Marantz SACD 30n Review

Posted on 24th August, 2023

Marantz SACD 30n Review

Paul Sechi samples this classy-looking, all-singing, all-dancing digital audio player…

Marantz

SACD 30n Streaming SACD/CD Player

USD $2,999

'Complete digital source player' is how Marantz describes its SACD 30n. It's not just a CD player or an SACD/CD player; it's both of these, plus a network streamer and a DAC. If there's a one and a nought to be found, this should be able to play it! Could it be that this is where the market is moving? Sound United is Marantz's parent company, and its Sales Director, John Martin, told me that the containment of all digital streams in one box makes perfect sense.

The third up in a line-up of six silver disc players, this machine is designed to do a lot of heavy lifting – it doesn't claim to be as high-end as its SA-10 bigger brother, but it's nowhere near to being a budget machine. Nor does it look it, as the SACD 30n is a very polished product aesthetically – well finished, it exudes elegance and is very easy on the eye.

UP CLOSE

The handsome front panel is well laid out, the disc drawer operates smoothly and quietly – and the fascia-mounted headphone jack means you can listen without troubling others. Housed in a full-size case measuring 443x424x130mm, the player tips the scales at 13kg. The supplied remote control is a suitably swish affair; it fits in the hand well and performs as required.

Inside, the DAC has been specified to conform to the company's Marantz Musical Mastering (MMM) digital audio processing needs. Where applicable, future streaming formats or protocols can be updated via an over-the-air (OTA) download. It is comforting that the technology will develop alongside musical format offerings. MMM has been proven in the company's top-end silver disc players, and this machine has been painstakingly tuned by Sound Master Yoshinori Ogata to ensure it's voiced like the company's higher-end models.

Despite the machine's apparent complexity, the rear panel is clean and well-labelled. Two rows of connectors are divided, with the upper half focused on digital and network connectivity. A pair of wireless antennae adorn the top corners, and in between are LAN and USB digital connectivity options. Digital outputs include the usual coaxial and optical connectors, and digital audio inputs include USB coaxial and two optical inputs. The lower half houses one pair of fixed RCA phono outputs plus a variable output RCA pairing for direct connection to a power amp; no balanced XLRs are offered.

The unit is embedded with HEOS to stream music via UPnP or Air Play2, and wireless device set-up is a breeze. Also easy to use are the symmetrical front panel controls. The headphone socket has a dedicated control to adjust listening levels – a sensible move when the sub-optimal alternative is using an app or multi-function buttons. The display is easy to read, dimmable and provides insight into setting up the unit and playback configuration.

For the purposes of this review, I used both Primare and Mark Levinson amplification. Source comparisons were made with a Primare CD player, plus a Yamaha CD-S2100 SACD player and Bluesound Vault 2i streamer. All analogue cables were Tributaries Series 8 with Audioquest on digital/optical test paths. Speakers were the SerhanSwift Mu2 on SolidSteel SS6 speaker stands, with Les Davis Audio Entropics placed under the stands and electronics. My test cycle was based on streaming, CD media and an external music drive. I also used the SACD30n as a DAC fed by my own CD player for sonic comparisons. I started my listening by streaming wirelessly with Apple Air Play2, then moved to USB and finally silver discs.

THE LISTENING

Given that the SACD 30n is a 'complete digital source player', you would expect a pretty uniform sound from all sources, and this is largely what you get. Of course, this is notwithstanding the quality difference between sources, but the point is that this machine succeeds in its main task of performing well across all its various inputs. Whether on wireless, optical, digital or silver disc, it delivers a consistent performance that is detailed, three-dimensional and expansive, as well as being enjoyably musical.

Using Air Play2, I dialled up a few tracks and directly compared them to the original disc version. A direct comparison was made using Paul Kelly's Everybody Wants To Touch Me. Via Air Play2, the recording's live feel came through well on the SACD30n, with plenty of background detail present, but the soundstage dept was slightly curtailed. Bass was firm, detailed and well-defined. For non-serious listening, it sounded great, but things changed when I cued up a CD of the same track and pressed play. Suddenly, there was a wider wall of sound bursting out. The soundstage was broader and deeper, and the bottom end definition was crisper. Midband vocals were clear without nasality or forwardness, and the top end had an impressive delicacy to it. There was much less of a gap between CD and USB media; the two were pretty much indistinguishable.

To my ears, at least, the SACD 30n seems at its happiest when spinning silver discs. For example, my CD of Dead Can Dance's Into the Labyrinth was a delight. From the opening bars of The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove, the mysticism of the music drew me in. Separation was very good, with instruments clearly defined from the drums, woodwind and percussion. As expected, the vocals sounded powerful; they never came across as forward but were very distinct towards the front and centre of the recording. At the same time, I was impressed by the music's rhythmic snap, which really seemed to bring percussive instruments to life.

Indeed, this machine is something of a star in terms of soundstaging. Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's So Familiar came over with great scale. The vocals had real depth and presence, making for a really impressive listen. Things widened further when moving to a better recording via HDCD. Bethlehem Steel from Grant Lee Buffalo's Copperopolis was quite an experience, with satisfying depth and physically taller imaging than I had heard before. Vocals were never harsh or forward, and as the track built into a sonic assault, the SACD30n remained calm, coherent and composed.

An SACD of Elton John's Madman Across The Water, off his Tumbleweed Connection album, pushed the music way beyond the plane of the loudspeakers. At the same time, I was quite taken by this digital player's ability to carry the energy and impact of the electric guitar work and drums. These had a visceral energy, and the timing of the musicians' playing was spot on. I found that tonally, the Marantz was a little more dry in the upper bass than the Primare, the latter showing better lower midband warmth. It was a close run thing with the Yamaha SACD player that I had to hand; the latter took the honours on timing, with the Marantz delivering greater overall musical definition.

THE VERDICT

Marantz's new SACD30n turns out to be a serious and capable digital source, whether it is streaming music or spinning digital discs. Realistically, I can see it form the core of a serious two-channel digital audio system; feed it well-recorded music, and you'll likely love this machine's detail, scale and realism. I threw some very tough musical tracks its way, and the Marantz confidently went about providing realistic sonic renditions.

This machine's build quality is excellent, the aesthetics are eye-pleasing and usability is excellent. Even the headphone circuit provided some quality listening time, proving that it's not just a random add-on to up the feature count. Indeed, I can even see people using the SACD30n with just a set of headphones, using the streamer and disc drive before attaching it to their music library, happy in the knowledge that they can eventually add an amplifier and speakers when required. So if you're seeking a serious digital player that your system can grow around, the Marantz must really be on your short list of products to audition.

Visit Marantz for more information

Paul Sechi's avatar

Paul Sechi

Paul is a music appreciation fan of both live and produced music from diverse genres and cultures. Paul was interested in audio at school, did a thesis in acoustics and by day works as a technology strategist including smart environment standards and integration.

Posted in:Applause Awards 2023 DACs Sources Streamers CD / SACD Players Hi-Fi
Tags: marantz  sound united 

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