MARANTZ SA-14S1 SE SUPER AUDIO CD PLAYER
When is a CD player not just a CD player? When it’s an SACD player, and a DAC.
Marantz prefers to call its SA-14S1 Special Edition a ‘Super Audio CD’ player, rather than an ‘SACD’ player. It’s obviously read the consumer research which reveals that few people these days know what an SACD player is, the format having done its dash back in the last century.
Such people would not realise that an SACD player not only plays back ordinary CDs but does so better than most CD players. So someone who owns a huge collection of CDs is not going to look for an ‘SACD’ player when trying to replace or upgrade their old ‘CD’ player… which means that Marantz is missing out on a huge pool of potential buyers.
Surely such a person’s friendly hi-fi dealer would give them a heads-up on usability? I’m sure he (and it’s usually a ‘he’) would if such a person were buying from a hi-fi dealer. Regrettably, with the boom in on-line sales, many buyers won’t be in this position… they’ll just be buying from a web page. So whereas an ‘SACD’ player wouldn’t catch their eye, a ‘Super Audio’ CD player might just do the trick.
Despite trying to increase the SA-14S1 Special Edition’s appeal by clever titling, Marantz has missed an obvious marketing strategy by basically ignoring the fact that the SA-14S1 Special Edition can also be used as a high-performance DAC for playing back hi-res audio files. Just connect it to your computer, feed it some hi-res tracks and away you go…
Marantz has certainly done its best to make the SA-14S1 SE (I think we’ll just call it the SA-14SE from here on in, to save on ink), because it’s built on pretty-much the same chassis as most other current Marantz products, and uses the same front panel.
And why not? It’s a most attractive front panel, as well as distinctive, because it’s not the ‘flat face’ used by most manufacturers, but has two scallops dished into the face where some of the controls are located. These scallops don’t only bestow a distinctive appearance and provide homes for the controls; they have also allowed Marantz to provide some hidden lighting so you can see the controls in low light conditions. The lighting (subtle blue, by the way, the photographs really don’t do it justice) also enhances the appearance of the component under muted lighting conditions. And just in case you were wondering, the front panel is as solid as it looks… Marantz builds the SA-14E in its own factory in Japan.
The controls in the scallop to the left of the front panel display are the Eject button, and the Fast Forward/Track Skip and Fast Backwards/Track Skip controls. The controls inside the right scallop are Play, Stop and Pause.
Underneath the front panel display are (left to right), a Type A USB input, a Disc/ Input button (about which more later), a Power On/Off button, a headphone output (6.35mm) and an Output Level control.
The front panel USB input says ‘Made for iPod’ so it accepts the obvious—including iPhones—but of course it can also accommodate ordinary USB sticks containing MP3 (inc. VBR), WMA, AAC or WAV (16-bit/44.1k or 48k) files. As well as being able to be used for audio, this front-panel USB connection will also charge your iDevice, even after the player has switched itself to standby (which it does automatically after 30 minutes of inactivity unless you instruct it to do otherwise by using the options built into the playback menu that are accessible via the remote control).
This front panel USB input will not play back hi-res files. For that you have to use the Type B USB input on the rear panel, to which you connect your computer. This input accepts up to 192kHz/24-bit PCM and DSD (DoP) DSD2.8 and DSD5.6 files. In order to do this though, you’ll need to download a dedicated driver (a free download) from Marantz’s website and load it onto your computer before connecting it to the SA-14S1. (But not if you have a Mac… only Windows machines need the driver.)
As for the disc tray above the front panel display, as well as playing back ordinary CDs—and SACDs—it will also play back