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Marantz Model 50 and CD50n

For many of us who bought our first ‘proper’ system in the 90s, a standalone CD player and amplifier were the cornerstone of what that set-up comprised. Marantz was a key player in those systems, and many of its products featured in a great many starter outfits. Fast-forward 30 years and most systems, starter or otherwise, have moved beyond the optical disc - but, in the Model 50 and CD50n, Marantz is still offering the same time-honoured combination. Nostalgia is a powerful drug, but is this really the best solution in 2024? 

Look a little closer, though, and Marantz isn’t stuck in the time warp that it might appear to be at first glance. The CD50n is a CD player, but that rather undersells what else it can do. As well as spinning silver discs, it has HEOS (the Marantz and Denon streaming module) built in - which means it can read a local library of ripped music or access Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and Amazon, as well as internet radio and AirPlay. Not enough? OK, how about a selection of digital inputs, including HDMI ARC to connect your TV, and a headphone socket? The CD50n is in fact an all-singing, all-dancing digital hub that presents a conventional face to the world. 

The Internals are impressive too. The CD50n uses an ESS DAC for decoding (as distinct from the pricier CD30n, which has a bespoke DAC) and Marantz says It has been extensively tuned by its engineers for a truly musical performance. The UPnP and USB inputs can accept PCM to 384kHz and DSD up to 11.2MHz. You even have the choice of a fixed or variable output, which means you can connect the CD50n either directly to a pair of active speakers or to a power amp.

Marantz rather hopes you’ll plump for the matching Model 50 amplifier, though. Thanks to the CD50n being a digital hub, the amp gets on with being an amp - which means that it presents an exclusively analogue set of connections to the world, comprising four line inputs, a moving magnet phono stage and a tape loop. You also get a preamp and a separate sub out (which is handy), and there’s a power amp input to bypass the volume control if you want to let the CD50n take full responsibility. 

Internally, the Model 50 is equally traditional, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a Class AB amplifier that gives you 70 watts into 8 ohms, rising to 100 into four. Unusually for a Marantz design it uses a toroidal transformer and incorporates the company’s longstanding HDAM (Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Modules) in the output. They replace the more conventional IC gain stage and - as far as Marantz is concerned, anyway - this isa vastly superior solution to the application because the components that make up the module can be selected to give the results that Marantz wants. This output is made available to a pair of switchable speaker outputs - again, a fairly unusual thing to find in 2024. 

Sound Quality

Running the Marantz duo together, with the CD50n using its fixed level output into the Model 50 (so the amp is performing the whole role of volume and amplification), springs a few surprises from the outset… although how surprising these turn out to be might depend on the Marantz equipment you know from the past.  More recent products from Marantz have tended towards a lush and full presentation that envelopes the listener and puts you inside a big-but-cosseting soundstage. This duo does that, and it does it very well - but there’s something else going on too. 

Put simply, this duo has a level of punch and energy that is a little different from those more recent devices and more in keeping with some of the Special Editions of yesteryear. As a pair, they’re still impressively refined and have a tonal quality that is genuinely lovely with good quality recordings - but where you would find yourself looking for that little bit more bite before, the 50 duo has the speed, cohesion and out-and-out punch that makes energetic music sound as exciting as it should. 

Delving into what’s going on to create this impression centres on the bass extension losing none of its texture and depth but gaining a level of immediacy and agility that helps higher-tempo material sound fast and exciting. The clever bit is that this is still a very forgiving pair when given something that is less than perfectly mastered. Unless you partner them with some very aggressive speakers indeed, you’re unlikely to provoke this Marantz duo into sounding overly forward. 

Splitting the two units up and testing them individually with other equipment reveals them to maintain a lot of their character. Of the two, it’s the Model 50 amp that has more to do with this newfound energy and drive. It is the most energetic-sounding Marantz product I can recall testing. The CD50n is far from slow, but it’s more in keeping with the cosseting sound of old. The quality of its decoding is extremely good, though, and it also maintains this behaviour across the many different ways you can use it. 

The Model 50 has one last party piece. Marantz has never stopped fitting its amps with phono stages, and it does not make external standalone models. Yes, the Model 50  loses the moving-coil support of its bigger brothers, but this is still a hugely impressive device to listen to records through. It has plenty of gain, impressively low noise levels and ties in superbly with the more potent and energetic presentation of the amp itself. If you don’t need moving-coil support (and with the quality of some recent moving-magnet releases, you almost certainly don’t), the Marantz is good enough to be relied on all the time.

Living with

Marantz has worked hard to make sure that the two units work together in a way that is largely in keeping with a single unit. They work from the same handset and, if you are using HEOS as your control point, the CD50n can send commands via a supplied cable that adjusts the volume on the amp. Other than needing two mains sockets, this is a duo that will rival a well-sorted all-in-one system. 

They also offer a level of build and finish that is hard to match at the price. The casework is superbly finished, and details such as controls, points of contact and the displays all feel well implemented and confidence-inspiring. Little details like the chunkier RCA connections for the CD input on the amp, and the separate headphone amp and volume control on the CD50n, speak to a level of care and attention that makes you feel like you made the right choice going with the Marantz duo. 

Not everything is perfect though. HEOS has been refreshed recently, but it still lacks Qobuz support (or Chromecast, which would allow you to at least partially bypass this). The basics of how the app works haven’t changed in a while, and it feels a bit old-fashioned compared with some competing systems at a similar price point. I find myself using the USB input connected to a Roon Core, the HDMI ARC input and the CD mechanism, and making rather less use of the built-in streaming. Of course, it’s not unreasonable to point out that the connectivity on offer from the CD50n is good enough that you can find a way to use it that suits you - which isn’t to be sniffed at.


The Model 50 and CD50n take the classic amp and CD player concept and add all the bells and whistles that we have come to expect in the 21st century. This is a brilliantly flexible pair of devices that can be used in a variety of different ways. No less importantly, they will then go on to delight you with how they sound, regardless of how you choose to employ them. This is a classic idea, brilliantly executed for the modern world.

Listening notes

Duke Garwood Rogues Gospel

A deceptively gentle blues album that reveals its hidden steel beneath - the Marantz is delicate where it needs to be, but does a brilliant job of capturing the energy of the material when pushed. 

Thea Gilmore Thea Gilmore

This potent and almost jarring album requires a combination of excellent tonal realism and out-and-out agility to really come alive - and the Marantz combination is genuinely excellent at both. 

Bass Drum of Death Say I Won’t

Not the most subtle of albums, and one that wouldn’t always be my choice for some other Marantz systems. Here, the 50 combo gets the head nodding in fine style while making sure that the edgy production never gets too much.

What the press say

Why you should buy it

Are you interested in streaming but still have racks of CDs (and a healthy record collection)? This is the system that allows you to stream downloads and on-demand content while doing justice to your physical media collection -  and not feel as though any aspect of it has been compromised. 

Video review

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