Marantz DR-17 Review

The DR-17 is a Compact Disc Recorder designed around top-quality digital components given by Philips, as well as unique Marantz technology, and shares its style and champagne finish with previous models (though it is also available in black), as well as the formidable CD-7 flagship CD player which was utilized as a source for this test.

The transport is a CDM36 made of diecast metal rather than plastic, and the digital to analogue conversion is handled by Philips’ DAC-7 Bitstream devices, which are used in differential mode in conjunction with the CD7 decoder. The layout and power supply have been carefully considered — a high-quality transformer and discrete power supply circuit have been employed — and the output stage amplification is handled by the Marantz HDAM system.

Rather of integrated circuits, micro components are completely protected in their own flat rectangular cans. Marantz is so proud of HDAM that it has its own legend stamped in larger font than any other label on the nicely curved fascia.

HDCD compatibility, both for copying and playback, is a first here, at least for a Marantz. The Marantz is the first CD-recorder to ‘officially’ be able to copy and play HDCD-encoded digital signals. Pacific Microsonics’ High Definition Compatible Digital system has quite a following worldwide, though it is unfamiliar to the majority of ordinary CD buyers in the UK, and the Marantz is the first CD-recorder to be able to copy and play HDCD-encoded digital signals.

Other aspects of the DR-17 are more well-known. There’s a sample rate converter to support inputs from various digital systems like the DAT Marantz DR-17 CD recorder and DVD machines’ 48kHz output, albeit it’s deactivated while making copies from CD for aural purity. There are analogue and digital inputs and outputs, the latter on both RCA phono electrical and Toslink optical connectors, as well as support for the Marantz D-Bus remote control system, which allows synchronized recording with compatible CD players from the same stable.

The DR-17 was tested in a system with a Marantz CD-7 as the source transport and sonic reference, Musical Fidelity X-P100/X-AS100 amplification, Monitor Audio Studio 20SE speakers, and a REL Stygian subwoofer, utilizing both Philips CD-RW and Traxdata Silver Audio 80minute CD-R discs. This controlled yet powerful system, with massive bass capacity and meticulous attention to detail, put the Marantz replicas to the test, and I’m happy to say that they passed with flying colors.

Or, more properly, a lack of color, because the Marantz faithfully copies information on the source disc with no discernible change. When played on the CD-7, the DR-17’s copies sound identical to the originals, retaining all of the bass power and presence of the Philip Glass Ensemble’s 1998 recording of Koydanisqatsi, complete with bass soloist Albert de Ruiter’s rich, dark tones and the fast, crisp instrumental detail. The DR-17, which can play either its own recordings or pressed discs, has a beautifully open, airy, yet robust balance that compares favorably to the greatest playback-only CD players at the price. The Marantz sound is delectably controlled, with no signs of fudged attack or overhang and plenty of weight in the instrument’s lower octaves.

The sheer power and space provided by the same disc when played on the £3500 CD-7 is missing, as one might assume, but the DR-17 comes near. In fact, if you replicate the disc from CD-7 to DR-17, an A/B comparison will reveal how close they are. When put onto the DR-17, the 1996 HDCD recording of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring comes to life, but it just sounds excellent on the CD-7, which, of course, has an HDCD decoder. Of course, the digital feed from the CD transport or player will influence the quality of recordings made on the Marantz to some amount.

This player may probably be considered primarily for systems that already have a high-quality digital source (at least until a manufacturer creates either a high-quality twin-tray player or some form of hard-disc storage built in for disc-to-disc copying). Of course, this will limit the Marantz’s popularity, but not appreciation for its technical accomplishment. An excellent digital recorder as well as an incredible playback machine are included in this beautifully finished set.