MARANTZ SACD 30N network SACD player
+ Universal media player; solidly built; warm sounding; easy to match with most equipment; friendly HEOS user interface; variable output for direct connection to a power amplifier; works with a Raspberry Pi for Roon integration.
– Nothing significant; lack of balanced XLR output; a tad lower on PRAT. No MQA support.
A guide to the ratings
CD is dead… long live the CD! The medium had the good fortune of being sandwiched between vinyl and streaming, so the lessons learnt from the costly vinyl revival led many of us to keep our CD collections intact, even though we may not have a CD player anymore.
Given that not many audio equipment manufacturers produce CD players now, it is a delight to see Marantz offer the Series 30 in 2021, comprising the Model 30 integrated amplifier and SACD 30n Network SACD player. Marantz is no stranger to designing CD playback equipment. I have fond memories of Ken Ishiwata masterpieces such as the CD-63 MkII Signature, and looked forward to hearing if the SACD 30n would recall the same magic?
Unboxing the back-breaking package unveiled a beautifully crafted faceplate that gave the appearance of a floating control panel flanked by beautifully polished metal wings that scream premium. You sense the obsessive compulsion disorder in the layout design as the controls are in perfect symmetry, with the headphone jack on the far right and the similarly-sized power button on the left of the fascia. In dim lighting, the metal wings are softly illuminated from the sides of the floating control panel, lending a touch of class without the usual gaudiness. You can choose between black and silver-gold finishes for the SACD 30n.
However, what excited me more was the back panel with its plethora of inputs that are well organised into clusters of functions that offer connectivity to a range of legacy source equipment as well as modern USB-based streamers.
The coaxial and optical digital output terminals offer connection to your AV amplifier or resident DAC if you feel they can outperform the SACD 30n. The RJ45 Ethernet port links the SACD 30n to your network attached storage (NAS) whilst the USB playback is done through the USB-A port. Minimalists will be delighted to see the variable audio output terminals alongside the fixed audio output ones. Some may cringe at the absence of balanced XLR audio outputs which are common on SACD players beyond a certain price point.
Screw in the two Bluetooth antennas and you are good to go.
What is this DAC-less design on the SACD 30n – or Marantz Musical Mastering (MMM) one-bit topology – that was first seen on the flagship SACD SA-10 player? In simple terms, what this does is convert all PCM and DSD source data to DSD 256 (11.2 MHz) using the MMM stream which is then fed into the MMM converter to form the final analogue waveform for audio output. Apart from that, the SACD 30n offers two user selectable digital filter profiles to map in the listening preference.
Apart from using the weighty remote handset, you can also control the SACD 30n through the HEOS app available on both IOS and Android platforms. HEOS is the common wireless music system platform that both Marantz and Denon share to offer a single control user interface to manage all HEOS enabled equipment. It’s a nice touch into the digital century.
The SACD 30n was initially connected to an Audio Note Jinro integrated amplifier and Tannoy Arden loudspeakers and was subsequently moved over to a Vitus SIA-030 integrated amplifier driving a pair of Sonus Faber Extremas. The only set back was that the supplied power cord had European plugs, hence I had to use a suitable one to power up the unit.
First bite was with Lisa Ekdahl & The Peter Nordhal Trio’s Back to Earth album (BMG 74321-61463 2) on CD, playing Nature Boy. I was wowed by the presence of the bassist’s plucking, which had some real weight and emphasis compared to a more neutral interpretation by my resident Cary Audio SACD 303T Professional. More low-mid presence to Ekdahl’s squeaky girlish voice was much welcomed, adding a tinge of emotion to the musicality. The SACD 30n’s warmish tones played well into the mellowness of the tempo and made it more musical to the ears without much hint of digital artefacts. I like the manner in which it added more body to the Safe track on Woman to Woman CD by Beverley Craven, Judie Tzuke and Julia Fordham (RTR110CD) – on some players, this can sound a bit shrill.
SACD playback exhibited similar warmish character when I moved through more female vocals. Maeve O’Boyle’s voice draws you in breathlessly to focus on her voice against a dark soundstage with clear plucking of accompanying solo guitar strings (Pray it Never Happens – All My Sins, SACD AKD318). Switching between the digital filters showed differences on warmth and the apparent breath of the soundstage which was more apparent compared with later attempts large scale classical pieces. Having said that, the SACD 30n sounds innately forward in nature.
If you deem Allan Taylor’s Beat Hotel (SACD SFR 357.4003.2) to be singing, then you will enjoy the SACD 30n thoroughly. It’s simply smashing has he literally renders the lyrics with the drums thundering away. I found the soundstage lacking the depth that I am accustomed to on my resident SACD player and also a McIntosh CD player but I believe this is due to the low-mid heavy voicing which can reduce the apparent perception of depth layering; however, this is all made up for with the swatches of musicality. After a while, you will just get immersed tap your foot to the music.
One of my acid tests for equipment usually involves a few piano and violin pieces. It’s a toss-up between Misty (Tsuyoshi Yamamoto, FIM SACD 062) or The Koln Concert (Keith Jarrett, ECM 1064/65) when it comes which is first. The keys flow naturally, particularly when it comes to Yamamoto striking the hammer against the far-right keys. Warmness adds a halo to the reverb of the strings. The SACD 30n kept the pace on the Bassface Swing Trio playing Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm (SACD SFSA4045) where the piano races along with the bass and drums in all the way until the crash when they reach the finish line.
Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture etc / Kunzel, Cincinnati Pops (SACD B00005AVNH) is more about the canons than the orchestra and that is exactly what the SACD 30n did with its forte to dig deep down into the lower regions with a good slam in hand. For assurance, I turned up the volume further with Gnomus castle in Fritz Reiner Moussorgsky & Ravel Pictures At An Exhibition (SACD APSAMR2201) and thoroughly enjoyed the rumble.
The DVD-ROM playback of Sera Una Noche’s La Segunda (M062A-HR) 176.2 KHz WAV files from MA Records was every bit as good as the regular SACD playback experience, as is the USB media playback with a USB thumb drive through the SACD 30n. This adds much flexibility to playback of mix-tape CD-ROMS as well as playing back files through an USB thumbdrive when your friends bring along their own music. I didn’t detect any deterioration when the SACD 30n played back high-resolution files stored in my NAS over my home network. This is a plus as most of my files are stored in my NAS that’s connected to my Roon Nucleus.
The USB DAC option offers a way into the Roon universe. Initially, I connected my Macbook to run Roon but I ended up connecting a Raspberry Pi4 running RopieeeXL to the SACD 30n and it worked beautifully. Playback of my high-resolution files through Roon can stand shoulder to shoulder at times with optical playback. Could this be MMM at work? Differences were more apparent with Tidal (using the HEOS application) as there is a hint of tonality thinning and a lesser degree of air but most won’t notice. I doubt that the lack of MQA support causes that.
THE LAST WORD
Marantz sets its sights on the emerging audiophile with this piece of equipment. Not only does it bridge old-school medium nuts like me but it also folds in the nuances of the modern demands of digital streaming and playback, making the SACD 30n the perfect playback device for most, in particular, newly-schooled streaming boffins like myself.
Its arsenal of connectivity and playback options will offer many years of companionship as one’s playback preference evolves. The warm and forward nature will ensure many hours of easy listening and if it’s excitement that you crave, proper matching with amplifiers and loudspeakers, perhaps a good length of silver interconnects would just do the trick.
Most, including myself, would be pretty happy should a Marantz SACD 30n miraculously land on my rack.
Sources: Cary Audio SACD303t, McIntosh MCD7007, CEC TL-1500 CD transport, Denafrips Pontus II DAC / Amplifier : Vitus SIA-030 with Streaming DAC Module, Audio Note Jinro / Speakers: Sonus Faber Extrema, Tannoy Arden / Wires; MIT, Transparent, Ansuz Acoustics and Supra audio cables
Malaysian price: RMRM15,770
Distributor: Dynamic Acoustics Sdn Bhd