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Marantz CD 38 - CD player

[Marantz CD 38]

[Italian version]

Product: Marantz CD 38 CD player
Manufacturer: Marantz - Japan
Approx. price: 300 $

The Marantz CD 38 is the cheapest player made by Marantz, a Japan-based Company which has become very popular for the excellent quality/price ratio of its digital CD players.
This CD 38, though it is the cheapest of the family, still offers the usual functions, even the most useless ones and everything can be controlled via remote.
The output level is adjustable though I don't recommend this feature for connecting ANY CD player (especially if cheap) directly to a power amplifier since the quality of the potentiometer is generally very low. Hence the advice is: keep the output level set to the max value.
The cabinet of the CD 38 is very light and weak, prone to resonate, indeed. Inside, it makes use of a Continuos Calibration digital system, as explained clearly by the writing on the front panel. Obviously no digital output is available (though some competitors, in the same price range, offer even a coax output) and the mains cable is of the non-detachable type.
Knowing pretty well the sound of many other Maratz CD players I was very curious to put the baby of the family under test. I've matched it with same price tag partners into my budget system and I've even used it, for a while, into my reference system.

The cry of the baby

Let's put this straight: the CD 38 doesn't sound like, nor even it comes close to, its bigger brothers CD 57 and 67.
The sound of the CD 38 is a bit dry and shut-in, with an audible roll-off in the highs which aren't exactly sweet: sometimes the sound is edgy and harsh. And so is the mid range: very dry and sometimes grainy, exactly like many other entry-level CD players.
The mid-bass is quite good instead, articulated and clean, able to reproduce full-bodied male voices and electric upper-bass lines.
The bass range is powerful, not very extended but quite controlled. For example, the deeper notes of the double-bass lack some energy and the musical instrument is reproduced as it was smaller than its real (big) size.
Well, there's no doubt it is a cheap CD player but its sound offers some interesting aspect (the mid-bass and the bass) that suggests this player can become a far better component with some easy, minor changes, as we'll see later on.


The CD 38 sounds compressed as it can't extract all the energy from the discs. This is confirmed by a sound that tends to be lazy and slow, quite unable to follow the natural pace of Music. The micro-dynamics performance is good instead and the CD 38 begins to sing only when the musical program is of the easy kind: few acoustical instruments, few voices etc. For example it feels at home with jazz trios or small ensembles of ancient Music.

3D soundstaging

As stated in other reviews, cheap CD players are normally unable to create a decent soundstage. If you still think that all CD players sound the same try a blind test with the CD 38 against the CD 67 and you'll understand what kind of difference a better player can make in terms of overall musicality and...soundstaging.
Yeah, I know that a digital sequence of numbers is always a digital sequence of numbers but...please keep in mind that a better transport can extract more infos with less errors (hence, with less error correction and interpolation).
Plus, a key role in performance is played by the analog output stage, which treats an analog-only signal: the better the circuits and components, the better the overall sound.
Actually the output stages of cheap CD players are...er, CHEAP and poor sounding.
Hence the soundstage (we were talking about this, right?) is narrow and very, very LOW. There's no air among the instruments and the image, quite decently focused, is right there, in the middle, between the loudspeakers.

Some advice and tweak

Just replacing the stock feet with the Vibrapod Isolators or equivalent improves the sound unbelievably. The sound becomes richer, airy and well extended, so that the dullness almost disappears.
If you're listening to the CD 38 with its stock feet you're losing the 40 % of its performance, in my opinion. Clearly, the vibrations of the weak and light cabinet had some side effect on the transport and on the DAC & output stages.

Another step forward in sound quality can be attained changing the stock interconnect cables with a Monster Cable Interlink 300 or Interlink CD, something very cheap but audibly better than the stock one. You can even try to use something better, like the Monster Interlink 400 mkII but I'd suggest to stop there and save the extra money.
Of course you can use any cable, even very expen$ive ones, but it would produce no audible result since, at some point, the limit to performance is not the cable itself BUT the CD player.
I suspect that a better mains cable could add something to the sound of the CD 38. There's no need to spend an arm and a leg, into our Tweaks Section you'll find several DIY projects for building your own AC special cable (from the easier to the more esoteric ones).
Finally an heavy book on the top of the player can improve, slightly, the soundstaging capabilities of this player.
Don't think that with these simple tweaks the CD 38 will sound like a far expen$ive CD player, as I always say, there's no such a thing as a free lunch :-)


From a well known brand like Marantz, renowned for the good sound of its CD players and for the attention to the details I'd have expected a better mechanical construction: four softer feet and a sheet of non-resonant compound at the bottom of this player would have placed the CD 38 among the best of its price range, even considering that there are cheaper players that sound more or less like the Marantz...


The Marantz CD 38 is a cheap entry-level CD player which, with few easy and costless mods, can become a far better performer. Right out of its box it's an average player with a good mid-bass and bass range.

© Copyright 1999 Lucio Cadeddu

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