In January, Marantz will launch two new hi-fi products: a reference-quality SACD player/DAC and an integrated amplifier. Part of the new Premium 10 Series, the SA-10 SACD player/DAC (shown right, $6,999) and PM-10 integrated amplifier (shown below, $7,999) represent the best of the best of Marantz's hi-fi lineup. The SA-10 combines a high-end disc player with a state-of-the-art DAC design that uses Marantz's two-stage process, MMM-Conversion and MMM-Stream, instead of a traditional DAC. The analog PM-10 integrated amp is rated at 400 watts per channel and features an all-discrete phono stage for both moving coil and moving magnet cartridges. More details on both product designs are available in the press release below.
Marantz launches its most advanced hi-fi combination to date. The Premium 10 series, comprising the SA-10 SACD/CD player/DAC and PM-10 amplifier, features groundbreaking Marantz audio technology designed to deliver the best possible sound from high-resolution audio formats and CD alike. Taking its place at the pinnacle of the range, the new duo is so advanced in both technology and performance that Marantz describes it simply as The New Reference. Both models are expected to be available in January 2017.
Marantz SA-10 SACD/CD player/DAC, $6,999
The SA-10 replaces the SA-7, the previous Marantz Reference disc player. Although widely acclaimed, the SA-7 was purely a disc player, but with the changing audio landscape and the rise of high-resolution audio and computer-stored music, change was inevitable. Beyond it being a superb disc player for CDs, SACDs and even high-resolution music burned on recordable media, the SA-10 is a state-of-the-art digital-to-analog converter. It uses unique technology to extract every last nuance from digital music files with a combination of tried-and-tested Marantz audiophile practice and some highly innovative solutions developed specifically for this flagship product.
Today's digital technology has made it possible to replace conventional digital-to-analog conversion with something much more advanced, allowing the SA-10 to become the first player/USB-DAC that doesn't actually have a DAC. The reason is Marantz Musical Mastering, a brand-new approach to a problem almost 35 years old--making the most of music stored in digital form without introducing artifacts requiring extra processing after conversion. A two-stage process, MMM-Conversion and MMM-Stream, draws on Marantz expertise extending back to the first days of CD, and brings into play the company's commitment and experience in both SACD and the DSD format behind it.
Marantz PM-10 Amplifier, $7,999
Partnering the SA-10 is the PM-10, the best integrated amplifier Marantz has ever produced. The previous Reference amplifier, the SC-7/MA-9, was a pre/power amplifier combination, but Marantz wanted to deliver even better performance from an integrated amplifier. Only now has the technology allowed the Marantz engineers to achieve this. While retaining a purist all-analog design, completely balanced throughout its signal path, and using a dual-mono construction with differential amplification delivering a massive 2x400W. Even the continued interest in vinyl has a place in this New Reference system, as it does in most Marantz amplifiers: the PM-10 has a meticulously designed all-discrete phono stage for both moving coil and moving magnet cartridges.
Marantz SA-10: the biggest advance in digital audio since the CD
The idea for the Marantz SA-10 was simple: build the best disc player/DAC the company has ever made. And that meant going back to basics in every area. From the disc transport itself to the way the digital signals are processed, as well as ensuring the design was entirely future-proof by providing an asynchronous USB-B input for the connection of a computer, this model is advanced.
To play SACD, CD, DVD-R/RW and CD-R/RW discs, the Marantz team avoided the usual route taken in players of this kind, using an 'off-the-shelf' DVD-ROM drive of the kind commonly found in computers. Instead, and in their quest for ultimate sound quality, they built their own: the new SACD-M3, the latest in an acclaimed range of disc mechanisms built for Marantz players, is unique to the SA-10, and can play not just CDs and SACDs, but also high-resolution audio stored on either CD or DVD recordable media.
Marantz Brand Ambassador Ken Ishiwata explains that "From the time of CD players the transport was one of our strengths, and with SACD it's the same. Of course doing things this way is expensive, but if we want something special we have to do it. And besides, there aren't many SACD mechanisms available today. However, there really is no way of making this kind of mechanism cheaply, so it's limited to our top-of-the-range model."
The digital-to-analog conversion process, available to both discs and external sources connected to the player's digital inputs (which include asynchronous USB for the connection of a computer), is equally innovative. Rather than down-converting ultra-high-resolution files to suit a conventional digital-to-analog converter, as happens in some rival designs, the SA-10 upconverts everything to DSD 256, in a process known as Marantz Musical Mastering - Conversion.
Two dedicated master clocks are used to ensure all digital signals are upsampled directly to DSD 256--or four times the SACD standard--without any need for sample rate conversion. And there's a choice of two filter settings to allow the listener to shape the sound.
But why do this? Well, the other half of the Marantz Musical Mastering package--MMM-Stream--is what prepares this DSD 256 signal for analog output to an amplifier. Based on technology going back to early days of Bitstream conversion, this enables an ultra-simple conversion process.
Senior Electronics Engineer Rainer Finck has been working on Marantz Reference CD players for two decades and was central to the SA-10 project. According to Rainer, "As I was one of the Philips engineers way back in the late 80s, and worked on the company's Bitstream converters--the last one was the DAC-7--we could draw on all this knowledge to build our own bitstream converter for the SA-10."
The output from the MMM-Conversion process is, in effect, already an analog signal, being a very high-frequency stream of single pulses. With all the hard digital work done, this stream needs nothing more than a very high-quality low-pass filter to deliver the purest possible analog audio output. For all its apparent complexity, this is actually a very simple, very elegant solution to digital processing--and it's unique to the Marantz SA-10. That's why Marantz says it's the first player/USB converter without a DAC--it doesn't need one.
Marantz PM-10: the power to perform
Marantz started as an amplifier company with its famous original Audio Consolette pre-amplifier back in the 1950s. Since then it has made many classic products, from the Model 7/8 preamp/power amp all the way through to the massive Project T1 valve amplifiers of the 1990s. It was only fitting that the amplifier in this New Reference line should be something very special--the Marantz PM-10. Effectively a preamplifier and a pair of monobloc power amps in a single unit, the PM-10 uses switching power amplification to deliver huge power--200 wpc into 8 ohms, and 400 wpc into 4 ohms. This ensures it can drive a wide range of speakers, and instant high-current power supplies to deliver the dynamics of even the most demanding music.
In terms of power supplies, the PM-10 has separate supplies for the preamplifier and each of the power amplifier channels. Thus enabling the delicate signals passing through the preamp 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 other components, ensuring no noise from the control section finds its way in to the audio path.
The layout is fully balanced, 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. This ensures optimal signal purity and rejection of interference.
The preamp uses the famous Marantz Hyper-Dynamic Amplifier Modules (or HDAMs). These are tiny amplifiers in miniature, built from discrete components for the best possible sound quality, rather than using the 'chip-amps' found in rival designs.
To make the most of that purity of design, the PM-10 is 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 allow the PM-10 to work as a pure power amplifier.
Like the SA-10, the PM-10 is constructed to the highest possible standards, with a double-layered copper-plated chassis for excellent rejection of mechanical and electrical interference, and casework constructed from thick, heavy, non-magnetic aluminium panels. Both products also sit on custom-made die-cast aluminium feet. Even the speaker terminals here are special: although the highest-aiming rivals tend to use components bought in from third-party companies, the PM-10 has newly designed and exclusive Marantz SPKT-100+ terminals, made from high-purity solid copper.
The Premium 10 series: The New Reference
Bringing together everything Marantz engineers have learned, designed and developed over more than 70 years, the Premium 10 series is a groundbreaking combination of established audio practice and innovative thinking, meticulously built and designed to deliver superb performance and sets new standards. Above all, it remains true to the saying that has guided Marantz for many years, and which is summed up in one very simple statement: Because music matters.