Having been fortunate to review over a dozen Marantz components in the past, I now come to expect very good things with every new product announcement. Marantz has recently made a big play in the digital market, being one of the few high profile companies with a full line of SACD, Blu-ray, and CD players. They have also responded to the market by adding digital inputs to virtually all their disc spinners.
The Marantz line is very broad, including stellar home theater products, lifestyle products, entry-level HiFi, and luxurious reference level components. Many of these products are conceptualized or designed by long time Marantz employee, Ken Ishiwata. His track record is above reproach, having been the brains behind many of the company’s very best products, and even having limited edition components named after him. Ishiwata is known for constantly striving to improve current designs, and only introduces new models when improvements justify an update to product lines.
I have been very much impressed with all the Marantz SACD players I have reviewed, including the flagship SA-11S3 SACD player with its three digital inputs. At $4000, I thought it competed with source components costing significantly more. Their integrated amplifiers have also been a pleasure to live with, with enough choices to satisfy those requiring different feature sets and power output at very fair prices.
Marantz and Ishiwata have been also moving forward to the next generation of digital playback -- networked audio and hard drive file playback. The NA7004, introduced several years ago, was their first stand alone DLNA/UPnP compliant network streamer and file player. Marantz Home Theater receivers have these features as well, by the way. There was speculation that Marantz was working on a reference grade product similar to the NA7004, and we now have it, in the flagship NA-11S1 streamer, file player, and DAC.
The NA-11S1 retails for $3499 and, in keeping with other Marantz Reference products, is made in Japan. The NA-11S1 covers virtually every base for a file based playback product, with a few minor limitations, which we will get to. Via Ethernet, the NA-11S1 handles WAV, lossless codecs FLAC (up to 192 Khz) and ALAC (up to 96 Khz), as well as lossy codecs WMA, AAC, and MP3. The AIFF format is not specified as a supported format via network, but can be played via the rear USB input. The unit also features access to internet radio, Pandora, Spotify, and Sirius XM.
There are optical, coaxial, and the aforementioned USB digital inputs as well as a front USB input for use with portable storage devices or an iPod, iPhone, or iPad. The rear USB input is designed for use with a computer, and it is compatible with AIFF and ALAC at all sample rates. The NA-11S1 also has a secret weapon up its sleeve -- it handles DSD via USB input as well, with DSD ready playback software on the host computer. (See more about this below.) The DSD format is the current darling of the audio community, and although there is relatively little DSD material for purchase, the market is growing incrementally.