Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click here.
Some audiophiles still prefer reading their digital music in real time from shiny discs to streaming it from the internet or accessing it via computer from a networked or attached drive. So companies like Marantz, Denon, Esoteric, Yamaha, Luxman, Arcam, McIntosh, and Mark Levinson, among others, continue to manufacture high-quality CD and SACD players. Technics, the brand relaunched by Panasonic in 2015 and best known for its SL-series direct-drive turntables, also produces SACD players as part of its Grand Class lineup. Introduced in 2019, the SL-G700 network SACD player has been updated and replaced by the SL-G700M2, the subject of this review. While the cost has increased from its original price of $2999.95 (all prices USD), this high-quality, streaming optical disc player retails for a still reasonable (by high-end standards, at least) $3499.95.
The SL-G700M2 is an exceptionally sturdily built player with plenty of useful features and a well-thought-out design. While Technics may be best known for turntables, the company is no stranger to digital technology, as evidenced by the myriad of proprietary DSP functions built into the Reference Class SU-R1000 integrated amplifier-DAC I reviewed last year. Technics’s parent company, Panasonic, produces one of the best (and last) high-end 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players, the similarly tank-like DP-UB9000. Given its excellent build quality, it’s not surprising that the SL-G700M2 is covered by a three-year warranty.
The main differences between the original SL-G700 and the new M2 version are the addition of a USB-B input for connection to a PC, the change from the difficult-to-source AKM AK4497 DAC chip to the ESS Sabre ES9026PRO DAC, and upgrades to its power supply. Although significant changes have been made to the internal design of the M2, outwardly, it appears identical to the original.
As mentioned, the unit is very solidly built, with an internally compartmentalized and braced chassis to provide a brick-like feel. The feet have internal ribs and an iron plate to increase rigidity and suppress resonances. The smooth-loading disc mechanism is encased in its own metal cover and features a die-cast aluminum tray. The power supply and analog circuitry are separated and placed on either side of the drive mechanism. The SL-G700M2’s Multi-Stage Silent Power Supply operates at approximately 300kHz, similar to the power supply in the Reference Class SU-R1000 integrated amplifier. The high switching frequency is intended to reduce the generation of interference and noise in the audioband. Power supply noise is also said to be reduced with their Current Injection Active Noise Canceling, which applies an inverted-phase current to counteract any detected noise in addition to using a low-noise regulator.
Two eight-channel ES9026PRO DAC chips from ESS Technology are used in a dual-mono configuration. Prior to digital-to-analog conversion, Technics’s proprietary Coherent Processing Technology is applied to incoming PCM signals of up to 192kHz to minimize phase and amplitude deviations. DSD (Direct Stream Digital) signals bypass this processing and are sent directly to the DAC. A post-conversion filter using a discrete amplifier circuit rather than a typical op-amp IC is employed to further decrease noise. A battery-driven clock generator is used to isolate the DAC from any noise generated by the mains power supply. When playing discs on the M2, the player’s Pure Disc mode can be activated to turn off the display and network circuitry to further reduce noise and interference. I didn’t notice any difference in my system’s sound with Pure Disc mode enabled.
The SL-G700M2 supports playback of both CDs and stereo SACDs, in addition to most digital formats, including WAV, FLAC, AIFF, ALAC, AAC, MP3, DSF, and DFF. The optical and coaxial S/PDIF inputs are limited to 24-bit/96kHz and 24/192 PCM, respectively, while the USB-B and network inputs can handle PCM data up to 32/384 and DSD up to 11.2MHz. The player also decodes MQA.
There’s no shortage of ways to feed digital signals to the SL-G700M2. The back panel consists of one coaxial S/PDIF (RCA), one optical S/PDIF (TosLink), and one USB-B PC input, as well as coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs. Both single-ended RCA and balanced XLR analog outputs are provided, as well as a three-pronged IEC power inlet and a 3.5mm input for integrated control of similarly enabled Technics devices, such as their integrated amplifier-DACs.
An ethernet input and a USB-A input are also included, in addition to dual antennas for Bluetooth (AAC and SBC) and Wi-Fi up to 802.11ac. The SL-G700M2 supports Apple AirPlay, Google Chromecast, and Spotify Connect. You can use AirPlay to stream audio to the SL-G700M2 from any app on an iOS device or Macintosh computer. With Google Chromecast, you can cue up music in any Cast-enabled app then transfer playback to the SL-G700M2. Similarly, using Spotify Connect, you can cue up music in the Spotify app on a smart device or computer, then transfer playback to the Technics player. The free Technics Audio Center app provides support for other streaming services, including Amazon Music, Deezer, Qobuz, and Tidal, as well as internet radio and podcasts.
The SL-G700M2 is available in black and silver finishes. Combined with its internal bracing, the thick side panels and dense top cover make the 27-pound SL-G700M2 feel extremely substantial—more like a high-quality power amplifier than a digital source. The 7mm aluminum front panel has a power button with a blue LED indicator light on the left. Between the power button and centrally located disc tray are the 6.3mm (¼″) headphone output jack, a remote sensor, and another USB-A port. Both the front and back USB-A inputs can accept storage devices for file playback, but not iOS or Android smart devices. Further to the right is a dot-matrix display that measures just over 2″W × 1″H, and below it are five small buttons for controlling disc playback. On the far right are a multi-function knob and two small buttons for selecting sources and adjusting headphone volume.
The monochrome display has adequate resolution but can appear busy at times, especially when track and album information scroll across the middle rows while track length and elapsed time are displayed below in a smaller font—this can be difficult to read from a distance. Pressing the Info button during playback will cause the display to present different information depending on whether the source is a CD, SACD, or a digital stream. During CD playback, the display shows track number, elapsed time, and remaining time. With SACD, it shows artist name, song name, and album name.
The menu system is accessed via the remote by pressing the Setup button, not the Menu button as might be expected. Functions include language setting, headphone volume (including volume limiting), Pure Disc mode, turning MQA and native DSD decoding on or off, setting the resolution of the digital output, turning the analog output on or off, setting the analog output to fixed or variable level, turning Coherent Processing on or off, selecting the filter mode when MQA decoding is off, adjusting sleep timer and auto off modes, network and firmware update options, dimmer adjustments, and standby mode options.
The remote control is a good size and weight, and its rubbery buttons have a positive feel. However, the layout could be a bit better, as the buttons to control disc playback are not as clearly demarcated as I would have liked. Plugging in headphones doesn’t automatically mute the other outputs—this must be done through the menu system. Headphone volume can be adjusted by first pressing the headphone volume button then turning the knob on the front panel or by selecting and adjusting it through the menu system using the remote.
The Google Home app discovered the SL-G700M2 wirelessly on my home network and indicated that a new version of its firmware was available for download. After a few minutes, the player’s firmware was updated. Because I already had the Technics USB driver installed on my computer from my previous review of the SU-R1000, everything was ready to go.
For most of my listening, I used my Intel NUC computer, which I connected to the SL-G700M2’s USB-B input using an AudioQuest Carbon USB interconnect and JitterBug jitter reducer. I used the Roon and Tidal apps to stream and Roon to play locally stored files from my computer. I also played CDs and SACDs. I did confirm that Chromecast worked from the Tidal app on a Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphone, and that AirPlay worked streaming music from an iPhone 8 and a MacBook Air. No matter what method of connection I used, the SL-G700M2 functioned smoothly and without incident.
Before doing any critical listening, I left the SL-G700M2 on for a few weeks and listened casually while completing a couple of other reviews. When the time came to begin more serious listening, I connected it to my Anthem STR preamplifier with Shunyata Research Venom-X XLR and Nordost Quattro Fil RCA interconnects as well as an Analysis Plus Black Digital coaxial RCA cable. The rest of the system consisted of my Anthem M1 monoblock power amplifiers, Oppo Digital UDP-205 4K Ultra HD universal Blu-ray player, MartinLogan Masterpiece Classic ESL 9 loudspeakers, and two JL Audio E-Sub e112 powered subwoofers. As usual, I used the STR preamplifier’s bass management and ARC Genesis room correction system to get the best performance out of the ML ESL 9s and JLA subwoofers. The system was rounded out with additional cables from Shunyata Research and Analysis Plus and power products from Essential Sound Products, Zero Surge, and Blue Circle Audio.
For day-to-day listening, I typically use the DACs built into other components in my system, such as the Anthem STR preamplifier-DAC (and before that, I used an Anthem D2 A/V processor) or the Hegel H120 integrated amplifier-DAC in my second system. I’ve always thought the performance brought about by using an external DAC, if any, would hardly be worth the extra expense and effort of adding the required cables and an additional component. At least this was my thinking before my recent encounters with the Cyrus CDi-XR CD player and the Rotel Diamond DT-6000 CD player-DAC, both of which brought noticeable performance improvements to my system.
Adding the Technics SL-G700M2 also improved my system’s sound in subtle but meaningful ways. There was a definite sense of clarity to Brandi Carlile’s haunting rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” from Live at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony (16-bit/44.1kHz MQA, Columbia Records / Tidal). The opening guitar chords were placed solidly in the center of a perfectly black background, providing a superb sense of the large acoustic space of the concert hall. Her somber vocals verged on breaking at times, but each time the singer pulled back just enough that the changes in pitch were emotive and pleasing, and the SL-G700M2 conveyed every minute inflection in her voice. Her cover of Alphaville’s “Forever Young” was even more satisfying—Carlile’s impassioned vocals imparted a serious yet uplifting presence. Through the Technics player, her voice and the piano intertwined gracefully with the orchestra’s strings and horns. The result was wonderfully organic—not artificial or forced sounding like many pop songs that incorporate orchestral arrangements.
The SL-G700M2 then transported me from the spacious Benaroya Hall to the more confined, murky atmosphere of the Roxy Theatre for “Thunder Road” from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: 1975/10/18 West Hollywood, CA (24/192 FLAC, locally stored file downloaded from nugs.net). The audience’s clapping sounded deader here, and the recording conveyed a more limited sense of space, as if the sound were being absorbed by the dense smoke-filled atmosphere and the people packed into the nightclub. Nonetheless, the Technics player effortlessly disentangled the musical arrangements from the venue’s background din. Not only was Danny Federici’s glockenspiel presented with a spectacular sparkling quality, the instrument was also clearly distinct from Roy Bittan’s piano, which carries the melody for most of the song. These versions of “Thunder Road” and “Forever Young” are far from the cleanest recordings you’ll ever hear, but the SL-G700M2 made them both sound detailed and dynamic.
As I was listening to more complex studio recordings like Alphaville’s original version of “Forever Young” from Forever Young (Super Deluxe Edition) (16/44.1 MQA, WM Germany / Tidal), the echoey reverb of the synths and Marian Gold’s melancholy vocals floated wistfully between the speakers, backed by a solid and deliberate drumbeat. The percussion on this recording, barely recognizable as a snare and cymbals, sounds heavily processed, with tons of decay to make the musicians appear far off in the distance, adding to the expansiveness of the recording.
The more upbeat production of “Forever Young (Special Dance Version)” from the same album seems less appropriate for a classic rock track from the end of the Cold War era, but it sounded great. And “Forever Young—Symphonic Version,” from the recently released Eternally Yours (16/44.1 FLAC, Neue Meister / Tidal) by Alphaville and Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg, was wonderfully crisp and clear, with the orchestra—and especially the strings—spread smoothly between, and slightly behind, the loudspeakers. While both alternate versions of “Forever Young” sounded brilliant through the SL-G700M2, they lacked the heartfelt vocals and subdued tone of the original, which was made readily apparent by the highly resolving nature of the player.
Even though this player has crystal-clear presentation, it didn’t sound thin or overly analytical. The synthesizers on “Tong Poo” from Yellow Magic Orchestra’s eponymous album (DSD64 DSF, GT Music / Alfa) had a full and wind-like organ quality, and there was plenty of body to the drum kit. The beat of “La Femme Chinoise” was especially tight yet fairly deep and impactful, even though it hit fast and hard, making this catchy techno track difficult to resist.
SACDs also sounded excellent. On a classic recording with Jascha Heifetz and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner performing violin concertos by Brahms and Tchaikovsky (Sony BMG Music 828766789621), the Technics player imparted a vibrancy to Heifetz’s violin without making it sound screechy. Pizzicato was reserved and realistic, with plenty of power and bluster from the orchestra when called upon. I am constantly impressed by the excellent sound quality that can be attained with vintage recordings played from high-resolution media on a capable player. Such was the case with this RCA Living Stereo recording made in 1957 and remastered to DSD in 2005 using Siltech cables and dCS analog-to-digital converters. The resulting SACD is said to be essentially identical to the original analog tapes. With the SL-G700M2, I was able to experience what I believe to be the full splendor of this recording.
As stated, using the Technics SL-G700M2 as a player or DAC noticeably improved my system’s sound over using the built-in DAC on my Anthem STR preamplifier. Even with Red Book CDs such as Loreena McKennitt’s The Visit (Quinlan Road / Warner 9031751512), vocals sounded just a little clearer, and the GL-G700M2 lent a sweeter, more delicate quality to “The Lady of Shalott.” There was also greater separation between the instruments on the lush arrangements of “All Souls Night.” Similarly, I noticed subtle but worthwhile improvements when I used the SL-G700M2 as a DAC with both standard and high-resolution data streams, or to play SACDs.
Although I no longer had it on hand for direct comparison, the Rotel Diamond Series DT-6000 really impressed me as one helluva player and DAC for $2299. Whether you’re more drawn to the Technics’s precise and neutral presentation or the Rotel’s slightly richer and more relaxed sound is a matter of personal preference. While the Rotel’s price is significantly lower, the Technics offers streaming and SACD-playing capabilities. The Technics build quality is also more robust with its internal bracing, shielding, and compartmentalization, including a fully enclosed drive mechanism. The Technics player employs two ES9026PRO ICs in dual-mono configuration in contrast to the DT-6000’s single ES9028PRO DAC chip. Both are fantastic player-DACs, with the Technics providing many additional useful features but at a higher price.
The SL-G700M2 also has a very capable headphone output, a feature that both the Anthem STR and the DT-6000 lack. As with the headphone outputs built into other Technics components, like the SU-R1000 amplifier, the company describes it as a Class AA headphone amp. Using HiFiMan HE400se planar magnetic headphones, the sound did remind me a lot of what I heard from the SU-R1000; it had a clear and detailed character that was not unlike what I experienced from this player through the ML ESL 9 speakers. Complex mixes were well defined and bass was commanding and articulate. The SL-G700M2’s headphone amp was able to drive the slightly inefficient HiFiMan planars with nearly the same authority as the JDS Labs Atom ($99), my budget reference headphone amp. The original version of Alphaville’s “Forever Young” sounded especially open, and I could easily discern the differences in the arrangements and vocals between the various versions of this song performed by Alphaville, particularly in the character of Gold’s delicate and breathy vocals.
If you’re shopping for an SACD player, there are no longer many choices available. The Technics SL-G700M2 is a very reasonably priced option considering its wealth of useful features, fantastic build quality, and excellent audio performance. I would not hesitate to add this superb network SACD player to my system if I were in the market for an optical disc player-DAC.
. . . Roger Kanno
Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click here.
- Speakers: Martin Logan Masterpiece Classic ESL 9.
- Subwoofers: JL Audio E-Sub e112 (x2).
- Preamplifier: Anthem STR.
- Power amplifiers: Anthem M1 (monoblocks).
- Digital sources: Intel NUC computer running Windows 10, Roon, and Tidal; AudioQuest JitterBug jitter reducer, Oppo Digital UDP-205 4K Ultra HD universal Blu-ray player.
- Speaker cables: Shunyata Research Venom-X.
- XLR interconnects: Shunyata Research Venom-X, Analysis Plus Silver Apex.
- RCA interconnects: Nordost Quattro Fil.
- USB link: AudioQuest Carbon.
- Power cords: Clarus Cable Aqua, Essential Sound Products MusicCord-Pro ES.
- Power conditioners: Blue Circle Audio PLC Thingee FX-2 with X0e low-frequency filter module, Zero Surge 1MOD15WI.
Technics Grand Class SL-G700M2 Streaming SACD Player/DAC
Warranty: Three years, parts and labor.
Panasonic Corporation of North America
Two Riverfront Plaza
Newark, NJ 07102-5490
Phone: (201) 348-7000