Marantz CD-94 CD player part 1

The Marantz CD-94.

If people would ask me what was one of the best CD players I ever listened to, it has to be the CD-94 by Marantz. The one pictured above is the second one I have ever owned. About thirty years old already, and still playing CDs. O.K., Its drawer belts need some servicing, some capacitors need to be replaced by new ones and some capacitors on the drive p.c.b./ display p.c.b. need to be replaced as well. But despite those things I love it to pieces, and it still is a better way of listening to your CDs than cheap streaming solutions. By the way, CDs are dirt cheap these days!

This all started with a cryptic remark made to me by Marantz designer Ken Ishiwata a year or so ago (1986). ‘First generation transport but with second generation electronics’ – Ken’s precise words when I asked him what was currently his favourite CD player. Which describes perfectly the thinking behind the new Marantz CD-94. by David Prakel in Hifi Answers – March 1987

The Marantz CD-94 entered the market in December 1986 and got one of its first reviews in the December 1986 issue of the Japanese magazine Radiotechnology (ラジオ技術)¹. The CD-94 was designed by a team of Japanese engineers of Marantz. This team of engineers was somehow inherited by Philips when Superscope sold its assets overseas (except America and Canada) to Philips Netherlands, including various intellectual properties i.e. Marantz brand, its sales rights, and other overseas assets were transferred to Philips, and the company, Marantz Japan, Inc. (MJI). So the first Marantz CD player CD63 was introduced to this World in 1982, led by Mr. Nakazawa’s engineering team². The engineers used the Philips LHH2000³ and the Marantz CD-63 as a basis for designing the CD-94, and of course, all the knowledge that was collected in Eindhoven at that time.

I consider the Marantz CD-94 as one of the first audiophile CD players. It used design features that were relatively new to the audio business like a big transformer with separate windings for the display, servo, digital and analog circuits. The regulator circuit is also discrete. The Marantz used five different printed circuit boards to eliminate/reduce interference and noise, and last but not least: It used one of the best (maybe the best) transports ever made; the CDM1, made by Philips. The transport is made of a zinc die-cast alloy, the glass-backed optical lens block (laser lens) designed by Rodenstock Germany.

The Marantz CD-94: Made in Japan

Marantz produced three different models of the CD-94. It started with the first model that sported a badge on the disc drawer stating: Z-Filter with 16bit twin DAC. It contained the TDA1541 for digital to analog conversion and the SAA7220p/a digital filter by Philips. Later production models got upgraded with the TDA1541a/SAA7220p/b combo. The last model released only for the Japanese market was the so-called “Limited” model. It came on the market in February 1987, and not only was it a 100 volts version but had a 3mm bottom plate as well, whereas the first two models only had a 1mm bottom plate, making the last model the heaviest CD-94 one that Marantz produced. It weighed about 12 kilograms as opposed to the 10,3 kilograms of the first two versions. Marantz manufactured a 120 volts version for the North American market as well. On the inside, the Marantz CD-94 saw at least four revisions.

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Another fine example of this beautiful player. Photo by courtesy of: Frédéric de Lijser.

The Z filter⁴ consists of a digital filter, a D / A converter, and a low-pass filter. The Z filter oversamples the sampling frequency four times, and 44.1kHz becomes 176.4kHz, which is processed by a low-pass filter with gentle characteristics. This eliminates the deterioration of the phase characteristic and the transient response characteristic by a high-order filter. The low-pass filter of the Z filter uses a Bessel filter with excellent phase characteristics, ensuring good phase characteristics up to high frequencies, and at the same time extending the passband to 30kHz and transient response characteristics are improved.
Furthermore, the left-right independent D/A converter is used for the D/A conversion, and the occurrence of phase noise is suppressed. The term Bessel refers to a type of filter response, not a type of filter. It features a flat group delay in the passband. This is the characteristic of Bessel filters that makes them valuable to digital designers. Very few filters are designed with square waves in mind. Most of the time, the signals filtered are sine waves, or close enough that the effect of harmonics can be ignored.

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Source: Internet Archive WayBackMachine.

There were two other CD players that shared a strong resemblance with the CD-94. The first one, also produced at the same factory in Japan was called the Philips CD-960. The second one was (maybe partly??) manufactured at the same plant as well, namely the Micro Seiki CD-M2. They all shared the same Zamac chassis, printed circuit boards, and beefy power supply. The CD-94 and the CD-960 are almost the same and only differ on the outside and both CD players sound very good. However, Philips would not be Philips if they could cut some corners on their version. It got a thin metal top cover instead of the exclusive Marantz ARC (Aluminum Raft Ceiling) structure. The aluminum raft ceiling is a three-piece construction with a raft cut to improve strength and spread vibration modes. The Philips CD-960 also lacked the “veneered chipboard side panels”. If you had bought the Micro CD-M2 you would have got a few extra tweaks that were not standard on the CD-94 and the CD-960. It weighed about 22 kilograms, second, it had a special rosewood casing, third, specially designed feet, and a sandwich construction of metal, copper, and lead as a bottom plate. The engineers of Micro5 also added a balanced output to the player, shielded transformers, and a heavier zamac lid on the player. In the photo below you can see the minimal differences between the various printed circuit boards.

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Top left; Philips CD-960. Bottom left; Marantz CD-94. Top right; Micro Seiki CD-M2. Middle right; Micro Seiki CD-M2. Bottom right; Philips CD-960 with Marantz Serial No.
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Micro Seiki CD-M2 (source: dIybuy.net)
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The Philips CD-960, Serial: MZ01717080950.
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The Wadia WT3200 Transport. Source: http://www.stereo.net.au / Photographed by MarkT.

There are other members of the family as well. Wadia introduced a transport known as the Wadia WT3200. It sports the same CDM1, uses copper shielding of the printed circuit boards (borrowed from Micro Seiki perhaps), and also uses a zamac chassis. It is still a highly regarded piece of stereo equipment, and if you would open it up, and remove the copper shields you would find the SAA7220p/b for digital filter duties.

Zamac was used in all three players for the chassis. An alloy that has excellent damping properties, roughly ten times that of aluminum. Zamac is also non-magnetic, not sparking (like aluminum) and the non-magnetic properties are ideal for use in electronics and other applications where delicate moving parts are subject to magnetic disturbances. Revox used custom-made zamac guides (to guide the drawer) which proved to be not 100% reliable over the years. They tend to flex and deform, making the drawer action uncertain. Marantz and Philips also used zamac diecast side panels as anti-vibration measures on various CD players (Marantz CD-12, CD-95, CD99) and several amplifiers. The Philips LHH series used zamac side panels as well. In the Marantz CD-99SE, the complete chassis was copper-plated, and the side panels were diecast zamac.

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Wooden Side Panels; by https://www.abbasaudio.com/

The original side panels used on the Marantz’s CD-94 and the CD-94 MKII came in basic veneered chipboard. You only have to take a look on eBay to find panels made from Brazilian rosewood, Macassar ebony (Urushi Design Gold), sandwiched ebony/rosewood, and oak. These side panels have different damping properties and could definitely be worth a try. The “oak” side panels were not the ones I was looking for, so I bought some Brazilian rosewood side panels on eBay which are considerably heavier (820 grams the pair) and have better sonic/damping properties. Micro Seiki also used the heavier kind and particularly used Brazilian rosewood for its CD-M2 players. They not even used it for the side panels, but also for the base of the CD player! One could also opt for zamac side panels if you can find them on the second-hand market. They were mainly used on the Marantz CD-95, CD-12, and Marantz CD-99 and are the same size as the wood panels used on the CD-94. One insider tip: The Marantz ST-50L also had the same zamac panels, available in three colors; black (rare), grey, and champagne-gold.

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Bottom view of the Marantz CD-94, complete with transports screws.

If you happen to own one yourself you will probably know all about servicing as well. If you have bought one recently you should pay attention! You will have to consider a recap, a transport belt replacement, maybe new “led” lights! Some capacitors on the transport p.c.b. and display p.c.b. regularly fail, and need replacing because they probably measure bad already or will fail in the years to come. Also known for causing problems is the small switch on the CDM1 which registers the opening and closing of the drawer. Also notorious for “loosening” are the play and pause buttons. If someone has one lying around; please contact me! Servicing these beautiful CD players will give you years of pleasure, they deserve it and they will reward you with the best possible sound from the notorious TDA1541!

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The original specifications (from the CD-94 service manual).

Ready for some tweaks? Then read the next blogs that I will write!

[1] http://www.iar.co.jp/ ラジオ技術

2] Mr. Nakazawa had a wish to have a dream company to develop dream products for customers. This meant creating a company free from M&A risk,
to develop dream products by engineers having the freedom without having to compromise on time and financial constraints. In 2004 when management was desperately looking for clues that they can conclude that this M&A was the right decision at the PMI meeting (Post Merger Integration), he decides on an MBO (Management buy out) together with engineers who had the same beliefs & passions. Thus many quality engineers, around 50 people followed Mr. Nakazawa to his new organization. It was a significant decision for staff in a sense to resign from a 1st Listed company in the Tokyo Exchange stock market and go to a newly formed company, CSR, Inc. … But you can imagine they all have trembled with joy and dream … Mr. Nakazawa came to think his role is not only to fulfill the dream of customers but also to support the dream of engineers in CSR, Inc. The brand, Soulnote was born of the passion Mr. Nakazawa had long held in mind along with many experienced engineers, including Mr. Kato, head of the quality engineering team, previously responsible for Philips LHH series development.

[3] After extensive discussions with NOS, BBC and WDR the first professional CD player was developed and introduced as the ‘System LHH2000’.

[4] The Z filter was used by Marantz in a wide range of products. You could find this type of filter among others in the CD-45, CD-650, CD-84, CD-75, CD-873…

[5] It is unclear whether the CD-M2 was actually designed by Micro-Seiki itself. In any case, the CD player was made by the same factory that also produced the CD-94 and the CD-960. (Source/Input needed!)

[5] For the Japanese readers:

ソース、入力が必要です!

The Philips that was made in Japan.

The Philips CD960 marketing slogan in the US boasted: “Truly a reference standard CD player, the CD960 incorporates only the most uncompromising components because it has been designed by the world’s most uncompromising audiophiles1; Philips engineers”. But were the engineers that worked at the Natlab in Waalre uncompromising audiophiles? And where are the Philips engineers’Continue reading “The Philips that was made in Japan.”

The CD-94MKII vs the CD-95

The CD-94MKII vs the CD-95TDA1541a S1’s in a push-pull system. Roughly a year after completing the new Sagamihara factory, Marantz introduced a new implementation of the TDA1541a into the market. The Marantz CD-94MKII and CD-95 were manufactured in this factory from 1988 till 1990 and came with TDA1541a-S1s in push-pull configuration. But Marantz was notContinue reading “The CD-94MKII vs the CD-95”

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An OEM CD-94 by Micro Seiki

When Micro Seiki entered the market in 1987 with the CD-M2, it must have raised some eyebrows. Slightly higher than a Marantz CD-94, you must have been surprised when you found out it weighed a hefty 22 kilograms picking it up! It also came with bold marketing statements like: “previously unobtainable transparency, and an extremelyContinue reading “An OEM CD-94 by Micro Seiki”

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