Marantz CD-94II CD-player
The original CD-94 was released in 1987, and the Mk II was introduced a couple of years later, making it positively geriatric by today's world of tomorrow's world players.
This is no bitstream player, but a multi-bit design using the highest grade of Philips TDA1541 DAC, doubled up in a differential configuration to reduce noise and any other spurious signals. The converter is backed by massive power supplies and high grade analogue electronics, all housed in a superbly built and finished non-magnetic case with gloss wood side cheeks. The minor controls are housed below a full width flap on the facia, and the display is an attractive one incorporating a calendar style readout, but the design predates the recent innovation of being able to switch displays off.
Operating facilities are about medium level. There is no specific support for tape editing, but there is an FTS feature which can recognise a number of discs and replay predetermined programme sequences. The exact number varies with the length of the programmes.
Very few CD players last as long as this because the pace of progress is rapid. It is not rapid enough to render this one redundant though, at least not yet. It is true that the Marantz doesn't have the polish or the presence in the top couple of octaves of, say, the Revox H2, but its vitality, resolving ability and sheer bass slam are something to behold.
Compared to the Revox and the Arcam Delta 170 & Black Box 3 combination, the Marantz lost out on the last subtle degree of polish, but was immeasurably sharper and clear in the midband. Compared to the Arcam, the voice had a better projected and more emphatic quality that made it easier to follow, and easier to hear what was playing behind the singer.
There was a touch of warts-and-all realism with this player which was refreshing. The Marantz also did full justice to the energy and sonic complexity of the Stravinsky orchestral recording, while the pianola version had unparalleled weight and focus compared to others in this group.
Long term experience with the Marantz shows it is also one of the few integrated CD players that is good enough to be considered for use as a high grade CD transport.