Marantz SA-12S1 Review

The Marantz SA-12S1 is a big one, at 458x126x379mm, and is often finished in the company’s signature champagne gold. Twelve professional-grade Crystal CS4397 DACs and twelve custom HDAM copper-plated op-amps were installed inside, all of which worked in dual differential mode. Marantz’s proprietary Super-Ring toroidal transformer, as well as a separate transformer for the fluorescent display and the usual carefully chosen passive components, were all present. Between circuit boards, there was additional OFC wiring, which was insulated, copper grounded, and multi-layered.

The business avoided the opportunity to adorn the machine with gadgets and gizmos, so the hefty front panel was an elegant affair. There were just two SCARTs, S-Video, and Composite video outs, as well as coaxial and optical digital outs (none of which produced DSD – only PCM), a 5.1 channel analogue audio out (through widely spread gold plated RCA phonos), and a basic stereo pair of analogue line outs around the rear. The SA-12 is simple to operate because it is not overwhelmed with features. The customizable digital filter, which comes in three levels, is maybe the most innovative feature for its time.

It sounds incredibly smooth by today’s standards, nearly to the point where the high treble is a touch rolled off. On CD, there is a noticeable softness to high frequencies, which deprives music of its bite. With a widely broad tone palette and the capacity to tell you everything about the texture of the instrument playing, the midband is a wonderfully warm and opulent experience. Female vocals sound silky and creamy, making the SA-12 a joy to use with jazz. Despite its sweetness and warmth, it has remarkable rhythmic prowess, proving to be effective at allowing multiple instruments to perform in unison.

Things are both surprising and disappointing down in the bass. It’s incredibly tuneful and articulate, making things a joy to listen to, but it lacks the original SA-1’s depth and muscularity. It sounds a little soft and curtailed, just like its high treble performance. Regardless of music genre, there’s a cleanness and crispness to it that makes it satisfying.

When you switch to SACD, a lot of that lost high-frequency energy appears to be making its way down the scale, filling the midband with all those rich, beautiful harmonics. The whole effect is very pleasurable, one that truly captures the ‘soul’ of what Super Audio Compact Disc is all about — it can truly transmit a mood, a feeling, and a sense – in a manner that no DVD-A player could. Overall, the Marantz SA-12 proved to be an excellent SACD player as well as a competent Compact Disc player.