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Marantz SA-KI Pearl SACD Player Preview

Marantz SA-KI Pearl SACD Player

Marantz SA-KI Pearl SACD Player


  • Product Name: SA-KI Pearl
  • Manufacturer: Marantz
  • Review Date: July 01, 2009 03:50
  • MSRP: $2999
  • First Impression: Mildly Interesting
Disc Capacity: 1
Playback Formats: SACD (Stereo), CD, CD-R/RW, (MP3/WMA/CD-DA)
Analog Output Stage: Modified HDAM-SA2 & HDAM
Current Feedback Analog Stage
Power Transformer: Large Capacity Toroidal with Copper Shielded Case
Zero-Impedance Plate
Double Layered Bottom Plates
Audio DAC: Cirrus Logic CS-4398
Display On/Off
Selectable Digital Filters

Analog Audio L&R Out 1 (Gold plated machined brass terminals)
Headphone Out: 1
Digital Out: Coax: 1, Opt: 1
Digital In: Opt: 1
External control -
D-Bus Remote (RC-5) In/Out 1/1

Format: 1-Bit DSD
Sampling Frequency: 2.8224MHz
Dynamic Range: 112dB
Frequency Response: 2Hz - 100kHz
THD: 0.0010%

CD Audio
Format: 16-Bit Linear PCM
Sampling Frequency: 44.1kHz
Dynamic Range: 100dB
Frequency Response: 2Hz - 20kHz
THD: 0.0015%

Color: Black Pearl
Front Panel: 3 Piece Aluminum
Remote Control: Aluminum Top with Marantz Amp Basic Control Function
Power Requirement: AC 120V/60Hz
Power Consumption: 20W
Dimensions WHD: 17-3/8"x5"x16-1/2"
Weight: 32.0 lbs.


Marantz's high end offerings have impressed us in the past. One thing they've had going for them was looks. While everyone else was a black box with blue lights, Marantz was a gold box with white lights. Their styling was unique, the performance stellar, and frankly, they made all the other gear in our rack feel bad about themselves. Nothing spells pride of ownership and repeat customer like looking at your other gear and wanting to replace it with Marantz because it just looks so horribly bland next to your new Marantz unit. Legendary audio designer Ken Ishiwata occasionally will ask to optimize a piece of gear that he thinks has "potential." Apparently, the KI Signature series had just that. The new Pearl line will be a limited edition run celebrating his 30th anniversary with Marantz.

SA-KI_Pearl_RearThe new line gets away from the unique gold styling that so caught our eye for the more traditional black with blue lights that has been adopted by just about everyone. According to Marantz, they have a "silk-black" finish but that may not be enough to have this gear stand out like previous Marantz offerings. The SA-KI Pearl SACD Player is a $3,000 unit that can play stereo SACDs, CD, and CD-R/RW and is compatible with CD-DA, MP3, and WMA files. The player has a copper chassis and backplate with stereo analogue and both optical and coaxial digital outputs. There is also an optical input for the addition of an external DAC. You probably won't feel the need as Marantz included high quality performance DACs (CS4398) from Cirrus Logic. There is also a pair of RCA jacks for In/Out remote control. We assume that this will be a Marantz-specific feature.

SA-KI-PEARL_insidesOf course, the unit is completely overbuilt with a modified HDAM-SA2 & HDAM output stage, vibration-damped cabinet, a large capacity toroidal with copper shielded case, and double layered bottom plates. Aluminum is everywhere including a 5mm top cover, a reinforced bottom plate, aluminum front, and the solid aluminum feet. Much of the 32 pounds of the SA-KI can be attributed to the additional aluminum used to dampen vibrations and to give the consumer a perception of quality. The SA-KI Pearl SACD Player even has a low noise LCD display (whatever that is). The front readout can display the album information from CDs/SACDs and the ID3 tags from MP3s or the WMA meta tags. The front of the unit also sports a number of buttons including your traditional play/stop/FF/RW/Open and power but also sound mode and DAC. The DAC button engages the external DAC. The front also has a headphone jack.

While it would be easy to poke fun at a $3000 SACD player in light of the lossless audio available via Blu-ray, there is still a customer (or two) out there that is looking for uncompromising quality regardless of price in a SACD transport. Marantz's new Pearl offerings should speak to them. The line will be offered in limited quantities. Currently, a few of the the SA-KI Pearl SACD Players have been released to Marantz retailers so you'll want to call your local dealer if you are interested. In addition, Marantz is celebrating the release of this top of the line player with a collectible KI Pearl book and SACD. The SACD costs $50 and the book $30 though you can get the boxed set for $75. According to Marantz:


Both the book and CD offer unique insights into the life and work of Ken Ishiwata. The richly informative book not only spotlights Mr. Ishiwata’s extraordinary career and his many achievements, but celebrates Marantz’s commitment to making “Music Matter,” which is exemplified in the KI Pearl Products.  The meticulously engineered SACD features the music of well-known singer Katelijne van Otterloo, chosen by Mr. Ishiwata as a fellow perfectionist who understands emotional involvement in music.  It contains 12 classic jazz numbers such as ‘Summertime’, ‘Misty’ and ‘Girl from Ipanema,’ each exemplifying Mr. Ishiwata’s passion for music and reflect his ongoing quest for audio perfection.  To create strikingly realistic and richly detailed stereo imaging, the hybrid SACD combines the music of 100% acoustic instruments with a simple sound stage.

The KI Pearl book and SACD should be available at your local Marantz dealer now.


While we are disappointed to see the trend toward black and blue continue, we can't argue that Marantz is stuffing their new SA-KI Pearl SACD player full of high end components. While there are those that would be appalled that anyone would consider paying $3k for a SACD in light of Blu-ray, the market still exists. The "limited quantities" of the Pearl may be a way of protecting themselves from overstocking what it surely a niche product but it may also help drive demand. The SACD release, while a bit unusual in our experience, shows just how much Marantz is putting into the Pear line. With the upcoming PM-KI Pearl Integrated Amplifier due out in September and more products hinted at, we are looking at a whole new top of the line from Marantz. The only question now is how well they will be received in this economy.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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