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Marantz CR201

It’s rare that anyone seeks out a dedicated CD player anymore. A DVD player, Blu-Ray player, PlayStation 3 or any number of other multitasking components will do the job. But CDs are still the dominant form of music distribution, and there’s something to be said for doing one thing, doing it well, and doing it with style. That’s exactly what Marantz shot for with its CR201 Personal CD System.

The Marantz CR201 is a standalone single-disc player with built-in speakers. Functionally, it does the same thing as the cheap boomboxes that fill the shelves at your local big box retailer – albeit with much better components. But high quality isn’t the only thing that sets it apart. Stylistically, it’s in another league all together.

Unlike those garish chunks of plastic we’ve become accustomed to, the CR201 exudes a conservative, understated style. Its square face is cleanly divided into two sections: a mirror above a covered speaker grille. Think less “college dorm room,” and more “James Bond’s living room.”

Marantz CR201
Image Courtesy of Marantz

The real surprise kicks in when the CR201 comes alive. To put a CD in, the mirror slides aside revealing the tray for the disc beneath. What at first appeared to be just a mirror is actually translucent: once it closes, the spinning disc will still be visible thanks to a ring of blue LEDs around it. They can even be adjusted between three different brightness levels to set the right ambience. All display information, such as track number and playing time, also appears on the mirror face in blue.

Visual slickness aside, the CR201 should also be a very capable audio system. There are actually two stereo speakers and a subwoofer packed inside the system for 2.1 channel audio, even though it’s no bigger than an oversized textbook. With six watts per channel for the front speakers and 11 watts for the sub, the CR201 puts out a modest 23 total watts, but unlike the absurd peak numbers plastered on the side of boomboxes, we would wager the CR201 has actually been rated conservatively.

There are plenty of bells and whistles here, too. Like any good 21st-century CD player, the CR201 will play MP3 or WMA files off a recorded disc, but it takes that capability a step further with a USB slot for playing digital audio files off a thumb drive as well. It can also pick up FM stations with an external antenna or play audio from an external source, and there are four different equalizer presets for varying music styles. The CR201 can take the place of clock radio with its alarm settings, which range from standard daily alarms with weekend cancellation, to adjustable sleep timers for waking up from a nap.

The system actually comes with two remotes: a small, simplified version and a larger, full-function one. Both are circular and designed to rest in the palm of the hand. Unfortunately for Americans who choose to import the system, all of the remote functions are in Japanese, so a little memorization might be involved.

Buying one of these Japanese-only releases from the U.S. won’t be easy on the wallet, either: they currently run for $759 USD through importers such as Audiocubes. But for the upscale audience Marantz has targeted with the CR201, price probably won’t be that much of an issue. For the chic luxury home that needs a healthy helping of fashion with in all its appliances, the CR201 could be the perfect solution for providing tunes.