It’s a conundrum that is neatly summed up by the Polski Radio live recording of the Gorecki 3rd Symphony. This is a fantastic performance built on a measured development of the opening melody, played by the basses. The Marantz gets the solid weight and pitch of the notes just so, but it misses the texture of the bowed notes, the air of menace that creates the musical tension. Which in turn begs the question, what do you want from your music? Play the CD layer of the Gorecki on the ARC CD7 or the GNSW modified Wadia 861 and you get weight and drama, the sort of tension that has you perched on the edge of the listening seat. These more expensive, CD only players put the SA- 7S1 in context, with a more musically communicative performance of greater emotional range. But then they do the same to everything else at around the price of the Marantz!
Which brings us finally to the question of value. The SA-7S1 is a beautifully built and presented player. It’s versatile and it’s operationally really well sorted. It delivers a presence and solid stability from both SACD and CD that no player at its price can match. If its powerful performance matches your tastes or your system, you’ll do well to find a player you prefer (certainly one that plays SACD too) much short of twice its price. Those in search of more immediacy, dramatic contrast or transparency, or whose systems fight with its chosen balance, will find it wanting. But such is its poise and natural refinement that a home audition will be both mandatory and far from a chore. The SA-7S1 is a player that even if it doesn’t satisfy, will rarely disappoint. On the other hand, those who crave its particular virtues can look forward to a long and happy marriage. Marantz have chosen a singular path; vive la difference!