+ 30 Day In Home 100% Refund Period
+ 5 Year Parts & Labor Warranty with Every Signature Edition Upgrade
+ 100% GUARANTEED to beat ANYTHING else on the market!
Nothing we sell ever comes back.
We don't even have to advertise. Once our clients experience for themselves the extreme high performance & "bang for the buck" we deliver, they keep coming back as funds permit.
The Upgrade Company would not continue to be A+ rated on the nationwide BBB algorithm month after month unless we were delivering on our promises.
Please call +1 269-352-7609 to place order
Unsolicited Customer Testimonials for David J. Schulte and The Upgrade Company
Every client has paid The Upgrade Company LLC in full. No kickbacks, no commissions, no fees of any kind for recommending our products and services.
Number of Signature Upgrades & TimePortal Cables, testimonial received in March 2017
I hired The Upgrade Company to upgrade my Emotiva XPR-5 big 95lb Reference 5ch amp, my Emotiva XPR-2 95 lb reference 2ch amp, my 4 Emotiva XPA-100 mono’s, my Marantz 7701 A/V Processor, my Marantz 7007 Universal player and in each case the sound became fantastic in every way. Each time the unit came back it was far more musical and smoother yet more refined more detailed greater bass weight and heft and extension and speed, mids really organic and fleshed out and clear like a real human voiced sounds, piano spot on. Highs lost all the grain and glare and grit, sparkling and shimmering and airy. I know some of you think video cannot be improved but you are dead wrong: the Marantz A/V Controller and Marantz 7007 player each exhibited a banishing of grain and washout, looked much clearer with inky deeply saturated but not blooming colors the way they should be I could go on but you get the idea a true Genius that makes other shops I've dealt with in the last 52 years look like amateur's. Upgrade Co. has true solutions for all brands and a treasure trove of knowledge. I have been obsessed with high end audio and now video too since 1965. Well I can tell you their RFI EMI RIDDANCE technology makes a gigantic improvement in sound and picture. Not just a little bit. The Improvements are astounding. Combined with their exclusive TimePortal RFI EMI RIDDING 9 layer shielded power cords, XLR’s and HDMI cables, the results are State of the Art. No one else's system or showroom sounds even close. A single TimePortal power cord doubles or quadruples the sound quality depending on high up in cost you go. Even the video was further improved by my Timeportal power cords & HDMI cables. Oh and the Richard Gray 400 Pro once SE upgraded and fitted with Furutech NCF outlets and 20 amp IEC inlet made a real big improvement on both sound & video on my 8' screen. Everything got much better right away and a LOT better as it burned in. Even the bass and black levels were really improved. You won't even BEGIN to get the most out of your gear without their cables and the tips and tricks, they can explain big tips to you if you call them. Most of you I'll bet do not have your stuff setup properly. Hire Upgrade Co for personal setup that'll literally will blow you away and that by it’s itself is worth the price of admission. How many installers or sellers these days will drive four hundred miles to get things right. To show my commitment here is what else I had upgraded: My Marantz PM11S2 Integrated amp, my Parasound P3, little bit to my Phase Linear 700 S2 in my other systems so far. --
Marantz AV8002A with Signature Edition Upgrade
Just wanted to give you an update on my experience of EMI RFI Riddance.
Phenomenal. Just jaw dropping.
We started out gosh I don't even remember! Somewhere back in March 2015.
I'm going to cut to the chase here ... because to me the listening tells the story in the best way possible. I continue to be gobsmacked and awestruck. Just by the most humble of sources. And if you haven't listened to it through my system just listen to me please. I can play YouTube though my Oppo 103D Special Edition upgraded by Dave through Dave's Time Portal HDMI Cable, to my Marantz AV8002A upgraded model, into a non upgraded Emotiva XPA 5 via upgraded Time Portal XLR balanced cables, out to my PMC Twenty 26's biwired using Dave's Time Portal speaker cables and also out using silver tinned copper 10AWG wires to the rear surround speakers.
Phenomenal. Just jaw dropping.
Dave and I have become friends since we began. Through his amazing advice and experience with EMI RFI, I can sit here in my villa living room in Riyadh Saudi Arabia and listen to the most amazing incredible sounds from my currently super minimalist system of 4.0! Supplied by YouTube. Imagine...
Over the past couple of nights I am astonished how good it sounds. I have this system now in its current form for about six months, some of it more than 1 year. And it is well a truly burned in.
My benchmark source is the Oppo playing either FLAC or BluRay. In either case it is ground breaking. I constantly sit here shaking my head in disbelief.
My goal is a completely closed system by that I mean as much as possible all power, speaker, and interconnect cables and all components will be EMI RFI shielded.
I want to get my next cable set top box upgraded too! Because when I first installed the Time Portal RCA cables between my current box and the Marantz preamp I found a whole new level of audio. I mean it was palpably better everything: sound stage dynamic range everything was better. One humble example only.
To give you some idea of the amount of business Dave and I have done, its a lot! He has been the Prince of direct and honest truth. And I have enjoyed every minute of the journey we are taking together. We are in the process of returning back here, two amps I managed to blow the transformers on, upgrading the current Emotiva with 2 Reference Upgraded units, returning the Furman power supply unit, the digital front end supply an Upgraded Cocktail Audio X40, an upgraded Sub Woofer amp various speakers and cables to complete the home theatre system version 1.0. This is the largest single pallet load, and I trust it will arrive here safely.
Early on in our relationship I explored the EMI RFI domain with a view to understanding what it was all about. I did an internet search and uncovered engineering standards for military and medical applications, loads of specialist suppliers and products and began to understand the depth and expertise that Dave has gained over his work so far in this field. I also realised that very few engineers have much if any exposure to this field. Electrical Engineers or not. They know about speaker cable capacitance that's about the size of their knowledge and scope of their discussion. Its only if they have done especially military work or research work or work for example on large array telescopes where shielding is mission critical (I met a few of these guys here in Saudi Arabia at the one of the Universities and ...surprisingly they didn't get it either, only once they hear the system do go mmmmm...)
There's an engineer in the Bronx...now he gets it....cos he's done work on some serious EMI RFI related projects....I'm guessing military since he was citing that standard.
Today, tonight as I listen to humble YouTube...I remain convinced that I have one of the best combined stereo/audio/video home theatre systems available. And I'm running my minimalist 4.0 system right now.
So come on, sign up. You will never regret it. Dave's work is second to none. I have never met or heard of anyone else in the world doing this work to hi fi equipment like Dave does. Unique, powerful and complete. Results delivered immediately (and get better until burn is achieved). I've looked under the hood. I can only say wow. The amount of careful hand work required to place thousand dollar paints, shielding and other materials is artisinal in its standard.
With Dave's help you should seek your audio and video nirvana. You have the right. And David has the answer.
Dr John Read
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Marantz SA-8005 CD/SACD Player and PM-8005 Integrated Amplifier Signature Edition Upgrade
I did a comparison last night of my new Upgrade Company Marantz SA-8005 Signature Edition & New Marantz PM-8005 Integrated Amplifier which also came rand new from Upgrade Company with their Signature Edition Upgrade's, against my burned in Primaluna Dialogue 6 Tube Monoblocks and my NAD digital 3 piece front end & preamp. The Marantz units win easily. I honestly didn’t think a $1500 integrated amp and $1500 cd player would sound better than a pair of $6,000 tube monoblocs and a $7,000 digital front end. AND THIS IS WITH LITTLE TO NO BURN IN ON THE MARANTZ AMP AND CD PLAYER.
Marantz PM 11S2 Signature Edition Upgrade
GREAT JOB GUYS on my Marantz PM 11S2 Signature Edition upgrade. It used to hum like crazy before on my turntable to the point of being unlistenable except at low levels but now I can actually turn the volume to wide open with no hum or hiss at all. Kudos! The stock Marantz PM11S2 sounded veiled and mushy and was not the last word in resolution or clarity. Stock soundstage was small and flat as a pancake. Wasn’t awful but compared to how it sounds NOW it was AWFUL. The jet black backgrounds and buttery smoothness and mid/top end sparkle and clarity I have not heard out of any gear at any price. Tight deep bass slam, huge soundstage, never sounds aggressive or forward, I just love it.
The hum (& hiss at higher volumes) I used to have on my MC cartridge and SME tonearm have gone completely away. I can hardly believe it. I was comparing a new ELP CD played back on my Marantz UD-7007 Bluray Universal player you guys SE upgraded last year, to the original Emerson Lake and Palmer vinyl LP on "Lucky Man” the track. Both sound AWESOME now...
My Martin Logan’s used to sound thin forward and hard on this set but now they throw a HUGE soundstage that is full bodied clear lots of deep taught bass at all volume levels and they sound liquid and clear with great depth.
Thanks a bunch!!
Marantz SA 8005 Signature Edition upgraded SACD/CD player
It's here and sounds spectacular! Much better then the player it replaced. I'm running it into a Rogue Audio Sphinx integrated into Legacy Audio Studio HDs. A Shunyata PC cleans the power a little. All power cords are Shunyata; all interconnects and speaker cables are Synergistic Research.
Marantz UD7006 Signature Edition Upgrade
I hooked up the Marantz first. The sound was utterly amazing! Best sound I've heard yet ANYWHERE. The Signature Edition upgraded Marantz player has brought out so much more detail, ease, clarity and deep powerful bass response. Truly a huge "Night & Day" transformation. I can hear the difference of what you conveyed in our conversations. "Stock For Profit factory naked build" and how You bring out so much more music with your upgrade. Never mind the ridiculously low price for such amazing sound quality.
A good part of my family have now watched movies on the upgraded Marantz. Everybody comments and loves the new picture and sound. All agreed your SE upgrade technology has made a great improvement to the picture and sound quality. Kudos
I've been renovating my family room. The back wall has cherry trim around the windows. It is very impressive. People have walked in to see the trim and while complimenting me on my work about half way through their praise, they turn, look at the stereo and say, "Nice sound!" It pulls them in.
You have been instrumental in helping me achieve my goal. More of your recommendations will be incorporated into my future purchases.
Thank you for your work.
You, my friend, are an artist.
For those of you seriously considering The Upgrade Company, I have this to say. These folks offer a two week in home trial and you can return it. You really have nothing to lose. I doubt very much you'll return it.
Signature Upgrade to Marantz SA7-S1 CD/SACD player
I’m very satisfied with the Signature Edition upgrade you did to my Marantz SA7-S1 CD/SACD player.
The improvements I hear are certainly not subtile. On the contrary, they are easily audible right from the start. Instruments and voices are much more pronounced and differentiated and much more live to the listener. The sound is also cleaner and more “polished”, if I may say so.
To all hesitating music lovers I can only say that The Upgrade Company upgrades are far more than just worthwhile.
In the past years I’ve purchased a lot of so-called “tweaks”. Some helped a bit, most of them didn’t. But after the Marantz SA7 upgrade, the differences were there from the first moments and got much better with the hours of use. I can only highly recommend it to everyone.
Best wishes from Belgium for 2014 to the whole Upgrade Company team and all the people reading this message.
Guido Michiels, Belgium
I love this Marantz player and intend to keep it!
Marantz AV-8003 Signature Edition upgrade
McIntosh MVP-871 Signature Edition upgrade
Marantz KI Pearl Integrated Amplifier Signature Edition upgrade
I must admit that I was skeptical that someone living in northern Michigan could greatly enhance high end products made by some of the best audio designers of our time. After talking with David J. Schulte, the Founder & CEO of The Upgrade Company, I was willing to try their Signature Edition upgrades, so I sent in my Marantz KI Pearl integrated amplifier. The results left me well beyond pleased - I was astounded, and continue to be on a daily basis when I fire it up. Even the headphone output now sounds great. I have since met David at his home, and find him to be a likeable, trustworthy and phenomenally intelligent man. He is definitely onto something with his proprietary upgrades. After my Marantz amp, I talked to him about working on a CD player for me, and he suggested getting a McIntosh MVP-871. I found a used one, purchased it and sent it to David. It was returned shortly (Upgrade Co's turnaround time is typically a few days plus shipping once it arrives) and placed in my system. I had been using a Bryston BCD-1 cd player, and it was immediately apparent that the upgraded 871 was a profound improvement over the BCD-1 in every way, even before it had any burn-in time on it.
You won’t have to wonder what is different when you turn your upgraded equipment on - you will know, you will smile, and you will realize you made the right decision. My system has come alive. Everything I hear is now far clearer, far less digital and has a much more solid feel.
Music is now much more enveloping and involving than I have ever experienced in my system. I can follow instrumental lines I have never heard before. In fact, I can only remember only a couple of comparable listening experiences in my 19 years of attendance at CES. And my amp, CD player and speakers all are less than $4000 each. My system now paints a much more musical picture. I find myself more immersed emotionally, and the music has a greater urgency or meaning than I have previously experienced anywhere.
The upgrades are everything I wanted in the years I have been buying the ”newer, better” stuff, but never got. There is another path to nirvana- and it goes through David Schulte’s skilled hands. Most likely it will lead to the best ever sound from your system, maybe the best you have ever heard. The best thing about my upgraded equipment is that it just keeps getting better every day - it is a long way from being broken in.
It is worth every penny.
Tom A., Michigan
After a year of listening to a fantastic sounding $12,000 Linn Kisto prepro and $6500 Nuforce MCH-300SE power amp, I had hired The Upgrade Company to install their Signature Edition upgrades and shield these units. I was simply astounded at how drastically the upgrades improved the sound of my system. The Kisto ran so much cooler the fan didn't come on anymore.
After living with the tremendous increases in performance the SE upgrades brought, I wanted some more of their upgrades since they'd made a far bigger improvement then anything I'd tried or heard before.
I was about to take David's advice and move up to a McIntosh prepro and power amplifier. McIntosh prices were expensive, so David recommended that I simply go with an Upgrade Company SE upgraded Marantz AV-8003/MM-8003 combo that were just discontinued by Marantz, but still far outperformed the current Marantz AV-7005/MM-7055 models which were built to a lower price point.
I took David's recommendation again since David was right on about TimePortal power cords and interconnects, and Oppo 95 Signature Edition which was much better then the NuForce Extreme Edition 93.
I purchased an SE upgraded Marantz 8003 combo and let the units burn in for several weeks. But I have to tell you, right out of their boxes they were better in many ways then what I had: even smoother with even more powerful and deeper bass.
The SE upgraded Marantz set has higher resolution, sounds smoother & more full sounding, has extremely deep and powerful bass, absolutely pristine highs and mids that no stock gear at any price can match that I've heard.
With proper speaker setup, the combination of my Upgrade Co SE upgraded Oppo 95, TimePortal analog cables, Wireworld Silver Starlight 6.0 HDMI into the SE upgraded Marantz 8003 pre pro, my system throws a surreal wide & deep soundstage no system in any show or showroom has ever done for me.
The SE upgraded MM-8003 amp has huge head room. It plays louder and sounds a lot better then my top of the NuForce line MCH-300SE "switching mode" amp, which was audibly noisy until it was upgraded. Then it really rocked until this Marantz gear came along and beat everything I have ever tried, all non-upgraded stock amps/monoblocks.
My new Marantz 8003 combo retails at just one-third of what my Linn Kisto and Nuforce MCH-300SE Signature Edition upgraded combo did. David really knows what works and what's overblown hype by magazine reviewers.
Obviously The Upgrade Company couldn't maintain a 100% Buy Back Guarantee after all these years if the results weren't out of this world spectacular.
Oneil / Chicago, IL
The 8th Annual Positive Feedback Online's Writers' Choice Awards for 2011 - The Best of the Best!
Upgrade Company's Signature Edition Marantz Modifications
I realize that my writer's choice award for 2010 was for products that I hadn't officially reviewed till the January/February 2011 issue. Give me a break. I am slow to turn in my handy work. And besides being that the Dave's are both teachers, I would never use the standard issue excuses of blaming the dog for eating my homework or I left it in my friend's locker. That would be worse than just being late. But seriously, I strongly feel that one of the best things I have done in regards to an audio purchase in as many years that I have been in this beautiful hobby of ours is to send my gear to The Upgrade Company to have Mr. David Schulte perform his Signature Edition modifications to my gear. Or I should say, work his magic on it. With the permission of our esteemed editors, I would like to vote The Upgrade Company for a second year in a row as one of my top choices for the Writers Choice Award. The reason is, for the upgrade they performed earlier this year to the original modifications. When Mr. Schulte emailed me earlier this year to let me know he had some further improvements to make on my gear I was skeptical. I didn't think there could be improvements on the improvements they already made to my stock Marantz amp and CDP. But believe me they did the seemingly impossible and improved an already great modification further. Way further in my opinion. Please stay tuned. I am working on getting the details in as soon as possible.
Comparison of Marantz SA11S2 stock vs upgraded by Audiogon Member Paul Stevens
Yes I did purchase Dale Crommie’s upgraded Marantz SA11S2 he sold since purchasing one of your new McIntosh MCD-500 SE's. Dale's upgraded SA11S2 replaced a stock Marantz SA-11S2 in my system. The transformation is not subtle. The upgraded player has significantly improved bass for starters. But that's not all it does. The sound stage is more precise, the attack and decay are improved. Backgrounds are blacker. In short, the entire presentation is improved over the stock unit. I am particularly amazed at the improvement on standard redbook cd’s. On the upgraded SA11S2, well recorded redbook cds sound almost as good as SACD’s. I kept popping in new music and going “WOW, is this fun”.
You may use these comments on your web site. Have a very Merry Christmas.
Marantz AV-7005 upgrade testimonial by Klaus H. in CA
I received my Marantz pre/pro back yesterday. I unpacked it, and set up my system again.
I played a Bluray of the Venture Brothers (animation) to run an initial test. This particular disc is quite crisp and vivid to begin with, and the audio tracks are also very high quality. I often use the disc as a personal reference (or to show off to friends/family).
I was in awe watching the episode, essentially speechless. The level of overall clarity increased 3-fold. The quality of the video performance did increase. The audio was so awesome I couldn't believe it. I was hearing sounds and noises I have never heard before - thus I was able to experience the episode with an increased sense of enjoyment. The beautiful thing, is that you don't need to crank the volume to hear it properly. You can set it at a moderate volume, and it still completely comes to life, exhibiting all the subtleties typically hidden. I watched the Iron Man bluray, the entire house was shaking, and I almost found myself ducking from bullets - they sounded like they were on the room! Not how it sounded with the stock unit at all.
I then turned off my Oppo 95 player, and turned on the HTPC I built, to play back some Japanese anime and other media. This too, was absolutely insane sounding. My speakers sound like completely different speakers - the separation between mids and highs is razor sharp, they don't bleed together anymore. The upgrade to the AV-7005 is quite remarkable.
I was up until 3 am listening to music, just sitting on the couch, and was thoroughly entertained the entire time. This completely rocks!
I thought about it last night, and it's interesting how the stock AV-7005 is just bland. Yes it does its job, but it doesn't sound like a high-end piece of audio equipment. In its stock form, it is simply a utility tool - compared to the sound of your upgraded unit. Upgrading the AV-7005 turned it into the machine I thought I was buying.
Frankly, if I can afford it, I will be only buying (or upgrading) equipment with The Upgrade Company from here on out. So my biggest prayer at this point is that your company is around for a very long time.
This experience has brought to light that OEM equipment just isn't as it should be.
Lastly is there a mailing list or something? If you guys come to California for an audio show or convention, I want to be sure to come meet you and see what's new.
Cheers and thanks so much for your fine work!
Klaus H., CA
Oppo 95 and Marantz SR-7005 Signature Edition upgrades
The new "Signature Edition upgraded" Marantz SR-7005 and OPPO 95 are great so far; their performance has kept improving day by day. Excellent Upgrade!
Henry Chin, CA
The Upgrade Company - Taking my Marantz PM15S1 Integrated Amplifier and SA15S2 SACD to a Whole Another Level
by Francisco Duran
As far back as I go in this great hobby of ours, I can remember reading reviews of products that were just short of reference quality in one or all areas of performance. Comments like "bass performance approaching but not quite up to the very best" or "the treble is just shy of the top echelon" were bestowed upon less than stellar gear. I've often wondered, what makes that product just shy of the very best? Is it the circuit design, parts upgrade, or both? Or to put it another way, what would one have to do to make that product compete with the very best?
Fast forward a few years to a fledgling Greater South Bay Audiophile Society, getting to know many audio manufacturers in those early years, and listening to many of their audio products. Dave and Carol Clark and a few more of us turning a lowly GSBAS newsletter into a full-fledged magazine, audioMusings, and the gear kept coming. Later audioMusings partnering with David Robinson, Positive Feedback Online was formed to bring a Forum for the Audio Arts to the Internet. To say that I have listened to my share of top quality hi-fi gear would be an understatement, through these ventures and audio shows and friends' systems. I have also had systems made up of some fine gear through the years.
But the itch to improve things didn't stop with just swapping gear out in my system. Early on I felt that a very good way to improve one's gear, without selling it and replacing it with something more expensive, was to have it modified. Down through the years I have had modifications done to select pieces of gear in my system, some of them done by very competent people in this industry. Each time the modifications improved the sound, but not always to the degree that was expected. One good argument I ran across in favor of modifying one's gear one night on the Internet was titled, "Go Forth and Modify" by Brad Mitchell in the Internet magazine Affordable Audio. It was in their issue 35 from November 2008. In it Mr. Mitchell gives a rational explanation of how your audio dollars are divided up by manufacturers. He also mentions the fact that "There are many high priced products out there that use mediocre internal parts." This was not only shocking to learn but a bit of a let down. One would think that when you spend your hard earned cash on very expensive gear, you are actually getting the very best.
Fast forward again a few years later and I found myself in a similar situation. It was time again to upgrade my system, but based on past experience, the urge to upgrade my gear through modifications was strong. Enter David Schulte, owner of The Upgrade Company of Harbor Springs Michigan. The Upgrade Company is one of those companies whose name pops up when you are doing an Internet search late at night for the best company to modify your gear. In fact, I can't remember how I initially came across them. I can tell you that from the very first time I contacted them, January 25, 2008; it took me almost three years to make up my mind and have my gear "upgraded" by them. But I am getting ahead of myself. The reasons for my procrastination were many, and typical of the incredulous audiophile. This doubt was partially brought on by the claims made on The Upgrade Company's website. In it they state that the modifications they do actually bring gear to state-of-the-art status. They also mention the fact that there are many cheap parts in expensive high end gear that are also found in cheap and cheerful entry level gear. I have read that last statement before. Okay, but would the bass be improved? Would the treble sound better? Will it sound more musical? Will it be worth my money? These and many other questions swirled in my mind as I did my research.
The Upgrade Company goes a long way in easing your concerns when you shop through their website. Several comments caught my attention firmly concerning their policy. They have over 28 years experience in upgrading and modifying high end stereo and video equipment. Customers are offered a 14 day in home trial of their work. There is a 100 % buy back guarantee, five year parts and labor warranty on customer owned gear that they modify. The clincher for me, and one that answered one of my many questions, was that once your gear is upgraded, it will compete with (stock) "cost is no object" models. And as if that is not all, some of the comments directed to David Schulte would make any audio dealer green with envy; "Dave makes a total commitment to you when you are one of his customers," "his service is second to none," "Dave is a true gentleman," "as stand-up guy as I've come across," and "may god bless you always!" Oh yes and he answers his phone calls and emails promptly, my quote. When was the last time you said anything like that to your audio dealer? And still I hesitated. After all, how could anybody take my treasured stock from the factory audiophile gear and make it better. Please read the website for more details on their policy. Okay, stay with me guys, just one more thing. Just a few of the many customer comments about their work; "the entire presentation of my digital playback is state of the art," "best move I ever made," "worked his magic on …," "outstanding work," are just a few of the many positive comments about their work. It was sounding better and better in favor of a mod.
First here is a little history about the gear that I finally sent to have modified. The Marantz PM15S1 integrated amplifier and SA15S2 SACD player were purchased late in 2009. Partially due to a synergy with my speakers, and the features appealed to me. After many years living with a couple of bare bones passive line stages, the list of creature comforts on the PM15S1 was inviting. The Marantz gear is definitely in the smooth sounding camp as opposed to the razor sharp and clinically neutral. Coming from the Marantz Reference Series, that pedigree is undeniable with their solid build and handsome looks. I was told by very reliable sources that the smallest amp and SACD player in the Marantz Reference Series line sounded every bit as good as their bigger brothers, except for sheer power in the amp and a few missing creature comforts from the CD player. Seems it had something to do with a smaller parts count. Besides they are less expensive and my speakers really don't need massive amounts of power to get them to open up. The 80 WPC of the PM15S1 fit the bill. This forty pound integrated amplifier came equipped with an MM/MC phono section, headphone amp, record out facility, speaker switch, (for headphone listening), tone controls and WBT speaker binding posts among other niceties. The CD player can be used as a stand alone DAC or transport. The amplifier is about as far away from my previous hair shirt audiophile approved system as you can get yet far short of an all in one massive HT amplifier. I love it!
I wrote in my review of the stock SA15S2 that it has "a smooth yet detailed demeanor," "natural sounding midrange," and "realistic tonality." But as nice and smooth as it is, it often times leaves one wanting for more musical excitement. Although very nice sounding, this combo was lacking transparency, dynamics, some inner detail, and a bit of that sonic excitement. I also said in the review that "SACD's sounded way more natural…making regular CD's sound more hi-fi and electronic in comparison." But they were smooth! What I didn't know at the time was the dramatic change to the Sonics the modifications would bring. In fact early on, I almost sold the amp. It seems it just wasn't as good a match for my Tonian Labs speakers as I thought. Turns out I didn't have enough break in time on the amp. I have a habit of switching out amplifiers in my system quite often, and I didn't realize I didn't even have fifty hours on the amp. After over 200 hours it finally broke in and opened up… to a degree. Or so I thought.
Finally after a year of debating, researching, and thinking about it, I sent in my Marantz SACD player to The Upgrade Company for an upgrade. Sending your gear to them is painless. Owner David Schulte is very communicative with his customers, his turnaround time is fast, and the prices are very right. Their work is exemplary. During the break in and since, I have literally run the juice out of both units and they work perfectly. The amp gets a lot more time in than the SACD player. My amp is on and running at least six hours a day on weekdays and at least twelve to fourteen hours a day on weekends. And it runs cool as a cucumber, which is another reason I bought it. But I am jumping ahead of myself. After getting the SACD player back and breaking it in and loving how it sounded, something wasn't quite right. I felt I still wasn't getting the full mettle of the new modification. Feeling that the rest of my system was at fault, off went the PM15S1 amplifier to Harbor Springs, Michigan. One concern I had was that the amplifier wasn't the latest model of PM15. I have the PM15S1, and as soon as I bought it, Marantz came out with a new model, the PM15S2. David Schulte assured me that the difference between the stock units wouldn't be a problem after his modifications. In between this though, David emailed me to say that he has improvements that he didn't implement in the SA15S2 mod the first time and if I could send the CD player back he would upgrade it for the cost of shipping. Getting the CD player back there was definitely an improvement in background silence and cleanness I thought couldn't be improved. Now back to the amp, when it came back and I had some hours on it, I felt my system was a lot more complete sonically with both units modified. Now for a bit of a painful confession: Since the amp has been back, I have rarely listened to my Margules tube amp. Now don't get me wrong, the Margules is a very fine tube amp. But the mod to my integrated really closed the solid state/tube gap sonically in my system. Another gap that closed to quite a degree is the SACD/ CD performance. There is not as big a difference as before the modifications in sound between the two formats. Go figure.
The first aspect of the sound quality of these units post mod that should be mentioned is their lack of noise artifacts. That is, lack of grain, glare, hardness, brightness, smearing, or veiling. After break in it was the absence of these sonic negatives that first got my attention. The absence of these artifacts alone should be well worth the admission price to anyone who lusts after good, clean, musical reproduction. Listen to just about any sanely priced audio products, and one will find one or another of these artifacts in the sound. In fact you would have to spend up to the four to five figure price-tag to get as clean sounding as these components. I would emphasize here that in this instance, clean absolutely does not equate to a bright, thin, or clinical sound. Full, solid, clean, and musical make better descriptors. This is one amp and CD player that can really track what a recording sounds like. Similarly they are very revealing of component changes in one's system without the sound becoming merciless. Can a component sound both accurate and musical at the same time? Yes, very expensive components (sometimes) and a modified unit from The Upgrade Company. Of course, matching these components at this level requires skill and patience. When doesn't it? I got very good results with my resident JPS, Soundstring, and Music Wave speaker cables and interconnects. But I got excellent results when using two Kubala-Sosna Emotion power cords and one pair of Elation interconnects. This excellent wire transformed my system to a degree I didn't think possible. With the KS wire the system exhibited a greater degree of inner detail and extension at the extremes, yet stayed grounded in musicality. The music just seemed right and snapped into place. Of course the wrong wire or mismatched ancillary in a high end system will wreak havoc on the musical reproduction. The Marantz combo has the benefit of being matched at the factory then improved upon by the modifications. But just popping them out of the box and pressing play doesn't guarantee success. The fact that top notch cabling brought out the best in my components is telling of the quality of the modifications and proof that working and tweaking them will return worthwhile rewards.
Of course this lack of artifice brought out the best in the music. My Tonian Labs TL-D1 speakers are very accurate transducers. That area of sound that we are most sensitive to, the midrange, sounds very accurate and naturally realistic. The vocals are solidly placed, and the images are holographic and stable when warranted by the recording. A favorite composition by the guitarist Pat Metheney is "The Longest Summer" on his Secret Story CD. To quote another PF writer, Bob Levi, the piano on this cut sounded "mellifluous." The piano sound jelled out into the room with ease. What deep bass my speakers can reproduce, down to their 42Hz limit, sounded very well controlled, taut, agile, and very natural with this song. This brought out musical texture and tonality, not only in acoustic instruments, but those qualities can be heard in electric instruments as well. Does the electric bass guitar have texture to its sound? I felt so in many recordings.
One night while doing a comparison of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon LP, (Gramophone Company Limited LP), and SACD (Capitol), some interesting things were noted. In track No. 4, "Bells," the accuracy of timbre of the bells and the depth of the soundstage and location of individual bells was very good on the SACD version. When we played the LP, we felt my phono set up reproduced timbres that were more realistic and relaxed sounding. Although the SACD pulled off realistic depth of stage, it just couldn't escape CD's old inherent trick of flat individual images. This was more noticeable on the piano and vocals. It was absent with my phono rig even with my cheap and cheerful Blue Point No. 2 cartridge. The phono stage reproduced a stage and images that had better natural sounding depth and space. Now don't get me wrong, CD reproduction from this player is first rate. But it seems no matter what you do, you can't escape digitals "perfect" sound. When I sent my amp in to The Upgrade Company, I asked David Schulte to go all out on the phono section. He must have taken my advice because this built in phono section in a $2000 integrated amplifier punches way above its weight class. I have been living with it quite happily.
I mentioned this amp has tone controls in my Positive Feedback Writer's Choice Awards comments. Audio purists need not fret, they can be bypassed. Before the mod, engaging the tone controls caused a slight distortion to be heard. This noise defeated the purpose in using them, and made me want to turn them to direct mode. After the mod, this distortion was simply not there. I like the inclusion of this feature on this amp. Used sparingly they come in handy on more than a few recordings. The mod really changed their performance, using the tone controls gives no sonic penalty. To me it sounds more like a cable change when using them than a circuit that is mucking things up. And lets not forget the improvement to the built in headphone amp. The modification to my amp was a complete one, and these features for me are justification of the convenience of my integrated amp.
The treble performance blends seamlessly with the rest of the frequency spectrum. It is extended and revealing, yet naturally realistic. Swapping out my Tonian TLD-1 speakers for a pair of new NSM MS-100's that are in for review brought out a stark difference in each of these speakers top end sound. The differences between these two speakers are most noticeable in the treble region. The silky smooth performance of my modified Marantz combo again easily showed the poor quality of some Pretenders' CDs as compared to Milton Nascimento's Nascimento CD or the Ana Caram Collection on Chesky Records with either of these speakers. The strength of these modifications is to reproduce highly revealing sound yet be very musical. I have to say that listening to the Pretenders' CDs was more enjoyable than just about any stock CD player that I have heard them through.
If you want a lesson of what high quality bass, midrange and treble can sound like, just listen to the CD Blues Groove by the Jimmy McGriff and Hank Crawford Quartet on Telarc. The wide open dynamics, the growl of McGriff's Hammond B-3, the fine texture of Crawford's alto sax, and all blend together, spread out wide before me. This modified Marantz combo easily displayed this high quality recording with ease. I could go on and on with musical examples.
It is sometimes easy to slightly loose sight of reality when one is enthusiastic about a product or service they feel strongly about. I have made a similar statement last year when I reviewed this very SACD player, only it was stock. The stock Marantz components are very good audio products, but the modifications to my gear were highly successful. The modifications transformed two slightly sweet, warm, and competent sounding products to ones that will compete with others costing many times their retail price. But are they the best out there? Are my amplifier and SACD player "state-of-the-art" status? Let's just say that David Schulte and company have pushed these units to their sonic limits in regards to their inherent design. And let it be said here that these upgrades are very thorough. Over 150 parts were changed in my CD player alone, plus high quality shielding and damping were also used. The Upgrade Company has many years of experience modifying the great high end stereo and video products of the world. Many fantastic statements from their customers are made on that website. But these claims are from extremely satisfied customers with many years experience in this hobby who have trusted The Upgrade Company with their mostly expensive high end gear. The proof is in the listening. Count me in with their many satisfied customers. To say that I am pleased with my decision to finally send my gear in is definitely an understatement. I am very satisfied with the outcome. If you are tired of riding that expensive audio merry-go-round or you have a treasured component you would like to have improved far beyond what you think could ever be, have a serious look at this company. What have you got to lose?
The Upgrade Company
David J Schulte
1222 Walkabout Lane
Harbor Springs, MI 49740
The 7th Annual Positive Feedback Online's Writers' Choice Awards for 2010
Beginning at the end of 2003, PFO established its first annual awards for fine audio. The Brutus Award was established for the best that Dave Clark and I had heard in our own listening rooms during that year. You can think of it as our equivalent of an "Editors' Choice" award.
An excerpt from PFO Staff Reviewer Francisco Duran:
"In August of last year I bought a Marantz PM-15S1 integrated amplifier and SA15S2 SACD player. What partly prompted this move was that I have been a hair shirt audiophile for too long and wanted some creature comforts in my musical pleasure. Another part of the motivation was that I just wanted a simpler system plain and simple. The PM-15S1 integrated has a built in MM/MC phono section, head phone amplifier and tone controls, yes tone controls which I proudly use on occasion or when the spirit moves me or when a recording is just too bloody awful to listen to un-aided! My SA-15S2 doesn't play DVD-A's, DVD's or Blue Ray's but I don't care. I didn't want an all in one player due to their notoriously slow response time in loading a disk. The reason I am adding these two units to my best of the year is not necessarily for the two Marantz units. It is because I had them both modified by The Upgrade Company. It took me literally two years to decide to finally have this company actually do modifications to my gear. When I first started researching them, I didn't even own the Marantz gear. After reading and reading their website for the umpteenth time, I could have literally sent them any piece of gear from any high end manufacturer under the sun and they could improve the sound of it. I picked the Marantz gear for several reasons. The first reason(s) I have stated above. Secondly the stock units worked well with my speakers. Thirdly I didn't want an expensive bare bones audiophile unit from a small company that would send me back to hair shirt land. Well folks as our esteemed editor, David Robinson have stated in the past, "I don't drive stock". Well, I don't either. I have had modifications done to some of my gear down through the years but never and I mean never have they sounded as fantastic as the modifications done by David Schulte of The Upgrade Company. Qualities such as deep powerful and impactful bass, images that sound as if they were carved out of stone, excellent coherence, accuracy, natural richness, lack of grain, glare, harshness or haze on a level I really haven't experienced before regardless of price. In fact this small paragraph is not enough space to do justice to the level of quality and craftsmanship that has been implemented to my gear by The Upgrade Company so a full review is in order. I have plenty to say about this subject so stay tuned!
Dr. David Pritchard Marantz SA11S1 SE Upgrade Testimonial
I recently had my Marantz SA11S1 SACD/CD player upgraded by David Schulte of the Upgrade Company. Since I am not a professional audio writer, here is the bottom line:
Yes it is definitely worth the money to have The Upgrade Company upgrade the Marantz SA11S1. I attended the International Head Phone Conference (CanJam2009@ Head-Fi.org) in Los Angeles during Memorial Day weekend 2009. There I had the opportunity to hear multiple high end CD/SACD players using my personal headphones: Sennheiser 650's, Ultrasone Edition 9's, and my Denon 5000 phones. I auditioned the high priced EMM LABS players, the new Marantz SA-7 and a lot of other players. I preferred the sound I get out of my Upgrade Co. upgraded Marantz.
The dramatic improvement in the sound of my upgraded Marantz player has extinguished any possible "upgrade-itis" I had. The Marantz SA11S1 has always had the reputation for a warm sound. Now the bass has a much better precision quality to it. There is no hint of digital glare. I just find myself hearing and enjoying the music. I no longer think about the source of the music. I just enjoy the music. All aspects of the upgrade went smoothly. The unit was out of my hands a total of 14 days. I had no problems scheduling or communicating with David at Upgrade Company.
Would I do it again- Absolutely!
Audiogon Member ID "Davidpritchard"
Father Michael Carroll's Marantz SA11S1 Upgrade Testimonial
My initial impression of my upgraded Marantz SA11S1 is nothing short of Hallelujah! When I got this player I figured it was the best one I'd ever have and it sounded better than anything I'd ever owned before. When I unpacked my "Upgraded" Marantz today and played Van Cliburn playing the First Piano Concerto of Tchaikovsky, something happened that was a first for me. I felt the music. I didn't just hear it, I felt it. The vibration of the strings in the piano was palpable to me. Next was Renee Fleming singing Bel Canto arias. I've heard that the test of a player is how it handles female vocals. This is where it gets interesting - I listened to the arias and the hairs on my neck stood up. This has only happened when I heard music live in performance. It has never happened to me listening to a SACD. This is as close to live as I've experienced music. Brahms' Ein Deutches Requiem is on now and here again something amazing. I've sung this piece in concert performance. I've heard it at Carnegie Hall and wept at the beauty of it - I had tears in my eyes today. So, out of the box, without being anywhere near burnt in, I'm thrilled by what I'm hearing.
Thank you, David, for the genius of what you do. May God bless you always.
Fr. Mike Carroll, NY
This is getting freaky. When you first upgraded my SA11S1 player, I wrote and told you that it made me feel the music-as if I were in the hall at a live performance. Well now, after your latest upgrade I feel like I'm in the orchestra pit. The other day when you called me to tell me about the new improvements that were available to your 2 year old Signature Edition upgrade, I honestly thought that there wouldn't be much difference but was I ever wrong.
My Signature Edition upgraded Marantz SA11-S1 now sounds absolutely stellar for pennies on the dollar. If that isn't the apex of customer service someone please tell me what is.
Thank you again, David for making my music come even more alive.
Father Mike Carroll, NY
This email is long time coming. With 1st impressions being so positive, I still wanted to wait to see if the luster of your "SE upgrade" would diminish with long term listening since January of 2009.
Well let me tell you that my Marantz DV-9600 just keeps getting better. I wasn’t prepared for the overall impact that I was hearing. The soundstage extended well past my Von Schweikert VR-5 HSE speakers. The layering of depth was equally impressive, and it is clear to pinpoint the sound of each instrument.
Everything just seemed to get bigger. The bass was very tight and controlled, gone were the irritating high frequencies, and that luscious mid-range was right there in front of me.
I guess the best complement I can pay you is that I listen a lot less to my LP’s and I own a VPI HRX turntable that cost about $12,000.00.
Keep up the great work Upgrade Company!
Paul Guezze, NY
I owned a "modified" Marantz SA-8260 SACDplayer that was "modified" by another aftermarket outfit with the Superclock 4 and optional power supply. Some are under the false impression that hot gluing in "SuperClocks" is the next best thing to sliced bread. Wrong.
At first I bought their claim hook line and sinker. Once I got my new Marantz 8260 Super Audio CD player home however, I always felt it was an under performer, that there was more on the CD I was missing. It was maybe 2%-3% better over stock. Even after letting it burn in.
Eventually I gave Upgrade Co a call to see what they were all about and now have a Marantz CD-17MKII plain standard CD player that has been "upgraded" by the Upgrade Co and it blows the doors off the "modified" 8260 SACD player w/ the high dollar SuperClock 4 +optional clock power supply. Proof positive those little "add-on" clocks" corrupt the sound more then they help. The hot glued on "clocks" some "modifiers" resort to are expensive and totally misleading. Cobbling more wiring and unshielded loose floppy wires to connect the clock does more harm then good.
As I understand it, the Superclock's timing is all thrown off and corrupted by the time it traverses all the new unshielded wiring and circuit path length.
I did A-B compare my new upgraded Marantz CD-17MKII, after it had about 300 hours burn-in time on it, to a stock Esoteric X-01 Limited Edition an acquaintance of mine owned. To both of our surprise, the upgraded Marantz was not only missing nothing but actually excelled in the areas of sonic weight, depth, lack of grunge and digititus, greater extension and transparency, slightly better detailing and dynamics, it threw a "bigger" sound stage and was much more musical and accurate to both our ears. Clearly there is something to the parts quality and trade secret approach The Upgrade Company offers. How else could a ten year old Marantz CD-17MKII standard CD player beat the pants off Marantz's 10 year newer highly touted SA-8260 SACD player?
Reverend Brian Byrne
I am a repeat customer of David's, having had first my Marantz DV 8300 done, followed by my Aragon 3002 amp, then my Musical Fidelity A3/24 DAC, after which I purchased a Genesis Digital Time Lens that David had previously upgraded. My system was sounding fine, thank you very much, when David suggested I should send the DAC and Time Lens back to him, he said he has found new things to do to make them better. What an understatement that turned out to be! I received the two units about two weeks ago, and my newly acquired analogue front end has not had a single moment of duty since. Red Book cd now sounds superior to SACD. When I play a cd, I am now listening to the music, not my system. Experienced audiophiles will know what I mean by this... sheer enjoyment of music, not nitpicking your system and wondering what can I do now to make it better. What this improvement has done is to point up the value of the work Dave has done on my Aragon amp, and Marantz universal player. It has also shown me how good my speakers are, (Dynaudio Contour 5.4's), and the rest of the system. I just read review of the Esoteric DV 50s that David upgraded for a Stereophile reviewer. Everything that was said about the Esoteric can also be said about my digital front end, and need I tell you about the price differential between the two? In short, I cannot recommend David's services highly enough. The two items just re-done at his recommendation, he did for a very nominal fee. Knowledge is not a static thing, and he is constantly learning new ways to do things better, and he wants to share that dividend with his customers. The man cares. I am just an ordinary blue-collar man, not a fat cat with big pockets, so to have the performance I have at far less than the price of a new home is significant to me. I would be willing to speak with potential customers, just ask Dave for my number. By the way,I am not affiliated with The Upgrade Company, in fact I have never met David, in case you were wondering.
Dan Thomason, OR
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