Marantz CD 60 Review
David Price takes this highly attractive new silver disc player for a spin…
CD 60 CD Player
A “high-quality CD player with modern design”, says the Marantz website about the CD 60 – and it's quite right. Indeed, it perfectly sums up this player and could well be the last line of the concluding paragraph of this review. But if you have the time and the inclination, do read on further as there's a lot to discuss.
In the UK, it costs the princely sum of £749, which is basically the new 'budget plus' benchmark for CD players. In old money – that of the early nineteen nineties when Marantz ultimately ruled the 'affordable' silver disc spinner roost, it would equate to the long-lost CD63 KI Signature, which was £400 or so back in the day.
How times change! The CD 60 could be from another planet in so many ways – an F-35 fighter jet, if you like, compared to the CD 63's F-15. Whereas the oldie's case was made of the flimsiest pressed steel – itself a significant improvement on the plasticky CD 52SE that came before it – this new machine looks fantastic and could actually pass for a Japanese high-end design. Not only does it look beautiful, in my opinion, it's also built surprisingly well for the price – in terms of overall solidity and detail finish.
If you use the CD 60 in isolation, you'll wonder how much fancier a CD player can feel – although compared to its bigger brothers, you can begin to see where some costs are cut. Yet it's a world away from the bland, anodyne-looking CD63 of yore with its clunky drawer loader. Designed to match the equally attractive Model 30 and Model 40n – among others – this machine is super slick. The disc tray has a smooth action, although it doesn't quite have the track access speed of the old CD 63 KI Signature, which came from a time when manufacturers used bespoke CD mechanisms. All the controls feel decent enough, and the dot-matrix display is no embarrassment. This machine could cost twice its price or more, as far as most people would be concerned.
Therein lies a problem. Your eyes trick you into thinking it's a seriously premium product, so you expect more from it – and then, just perhaps, end up disappointed. That's a cruel trick Marantz has performed on itself – like BMW making something that looks like a Lamborghini but with a 318 engine under the hood.
Still, the company says it has been tuned by its Japan-based 'Sound Master', Yoshinori Ogata, to get the best out of the hardware it uses. Marantz's long-established HDAM (High Definition Amplifier Modules) are specified in parts of the circuit and are said to offer better sound quality than standard op-amp ICs. According to the brand, the electronic components are also situated symmetrically for a more direct signal path. The 'high current' EI power supply uses Schottky barrier diodes, so beloved of tweaky electronics geeks, and higher value current storage capacitors and improved voltage regulators are fitted.
Rainer Fink, the company's Senior Acoustics Engineer in Europe, tells me that an ESS9016M2K DAC chip is fitted, working with its own MMDF (Marantz Musical Digital Filtering) with two user-selectable coefficients – slow roll-off and sharp roll-off, short delay. A bought-in CD mech is used, “chosen for its reliability”, says Fink.
The CD 60 can also play files via the front panel USB input – including MP3, WMA, AAC and WAV, FLAC HD, ALAC, AIFF (up to 192kHz/24-bit), and DSD (up to 5.6MHz). This really boosts the machine's flexibility, especially if you have a portable hard drive (FAT32 formatted; up to 255 folders and 65,000 files supported) full of lovely hi-res goodies! There's also a headphone amp with variable gain settings, powering the front panel's 6.3mm socket.
For folks like me who have followed the Compact Disc format since its very beginning – some forty or so years ago – it's very interesting to hear an ultra-modern machine like the CD 60. In some ways, it's spectacularly good for the money; in others, it arguably overpromises and underdelivers. This is because it's such a polymath – it attempts to be all things to all men.
Essentially it has a very fast and clean sound with superb dynamics and lots of apparent detail. It's also really expansive in terms of soundstaging, too. At the same time, it's a little on the bright side tonally in absolute terms and not quite as musically engaging as some similarly priced designs I've heard – which are admittedly far less flexible and nowhere near as impressively finished. No CD player at this price is perfect – far from it – yet it's interesting that Marantz has chosen to make a machine that does what it does in this way.
The first thing that struck me while listening to the CD 60 is that it's not another bland, 'me too' sounding machine; actually, it has quite a distinct sound. Spinning up Dreamer by Supertramp – a classic rock track that's getting on for nearly fifty years old now and one that was recorded on a 16-track analogue machine – I was struck by the icy clarity of the sound and its dynamics. This machine is less euphonic than many Marantzes of yore, including my CD 63 KI which I had to hand. It's quite stark, but there's no extra sugaring of the musical pill, so to speak.
These two facets complement one another. The general tidiness of the CD 60's tonal balance, allied to its super fast transients and excellent dynamic articulation, give it a lean and sinewy sound, one that proved very good at delivering the energy in the song. It's a great recording by the standards of its day, and the Marantz told me as much, with the emphasis on its dynamic contrasts. The result was a powerful, dramatic sound.
This was further increased by the CD 60's super-wide soundstage. No shrinking violet this, skulking in-between my loudspeakers! Instead, the Marantz served up a big and bold recorded acoustic, with instruments in the mix panning far left and right. Not only did this suit the aforementioned classic rock, but also techno in the shape of The Orb's Little Fluffy Clouds. This sounded huge as if it was coming down from the heavens, with dramatic synthesiser effects and a chugging, metronomic beat that really pushed the song along. I found the two filter settings interesting but subtle; there was no obvious choice between them, and I think the preference comes down to taste and music. On this track, filter two possibly delivered a more immediate sound, but we're not talking huge differences.
Tonally, the CD 60 is on the clean and dry side. You wouldn't call it harsh, but there's none of the sumptuous sound of the company's high-end silver disc spinners of yore, and even the lowly (and old) CD 63 KI Signature sounds a little sweeter. Through my admittedly revealing reference system, there was just a touch of hardness to female vocals; Kate Bush sounded ever so slightly forward and brittle on Hounds of Love. Bass was slightly on the light side, too – it was lean and supple but lacked some heft. It was still an enjoyable and impactful performance, though, with lots of banging and crashing going on from that wild percussive backing. And I suspect that the more softly focused systems this machine is likely to be used in won't mind the slight upper midband emphasis.
If I have one criticism of the Marantz, it's that it's just a bit matter-of-fact sounding. Despite being better in most respects, it doesn't inject as much life into the proceedings as the aforementioned legacy player. Big recordings sound suitably epic and dramatic, yet still, it doesn't quite drill down into the musical detail in the way that several machines I've heard that sell for just a little more do. Although very impressive in hi-fi terms – scale, dynamics, depth – I found the way it rendered my favourite Deutsche Grammophon recording of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic) to be just a little safe.
It's odd because it does so much so well – the recorded acoustic was huge, for example, and it was satisfyingly dynamic – yet still, things sounded just a tad inorganic. In truth, I don't think it's any worse than any of its rivals in this respect, but the CD 60's sheer physical size, weight and quality of finish tricks you into expecting better – as your brain is telling you it's a high-end machine, every time you look at it!
Marantz's CD 60 is an extremely good CD player at the price. It sounds sophisticated relative to its rivals, with widescreen soundstaging and impactful dynamic contrasts. The same goes for its overall build and finish, which are simply out of the league of its price rivals – and a world away from what we were expecting from budget CD players five years ago, let alone the early to mid-nineties when the company's budget silver disc spinners reigned supreme in the sales charts. It's well worth an audition then and a good yardstick against which to judge others.
David started his career in 1993 writing for Hi-Fi World and went on to edit the magazine for nearly a decade. He was then made Editor of Hi-Fi Choice and continued to freelance for it and Hi-Fi News until becoming StereoNET’s Editor-in-Chief.
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