseen. When it was delivered, I wanted to see just how good it was, so I put the CD6003 through its paces on our Audio Precision test gear.

And that is how this review came into being.

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