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Marantz SA-11S2 SACD/CD Player Review Print E-mail
Thursday, 29 April 2010
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Marantz SA-11S2 SACD/CD Player Review
Listening Session and Conclusion


I don't have a huge collection of SACD discs, but I have some excellent ones. All of them are hybrid discs, as I don't own my own SACD player; although I have had some high quality players in my system on loan. First up were two Moody Blues classics, Days of Future Passed, and In Search of the Lost Chord. Both are masterpieces of their era, and have been out in various digital incarnations in the past.  The SACD hybrid is heads and shoulders above any previous version. The Redbook layers are excellent in their own right and have been mastered from the original master tapes. Unsuprisingly the SACD layer offered another dimension through the SA-11S2. Sibilants were much smoother, sound staging was larger, and the overall presentation was more organic and relaxed. Not relaxed as in laid back, but as in the absence of digital grain apparent in even some well mastered Redbook discs.

Next up was a stack of the Bob Dylan SACD hybrids. Desire, from 1974, sounded stellar in the Marantz. It emanated a very analog sound, with an amazing sense of flow. I finally found out what all the fuss concerning SACD was about. Comparisons to the Redbook layer were ridiculously easy. Hit the stop button, then Sound Mode, which switches layers, and hit play. The SACD layer yet again was more natural sounding. I want to stress that the differences between layers on all the discs I tested typically varied from easily distinguishable to a marginal change. But with the Dylan discs, the difference was pretty easy to hear. What made the comparison easy for me is that I know most of these Dylan albums by heart. Even so, I was still able to pick out elements of the mix that I had never noticed before. I was stunned at how clear Emmylou Harris's harmony vocals were. Ditto for the intricate interplay of the excellent band Dylan assembled for this album.

Interior Shot

I heard similar results from Blood On the Tracks, his other mid 70's high point. Except for electric bass, most of the instrumentation on the album is acoustic.  There was plenty of analog texture and a crazy amount ambience. I remember my scratched up old LP never sounded this good, even excluding the surface noise. Mind you, the Redbook layer is not bad, but the SACD layer had the last word, in my opinion. After spending time with these other SACD discs, I really started to wonder why the record company suits did not put their full backing behind the format.  The industry seriously dropped the ball.

I was eager to hear a SACD recording done in native DSD. Most of these are classical, and I had a superb performance of Rachmanninoff's Symphonic Dances conducted by Seymon Bychkov, on the German Profil label. It is also a multi channel recording. The strings had texture I had never heard before in any digital format. It was quite stunning. The sound of the hall was more apparent than on any other digital source I have encountered. The Marantz really shined on this one. I only had a few other native DSD discs, but not with music I was very familiar with. But I was impressed with the sonics, if not with the content.


It is really hard to find fault with the Marantz SA-11S2 in that it really represents the Marantz legacy well. If anything, the Marantz SA-11S2 is overbuilt.  It is packed with user selectable features, a super fast transport, a battleship chassis, and a remote that leaves no stone unturned. Additionally, if apperance matters to you, the SA-11S2 looks fantastic and the pride of ownership factor is off the charts. As far as value, there are plenty of Redbook only players on the market for way more than $3599. Way more money will get you a SACD player with multi channel capability, and maybe a tiny sliver more resolution. As a side note, I have heard many, many multi channel SACD and DVD-A mixes, and they leave me cold.  I would rather spend less, and do away with multi channel capability. 

The SA-11S2 may not be perfect, but no component is. I honestly cannot imagine someone taking this player home for an audition and not being impressed with its big sound, features, and overall level of performance. It performs beautifully on SACD and standard discs. The selectable digital filters allows you to tailor the sound to your liking, plus the added options of Noise Shaping and the ability to turnoff the digital output for optimum performance is pretty unique; even at much higher price points. Throw XLR connections for those with fully balanced systems, and two digital outputs in the mix and you really have an amazingly versatile component. You should take note that SACD cannot be outputted via the digital jacks. You can connect an external clock via BNC, a very cool option for the digital perfectionist.

In conclusion, the SA-11S2 was amazingly versatile, musical, and robust in its performance. It is Exhibit A against the argument that most high end audio products are over priced. Indeed, if I was not already vested in a pretty good disc spinner, the SA-11S2 would be among the handful of players I would consider purchasing.


Marantz SA-11S2 SACD player:

Description: two-channel SACD player with remote control, switchable DC filter and Noise Shaper, and three playback Filter settings. Formats played: SACD, CD, CD-R, CD-RW. Analog outputs: 1 pair unbalanced (RCA), 1 pair balanced (XLR). Digital outputs: coaxial S/PDIF, TosLink S/PDIF. Clock input: BNC
Dimensions: 17.3" (444mm) W by 5" (128mm) H by 16.25" (417mm) D. Weight: 36.4 lbs (16.5kg).
Price: $3599.99

Reviewers Associated Equipment System 1:
  • CD Player: Naim CD5 XS with Flatcap 2X
  • Preamp: Audio Research SP16
  • Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Perreaux Eloquence 150i.
  • Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3
  • Cables: Kimber/QED/Acoustic Zen (AC)/Transparent (AC)
  • Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Sound Anchors stands.

Reviewers Associated Equipment 2:

  • CD Player: Marantz 5003
  • Music Server: Squeezebox 3
  • DAC:CIA VDA-2 with XPS
  • Preamp: Belles Soloist 3, Benchmark DAC1 PRE HDR
  • Amplifier: Revox A722, Belles Soloist 5
  • Speaker: Spendor S5e, Spendor S5R
  • Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio(AC), Pangea Audio, RS Cables, Element Cables. 
  • Accessories: Atacama Stands

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