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Marantz SA-14S1 SACD Player & DSD DAC Review Print E-mail
Friday, 21 February 2014
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Marantz SA-14S1 SACD Player & DSD DAC Review
Set Up and Listening

Internally, Marantz provides for several digital filters, a DC Offset option, and a Noise Shaping function, all accessible from the front panel or the supplied remote unit. You can also switch inputs, and control a Marantz integrated amplifier with the same remote. Looking at the whole package, this is a lot of product for $2500.

Set Up & Listening

I supported the SA-14S with Symposium Rollerblock Jr resonance control, outfitted it with a Element Cord power cable, and connected it to a variety of amplifiers with Darwin Ascension silver interconnects. No other special tweaks were used. I spun SACDs and CDs for the first half of the review period; then tested the player as a standalone DAC.

Marantz SA-14S1 SACD Player REMOTERight out of the box, the SA-14S1 showed all of the excellent transparency, even tonal balance, and analog-like texture to SACDs that the previous batch of players I reviewed exhibited. The first disc I played -- Dead Can Dance’s sublime Aion, superbly mastered in DSD, and a musical tour de force -- was simply ravishing. I was so immersed in the music that I played several other DCD SACDs, including the impressive Spiritchaser. The SA-14S1 served dynamic range on this recording well, with the mix taking advantage of the full stereo spectrum.

I spun numerous SACDs mastered from analog tapes, including the Sony Bob Dylan catalog, the Elton John remasters, and titles from Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, and more. All were better than their CD counterparts. Mobile Fidelity’s DSD remaster of The Band’s Music From Big Pink is particularly good, if a bit over equalized for my taste. The organic quality of these classic recordings is better preserved in DSD, in my opinion. One title that really made the CD version obsolete in my eyes was Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. I really don’t know if it is possible to get closer to the master tape in a digital format. The SA-14S1 preserved all the nuances on this historic album.

I also own a handful of native DSD-recorded SACDs, including the simply unparalleled recording of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances by Semyon Bychkov and the Koln Symphony. This, along with being one of my favorite music pieces, is simply a benchmark recording. I use it as a reference for evaluating SACD players quite often. The SA-14S1 renders the strings with uncanny lifelike texture. The sound of the orchestra is produced with real life scale, a rarity. The SA-14S1 did a tremendous job with several RCA Living Stereo classical recordings as well, putting on full display why DSD is an excellent digital format. Its ability to produce analog-like continuity and coherence, even with very complex music, puts it a step beyond PCM.

The SA-14S1 distinguished itself on good sounding Redbook CDs as well, extracting what seemed like close to the maximum information contained on the discs. I was quite taken with the way the Marantz rendered tracks from We Are Only Riders: The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project. It is a tribute to Pierce, the late punk rocker, featuring performances by Nick Cave, Mark Lanegan, Debbie Harry, and more. The only way to describe the overall feel was “undigital”.

As a standalone DAC, the SA 14S1 really impressed me (as did both the NA-11S1 and SA-11S3). Marantz has found some sort of magic in their DAC sound across all inputs. Using a Squeezebox Touch, via both coaxial and optical, yielded excellent results, with all sample rates up to 192 Khz being decoded with no issues.


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