Inside Pics of classic Philips and Marantz CD players
These players with their massive cast-iron swing-arm glass-lense mechanisms still produce excellent sound and are virtually indestructible
Here are some inside pics from a few Philips and Marantz players that I still have or have owned. There’s also an extensive review in which all these players are compared to each other.
Below you’ll find the following players:
CD880 Europe and CD880 US version: identical except for the power transformer windings.
The CD960 really is just a Marantz CD94 in disguise. In my tests it sound very similar indeed, which is VERY GOOD!
Solid, confident, rhythmic, with fast and articulate bass, while retaining fluidity and airyness: it may not be the smoothest or creamiest or richest sounding Philips player but it is still an entertaining listen.
Despite being made seemingly entirely out of plastic, this is a non-synthetic sounding, highly entertaining player: open, fresh, fluid, smooth, refined and above all: musical! In stock form it is a bit lightweight in the bass and lacks solidity but even then it still sounds very, very nice. It is just very unfatiquing without tipping over into super-creamyness. It is a good balance between the classic and modern sound. With damping pads applied, IEC inlet installed and headphones disconnected it sounds much more solid and colourful and really becomes THE cheap player to have.
The CD614 in standard guise: lots of empty, undamped plastic. It is almost 100% plastic but due to the diagonal side walls, it doesn’t bend. Still, it can do with a fuller bas and a more solid sound. To be honest, I wouldn’t have thought this player was so special, let alone of modding it myself, if my friend Wouter didn’t visit with his modded CD614. We did an AB comparison which made my player sound thin and gray in comparison. Sure mine was fluid and airy and refined, but it was nowhere near as full-blooded as the modded CD614. So, off came the hoods to reveal what had been done.
The CD614 with damping applied. This is not a universal solution (you can easily overdo it depending on the player) but the 614 really benefits from this. On the underside is a metal flap spanning a large area of the player, revealing the underside of the circuitboard. In standard form, this flap rattles. Not so anymore after applying damping material. The bottom picture is of the hood, also covered with damping material. The places left clean are where the transport clamping mechanism rests when the drawer is open. The tolerances are that narrow.
Even when only applying the damped hood to my otherwise undamped player, already it sounded fuller and more solid. This gave me the courage to go all the way. With these damping pads applied everywhere, the player sounds much more solid, with a fuller bass and a calmer, richer midrange.
But there’s more you can do to make the CD614 sound better. It’s an old trick to disconnect the headphones, supposedly because this circuit puts extra strain on the already weak output stage. I’ve never put much thought into it but this time I just did the test. Sure enough: disconnect the headphone section and the bass articulates better, sounds faster and the midrange opens up and the whole becomes more rhythmic. Reconnect it and the sound mellows out but not in a good way.
Lastly, or actually this should be done first, is the installation of an IEC inlet. This not only allows the use of big fat cables, but also bypasses the otherwise very thin conductors inside the Philips-8-style connector. With the CD614 this is easy due to the plastic outer wall. Just desolder the 8-connector and drill the outlines of the new to be attached IEC inlet into the chassis. Then gently connect all holes. Then use a sharp knife to smooth the ragged edges. Don’t worry too much about it, after installing the inlet, all will seem perfect.
After the mods had been carried out to my player, we did another comparison and sure enough, the players now sounded much alike! Sure, the CD614 does not become Marantz CD11, but it comes way closer than they should do, especially if you consider the modest original cost of around 300 euro! The biggest difference between a modded CD614 and the reference Marantz CD11 is in the luxury department and secondly in the sense of dynamics, the latter being less obvious with the CD11. The CD11 is not really any more detailed but has more “meat on the bones”, a fuller, deeper bass, a wider soundstage with better separation and better focus. Dynamics aside, the CD11 really spoils you for other players, and that includes high end models!
After these easy mods there is more you can do but it will involve taking the player completely apart and removing the transport and circuitboard, then replacing and adding key components such as better diodes and capacitors and such. A lot is possible here, but it is difficult to choose the perfect component from vast amount of brands and types that are available and it is easy to make mistakes. Luckily, for this my friend Wouter came to the rescue again. He has an engineer background and knows what he’s doing. Recently he came by with his re-modded CD614. It was basically the same as mine, with damping pads, headphones removed and IEC inlet. But he had also replaced various components inside, resulting in a very disappointing comparison… for me that is! Compared to his player, mine sounded once again gray and unsubstantial. What’s more: his player now had superb soundstaging, with lifelike 3D portrayal of voices in the room, beating even the Marantz CD11LE on that aspect.
Note: the older, full aluminium-cast Philips and Marantz players don’t need extra damping, they already sound luxurious and smooth. In fact, damping them would most likely shift the balance in the wrong direction. Disconnecting the headphone section however is always a good idea.
This player looks somewhat like a Philips CD304MKII internally (The CD74 uses the 14bit TDA1540 and the CD304 uses the 16bit TDA1541. The CD74 is from the same generation as the CD104/304 (MKI) but has a pressed steel chassis instead of cast zinc and in fact not a single board in common with the Philips players. It does sound a bit like it, but better. It has the same kind of solidity and drive but with a smoother presentation and a more refined treble. Inside are two transformers: a big one behind the transport and a smaller one in the front on the right, behind the front panel. Also on the outside of the rear is a big power filter.
This player looks exactly like the CD74 and uses the same basic components. Only upon closer inspection small differences become clear, such as different capacitors on the DAC board, different colour wires, different colour power button bar and other plastics in different colours. But the main difference remains that the CD84 has IR remote control, which the CD74 lacks. However, all it lacks is the IR receiver itself; everything else is already in place. Its sound however is where the biggest difference is: the CD74 sounds upbeat, fast, dynamic but a bit rough and the CD84 sounds smooth, full, relaxed and a bit dull. I did some circuitboard-swapping between the two with very interesting results.
LINK TO BE ADDED —————- See this extensive comparison for a closer inspection of these two near-identical players and a report on the audible differences.
Great as a transport, perhaps just as good as the CD94(MKII), but used integrally I found the CD85 to be a little disappointing. You could think that it is a CD94-lite, but I’d see it more as an alternative to the Philips CD880, and even then, not as good.
What’s there to say about the CD94 that has not already been said a thousand times? Let’s suffice with stating that I like its sound A LOT.
CDM-1 specially selected transport (better tolerances?)
2x TDA 1541 S1 DAC
Classic Philips and Marantz CD players compared
The almost Complete CDM range of CD Mechanisms
Marantz CD94 above Philips CD880. The CD94MKII has very similar looks, although early models had a big, ugly badge on the drawer. Amazingly, the CD94MKII performs equally well as a transport as the pricey CEC TL1x in my tests. This particular sample was used very little and this showed in its upbeat sound. Whether it was its low use that was an advantage, or the double lower tolerance DAC chips, the CD94MKII sounded more upbeat and rhythmic in my system either as a transport or as integrated player, than the CD94. I tend to think that the latter’s transport had just gone off spec slightly. After all, we’re talking players of old age and it’s amazing that they work at all, at age 30 and beyond.
Notice the extra circuitboard holding the two DAC chips? That’s the only difference between the MKI and MKII.
Very unique looking machine but soundwise no match for its older brother the CD94. Although the CD80 is also a smooth sounding player, its timbre is notable less natural (more synthetic), its bass is thinner and overall (for good or for bad) this seems to be a more modern presentation.
Chaotic build seems to indicate that costs were cut building the CD80, compared to the all-out CD94.
Commonly referred to as the CD12, the player is actually a combination of the CD12 transport and DA12 DAC. The combination sounds exceedingly smooth and full-bodied with creamy-rich timbre. My sample sounded a little slow but that is very likely due to its transport having gone slightly off spec.
Inside the CD12 is basically a CD94, or more precise, a CD95DR, which is a CD94 without DAC electronics. The transport itself is identical.
Output transformers, just like on the CD11LE
The CD11LE is a rare player with matching deviating exterior styling. I think it looks awesome. The interesting thing is that internally it is based on a chassis that seems to be extended in height. It looks like it could be a CD94 model. This chassis is obviously less tall but for the CD11 it has been extended with risers, different side cheeks and a taller front. Soundwise the CD11LE is a very fine player with silky smooth treble, excellent detailing (better than the CD94MKII), rich tonal colours (although less so than the CD94MKII) and great upbeat, fulbodied but well-differentiated bass. Being a bitstream design there is a slight sense of dynamic restraint, but it is not very obvious at all and you may well find that the CD11LE’s refinement wins from the CD94MKII’s overall bigger slam.
DAC board with 2x TDA1547 bitstream units
The almost Complete CDM range of CD Mechanisms
Classic Philips and Marantz CD players compared
Marantz DAC and Transport List
Philips DAC and Transport List
CD Mechanism Masterpieces