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

ImageMarantz has been in the home electronics game for over 50 years now. I won't go into their long and storied history, but it has covered a lot of territory.  From its beginnings as Saul Marantz’s vision of high quality home entertainment products to the large Japanese conglomerate it is today, Marantz has certainly had its ups and downs.  While it’s simple enough to do a Google search on their various owners, today it is owned by D&M Holdings; the same folks who own McIntosh Labs.  They have been on a mission to preserve the Marantz legacy and their current crop of products in their Reference line is proof of an excellent job. Marantz has had many famous, illustrious engineers and designers under their roof, and to this day, they offer cutting edge products well reviewed by the high-end audio press. In fact, my colleague Todd Whitesel reviewed the Marantz Pearl commemorative components here (SA-KI link), and here (PM-KI link).

It is interesting to note that the Marantz legend began with tube components, which to this day are traded on the used market and prized by many collectors, like a mid 60's Ford Mustang.  There are no longer any tubed products in the Marantz line, but their commitment to quality and excellent sound is obsessive as ever. They have moved on to very sophisticated reference quality AV receivers, preamps, integrated amps, power amplifiers, and Super Audio Compact Disc players.  For this review, I’ll be covering the SA-11S2 two channel SACD player (priced at $3599).

I won't go into the future for the SACD format, or any physical format, for that matter. The fact is, that scenario may be on the horizon, but I believe it’s still off in the distance. Redbook standard compact discs still hit the stores every Tuesday, and Amazon still sells millions of units online. SACD reissues have continued from smaller, boutique labels and are actually quite numerous from classical and jazz labels. In addition, the SACD format is very popular in Japan, where Marantz is based. The Reference line of components is still manufactured in Japan as well.

11S2 front

Super Audio Compact Disc is a format invented by Sony and Philips Electronics. First brought to market in 1999, the SACD has the same physical dimensions as a standard compact disc. That is where most of the similarities end. Audio is encoded using a process known as Direct Stream Digital (DSD). The SACD sampling rate is 2822.4 kHz with one bit resolution.  In contrast, a standard Redbook disc is 44.1 khz and 16 bit PCM resolution. A stereo SACD recording can stream data at an uncompressed rate of 5.6 Mbps; four times the rate for Red Book CD stereo audio. Hence, SACD recordings can have a wider frequency and dynamic range than conventional CDs. SACD also require a special transport for playback.  Lastly, SACD allows for multi channel mixes, a major selling point for some. Many classic albums have been remixed in surround sound to take advantage of the format.

When SACD first came about, it was competing with the only other major high resolution format, DVD-Audio; which has essentially become a footnote in our digital history.  Audiophiles were elated to have an alternative to the Redbook CD. The major complaint against the standard CD was the seemingly inadequate sampling rate, which many said was not good enough to properly present the correct harmonic structure of music. Of course to the masses of non audiophiles, the standard compact disc was a huge upgrade from their scratchy records and prerecorded cassettes.

Set Up and Features:

The SA-11S2 is built like no other disc player I have had in my system before. It weighs in at almost 40lbs and has exemplary case work. It’s finished with high quality connectors, inputs, and support feet that help tame resonance. Regarding connections, there are both XLR and single ended RCA analog outputs on the back panel as well as coaxial and TOSlink digital outputs. On the inside, the player is even more impressive. The digital output is defeatable. There is a phase switch on the front panel, a DC Offset function, a function labeled Noise Shaper and, most interestingly, three selectable digital filters.  You might say this makes the player interactive. Lastly, and very interestingly, there is a connection for an outboard master clock via BNC.

Back Panel

Via the high quality metal cased remote, you can access every function.  You can quickly switch between SACD and Redbook layers on hybrid discs, which most SACD's are. I was quite impressed how fast the player responded when a disc was inserted, and how quickly it allowed for track selection and functions selects. I have heard complaints about other SACD and universal disc players that took an eternity to recognize discs. The SA-11S2 was superb in this area.  No minute long “Reading” or “TOC” display to endure.

According the manual, the three selectable filters offer the following choices. Filter 1 is linear, not altering the CD or SACD digital stream. Filter 2 is asymmetrical and claimed to be the most analog like, with a longer post echo than the pre echo. Filter 3 is similar to Filter 1 and is said to provide the most detail. Switching between filters is a snap. You just need to hit Stop, select the filter, and press play again. Comparisons are quick and easy. For most of my listening, I left Filter 1 engaged, occasionally selecting Filter 3.  I can see many listeners preferring Filter 3, as did several reviewers before me.


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