Maranz CD-62 CD-player

Not so long ago the announcement of a new Marantz CD player would be greeted with eager anticipation, particularly if it was a 'breathed-on' version of its parent company's (Philips) machine. But the company once described as the CD jewel in Philips' crown has become a little jaded over the last year or two, having consistently failed to get to grips with its master's Bit Stream technology.

Tired excuses were trotted-out to justify Marantz's reluctance to embrace Bit Stream, but the truth of the matter is that these one-bit DACs -however elegant in theory - are simply more difficult to implement than the 16-bit four times oversampling chipset of old. Yet now, with the launch of several Bit Stream CD players, Marantz appears to have put its corporate house in order.

As far as the CD-62 is concerned Marantz has achieved this by borrowing the CDM4 transport assembly, digital processing and DAC circuit boards used in Philips' equally new CD850 mark II. If your parent company has laboured hard to establish the ideal electrical environment for its SAA 7350 DAC then why make life difficult for yourself by starting from scratch?

Bearing in mind that the CD-62 has all the innards of Philips' new CD850 you'd expect the two players to sound similar, and in practice there is a strong resemblance. But the CD-62 seems to possess a slightly more direct, harder-hitting quality that enhances the speed and energy of pop tracks like Madonna's Vogue. With this track, you'll hear a rich but tight bass line rolling beneath the crisp clatter of percussion and confident, articulate projection of vocals.

And it's not simply that the sound is more aggressively lit, or that the vocals are tinged with an unwelcome sibilance. It's simply a case of musical edges having greater prominence -not quite as smooth-sounding, then, as the Pioneer PD-8700 in this test, but its resolution of low-lying detail is a little more convincing.

Fortunately, I got hold of this player before the Marantz PR machine whirred into action and, having poked about in both players, can inform you that the only real difference between the CD850 mark II and CD-62 lies in the selection of op-amps for the final analogue filter stage - not bad considering the CD-62 represents a saving of £100 over the Philips model. True, the CD-50 casework and remote control have been re-used, but both the variable and digital outputs are of a higher quality than before.

More importantly perhaps, this new Marantz player avoids the awkwardness of Marantz's CD-41, both in its overall balance, which is warmer and better integrated, and in its ability to paint stable, believable stereo images. It cannot dig down to unearth the very deepest of bass lines, yet neither does it sound strained like the misbegotten CD-41. Having more in common with the CD850II, it provides a good overview of bass detail, even if compared to the quicker, slicker confidence of treble sounds, the bass seems slightly cautious.

This confidence of the upper octaves comes into its own when listening to the deft fretwork displayed throughout Stanley Jordan's rendition of Eleanor Rigby. There's a satisfying ruddiness to the sound of his guitar which complements the faster, harder timbre of the higher strings - all of which is harnessed with perfect control by the CD-62. Nevertheless, I can well imagine other listeners craving a little extra flamboyance. Although the stability and resolution of Jordan's guitar was very impressive, there were times when the most powerful moments lacked the freedom and atmosphere they deserved.

If the warmer bass but rougher, grittier quality of the old 16-bit players is still your bag, then Marantz's replacement for the CD-50SE is unlikely to have you rocking in the aisles. But to my ears the CD-62's mature and involving quality is a winning combination - more than sufficient to put Marantz on course for the 1990s.

Maranz CD-62 CD-player photo