The daylong event included a technical presentation by Rainer Finck, former Philips digital engineer and now Boston Acoustics European General Manager, and from Ken Ishiwata, Marantz's "Brand Ambassador" and unofficial keeper of the company's "audiophile flame," a detailed company history along with a backgrounder on his involvement in the finalizing of the NA-11S1's design.
Following lunch, attendees were treated to a listening session in Mr. Ishiwata's
playground: an impressively large and well-treated sound room.
The listening session reinforced the commonly held belief that he
is among the most skilled set-up and demo hosts in the business.
said dealers, when surveyed, were adamant that video not be included.
was relieved because the noise problems produced by video circuitry are even more difficult to isolate than the ones associated with USB-even asynchronous USB- that the NA-11S1
The problem is that while transformer-coupled Ethernet connectivity is inherently isolated and noise-reducing, the USB standard includes a 5V power function that unless carefully isolated, can introduce high noise levels.
In fact, Ishiwata
was so unhappy with the proposed production sample's isolation scheme, he
The fully balanced analog section features Marantz's HDAM-SA2 and HDAM modules, while capacitors and other components were chosen based upon extensive listening tests conducted by Mr. Ishiwata
who pointed out that a series of copper topped capacitors that looked great were replaced by some nichicon silver topped ones that sounded better.
While the "future-proof" product launch was impressive both technologically and sonically, Ken Ishiwata's
oral history of Marantz-made more compelling by his
long association with the brand- was one of the trip's high points, especially his
insight that, coincidentally or not, the company changed hands during technological upheavals.
Here's where the young Ken Ishiwata
, then living in his
native Japan, enters the picture.
A friend's father played for him a Julie London record using a Marantz 7C (the "C" is for "wood case" not a different model) and instantly Mr. Ishiwata's
life forever changes.
had never heard such sonic purity and such realistic sounding vocals.
The young man could hardly afford to buy a 7C but he
copied the circuit and built his
It didn't sound anything like the real 7C and thus he
learned the hard way how various different components within a circuit can alter the sound!
Experimenting with various brands of capacitors and other components, Mr. Ishiwata
was eventually able to turn his
version of the 7C into a reasonable facsimile of the real thing.
The 7T, a transistor version of the 7 was introduced, but according to Ishiwata
, it didn't sound the same or even very good.
Another interesting factoid from Ishiwata
was that the 16 bit system was not settled upon because of technological issues.
In fact, higher bit depth was then easily attainable.
The real reason for the 16 bit format was that it made easier downgrading the technology to produce less expensive equipment.
Yet another reason for some of us to be infuriated by the CD!
Hopefully this "history lesson" courtesy Mr. Ishiwata
gives younger audio fans the necessary background to appreciate the value of the brand name Marantz and to understand how despite the numerous ownership transfers, the brand has survived with its sonic legacy intact-which is more than can be said for some of the other storied audio brands created by post WW II electronics entrepreneurs.
Thanks in great part to Mr. Ishiwata's history lesson the two day trip to Eindoven (I was the only American audio writer invited) furthered my appreciation of Marantz products past, and created a benchmark by which I will evaluate future Marantz products.