As part of a new generation of high-end Marantz models, the SACD 30n channels some of the style of the company’s original models of more than half a century back, while staying true to one of its enthusiasms of more recent times – Super Audio CD. Some will argue that the SACD format, originally intended as the replacement for the compact disc, is only worthy as a footnote in hi-fi history. But there are still recordings being issued on SACD and, even better, the underlying technology happens to make very good CD players that are worth considering even if you never use the ‘super audio’ capability.
And it has another ace up its sleeve, that little ‘n’ suffix giving it away: this isn’t just an SACD/CD player, but a fully-fledged network music machine, too, able to play not only music stored on a home server or computer, but also online services including Amazon HD, Spotify and Tidal. And if all that isn’t enough, it also integrates the HEOS system, developed by stablemate Denon but now used widely across the two brands, enabling it to be combined with a wide range of products to create whole-house music systems with simple control via a slick smartphone app. You can use it for wireless multiroom with a Denon or Marantz AV receiver in another room, or simply add Denon Home wireless speakers in the kitchen, bedroom – or wherever you want music. The HEOS system means it even supports voice commands for streaming, using Amazon Alexa or ‘Hey, Google’ voice control.
The player also has a USB Type B input so you can connect a computer for direct playback of music files, a USB Type A for the connection of data storage devices, legacy coaxial and optical digital inputs for external source components and – thanks to that HEOS integration – both Apple AirPlay and Bluetooth wireless streaming from portable devices to the onboard digital circuitry.
On top of all that flexibility, this is a player built to perform. The styling is certainly eye-catching, but this is much more than an exercise in industrial design: there’s serious engineering within, much of it trickled down from the company’s flagship 10 Series player. For a start, the SACD 30n is built around a dedicated disc transport for SACD and CD, whereas many players these days use generic drives originally built for DVD applications. The advantage of this is optimised playback, leaving less work for the rest of the electronics to do in correcting misreading of the disc or other errors – all players do this, but the cleaner the data coming off the silver disc, the better will be the sound.
The digital-to-analogue conversion is also a wholly in-house design, using the company’s Marantz Musical Mastering system. In essence, this upconverts all incoming digital data to high-end DSD – the technology behind SACD – and sends it to an amplifier via a greatly simplified output section, keeping the sound as clean and crisp as possible. And that technology also means this machine can handle the highest-resolution music files currently available, all the way up to 11.2MHz DSD256 and PCM at 384kHz/32bit – the kind of data-rates used in recording studios. The SACD 30n even has both conventional outputs and dedicated variable-level connections, meaning you could hook it straight into a power amplifier or active speakers for a simplified, but high-performance system.
Marantz fans who were a little taken aback by the ‘new look’ of the SACD 30n when it was launched in 2020 – before then all the company’s players had a definite house style – needn’t have feared. For all its flexibility, this is very much a purist player, exhibiting all the sonic qualities for which the brand has become justifiably famous. Thanks to the in-house digital technology and the Marantz Hyper-Dynamic Amplifier Modules used for the outputs – which use miniaturised components in place of the often inferior-sounding ‘amplifier on a chip’ solutions found elsewhere – the sound combines all the detail, solidity and impact you’d expect from top-notch hi-fi, along with superb musicality whether you’re playing heavy rock, smooth jazz or intricate classical works.
Best of all, the Marantz creates that illusion that you’re listening to a performance, not the hi-fi. The stereo soundstage is entirely effortless, placing performers in a realistic fashion and with appropriate scale and focus. It delivers a sense of easy fluidity, rather than distracting you with little bits of ‘hi-fi-ness’. It’s a completely flash-free sound, and supremely easy to enjoy – but then that’s the trick only great hi-fi can achieve.
This player is as fuss-free to operate as it is to enjoy. Set it up with an Internet connection for all that streaming cleverness, and while there is a remote control for simple operations, you’ll find you’re using the well-sorted control app, running on a phone or tablet, for all your day to day listening. You can use this player with a conventional amplifier – the obvious match would be the Marantz Model 30 – or with a power amp/speakers or active speakers system, when it will function as a complete digital preamplifier in a space-saving high-end set-up.
This isn’t the only ‘complete media’ player component in the Marantz range, but its wide-ranging flexibility plus gloriously involving sound – whatever you choose to play – make it by far the best. For anyone fully committed to ‘computer audio’ but still wanting to get the ultimate from their CDs (or even SACDs!) this is an ideal solution
Life In The Air, Age Be Bop Deluxe
From the 2021 remastering of the Live! In The Air Age set, which turned an album and EP into a 15-disc 130+ track chronicle of a 1977 tour, this track has punch, drive, wailing guitars and bags of crowd atmosphere – and just goes to show the Marantz doesn’t need ‘audiophile’ recordings to shine
A Day In The Life, Leo Sayer
Yes, that Leo Sayer, from his Northern Songs album of Beatles covers: beautifully produced, and with an infectious sound, this track shows the focus and clarity of the Marantz, which makes the whole slightly odd set a delight to listen to
Don’t Have Nightmares, Lanterns on the Lake
Written as the theme for the BBC’s Uncanny podcast series, this track has a wonderfully ethereal, unsettling feel to it, greatly enhanced by the ability of the Marantz to dig into the mix and extract every chilling element. Listen with the lights on!
From its striking styling to the way it sounds, this is a great demonstration of what has long made Marantz players great. And then there are all those other capabilities, from streaming to multiroom sound…