Originally printed in the June 1994 issue of Gramophone.
Marantz has held a consistent place as a manufacturer of high quality, and sometimes innovatory and expensive, audio products. Here in Britain this audiophile image is enhanced by the way that Marantz UK's technical guru Ken Ishiwata has sometimes modified basic Marantz designs to produce superior Special Edition (SE) versions to critical acclaim. Their Slim Series takes note of the trend towards home-friendly systems which look good and reasonably inconspicuous, are operationally versatile and yet deliver better than average sound quality.
I stacked the three units with the receiver on top as recommended for maximum heat dissipation, and spent some time trying out the wide range of facilities. The initial setting up of things like the clock and tuner presets took quite a while and required frequent references to the bulky handbooks. Fluent operation of the comprehensive remote controller also involved a learning period but was rewarded by armchair control thereafter.
Sound quality was pleasing and I must stress that any reservations I have are very minor. Using both electrostatic and dynamic loudspeakers of known excellence, I found the system's subjective effect a considerable improvement on the typical rack system. However, applying the highest standards, I felt that the lower midrange was very slightly boomy and treble a shade recessed (the sound I sometimes call 'pear shaped') leading to a loss in definition. This effect was just noticeable on radio signals which were otherwise fine. Sensitivity was about average on both FM and AM so that better aerials than the room accessory types supplied will be desirable in most reception conditions. My local FM stations gave musical, low background noise results and, with the West Indies Test Matches in progress, I welcomed the provision of the good old Long Waveband.
The CD player produced the same sort of sound, though with a wider spectrum which added life to extreme bass and top, and again fell slightly short of the ideal in terms of ultimate definition. This would suggest that it is the amplifier where something less than the highest standards is taking place compared with topnotch units (from Marantz and others). The cassette deck was a surprise and provided brightness as well as warmth. Tape noise was easily forgotten, with Dolby B providing the best compromise; Specification wow and flutter was similarly below audibility. Commercial prerecorded cassettes were handled in fine form and recordings from CD, for instance, produced sounds barely distinguishable from the original.
Test measurements were made as a check on the specifications claims and each parameter was either equalled or bettered. Power output could be pushed quite a bit beyond 45W per channel before waveform clipping occurred (or the safety cut-out was triggered). Distortion and noise were as claimed, with the 102dB SIN ratio for the CD player actually surpassed and low-level linearity about as good as on any CD player I have tested. The cassette deck too had obviously been aligned to perfection, giving very flat playback response curves from IEC calibration cassettes and very respectable record/replay response using the three TDK brand tapes listed in the user's handbook. I somehow doubt whether anyone buying this analogue cassette deck will find the need to add the forthcoming Slim Series DCC deck on a sound quality basis: though DCC's extra text and cueing features, and the foolproof digital level setting may influence the decision.
At the £1, 000 all-in price, this smart and versatile system is pretty good value in performance terms, despite my suggestion that carefully selected hi-fl separates could do better. Where operational factors and cosmetic attractiveness are important, it beats most of the systems currently on offer. While I like the alternative gun-metal colour and automatic doors of the System 1020, and I usually react badly to the ubiquitous funereal black finish of most hi-fl, I would seriously consider choosing the otherwise identical System 1010 and spending the £100 saved on some well chosen CDs.
5111020 Receiver Power output 45W into 8 ohms Total Harmonic Distortion 0. 05% Power bandwidth 20-50, 000Hz Signal-to-noise ratio Phono 73dB. Other inputs 80dB Wavebands: FM, MW and LW FM sensitivity (mono/stereo) 1. 0/25pV Dimensions (WxHxD)422x 76 x 317mm CD 1020 CD Player Frequency range 5Hz-20kHz Signal-to-noise ratio 102dB Total Harmonic Distortion 0. 005% Dimensions as receiver 5D1020 Cassette Deck Frequency range 30Hz-19kHz 3dB (metal) Signal-to-noise ratio (Dolby Off/B/C) 58/67/72dB Wow and Flutter 0. 1% Dimensions as receiver Manufacturer Marantz Japan Incorporated UK distributor Marantz Hi-Fi UK Limited, Kingsbridge House, Padbury Oaks, 575-583 Bath Road, Longford, Middlesex UB7 OEH. Telephone 0753 680868. UK retail price £999. 90 complete, less speakers.