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CD Players - Marantz CD94

(serial number of the unit reviewed: MZ02B06230160)

Since the beginning of the high end market, the manufacturers have proposed many devices costing more and more, and « supposed to be » better and better.

We all know and remember the devices that were the « stars » during a given period of time: most of us will easily remember the stars like the MARK LEVINSON ML-2 or the FORSELL Air Beam Transport, that still belong to the reference category 20 years later.... If you are not convinced  of how much these devices are still appreciated, just try to buy one : we wish you a good luck in your quest, because it has become almost impossible to buy one of them: the people owning them just keep them !

When we decide to buy a new device, we may face the reality of the cost versus the money we have to spend. Therefore it makes sense to compare the quality of a modern $8.000 integrated CD player to a used « Legend » that costs  far less. For a lot of devices, a vintage legend may sound more musical than a brand new costly device that has not been manufactured with its final musical result in mind, but with the goal to minimize the manufacturing cost in order to satisfy the shareolders....

A lot of people have therefore tried to upgrade a vontage star by changing only 2 components: the main clock and the SPDIF output. It is very easy to find a lot of articles on the Web, describing this king of modifications, particularly for the Teac VRDS based CD players, or for the Philips CDP / CDM Pro based CD players.

Important remark: Before you go ahead and read the rest of the article, we would like to inform you to take about what the Marketing is able to do to mislead you... Be aware thath the TEAC VRDS mechanism exists in 3 levels of quality: from the full metal to the full plastic. Most of the so called « high end Transports » (including Wadia...) use the cheapest level of the VRDS mechanism associated with the cheapest complementary parts... If you are ready to be demoralized, we invite you to read
this excellent page on the Lampizator website...At, we believe that any serious magazine or website should provide the reader with this kind of very interesting information...

The device that we review this time, the MARANTZ CD-94 belongs to the latest category.

Here is the front plate of the Marantz CD-94:


and the rear one:

and finally the interior :

Of course, a comparison with a recent CAMBRIDGE AUDIO CD player is not in favor of this old Marantz... So why a lot of people try to tweak it ? Simply because if you are a DIYer, the parts are easy to identify and the modifications can quickly be done. With these modifications, this player is no longer just a good vintage CD player, but can compete with the modern ones.

Here is a description of the modifications that have been achieved:
  • The clock has been replaced by a good one, see at the right side of the side (look at the adhesive rubber)
  • The SPDIF output has been modified and uses therefore a BNC connector, that is more convenient for the high digital frequencies. You have to use a true 75 ohms BNC connector, that have began easy to find, just have a look to PERCY AUDIO for example.
There are several articles or attemps on the Web related to the quest for a better SPDIF output; for example, THE VINTAGE CORNER hosts an article showing that drastic improvements can be achieved: But unfortunately, this article also clearly shows that most of the manufacturers do no effort at all to built decent SPDIF outputs !...Since end of the Vintage era, let say since 1995, the look is the most important thing the manufacturers focus on: the HIFi devices are switched to HiLook devices... The cost reduction enforced by the financial markets is achieved by reducing the quality of the electronic parts and the quality of the electronic engineering, because it costs much more than a good looking cabinet: good sounding is dead, good looking is the use with the modern devices.

Therefore, we will not buy a $15,000 device that does not sound better than a $2,000 one, just bcause it looks better..

Of course, we are a lot to believe (or to know) that the measurements are not the truth in High End audio, but this is time it is fully justified. It is really not that difficult to obtain a good square signal out of a drive if a manufacturer wants to get it...

Note 2: it has become very easy to get a true 75 ohms impedance RCA jack: just have a look at the PERCY AUDIO catalog for example;

Turn the power on and listening sessions !

5 minutes are enough to understand that there is a huge potential improvement behing these two modifications. This confirms that a hierarchy does exist amongst the CD Transports, from the good and cheap ones like the TEAC VRDS-10, up to the kings like the FORSELL and via the very good ones like the KRELL MD-10R. The Marantz can be found around 600-800€...

The excellent CD Transports have become very rare or/and very expensive, following the emergence of the dematerialized music (Acoustic Art, Orpheus, Metronome Technologie, Jadis).

The digital cable we have used is a NEXANS BNC/BNC, one of the most famous actually.

Regarding the price of this CD-Drive, the musical result is exceptional. We just dislike a bit the ergonomy and the look of this old fashionned drive. The soundstage is wonderful, the pleasure is intensive... We have a little musical dream without going to the bankrupt... Of course, you may ask yourself: « why the current well known manufacturers do not achieve the same result with their current drives ? » . The answer is always the same and has already been given before: the musical result of a device is no longer the goal of most of the modern Hi-Fi manufacturers...This is a pity because it would be really easy to achieve...

Do not forget that an excellent DAC is required to achieve an excellent musical result: the drive alone, even if it is excellent, is not enough. It provides the SP/DIF signal but you must have an excellent DAC to process it, like the WADIA, AUDIO SYNTHESIS, etc..., in order to see your friends completely sucked !

Finally, we have also to mention that the « state of the art drives», such as the KRELL MD-10R, METRONOME TECHNOLOGY or FORSELL are of course much better than this little Marantz, even if its results are more than surprising compared to its price !

  • The installation is simple
  • The upgrade provides a lot of emotion and musical improvement, over the original device
  • The soundstage is better
  • The cost is very low

  • The internal parts are not of the highest quality
  • There is no more aftersales service
  • The look is not high end ( plastic)
  • The ergonomy is not very good regarding the track selection (you have to press "Play" then "Next")
  • You areobliged to have an excellent DAC (the internal DAC is of course at the level  of the more modern chips), and therefore you should consider to use it only as a Transport
  • Generates a lot of heat

This article has been written by Florent - December 2012

Creation date : 28/06/2010 @ 10:11
Last update : 07/11/2014 @ 23:34
Category : CD Players
Page read 1300 times

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