The Marantz Tradition
Over 50 Years of Innovation in Home Entertainment
It all started in 1948 when Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) introduced the first mono long-playing (LP) records and sparked the public’s interest in quality music reproduction. One of those affected was music lover, freelance graphic artist and amateur musician: Saul Bernard Marantz, a native New Yorker born in 1911. Unhappy with equipment available at the time, Saul spent many hours in his basement constructing amplifiers to play his cherished LP collection.
In the early days, LP records suffered from inconsistent recording characteristics, a source of concern for Saul, so in 1952 he created what was for the time, a revolutionary pre-amplifier. It was equipped with every equalizer curve necessary to handle the erratic recording characteristics and it immediately struck a chord with his friends. He called it the ‘Audio Consolette’, and his wife convinced him to make and sell 100 sets, but within a year the order book backlog had grown to over 400 units.
Just as Saul B. Marantz loved LP records, music enthusiasts everywhere were about to start a love affair with his products that would span half a century and is still going strong today. He officially founded the Marantz Company in 1953 and launched the Model 1 Mono Preamplifier (a commercial extension of his Audio Consolette) a year later. This amplifier contained a very sophisticated phono equalizer that easily met the RIAA equalizer standards that were introduced the same year. It also had seven inputs, including one for TV audio thus pre-empting home cinema by about 40 years.
Before long, the range started to grow and the Model 2 Power Amplifier was launched in 1956. This masterpiece was years ahead of its contemporary competition, and featured two driving modes - via a simple selector, it could be switched to pentode mode for 40 watts output, or to triode mode for 25 watts. The Model 2 actually inspired one critic to describe its sound as 'gorgeous', a word rarely applied to HiFi in the fifties.
A direct descendent of the Model 1 was the legendary Model 7C, which went on to become one of the biggest selling high-end audio units of all time (130,000 pieces in all its variations). With mode and balance controls and independent tone controls for each channel, its record-breaking success is undoubtedly linked to superb music quality. But fans of the Model 7C also claim – with some justification – that it also set new standards in outward aesthetics: with its balanced design front panel and subtle light below the Marantz logo. The Model 7C found a natural companion in the first stereo power amplifier, the 30 watts per channel Model 8 and the 1963 Model 9: a 70 watts mono power amplifier that many connoisseurs claim has no rivals. 1963 was clearly a great year for Marantz as another icon in HiFi history saw the light of day: the Model 10 valve FM tuner, featuring a built-in oscilloscope to verify the quality, power and balance of the received signal.
Even though 1963 was a great year in product development, as always, Saul's love of music was much more powerful than his business acumen. And the high development costs of the Model 10 led to financial difficulties that eventually forced Saul to sell his company in 1964 to Superscope Inc.
But before buying the Marantz company, Superscope insisted that Saul sign a contract promising that for the next 30 years he would not involve himself in any HiFi electronics business. They feared the man's HiFi genius would be an overwhelming competitor threat.
What has become known as the 'Old Marantz' period drew to a close, and with it, the golden years of the valve amplifier. Saul Bernard Marantz passed away in 1997 aged 86, a sad event for audiophiles worldwide.
Right up until the mid seventies, Marantz continued to produce excellent high-end and mid-range HiFi. But towards the end of the decade, the company found itself struggling in an increasingly competitive marketplace and in 1980, Superscope sold the rights to the Marantz brand, the dealership, and all overseas assets (except USA and Canada) to Royal Philips Electronics, the Dutch consumer electronics giant.
This created an extraordinary combination: a company that was born in the USA, had direct access to Japanese technology, and was flavoured with European finesse. No other company could boast of such a mix.
The Philips-Marantz period heralded a third phase in the company's history, one that was characterized by the transition from pure analogue to digital audio. The first of many class-leading Marantz CD players, the CD-63, appeared was introduced in 1982. Philips remained at the helm for 19 years, giving Marantz unique access to pioneering digital audio developments. Notable landmarks in the digital domain include the DPM-7 digital processing amplifier in 1985, CDR-1 CD recorder in 1991 and the SA-1 Super Audio CD player in 1999.
By the end of the 90s there was more than stereo to consider - the latest trend was multi-channel surround sound. This first became popular in the US with LD (LaserDisc). Home cinema started to grow slowly, but continuously, and received a tremendous boost with the launch of DVD. With Marantz's reputation for class-leading sound quality, it was duty-bound to set the new reference point. The SR-14 was the first A/V receiver to sound excellent for both film in multichannel and music in stereo. A great combination in one product. Outstanding picture and audio was delivered by the DV-12S1. Moreover, Marantz invested in DLP – Digital Light Processing – technologies from Texas Instruments and developed the reference-setting VP-12S1 video projector in 2001. This machine has seen many successors – all, of course, setting a new benchmark - the latest in the line being the VP-11S2.
By the early 21st century DVD had become an established mainstream format, with surround sound coming to the fore. At the heart of this revolution was the Marantz Range, making very powerful and excellent sounding multi-channel receivers. The first products in this category came in 1997 with the SR-96 and the external DP870 Dolby Digital Decoder. In developing these designs Marantz gained priceless knowledge and in-depth expertise, enabling the company to establish itself as a top-quality player in the A/V arena. But importantly, rather than focussing on the feature count or number of connections on the back panel, Marantz never forgot that the key was, and still is, sound quality within a coherent multichannel surround image. It was not just about effects coming from the rear speakers, but making the listener part of the sound, without noticing the electronics or speakers. This is still the philosophy Marantz follows to this day. And every time Marantz has developed a DVD player, the fundamental objective is to ensure high quality CD Audio. That's why many Marantz DVD players were equipped with an extra audio board or/and a dedicated power supply for audio - to separate the high frequency video signals from the sensitive audio signals as much as possible.
In 2000 Marantz launched the Century Design C1 linking the inner values of the product with its physical appearance. Now the balance in sound (bass – midrange – high frequency); the balance in signal handling; and the balance in circuit layout (mirrored); was reflected in the balance of front panel design. The design was closer to the Premium Range of products, as was the sound.
The same year also saw the launch of a new technology (the SA-CD Super Audio CD) offering more detailed information due to a higher resolution in the sampling. CD only uses 16-bit, while SA-CD uses bitstream. The new challenge for Marantz was to deliver on this potential. Only after extensive research and development would the customer be able to enjoy the benefits of the new format. The result was the outstanding SA-1, while the SA8400 was the first SACD player in the Range.
The past few years have seen some significant changes in consumer electronics. The Internet has become incredibly popular and for many consumers it is the primary way of listening to, buying, and sharing music. But to transfer music via the web a significant data reduction was required, and MP3 was the key technology, followed by WMA, AAC, and others. Marantz delayed implementing these in audio players as it refused to sacrifice CD audio playback quality, but after extensive research and development Marantz has finally been able to implement these compressions without significant quality compromise.
The Premium Series has also developed in recent years: in fact the number of products grew extensively as the demand for high quality, premium products blossomed. Moreover, in 2003 an entirely new series was added with the Reference Series moniker. These products allowed engineers to develop designs free from any limitations. The SC-7S1 stereo control-amplifier and the MA-9S1 mono power amplifier came to market. And two years later the ultimate source unit: the SA-7S1 SA-CD player. In the Premium Series the design changed in 2004 and the first product was again an SA-CD Player, the SA-11S1. In the same year a turntable, the TT-15S1, was offered for the first time. And in 2005 the PM-15S1 and SA-15S1 followed. That same year saw the PM-15S1 win the EISA Award. To complete the system the DAB Tuner ST-15S1 was launched in 2006, while in 2007 the portfolio was extended again by the pre/power amplifier combination, the SC-11S1 and SM-11S1 (both stereo) which won the EISA Award in 2008.
In the video segment Marantz had for a long time set the reference standard with their DLP projectors. With the emergence of high definition video it was necessary to have a high definition projector as well. The VP-11S1 was one of the first real HD projectors using the 1920x1080 resolution, and reviewers the world over confirmed that Marantz had set a new benchmark.
One trend that cannot be overlooked is the iPod. It’s not only a trend, it’s a lifestyle. That’s why Marantz developed a docking station in 2006 (the IS201), which enabled users to connect their iPod to and control it from and their Hi-Fi system. This was followed by the wireless dock IS301 utilizing Bluetooth technology.
Also in recent years Marantz has been busy on the outward aesthetics of its products, and in particular in harmonising a ‘Marantz’ look and feel. It started in 2001 with the C1 design, which set a course towards the ‘one face’ that the company aspired to. By 2008 and with the introduction of the M1 design everything had come together, and today’s Marantz products – from entry level to the most exclusive - are all easily recognised as one prestigious family.
The first products introduced with this new appearance were the AV8003 and MM8003, followed by the entire range of amplifiers, CD and SA-CD players, receivers, DVD-players, as well as the new BD7003 and BD8002 Blu-ray disc players.
As today's products offer more functionality than ever and consumers demand an ever greater variety of designs, a key factor in satisfying consumer needs is the dealer. That's why Marantz carefully selects its dealers to ensure that the quality of the service they provide matches the quality of the products Marantz produces. A Marantz dealer must satisfy strict requirements regarding demonstration facilities and store layout before Marantz products can be sold.
On the product front today, Marantz offers two main categories. 'The Range' is known for offering the most flexible system building options imaginable for every lifestyle. At the very high-end, 'The Premium Series' guarantees Hi-Fi purists the ultimate listening experience. Additional product categories have been developed over the years such as 'The Reference' models, faithfully reproducing the purist musical emotion. Finally, the 'Ken Ishiwata' models offer unparalleled quality. As a gifted audio designer Ken believes sound reproduction should touch the listener in a way no other sensation can. His personal signature on a Marantz product is the sign of no-compromise high fidelity.