CD carousel throwdown: Sony CDP-CA80ES & Marantz CC4000OSE

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by JerryW, Dec 31, 2001.

  1. JerryW

    JerryW Supporting Actor

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    Let me start by saying that I really like my Sony CA80ES changer. I've had it for a few months and it's really proven itself to be a very solid performer. In fact, it's actually exceeded my expectations for a CDP of it's price and class. That said, let's get to the specs.
    Sony CDP-CA80ES
    Frequency Response: 2 - 20,000 Hz, ±0.5 dB
    Total Harmonic Distortion: 117 dB
    Dynamic Range: >100 dB
    Channel Separation: >110 dB
    Marantz CC4000OSE
    Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz
    Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.004% (1 kHz)
    Signal-To-Noise Ratio: >95 dB (1 kHz)
    Dynamic Range: >90 dB (1 kHz)
    Channel Separation: >95 dB (1 kHz)
    Well... Specs wise, the Sony simply trashes the Marantz. It's not even close. But, then again, we don't listen to specs so I spent several days listening to different kinds of music to give myself a better idea of the contrasting audio differences between the two. I used the DACs in each of the players and connected the players to my processor using CatCables SilverCats interconnects. Both players were connected to the processor at the same time, each to it's own set of analog inputs. The reason I did this? Because they both did very well as transports and I couldn't tell a lot of difference between the two. Perhaps the Sony was a little bit cleaner, but that may have just been imagined. Needless to say, they both did well in that respect.
    Dire Straits: Money For Nothing
    Both did a rather good job, but I immediately could tell that the Marantz was more "laid back" and softer. It's tone, although pleasant, wasn't as accurate as I'd like and certain guitar sequences seemed to blur together making the composition too muddy. This was quite evident in Sultans of Swing, where Knopfler really shines. The Sony detailed every note in Mark's solo but without being harsh. The 4000OSE, though, didn't fare as well.
    Winner: Sony CDP-CA80ES
    Sarah Mclachlan: Mirrorball
    Now things got interesting. The relaxed atmosphere produced by the Marantz was very nice. One of the best examples of this was in the track "Do What You Have To Do" where the softness of Sarah's vocals achieved an almost dream-like quality through the DACs of the CC4000OSE... "soothing" is the best way to describe the Marantz changer in this instance. The Sony did well also, but it seemed almost too bright in comparison. It articulated well, but it missed out on presentation... accuracy, but at the cost of some "soul".
    Winner: Marantz CC4000OSE
    Three Doors Down: The Better Life
    Here again, the Marantz was too laid-back. The desperation in the vocals for "Duck and Run" was almost completely lost. In contrast, the CA80ES had the targetting of a sharpshooter, nailing the audial nuances and changes time and time again. I really had to fight to keep from singing along. [​IMG]
    Winner: Sony CDP-CA80ES
    W.A. Mozart: Requiem
    Conductor: L. Bernstein
    By far this was the tightest race. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the Marantz, but was pulled in by the articulation of the Sony. The Sony was never too harsh, and neither was the Marantz ever too warm. Both had their own merits, and although different, were equally involving.
    Winner: Draw
    If I had to choose one changer from both of these I'd have to go with the CA80ES, simply because it best plays the music that I listen to the most (alternative, classic rock, etc). Not to mention it's cool CD Text capabilities, which are fully user configurable. But for those times when more softness is required the CC4000OSE is a great change of pace and a fine piece of equipment in it's on right.
    Both players are solidly built and have quality mechanics, neither hiccuped once during the testing and both are well laid out with their functions easily accessible and ergonomically placed. From a visual standpoint, the nod goes to the Marantz, it's a handsome piece of gear and the blue on the tray really sets it off. Not to say that the Sony is ugly, it's just not as "pretty". [​IMG]
    From a connection standpoint, both have gold plated RCAs and neither had any problems during testing. Although, here is where I'd give the CC4000OSE a strong endorsement. The Sony only comes with an Optical output while the Marantz is Coaxial... and I and most others prefer Coax simply because of it's durability and lesser expense for interconnects. So, if you plan on using one of these as a transport only, keep this in mind. Not that I've had a problem with Optical, just thought I'd point this out.
    I know, this ran a bit long. [​IMG] But FWIW, both players did well, with each excelling in one particular area or another. CDPs, like most other audio equipment, are a personal preference and it really depends on what type of music you listen to most.
    Which am I keeping? Both of them! [​IMG] I like each for diferent reasons and they'll do well in contrast to each other in my audio rack.
     
  2. Chip E

    Chip E Screenwriter

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    Nice post Jerry... I know the CA80Es, i used to have one. I regretted getting rid of it to move to a M-333ES mega changer. Mega changers just aren't for me however, i went from the ES megachanger to the SCD-C555ES and to my ears, it's significanly better than even the CA80ES. I coulda lived with the CA80ES though, that's for sure. Good review [​IMG]
     
  3. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Jerry, great info. Much appreciated. To build on one point you made, it is difficult to compare these two changers as transports, of course, since the Marantz only has a coaxial digital output and the Sony only has an optical digital output. Thus, you are using different technologies for transferring the PCM bitstream as well as different cables.

    Your observations are in keeping with my own and with most comments I read about Marantz equipment when it comes to the musical presentation. Many say Marantz receivers and CD players are warm, but there is such a thing as too warm in my opinion. If too warm, the music can sound blurred, which sounds like what you observed with certain CDs on the Marantz changer.

    For the money, I was always impressed by how accurate the 'CA80ES was. Just as a player can be too warm, a player can be too accurate to the point of being sterile or harsh. I felt the Sony did not cross that line overall. The Sony was accurate, but was also lively. Soundstaging and "presence" was very good for the money.

    As you may know, I own a Denon DCM-370 changer, and I compared it quite a bit to the 'CA80ES when the latter was in my stable. I would classify the '370 as warm overall, but a bit muddy in presentation with weak bass. The one advantage to my mind that a player like the Denon presents lies in vocals. Much like the Marantz changer, I felt the Denon handled vocals in some cases better than the 'CA80ES. However, I always felt as though the level of detail the 'CA80ES conveyed meant that I was getting more accurate retrieval of information from the CD. Thus, with the 'CA80ES, even if vocals sounded a bit edgy in comparison to the Denon, I felt the Sony presented the music as it was transferred to the CD more accurately. Thus, the Sony gave the good and the bad from CDs. The Denon may have sounded a bit more natural or warm in the vocals, but the overall presentation of the music was lacking in comparison to the Sony. So, I liked the Sony much better than the Denon. The only reason I kept the Denon is that it has a coaxial digital output, which I like for recording CDs to minidiscs.
     
  4. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Chip, the 'CA80ES is excellent for the money, but the 'C555ES is much better, ain't it? As for comparing these two players, been there, done that! [​IMG]
     
  5. Chip E

    Chip E Screenwriter

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    "Chip, the 'CA80ES is excellent for the money, but the 'C555ES is much better, ain't it? As for comparing these two players, been there, done that!"
    Showwwww izzzzz!... See you guy's next year.. [​IMG]
     
  6. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    Hmmmm.... I just ordered my 4000 for two reasons - 1) My old carousel is dying, and 2) I got 20% off. I listen to a lot of female vocals (Sarah, Dido, Tori), so that should be fine, but I also listen to a lot of rock and techno/trance where I want that sharpness also...
     
  7. JerryW

    JerryW Supporting Actor

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    Well John, are you planning on using the DACs in the 4000 or will you be using an outboard DAC? If you're going outboard, the Marantz shouldn't be a problem. But, IMO, if I were going to be listening to a lot of rock/techno (which I do) and using the 4000's onboard DAC (which I do) then I'd probably reconsider my purchase of the Marantz if it were going to be my primary player. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine changer and sounds good in all types of music (some better than others), it's just not as accurate as I would like. I'm mainly keeping the Marantz for it's atmospheric quality in relation to slower music and classical... that and I got it used for $150 from a friend in Fla. [​IMG] It a righteous secondary player for that price.
    I'd definitely take a listen to it first and see what you think before cancelling your order though. CDPs, as well as most other audio gear, are pretty subjective.
     
  8. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    I didn't get a good chance to listen to it at my dealer because someone else was doing a speaker demo in the room that has the 4000, so I didn't get to listen to MY music. The receiver was the same as mine as were the speakers (SR6200), so it would have been a fair test. I may have to go back since they didn't have one on hand for me (which is why I got the discount) I called them and they said they had one, but when I got there, the guy said it had a note on it saying it was sold, so he gave it to me for $200 brand new, but I have to wait for it to come in. I'll drop in and take a bunch of music to listen to...

    thanks
     
  9. ChrisAG

    ChrisAG Supporting Actor

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    Don't forget to add speakers to the equation. My MS-906s sounded great with the Marantz SR6200 (returned for now, might get another when the bugs are worked out) but a little bright with Yamaha gear. I'd expect the same result with the 4000 changer.

    BTW, does anyone know of a decent source for the 4000? The dealers in Toronto want about $600.
     
  10. Mike Burke

    Mike Burke Stunt Coordinator

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    I have the CA70Es and there is NO way in hell I would get another 5 disc changer unless it was SACD/DVD Audio one! I am blown away at the performance/price I am getting! I would stay with the Sony!

    Mike
     
  11. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    I believe you about SACD, and I was strongly considering it, but that will probably come later this year. I have searched the listings of available titles, and while there are many very good ones, the majority of music that I personally listen to is not available on SA or DVD-A. That means it would be less beneficial to me at this time. When I start to see more of the things I listen to begin to be released, I will certainly pick up a good SA player. [​IMG]
     

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