SA-10 - SUPER AUDIO CD PLAYER
Reference class Super Audio CD player with USB DAC, digital inputs and unique Marantz Musical Mastering technology
The SA-10 is an exceptional player of both CD and SACD discs, but can also play high-resolution music stored on computer-burned discs, as well as being a high-end digital to analogue converter for computer-stored music. From the unique new disc transport designed for this player all the way through to a complete rethink of the way digital audio data is converted into analogue signals, the SA-10 is a ‘clean sheet’ design, the result of painstaking research and development and extensive listening in Marantz’s custom-built listening facilities. That’s symptomatic of the way Marantz has always done things: while it always aims for the most elegant engineering solution, the listening test is always the final arbiter. It’s all to do with that simple phrase running through the heart of everything the company does: ‘Because Music Matters’.
It starts with the disc
Whether playing SA-CD or CD, or data discs containing music, it’s vital that any player retrieves the information as accurately as possible: unlike a computer reading a disc for ripping, there’s no time for repeated re-scans when playing music – it happens in real time, so the disc transport needs to get things right first time. Many modern CD and SACD players use computer-style DVD or ‘universal’ disc drives, simply because it’s increasingly difficult for manufacturers to source dedicated ‘music drives’, purely designed for SACD/CD playback. The Marantz solution? If you can’t buy it off the shelf, design it and have it made: at the heart of the SA-10 is an all-new SACD-M3 transport mechanism, engineered solely for the best possible performance when playing SA-CDs, CDs and music stored on data discs. Not only does this new mechanism promise the very best sound quality from conventional CD and SA-CD discs, its extended ability with the playback of music files stored on DVD-ROM discs makes it possible for users to create their own high-resolution audio compilation discs using a computer DVD burner. The SA-10 can play FLAC files from 32kHz to 192kHz at up to 24-bit resolution, and DSD64 and DSD128, well as ALAC (Apple Lossless), AIFF and MP3 files. That means making and playing hi-res disc compilations is now just as simple as it’s always been to make such discs in CD quality.
PM-10 - INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
Amplifiers are at the core of Marantz history: its very first product was a high-quality preamplifier designed to make the most of the then-new LP record format. And with a history stretching all the way to that ground-breaking Audio Consolette – which Saul B. Marantz started manufacturing in 1952, and which soon became the first real Marantz product, the Model 1 preamplifier –, it’s no surprise that the company’s very latest Premium Series model, the PM-10, is an integrated amplifier built to set new standards with all of today’s music formats. In fact, this massively powerful integrated amplifier is constructed more like a high-end separate preamplifier and a pair of monobloc power amps, but all in one beautifully finished case, designed both to maximise performance and create a strong visual statement. Making an integrated amplifier with dual monobloc design fitting in a normal size cabinet is made possible by the use of a stereo switching amplifier. Its aim? To reveal the maximum musical involvement from everything from LPs to the latest high-resolution audio files and beyond, and with all the power and control required to drive the most demanding loudspeakers, allowing them to perform at their best.
To achieve such quality, while still delivering class-leading power, means optimising each section of the amplifier for its task, just as would be done in a design using a separate preamplifier and monobloc power amps. Commonly, amplifiers use a single transformer, with separate power supply regulation for the preamplifier and power amplifier sections; the PM-10 takes things much further. A dual-mono design, it has separate power supplies for the preamplifier and each of the power amplifier channels, with one transformer dedicated to the preamp to ensure the delicate signals passing through that section of the amplifier aren’t affected by the demands of the high power output stages. There’s also a dedicated supply for the microprocessor controlling volume adjustment, input selection and so on, ensuring no noise from the control section finds its way in to the audio path.
Another important part of the noise-reduction here is the fact that the PM-10 is a purely analogue amplifier: many rival designs are today including digital-to-analogue conversion, or adopting digital amplification and volume control, but the Marantz keeps things as clean and simple as possible with its highly-developed all-analogue design. Why? Well, though it may seem convenient to have a DAC in the amplifier, digital circuitry is, by its very nature, noisy (in the electrical sense) and can interfere with the delicate analogue signals passing through the amp. That’s why Marantz chooses to design its Premium Series range with any digitalto- analogue conversion in its SA-CD/CD or network music players, keeping its amplifiers as pure and clean as possible. What’s more, to make the most of that purity of design, the PM-10 has also been designed with the option of working in ‘Purest Mode’: when engaged, this deactivates any superfluous circuits, giving the signal the cleanest possible path through the amplifier. There’s also a Power Amp Direct input, taking the signal straight from the input section to the power stage to let the unit work as a pure power amplifier.
Fully balanced, from input to final power section
The benefits of balanced audio layout have long been understood: unlike a conventional layout, one half of the signal path is in the ground plane of either an amplifier or a cable, balanced working uses two conductors or paths – one for positive, the other for negative – and an entirely separate ground to protect them. The benefit in cables is that any external interference will affect both positive and negative conductors, but since the signals they are carrying are the mirror image of each other, they will mutually cancel out any effect – which is why such cables are widely used in pro audio and studio applications, where sources of hum are common, and the longer cable runs involved makes them particularly prone to picking up interference. The same is true when balanced working is applied to audio circuitry: not only does this mirror-imaging of the layout, in which identical components are handling the positive and negative ‘legs’ of the signal, cancel out any potential interference, it also means any noise or errors introduced in the circuitry will also be cancelled out. An additional benefit is that balanced working also uses stronger signals than unbalanced designs, simple because both halves of the circuit are active – rather than just having one half pushing and the other just providing the ground, here we have a ‘push pull’ operation. And a stronger signal means one less susceptible to any outside interference: the more signal there is, the less obvious any noise will be. The PM-10 uses a fully balanced layout, from the input section all the way through to the final power amplifier section: it has two sets of balanced inputs, and also conventional unbalanced line-level inputs (plus a high-quality phono stage), the signal from these inputs being converted to balanced working before being passed through the amplifier. By keeping the signal balanced all the way through the amplifier, and combining that with optimised power supply design, the Marantz engineers are able to achieve maximum noise rejection throughout the audio path, and the highest possible signal purity.