Marantz DV6500 Build Quality
Ever wished you could own a truly high end esoteric digital player but your budget is limited to mass market players? Joe Rasmussen from Custom Analogue Audio reckons he has the answer. Using a cheap mass market universal player (the Marantz DV6500, normally retails for A$799 – US$649), Joe has upgraded it with technology from Vacuum State Electronics (Joe is the Australian agent) to create a “state of the art” two-channel universal player called the “JLTi SACD Player” that is being sold by Pymble Hi-Fi in Sydney, Australia, for $2,500 (~US$1,900).
I tested two versions of the JLTi SACD Player, a prototype/demo version, and a “production” version. Both versions include:
An ultra low jitter reference clock from Vacuum State (based on a TENT Labs 27.000MHz crystal) that operates at a cycling rate of 0.015 Hz thus eliminating jitter even at subsonic levels.
Additional toroidal transformer and SuperReg current sourced shunt regulators
The prototype version features a completely new “no negative feedback” 2-channel audio stage (powered by the additional power circuit) with it’s own RCA output jacks (mounted above the multi-channel RCA analogue audio outputs). The “production” model modifies the multi-channel Front Left/Right analogue output and bypasses the op amp for an output that is essentially directly driven by the DAC.
The JLTi SACD player is primarily intended for 2-channel SA-CD listening, but the player can also be used for multi-channel listening as well (although the additional channels are not enhanced apart from the improved clock). Indeed, you can even use it as a DVD Video player (although I wouldn’t recommend it, as I will explain later).
The player supports all the media and formats of the original Marantz DV6500, the player supports all major formats except HDCD and all optical media except DVD+R/RW and DVD-RAM.
Unpacking & Build Quality
The JLTi SACD player comes in a box together with a remote control and a multi-lingual owner’s manual. The power cord is captive, but fairly thick (I suspect Joe has replaced the stock power cord). In addition, Joe has helpfully included two esoteric interconnects for me to try out (one pair from Cryomusic and the other is Joe’s own JLTi silver connect) plus color printouts of the relevant web pages from the www.customanalogue.com web site for the JLTi SACD player and interconnect.
There is an A4 sized warning sheet affixed to the player using sticky tape. Due to the very slow clock, a delay of at least 30 seconds is required after plugging the player into the power supply before it can be switched on. This delay is to allow the clock to become operative, otherwise the player will “stall” or “hang.”
The front panel of the unit is reasonably stylish and uncluttered, with the disc transport located in the middle, the Power On/Standby button and two indicator lights (Standby, and “Audio Ex.”) on the left, and transport control and menu navigation buttons on the right. I particularly liked the inclusion of menu navigation buttons (cursor plus “Enter” and “Menu” keys) as it allows DVD Audio/Video discs to be played without a remote control. In addition, the “Audio Ex.” (Audio Exclusive) button turns off the video output and front panel display supposedly for improved audio quality (hence the purpose of the Audio Ex. indicator light – to let you know the player is not actually turned off!). The JLTi mods make this button somewhat deprecated (since I did not notice any audio quality differences with this feature engaged) but I suppose it is still useful if you are bothered by the front panel display during operation.
The rear of the player features standard connections, including both optical and co-axial digital outs (no Firewire), analogue 2-ch and 5.1-ch outputs, plus composite, S-video, component video and SCART connectors (no HDMI or DVI). There are also Remote In/Out jacks and a switch for selecting between internal/external remote control. Finally, JLTi has installed an additional set of 2ch analogue outputs (prototype unit only) from the new audio stage, using high quality RCA sockets.
I ran a ‘standby mode’ test whereby I shut down the unit with the disc tray open, and the player was clever enough to retract the tray prior to turning “off.” In addition, pressing Play or the Open/Close buttons will wake up the unit from standby mode (in addition to the power button). This is extremely handy for creating a workaround for a lacking discrete power on/off macro command (you can use the Play button to assure the ‘on’ state of the device).