|Marantz SA-11S3 SACD Player & DAC Review|
|Home Theater Audio Sources DVD-Audio/SACD Players|
|Written by Andre Marc|
|Tuesday, 26 February 2013|
Page 1 of 3
With the move to computer and hard drive based digital sources, one would think a format tied to a physical medium would be odd in 2013. But SACD has proved to be remarkably resilient among audiophiles, with a torrent of new titles appearing from such boutique labels and Analogue Productions, Mobile Fidelity, Blue Note, and many more. These are not obscure releases, but many well-known and loved classics in rock, classical, and jazz. There are also many newly recorded SACD releases available, mostly in the classical genre. There is no doubt the format is doing just fine, from this reviewer’s perspective.
High-end manufacturers also seem to think so. At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, an impressive number of new SACD players were introduced; many equipped with digital inputs as well. The inherent quality of true Direct Stream Digital (DSD) digital has made it a favorite among audiophiles and many recording engineers in the decade or so since it has been on the scene. Additionally, SACD can store multi-channel mixes for playback on properly equipped players.
I personally am a big fan of SACD, finding it as close to the analog ideal as I have heard in digital. The only thing SACD may have working “against it”, so to speak, is that, as noted, it is a physical medium. Also as noted, the overwhelming trend in high-end audio is the movement to server-based file playback systems. Marantz, having realized this, figured many listeners who enjoy SACD probably have multiple digital sources as well, which is why they introduced the SA-11S3 SACD player and DAC. This is the third Marantz SACD player I have reviewed, having spent time with the previous generation reference player, the SA-11S2 and the SA-15S2B Limited Edition. The SA-11S3, like other Marantz SACD players, is two-channel only.
Marantz has clearly decided consumers want a no compromise digital hub that can play all formats including SACD, Redbook CD, and PCM. The SA-11S3 is equipped with no less than three digital inputs. S/PDIF, on RCA coaxial, and TOSLink optical both handle up to 192 Khz, 24-bit data. The rear USB input connects to a computer and also handles up to 192 Khz (download the Windows and MAC drivers on the Marantz website). There is also a front USB input for connecting removable storage or an iDevice. The only limitation I see here is in this last feature; format compatibility is limited to WAV, AAC, MP3, and WMA. All other inputs handle virtually all formats.
The front panel has all the usual player controls, as well as a 1/4” headphone jack. Incoming sample rate is indicated on the front panel display. Other features include the ability to select the SACD or CD layer from hybrid discs, two selectable digital filters, a “noise shaper” selection, and a DC Filter. The chassis is of battleship construction quality. Finally, there are balanced and unbalanced analog outputs available.
How has Marantz upgraded the SA-11S3 from the S2 aside from the four digital inputs? According to Marantz, in quite a few ways:
Premium Converter Chip Enhances Dynamic Range and Clarity