We've never quite understood why CDs have fallen out of fashion. Okay, so they take up a lot of space, and they’re not as convenient as streaming over Wi-Fi, and they cost too much, and… all right, fine, we totally understand why CDs have fallen out of fashion. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t still around, or that you can’t get very high quality players - like the Marantz M-CR611. In this review, we break down the M-CR611’s sound, design, packaging and accessories, specs and more. We don’t have a roundup of CD players, but you can see our list of the best stereo amps here.
There’s a reason we still talk about CD-quality, even in an age of streaming, and there’s no question that the Marantz M-CR611 delivers on this. It may be helped along by the high-quality recordings, but no matter what audio we threw at it, ranging from compressed MP3s to lossless audio, it did its job. The sound it put out had real weight to it, hefty and punchy, with a level of fullness in the low-end that spoke of high quality innards. More importantly, the presentation was smooth, with a level of sheen that we absolutely loved.
The twin 60 watt channels and the digital amplifiers really do a superb job of representing the sound. In a way, this was part of the fun: it prompted us to dig through our CD collection (such as it is) to find ones we had listened to in a while, and to experience them with a level of detail and punch that we hadn’t heard before. It’s also quite happy at high volumes, and we admit: in the game of chicken between us and the volume control, we lost. It got loud enough for our neighbours to complain - easily comparable with meaty, bassy integrated amps like the more-expensive Bryston B60R (full review here), and that amp is around $2,500 more.
High-End Detail and Soundstage
The high-end was where we felt the M-CR611 was lacking a little bit. It wasn’t bad - certainly not to the extent of something like the more recent NAD C 568, which had a real problem with the top frequency ranges - but it still manages to be a little bit of a problem. There’s a definite lack of detail here, which would occasionally get annoying if we were listening to music with lots of high-end content, like orchestral or folk. For the price range, however, it’s definitely not something you’re going to be mad about - it’s just something to bear in mind. And it must be said that, overall, the soundstage was excellent. It showed off a good spread of energy, letting the speakers position things just so.
Say what you like about the M-CR611’s quirks and foibles (and we’re going to, at length), it packs a hell of a lot into its chunky frame. The twelve-inch-long box has a high-quality digital display that allows you to access all its functions with ease, and it gives you plenty of options. Not only can you listen to CDs by the ancient method of opening the disc tray and putting one in, but you also have access to Bluetooth streaming, Internet music from Spotify and Pandora, radio (in the form of FM, AM and Sirius XM), Apple Airplay, and the ability to add in two pairs of speakers with independent volume control. You can play via front or rear USB, and the unit can decode high-resolution audio. There’s a headphone jack, as well as analogue and optical inputs round the back. With a few exceptions, all these features work extremely well. Many of these features are found on more modern amps - whether they play CDs or not. You can find some examples of those in our roundup of the best stereo amps of this year (we don’t have a CD player roundup - and sadly, probably never will).
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Connectivity
Connecting our speakers was simple enough, and when the unit booted up, it displayed an attractive blue light from the sides of the display. But unfortunately, we now have to talk about one of its big problems: Wi-Fi. To get the things set up on our network, we had to enter password manually, using the directional arrows on the front control panel. It was painful. We would love to tell you whether or not you’re able to do this with the companion app, available on both Android and iOS, but we couldn’t get it to work. It found our device easily enough, but it wouldn’t let us do anything with it, either hanging or kicking us back to the main menu. And the problems didn’t stop when we finally got the M-CR611 connected.
Our preferred service is Spotify, which Marantz prominently advertise as working with this unit. For the first few tracks, it worked fine, appearing as a device in our Spotify app. But then the connection began to drop in and out repeatedly, and there were long periods where the device simply wouldn’t respond. It would come back, work for a time, then vanish again. Never has the convenience factor of something like Spotify be more apparent - and it’s something that more modern devices, like the Google Home (full review here) sometimes find challenging. Clearly, there’s a little bit of work to do in this arena.
The M-CR611 shares a design blueprint with just about every other Marantz product out there, save outliers like the HD-DAC1 that add a little more flare to the proceedings. It’s a big black box, with minimal frills. However, despite dull design, it’s built like a tank, with a decent construction and the use of high-quality materials. Navigating the menus was a breeze, too, thanks to a sensible layout and a well-designed remote (of which more in a moment). It’s painfully obvious that quite a lot of thought went into the physical usability, so it’s a shame that we can’t say the same for the digital.
Like many CD players and amps, the packaging leaves absolutely no impression. It’s a big, roomy cardboard box, which you can dispose of more or less instantaneously - along with the hundreds of thousands of manuals, warranty cards, adverts for hemorrhoid cream, and electrical safety info that inevitably comes with the package. We don’t understand why manufacturers do this - really and truly. It’s an utter waste of time. If more companies were like SONOS in this regard, not only would the planet be healthier, but customers would be less annoyed. Check out the SONOS PLAYBASE (full review here) for a good example of packaging.
The main accessory here is the remote. And it sucks. Well, that’s not quite true: it gets the job done easily enough, and manages to work without too much hand-waving. But it’s just so...dull. It doesn’t feel like any thought beyond the absolute basics have gone into it. Aren’t there better ways of having us enter information, in this day and age, than a number keypad? And why do amp and CD player makers not put any effort into making their remotes nice to actually hold? The best example of this was the now-discontinued Raumfeld Sounddeck (full review here), which had a genuinely beautiful remote.
What We Like:
- The audio quality of the M-CR611 CD player is very good, up there with some dedicated stereo amps.
- It’s a very simple piece of gear to use, and offers decent functionality. Just don’t use the remote…
- The build quality is fantastic, even if the design isn’t beautiful.
What We Don’t:
- The M-CR611’s remote is dull, and feels like it’s only there to tick a box. It works fine, but doesn’t do anything special.
- The Marantz companion app gave us problems, and we think it could be designed better.
- The design of the M-CR611 is nothing special, and will do nothing more than blend into the background.
|Marantz M-CR611||$699||7.4lbs||12" x 11.5" x 4.3"||120||2||Yes||90dB|
|Cambridge Audio CXC||$499||10.3lbs||16.9" x 12.4" x 3.1"||Unknown||2||No||Unknown|
|Cyrus CD-i||$1,300||7.9lbs||14" x 8.5" x 2.9"||Unknown||2||No||Unknown|
|Marantz CD6006||$499||14.3lbs||17.3" x 13.4" x 4.1"||Unknown||2||N/A||110dB|
|Marantz SA-10||$6,999||40.9lbs||17.3" x 5" x 16.5"||Unknown||2||N/A||112dB|
*STN = Signal To Noise Ratio
It’s actually quite difficult to find affordable CD players. You wouldn’t think it, but there’s a huge market for high-end players, as the only people who stick to physical media are those with the space to store it. Fortunately, we’re here, and so we can provide a couple of alternatives. Chief among these is the Cambridge Audio CXC. It offers phenomenal sound quality for the price - $449 to M-CR611’s $699 - as well as the design and build that the folks from Cambridge are known for. Be warned, however: you’ll need an external DAC to use it.
Actually, on that note: in our quest to discover reasonably-priced players, we came across far more CD transports than players. Transports, like the CXC above, require external DACs to function. Not a huge downside, but worth bearing in mind - if you want a list of great affordable DACs, you’re in luck, because we’ve made one. And if you’d like another CD transport option, you should examine the Cyrus CD t, a capable little transport that handles CD playback effortlessly. It’s a little hard to get, so do keep that in mind.
Marantz are one of the few companies keeping CDs alive with genuine player offerings. They have two we think are worth looking at, and only one costs a kidney to buy. The first is the Marantz CD6006, a much more recent version than the M-CR611, and one which offers improved audio quality and functionality. Marantz haven’t fixed the remote, though, which is deeply annoying - but then again, it’s only $500, only slightly more expensive than the CXC’s $499.. Compare that to the absurd $6,999 Marantz SA-10, which has its own DAC and which offers some truly unbelievable sound. If you have money to burn, get that one.
If you’re the kind of person who owns a lot of CDs, who lusts after high-quality audio, and who is on something of a budget, then the M-CR611 will definitely be worth it. It pulls off its key functions with style and class, and we couldn’t find fault with them. If, however, you prefer your music to come from streaming sources, and you don’t have a vast budget, then this quite simply isn’t going to be for you. What Marantz have created here is a niche product for a niche audience. It’s terrific at most things, it performs well…but we can’t see it getting a massive following.
See the Marantz M-CR611 See the Best Stereo Amps