The ‘KI’ in the new Marantz KI Pearl stereo SACD player and integrated amplifier duo is short for Ken Ishiwata. Ken, Brand Ambassador for the company, says the two black Pearl products are his ‘gift’ to the hi-fi industry, to celebrate his 30 years with Marantz. That might sound arrogant from anyone else, but coming from the man who developed the legendary Marantz CD-63 MkII KI Signature –and in the process created a generation of European and Far Eastern audiophiles who associate Ken’s name with high-performance upgrades – this is a gift many would be happy to receive.
The Marantz KI Pearl pair both sport a thick aluminum cover on an even thicker copper-plated chassis, an encased toroidal transformer, carefully selected components (including specially adapted Marantz HDAM-SA2 and HDAM-SA3 amplifier modules). The Marantz KI Pearl SACD player (£2,499.90) features a top-quality SACDM-10 transport mechanism with a special Xyron tray loader, partnered with a Cirrus Logic DAC CS4398 converter with selectable filter options and an optical digital input. The matching Marantz KI Pearl integrated amplifier (also £2,499.90) delivers a claimed 90W/ch into eight ohms and 140W/ch into a four-ohm loudspeaker load. It also features a constant current feedback MM/MC phono stage a discrete two-stage power amplifier (with a direct input) and a buffered CD-direct input circuit. US prices and availability have yet to be confirmed.
Both products are finished in a sumptuous silk black and will be limited to just 500 units each. Owners will also receive a specially commissioned book and accompanying SACD of live jazz recorded by Ishiwata himself.
In fact, Ken Ishiwata’s link with Marantz goes way beyond those 30 years he’s worked with the company. As he explained in a press conference at the top-swank London restaurant, The Ivy, he was born a year before the launch of the first mono LP and Ken’s audiophile epiphany happened young; he heard the Marantz Model 7c preamplifier of a friend’s father. Unfortunately, the then 10 year old Ishiwata was hardly in a position to afford such a high-end masterpiece, so he did the next best thing – he borrowed the preamp and ‘reverse engineered’ a 7c copy. When this preamp failed to work, he began a painstaking analysis of replacing and tweaking components inside his copy preamp until it stopped oscillating and started making music. The die was cast; Ken Ishiwata’s reputation since that time has been built on taking a fine product and finding out how to make it even better.