Marantz NA-11S1 Network Audio Player & DAC 
Home Theater Media Servers Music Servers
Written by Andre Marc   
Monday, 20 January 2014

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.


There are also S/PDIF digital outputs, RCA and XLR analog outputs, and a headphone jack. A very nice metal remote control is included, but as the NA-11S1’s display is not readable from across the room, you will be using the Marantz app to control the experience. It is a very good app. I found it a pleasure to use, and it proved glitch-free. It is available for both iOS and Android. 

Set Up

Using the NA-11S1 as a network player is essentially plug and play, assuming a short list of prerequisites are in place. Having a stable Ethernet network is first and most obvious. Secondly you must have server software on the host computer or NAS. I used both Twonky and the freeware MiniMServer, both installed on my Mac Mini. It will also work with Jriver Media Center and others. Once the NA-11S1 finds your files, you are ready to go. Install the free app on your smart device connected your network on WiFi, and you can browse media instantly. It must be noted the Marantz does not have WiFi connectivity for music streaming, but your smart device locates the NA-11S1 on the network. Marantz feels Ethernet is the preferred connection method.

I set the NA-11S1 up on Symposium Acoustics Rollerblock Jr.'s, with a Shakti Stone placed on top, with an Element Cable Red Storm AC cord, and Stager Silver Solid RCA interconnects. I used high quality CAT7 Ethernet Cable. Once setup, nothing was changed for the several months it was in the system. It never once dropped from the network, and there was a firmware update in during this time, which took less than 15 minutes to download and install. Once all your ducks are in a row, you can select between two digital audio filters and a DC filter.

Marantz NA-11S1
Listening

From the very first album I selected to stream, it was clear the NA-11S1 was going to deliver what I have come to expect from Marantz digital source components. Engaging, natural, and dynamic rendering of source material with superbly quiet backgrounds and focus. The presentation was neither forward nor laidback, neither bright nor dark. It was balanced correctly to these ears.

Mark Lanegan’s recent Imitations, an album of very interesting cover songs, sounded beautifully dimensional through the NA-11S1. The arrangements are very sparse, and almost retro in an AM radio kind of way. Tracks like "Autumn Leaves" and "You Only Live Twice" are revealed to be melancholy ballads in Lanegan’s hands, with his voice sounding as palpable as I can remember.

Pearl Jam’s late 2013 release, Lightning Bolt, is surprisingly well recorded in these days of overly compressed, metallic sounding digital productions. The band sounds energized, and the power ballad "Sirens" is a real goosebum- inducing song. Eddie Vedder’s voice is close-miked and seemed to hover between the speakers. The crunchy guitars, and the pummeling bass and drums on the harder edged songs were simply riveting.

Classic Blue Note Jazz 96 and 192 Khz remasters showed the NA-11S1 was equally adept at handling high resolution files. Hank Mobley's Soul Station was simply ravishing, with the presentation easily crossing over into "this could be analog" territory. The same goes for John Coltrane’s monumental My Favorite Things, with the band interplay and Coltrane’s horn rendered with such grace and sophistication.

All the FLAC files I streamed, regardless of sample rate, via Ethernet gave me the impression I was hearing deeper into the mix than almost any other of my in-house source components. Perhaps the only other file player that competes with the NA-11S1 is the Bryston BDP-1. Although at the time I had the BDP-1 in house, it accepted directly connected storage, but now can act as a network player. The Marantz is a different animal, however, with an onboard DAC, digital inputs and outputs, a headphone jack, and DSD capability.

Marantz NA-11S1 Remote ControlSpeaking of DSD, I did listen to DSD files via an HP Laptop running Windows 7 and Jriver 19. I connected the computer to the NA-11S1's rear USB input with a KingRex USB cable. I listened to a variety of DSD albums from High Definition Tape Transfers, Oppo, Blue Coast Records, and non commercially released recordings. The results were astonishingly good. I have gone on record in saying that DSD is the best digital has to offer. The only issue is the relatively paltry number of DSD titles available for purchase. None the less, the Marantz really shined with DSD.

I took care to test virtually all the features the NA-11S1 has in its arsenal, including plugging in a thumb drives and high capacity portable hard drives into the front USB input. The front panel input accepts FLAC, WAV, ALAC, WMA, and MP3 up to 96 Khz. It worked perfectly with quick file access, and also sounded excellent. The front panel USB input actually sounded better to my ears than using my Squeezebox Touch to stream the same files optically to the NA-11S1.

Plugging in and using both an iPad and iPod as a source was a snap. With ALAC files loaded up, the sound was in no way compromised. Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia's terrific solo album, Reflections, sounded wonderful, and the track "It Must Have Been The Roses" was as good as I had heard it on a number of excellent CD players. The Marantz engineering team seems to have covered every base as far as connectivity. The NA-11S1 also features AirPlay, which specifically allows one to stream their iTunes library wirelessly.

Internet radio and Pandora was very fun and easy to navigate. You need a basic Pandora account to use the feature, and Spotify requires a premium account. I used Pandora and had a blast. The Internet radio stations available are infinite, and allow you to tap into an untold world of radio broadcasts around the world.

Conclusion

Very few products can be all things to all people. However, the Marantz NA-11S1 comes very, very close. It handles every commercially available digital file format at every sample rate, streams from a NAS or remote computer, accepts removable storage and iDevices, and has multiple digital inputs. Oh, and the kicker is it sounds fantastic. Perhaps the only "missing" features that some might note are the lack of WiFi capability, aside from AirPlay. But Marantz clearly feels Ethernet is more stable and superior sounding to wireless.

The Marantz app is very simple and easy to use with no glitches. NA-11S1 is built like a tank and is firmware upgradeable, essentially making it future proof. At $3500, it is essentially a no holds barred digital hub. I can strongly recommend an audition for those who prefer a headache free, streamlined, and nicely engineered solution. The Marantz NA-11S1 is a success in my book.

Specifications



Marantz NA-11S1: $3499.

Marantz America
100 Corporate Drive,
Mahwah, NJ 07430-2041
(201) 762-6500
us.marantz.com

Digital inputs: 1 S/PDIF on coax, 1 S/PDIF on TosLink, 1 USB 2.0 on USB type B connector on rear panel, 1 USB 2.0 on USB type A connector on front panel; CAT5 network connector. Digital outputs: 1 S/PDIF on coax, 1 S/PDIF on TosLink.
Analog outputs: 1 pair balanced on XLRs, 1 pair unbalanced on RCAs, 1 headphone output
Dimensions: 17.33" (440mm) W by 5" (127mm) H by 15.75" (400mm) D. Weight: 23.3 lbs (10.6kg) net, 32 lbs 3oz (14.6kg) shipping.


Review System 1


CD Transport: Marantz SA-14S1 SACD player
Server: Squeezebox Touch
DAC:  SIM Neo 308D
Headphone Amp: Pro-Ject Head Box II
Headphones: Grado SR60
Preamp: Channel Islands Audio PLC-1 MkII
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Rogue ST 100
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables:  Stager Silver Solids, Darwin Ascension (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC), Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Shunyata Venom (AC) Element Cable Red Storm (Digital AC), DH Labs TosLink, DH Labs AES/EBU, Audioquest, Forest, WireWorld Ultraviolet, DH Labs USB(USB) DH Labs (USB)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner,Salamander rack

Review System 2


CD Player: Onkyo C7000R
Music Server: Squeezebox Touch via Ethernet to, Oppo BDP-105
MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate external drives.
DAC: Musical Fidelity A90m
Integrated Amplifier: McIntosh  MA6600, Rogue Sphinx
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, Genesis G7c
Cables: Darwin Cables Silver IC, Kimber Hero HB,  DH Labs White Lightning (IC),QED Transparent MusicWave (Speaker),PS Audio (AC), Mojo Audio (AC), DH Labs TosLink, Audioquest Forest USB, Wireworld Ultraviolet USB
Accessories:Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Sound Anchors Stands, Wiremold, KECES XPS



 






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