The HD-CD1 is a CD player designed to match the HD-AMP1 compact amplifier within Marantz’s revived MusicLink range, which also includes the HD-DAC1 headphone amp. These compact hi-fi components are ideal for those who want an attractive, space-saving system, but refuse to compromise on sound quality.
Marantz HD-CD1 – Design and Connections
The HD-CD1 is a beautifully engineered player, boasting luxurious build quality and elegant looks. A common design theme across all three products is the use of glossy, wood-patterned sides, which provide a stylish retro feel. At 304mm wide, it’s easier to accommodate than most CD decks and looks gorgeous perched on the identically sized HD-AMP1.
The brushed aluminium front panel and top plate are available in a choice of black or silver-gold, and feel remarkably solid; the double-layer base plate and chunky feet protect against detrimental vibrations. This is every inch the premium player.
That feeling continues when you open the centrally mounted disc tray, which slides forth with a near-silent movement and clunks shut. The front of the tray is adorned in the same finish as the side panels, providing nice visual continuity.
Below the tray you’ll find a large dot-matrix display, which provides track and running time information. Within the panel are tiny track-skip, stop and pause buttons, while the remaining keys are dotted around the fascia (standby, play, eject). There’s a 6.2mm headphone jack with its own volume control, which is a nice idea – although the knob is a little too fiddly.
On the back are gold-plated analogue cinch outputs, plus coaxial and optical outputs that bypass the HD-CD1’s own DAC, should you rather use the HD-AMP1’s ESS Sabre DAC. Elsewhere, you’ll find remote control input and output.
The HD-CD1 features a high-quality CD transport mechanism, designed for accurate disc reading, which sends data to the Cirrus Logic CS4398 high-resolution digital-to-analogue converter.
Together with the crystal oscillator master clock and a low impedance capacitor, it ensures optimal conversion of digital data while reducing noise.
Meanwhile, the HD-CD1 uses the latest version of Marantz’s HDAM Hyper-Dynamic Amplifier Modules, which use separate optimised components as opposed to the all-in-one ‘chip amplifiers’ used by other products.
The HDAM tech employed here is HDAM-SA2, said to offer a wide dynamic range, wide frequency response and low distortion. The dedicated amplification in the headphone section also uses HDAM technology and comes with its own gain settings (low, medium, high) to drive particularly demanding headphones.
The disc mechanism can play MP3, WMA and AAC too, but one thing it won’t do is play SACD discs. For an audiophile-baiting player such as this, it comes as something of a surprise.
Marantz HD-CD1 – Operation
The HD-CD1 comes with its own remote control, which not only operates the disc player but the HD-AMP1 too. In fact, it’s virtually identical to the HD-AMP1’s remote, aside from an extra grid of numbered keys at the bottom and buttons at the top to switch between CD and amp modes. If you’re pairing the two components then their zappers are interchangeable.
Its responsive rubber keys make it a pleasure to operate, while the brushed black finish looks nice. Pressing the Setup key on the remote brings up a simple menu on the front display, which you can explore using the remote’s direction pad. You’ll find headphone gain, auto standby and quick replay settings, plus an option to shut down the digital outputs.
Marantz HD-CD1 – Performance
I connected the HD-CD1 to the HD-AMP1 using its analogue output to get a flavour of the deck’s own digital-to-analogue conversion, and the results are impressive. The HD-CD1 and its compact companion spoil you with a clean, precise yet full-bodied sound.
With Steely Dan’s legendary Aja in the tray, it handles the polished jazz-rock with tremendous agility. The snares that drive ‘Peg’ really pop, while the busy bassline dances around the rhythm with absolute control and precision. Skip to the title track and there’s plenty of warmth and texture during the sax solos towards the end.
Combining the HD-CD1 with the HD-AMP1 is a smart move. The amp’s intrinsic transparency allows the spinner’s detail to shine. You hear every nuance and leading edge, while instruments and vocals are given plenty of room to breathe.
This is abundantly clear when playing George Benson’s Breezin’ CD. The intricacy with which the Marantz renders Benson’s soulful guitar work on ‘This Masquerade’ – not to mention the simmering concoction of percussion, pianos and strings behind it – shows the HD-CD1 to be an insightful, nuanced performer.
The sound is well balanced and easy on the ear, even when you push up the volume. There’s no harshness at the top end, just biting, expressive treble that keeps you engaged.
Upping the tempo with ‘So Good’ by Opolopo, the Marantz makes the 80s electro-tinged beats sound big and beefy. The synth bassline is weighty and the overall sense of timing and cohesion is something to behold.
What’s more, this player/amp partnership sets out a wide, well-managed soundstage that never feels overcrowded or muddy – instruments are performed and placed in a way that feels natural and convincing. It’s really hard to fault the HD-CD1’s performance.