Marantz DAC Comparison

AsSiMiLaTeDAsSiMiLaTeD Posts: 11,717
edited March 2018 in Going Digital
I've recently been doing some listening with a few DACs and thought I'd share some thoughts. This is nothing like the big shootout I did a few years back as I have limited options here at the moment, but have spent some time listening to a few and thought I'd share my thoughts. Keep in mind something like this is going to be very specific to the associated gear. I'm doing my listening on the Harbet P3ESR being driven by a Dayens Ampino. I would expect someone with a less revealing system or a more laid back speaker for example to have a very different experience. You can probably tell from the thread title what my favorite is...

I've got the NA8005 network player and DAC that Izafar sent me in a trade deal for the Aries Mini and an HD-DAC1 that I borrowed off consignment from a local ship. The DAC1 is a more recent piece than the NA8005 which is several years old now, but they share the same DAC and supposedly a similar design so I wanted to compare and see how the sound has changed over the last couple years. I also have an Oppo Sonica, Schiit Bifrost Multibit, Chord Mojo, and a small Audioquest Dragonfly Red to round things out. Again, not a massive collection, but a few of the usual suspects.

Let's get the easy ones out of the way first. The Dragonfly is a great little DAC for what it is, but let's not kid ourselves it doesn't belong in this comparison...it is easily bested in every single way by the other DACs here. Honestly, as much as I love the Chord Mojo the same is really true of it as well, for what it does I don't know that there's anything out there that touches it and it's actually closer the the larger models here than it is to the Dragonfly which is saying a lot. But when you get past basic functionality and tone and start getting into more nuanced things like soundstage, imagining and separation the Chord quickly runs into the limits of a portable design. Seriously though, if you need something on the go talk to Skip about ordering one of the Mojo units, the only thing out there that's as good is that Renaissance Herus+ but that one gives up a lot of functionality to the Chord.

I found a good bit of similarity in the Schiit and Oppo Sonica DAC. I'm quite familiar with the Sonica DAC as it's a descendant of the Oppo 105 that I had and loved so much. It's hard to say since I no longer have the 105 but I bet I'd have a hard time picking those two apart in a blind test. The Oppo and Schiit both have good imaging and separation and a believable soundstage and a well defined and extended low end not to mention a ridiculous amount of detail, but also share the same weakness IMO. They both have a tendency to exaggerate the high end in order the squeeze out that last bit of detail, and on some recordings and with some instruments that can be problematic for me. The Schiit seems to be brighter across the board, the Sonica only seems to exaggerate the very top end of the frequency range. Where I really hear it the most is with cymbals and pianos, again we get loads of detail but they tend to have a somewhat artificial sound to them.

That brings me to the Marantz units, again the NA8005 and the HD-DAC1. I'll start by saying that as a USB DAC sending fixed volume output into the Dayens Ampino driving the barbet P3ESR they sound virtually identical to me. I'm sure that given enough time I could convince myself there's a difference, but I have really good ears and if it's that difficult for me to determine a difference then there may as well not be one. Other than the DAC these two have different functions, the 8005 adds a network streamer and the DAC1 adds a pretty good headphone amp and variable volume output, but given how I'm using it those features are irrelevant to me. I'm not familiar with the DAC chip they both use, according to Marantz it's a CS4398...no idea who makes it or what it's "supposed" to sound like.

As for that sound...wow. The Marantz is wonderfully detailed and yet has a warm smooth sound to it, what this means is I get all the detail I need to make instruments and voices sound spot on. I also get correct imaging and separation but without the exaggerated soundstage that tends to trick people into thinking their gear is better than it really is. Actually if I had one criticism of the Marantz it would be that the soundstage is a bit too wide, but it's not to the point of being distracting and see as this is a near field setup that may be a factor here. Compared to the Sonica I don't feel like I'm giving up the air on the top end but I get it without that slight artificial sound the Oppo can inject sometimes. That being said, the Marantz won't smooth out crap recordings, I still use a predefined EQ in JRiver to smooth out the really poor recordings.

This sound reminds of what I felt the first time I went from hearing typical solid state gear to the flagship Musical Fidelity integrated...I'd forgotten this mix of a warm smooth sound with plenty of detail and extended treble was possible. I could go on trying to further describe the sound of these two Marantz units but I'd just end up repeating myself...warm and detailed warm and detailed blah blah blah...

I can't wait to hear whatever it is that manages to displace this in my system. I'd encourage anyone in the market for a DAC under $1000 to add the Marantz to your audition list.

Comments

  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,138
    The CS4398 is made by Cirrus Logic. It's the same one that's in my Marantz CD6004.

    You are spot on with your description of it. It has a nice combination of clarity and warmth. It's effortless to listen to and very musical.
    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,120
    edited March 2018
    There is a lot of difference between those two Danny but in your setup it might not be revealed. That isn't to discount your experience but I've heard major differences in my own system, albeit a more traditional one.
  • AsSiMiLaTeDAsSiMiLaTeD Posts: 11,717
    Yeah that’s just my experience with the gear I have, quite possible my system just isn’t good enough to reveal the difference. That being said it’s certainly good enough to hear the difference in the other DACs as those differences were quite obvious.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,120
    edited March 2018
    Yeah. As you move up the Marantz line, the smear disappears more. Tonally they aren't far off.
  • F1nutF1nut Posts: 42,696
    Danny, nicely done review.

    I noted with agreement that Musical Fidelity and Marantz know how to get it right.
    Political Correctness'.........defined

    "A doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a t-u-r-d by the clean end."


    President of Club Polk

  • dolbyddolbyd Posts: 423
    And this is why I love the Polk Forum.
    Thanks for the great review.
    Main room- RTiA9 x4, CSiA6, in ceiling Atmos RT-70 x4, SVS PC 4000 x2, Marantz 7705, OPPO 203, Emotiva DR3 G3, Emotiva XPA-2 G3, Emotiva XPA-5 G3, Emotiva X300, Sony 75" 940E, Panasonic Plasma VT50, PS Audio Power Port X2, Perfect Wave AC-5 x8, Douglas jumpers, SVS Ultra speaker cables, Transparent IC, Furman PFi20 W/Cullen cable, SoildSteel S4-4 rack, GIK room treatments

    Office-Infinity Kappa 600, Kappa Center, in ceiling Polk RC80i, Marantz 5012, OPPO 203, Pioneer Elite PDF-59 CD, PSA Stellar 300, Sony 510C 48"

    Master BR- LSi7, LSiC, LSI700 in ceiling, SVS-PC 2000, Marantz 7704, Emotiva XPA-5 G2, OPPO 203, Pioneer DVL-919 Laser Disc, Sony 55" 800B

    Patio- SDI Atrium8 x3, Emotiva A-100 amps x3
  • izafarizafar Posts: 795
    NA8005 replaced Musical Fidelity VDac2 for me and I have extensively listened to them side by side. The major difference was in top end where VDac2 was a bit congested. Tonality was same in mid range and low end.
    -izafar

    Goldenear Technology Triton 1 - Parasound Halo A23 - Parasound Halo P5 - Auralic Vega - Auralic Aries - Marantz TT-15S1 - Clearaudio Nano
  • verbverb Posts: 7,657
    Clipdat wrote: »
    The CS4398 is made by Cirrus Logic. It's the same one that's in my Marantz CD6004.

    You are spot on with your description of it. It has a nice combination of clarity and warmth. It's effortless to listen to and very musical.

    How does that compare with the ESS SABRE DAC chipset currently in the AMP-1?
    Basement: Polk SDA SRS, Cary SLP-05 Pre, Enlightened Audio Designs CD Transport, Northstar Designs Excelsio DAC, Silnote Morpheus Ref2 Digital Cable, Marantz SA-14 SACD, McIntosh MC300 Amp, Furman 15PFi Power Conditioner, Pangea Power Cables, Wireworld Oasis 8 RCA IC's, MIT Shotgun S3 IC's, MIT Shotgun S1 Bi-Wire speaker cables
    Office: PC, EAR Acute CD Player, EAR 834L Pre, PASS ACA Monoblocks, Denon UDR-F10 Cassette, Acoustic Technologies Classic FR Speakers, SVS SB12 Plus sub, MIT AVt2 speaker cables, IFI Purifier2, AQ Cinnamon USB cable, Groneberg Quatro Reference IC's
    Spare Room: , Antique Sound Labs Wave AV-8 Monoblocks, Tisbury Mini Passive Pre, Tjoeb 99 tube CD player (modified Marantz CD-38), Analysis Plus Oval 9's, Zu Jumpers, AudioEngine B1 Streamer, Klipsch RB-61 v2, SVS PB1000 sub, Blue Jeans RCA IC's
    Living Room: Peachtree Nova Integrated, Cambridge CXN v2 Streamer, Furman 15PFi Power Conditioner, Polk RT265 In Wall Speakers, Polk DSW Pro 660wi sub
  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,138
    No idea. Don't have any experience with this bad boy:

    XL_hdamp1_u_b_fr.jpg

    I've only used ESS Sabre DACs to listen to 320kbps mp3s on my computer setup, so my opinion of them is flawed and meaningless.
    verb wrote: »
    How does that compare with the ESS SABRE DAC chipset currently in the AMP-1?

    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • verbverb Posts: 7,657
    Clipdat wrote: »
    No idea. Don't have any experience with this bad boy:

    XL_hdamp1_u_b_fr.jpg

    I've only used ESS Sabre DACs to listen to 320kbps mp3s on my computer setup, so my opinion of them is flawed and meaningless.
    verb wrote: »
    How does that compare with the ESS SABRE DAC chipset currently in the AMP-1?

    Sarcasm detector is on high! LOL! :) I've been eyeing this bad boy for my foray into the DAC world. To be used for my office computer.
    Basement: Polk SDA SRS, Cary SLP-05 Pre, Enlightened Audio Designs CD Transport, Northstar Designs Excelsio DAC, Silnote Morpheus Ref2 Digital Cable, Marantz SA-14 SACD, McIntosh MC300 Amp, Furman 15PFi Power Conditioner, Pangea Power Cables, Wireworld Oasis 8 RCA IC's, MIT Shotgun S3 IC's, MIT Shotgun S1 Bi-Wire speaker cables
    Office: PC, EAR Acute CD Player, EAR 834L Pre, PASS ACA Monoblocks, Denon UDR-F10 Cassette, Acoustic Technologies Classic FR Speakers, SVS SB12 Plus sub, MIT AVt2 speaker cables, IFI Purifier2, AQ Cinnamon USB cable, Groneberg Quatro Reference IC's
    Spare Room: , Antique Sound Labs Wave AV-8 Monoblocks, Tisbury Mini Passive Pre, Tjoeb 99 tube CD player (modified Marantz CD-38), Analysis Plus Oval 9's, Zu Jumpers, AudioEngine B1 Streamer, Klipsch RB-61 v2, SVS PB1000 sub, Blue Jeans RCA IC's
    Living Room: Peachtree Nova Integrated, Cambridge CXN v2 Streamer, Furman 15PFi Power Conditioner, Polk RT265 In Wall Speakers, Polk DSW Pro 660wi sub
  • NightfallNightfall Posts: 8,221
    edited April 2018
    I've only ever tried 4K OLED TVs with VHS tapes so my opinion on them is flawed and meaningless. "They" say you need 4K Ultra HD Blurays to see what this TV is capable of.
    afterburnt wrote: »
    They didn't speak a word of English, they were from South Carolina.

    Village Idiot of Club Polk
  • afterburntafterburnt Posts: 5,633
    I don't know about the other guys but I use my tongs.
  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,138
    Are you sure you don't actually need/want the HD-DAC1? The AMP1 is a full integrated amp and DAC combo.
    verb wrote: »
    Sarcasm detector is on high! LOL! :) I've been eyeing this bad boy for my foray into the DAC world. To be used for my office computer.

    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • verbverb Posts: 7,657
    Clipdat wrote: »
    Are you sure you don't actually need/want the HD-DAC1? The AMP1 is a full integrated amp and DAC combo.
    verb wrote: »
    Sarcasm detector is on high! LOL! :) I've been eyeing this bad boy for my foray into the DAC world. To be used for my office computer.

    Yep. All in one, which I like. Gotta get rid of the Logitech speakers! :smile:
    Basement: Polk SDA SRS, Cary SLP-05 Pre, Enlightened Audio Designs CD Transport, Northstar Designs Excelsio DAC, Silnote Morpheus Ref2 Digital Cable, Marantz SA-14 SACD, McIntosh MC300 Amp, Furman 15PFi Power Conditioner, Pangea Power Cables, Wireworld Oasis 8 RCA IC's, MIT Shotgun S3 IC's, MIT Shotgun S1 Bi-Wire speaker cables
    Office: PC, EAR Acute CD Player, EAR 834L Pre, PASS ACA Monoblocks, Denon UDR-F10 Cassette, Acoustic Technologies Classic FR Speakers, SVS SB12 Plus sub, MIT AVt2 speaker cables, IFI Purifier2, AQ Cinnamon USB cable, Groneberg Quatro Reference IC's
    Spare Room: , Antique Sound Labs Wave AV-8 Monoblocks, Tisbury Mini Passive Pre, Tjoeb 99 tube CD player (modified Marantz CD-38), Analysis Plus Oval 9's, Zu Jumpers, AudioEngine B1 Streamer, Klipsch RB-61 v2, SVS PB1000 sub, Blue Jeans RCA IC's
    Living Room: Peachtree Nova Integrated, Cambridge CXN v2 Streamer, Furman 15PFi Power Conditioner, Polk RT265 In Wall Speakers, Polk DSW Pro 660wi sub
  • mdaudioguymdaudioguy Posts: 5,082
    Not ready just yet, but leaning hard toward the HD-DAC1, but those brown sides...
  • verbverb Posts: 7,657
    Hehe. Plastic too I believe.
    Basement: Polk SDA SRS, Cary SLP-05 Pre, Enlightened Audio Designs CD Transport, Northstar Designs Excelsio DAC, Silnote Morpheus Ref2 Digital Cable, Marantz SA-14 SACD, McIntosh MC300 Amp, Furman 15PFi Power Conditioner, Pangea Power Cables, Wireworld Oasis 8 RCA IC's, MIT Shotgun S3 IC's, MIT Shotgun S1 Bi-Wire speaker cables
    Office: PC, EAR Acute CD Player, EAR 834L Pre, PASS ACA Monoblocks, Denon UDR-F10 Cassette, Acoustic Technologies Classic FR Speakers, SVS SB12 Plus sub, MIT AVt2 speaker cables, IFI Purifier2, AQ Cinnamon USB cable, Groneberg Quatro Reference IC's
    Spare Room: , Antique Sound Labs Wave AV-8 Monoblocks, Tisbury Mini Passive Pre, Tjoeb 99 tube CD player (modified Marantz CD-38), Analysis Plus Oval 9's, Zu Jumpers, AudioEngine B1 Streamer, Klipsch RB-61 v2, SVS PB1000 sub, Blue Jeans RCA IC's
    Living Room: Peachtree Nova Integrated, Cambridge CXN v2 Streamer, Furman 15PFi Power Conditioner, Polk RT265 In Wall Speakers, Polk DSW Pro 660wi sub
  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 16,832
    mdaudioguy wrote: »
    Not ready just yet, but leaning hard toward the HD-DAC1, but those brown sides...

    I dig it for sure!
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • dkfreebirddkfreebird Posts: 1,102
    I’ve had mine for awhile now and love it. It replaced a PS Audio dl iii and a dac magic. The warmth and detail it has is great. The side panels actually look good to me.
    2 Channel
    Polk 1.2tl's Fully modded with dreadnought
    Rogue Atlas Magnum
    Rogue Magnum 66
    North Star Intenso Dac
    Marantz UD 7007
    Pangea PC
    Wireworld Equinox 7 interconnects
    Wireworld Equinox 7 Speaker Cables and Jumpers
    Home theater
    Marantz SR 5009 Sunfire Signature 425x5-B&W Cdm1nt Cdm Center Channel-Rel Strata iii sub
    Backups Polk Monitor 5 peerless,Monitor 7c,2.3tl,3.1tl,SRS2 pin/blade,Polk Crs+ pin/blade with stands.McCormack Dna 0.5 Deluxe,Dared Sl 2000A,Dayens Ampino
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 16,120
    The side panels look great in person.
  • mdaudioguymdaudioguy Posts: 5,082
    mdaudioguy wrote: »
    Not ready just yet, but leaning hard toward the HD-DAC1, but those brown sides...

    I dig it for sure!
    It would match my other Marantz gear better without the panels, although to be honest, they may hardly be visible where I'd put it.
  • nspindelnspindel Posts: 5,346
    Couldn’t agree more. I have the NA8005 as well. My only complaint is that it tends to lock from time to time while streaming, and the only way to get it back on its feet is to unplug it and plug it back in again. As a straight up DAC it’s amazing.

    I previously had the SA8004, but never got all that into collecting SACDs, it was primarily used as a DAC. But about two years ago, Crutchfield had the NA8005 on a crazy sale, and I was actually able to sell the SA8004 and buy the NA8005 and even pocket a couple of bucks. So it was a free DAC upgrade, with some buggy streaming ability, at the expense of giving up physical disc playback. I have not looked back, the sound is incredible.
    Good music, a good source, and good power can make SDA's sing. Tubes make them dance.
  • verbverb Posts: 7,657
    mdaudioguy wrote: »
    mdaudioguy wrote: »
    Not ready just yet, but leaning hard toward the HD-DAC1, but those brown sides...

    I dig it for sure!
    It would match my other Marantz gear better without the panels, although to be honest, they may hardly be visible where I'd put it.

    You could replace/re-finish most likely. Here's a pic with the side panel removed. Screw attachment at bottom, not sure about the top.
    hahz55cpcb2s.png
    Basement: Polk SDA SRS, Cary SLP-05 Pre, Enlightened Audio Designs CD Transport, Northstar Designs Excelsio DAC, Silnote Morpheus Ref2 Digital Cable, Marantz SA-14 SACD, McIntosh MC300 Amp, Furman 15PFi Power Conditioner, Pangea Power Cables, Wireworld Oasis 8 RCA IC's, MIT Shotgun S3 IC's, MIT Shotgun S1 Bi-Wire speaker cables
    Office: PC, EAR Acute CD Player, EAR 834L Pre, PASS ACA Monoblocks, Denon UDR-F10 Cassette, Acoustic Technologies Classic FR Speakers, SVS SB12 Plus sub, MIT AVt2 speaker cables, IFI Purifier2, AQ Cinnamon USB cable, Groneberg Quatro Reference IC's
    Spare Room: , Antique Sound Labs Wave AV-8 Monoblocks, Tisbury Mini Passive Pre, Tjoeb 99 tube CD player (modified Marantz CD-38), Analysis Plus Oval 9's, Zu Jumpers, AudioEngine B1 Streamer, Klipsch RB-61 v2, SVS PB1000 sub, Blue Jeans RCA IC's
    Living Room: Peachtree Nova Integrated, Cambridge CXN v2 Streamer, Furman 15PFi Power Conditioner, Polk RT265 In Wall Speakers, Polk DSW Pro 660wi sub
  • mdaudioguymdaudioguy Posts: 5,082
    verb wrote: »
    mdaudioguy wrote: »
    mdaudioguy wrote: »
    Not ready just yet, but leaning hard toward the HD-DAC1, but those brown sides...

    I dig it for sure!
    It would match my other Marantz gear better without the panels, although to be honest, they may hardly be visible where I'd put it.

    You could replace/re-finish most likely. Here's a pic with the side panel removed. Screw attachment at bottom, not sure about the top.
    Sounds like a job for some black paint.
  • dkfreebirddkfreebird Posts: 1,102
    Buy you some black paint(if you can find it) if it bothers you that bad. :#
    2 Channel
    Polk 1.2tl's Fully modded with dreadnought
    Rogue Atlas Magnum
    Rogue Magnum 66
    North Star Intenso Dac
    Marantz UD 7007
    Pangea PC
    Wireworld Equinox 7 interconnects
    Wireworld Equinox 7 Speaker Cables and Jumpers
    Home theater
    Marantz SR 5009 Sunfire Signature 425x5-B&W Cdm1nt Cdm Center Channel-Rel Strata iii sub
    Backups Polk Monitor 5 peerless,Monitor 7c,2.3tl,3.1tl,SRS2 pin/blade,Polk Crs+ pin/blade with stands.McCormack Dna 0.5 Deluxe,Dared Sl 2000A,Dayens Ampino
  • mdaudioguymdaudioguy Posts: 5,082
    nspindel wrote: »
    Couldn’t agree more. I have the NA8005 as well. My only complaint is that it tends to lock from time to time while streaming, and the only way to get it back on its feet is to unplug it and plug it back in again. As a straight up DAC it’s amazing.

    I previously had the SA8004, but never got all that into collecting SACDs, it was primarily used as a DAC. But about two years ago, Crutchfield had the NA8005 on a crazy sale, and I was actually able to sell the SA8004 and buy the NA8005 and even pocket a couple of bucks. So it was a free DAC upgrade, with some buggy streaming ability, at the expense of giving up physical disc playback. I have not looked back, the sound is incredible.

    So I know this is what led you away from Squeezebox, since the NA is a nice digital transport in its own right. I'm still planning to use my Touch as a transport, with digital coax to the DAC. I'm still very happy with Squeezebox zones throughout my house, so I'd like to keep it as part of my best listening rig. What are your thoughts about this?
  • mlistens03mlistens03 Posts: 2,632
    mdaudioguy wrote: »
    verb wrote: »
    mdaudioguy wrote: »
    mdaudioguy wrote: »
    Not ready just yet, but leaning hard toward the HD-DAC1, but those brown sides...

    I dig it for sure!
    It would match my other Marantz gear better without the panels, although to be honest, they may hardly be visible where I'd put it.

    You could replace/re-finish most likely. Here's a pic with the side panel removed. Screw attachment at bottom, not sure about the top.
    Sounds like a job for some black paint.
    dkfreebird wrote: »
    Buy you some black paint(if you can find it) if it bothers you that bad. :#

    If you find some let me know, I’ve been on the hunt. If I had a submarine, I would go and get all of us some black paint from the titanic, but I don’t so... sorry.
    Not Tom or Trey or Jim just Micah
    KEF Q150s, NAD 1155 preamp and 4155 tuner courtesy of DaddyJT, NAD C352 playing power amp, BJC Belden cables, Technics SL3200, Marantz CD6004 courtesy of Clipdat, Salamander Archetype rack, Millenium Falcon :)
    I've always thought the goal of high-end audio was not to have your neighbors bang on the wall and say, 'Turn that darn music down' but to have your neighbors bang on the wall and say, 'Tell your friends to go home and you can practice later this week'.

    Resident Child of Club Polk
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