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Marantz SC-11S1 Control Amplifier / SM-11S1 Power Amplifier Review Print E-mail
Thursday, 17 June 2010
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Marantz SC-11S1 Control Amplifier / SM-11S1 Power Amplifier Review

Recently, The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street has gotten alot of press since it has now been reissued on a remastered CD, LP, along with unreleased material from those sessions. I compared the 2010 remaster to the Bob Ludwig 1994 version and I actually prefer the Ludwig master. The new version is louder; highly eq'd and seems to have been mastered for car stereos and iPods. Ludwig managed to maintain the scuzzy analog vibe of the original, but with plenty of funky details and coherence. Through the Marantz pair, the album absolutely rocked in all its sleazy glory. Guitars bit, vocals were exactly where they should have been, buried in the mix, and there was surprisingly solid bottom end.

Staying in the past, I got a copy of the Beatles mono version of one of my top ten albums of all time, Rubber Soul. Tacked on to the mono version is the "original" stereo mix.  I say original because, outside of the Beatles Capital Albums Vol.2 box set, Rubber Soul has only been available on CD with the 1987 George Martin remix. He reportedly remixed it because he was never "happy" with the 1965 mix. Why? I have no idea. I always loved that mix and had an original as well as a late 70's LP pressing of it. The Marantz combo brought me back to when I was 13, listening to this album on my father's Quad ESL speakers driven by Revox and Quad amps. The magic of those times came flooding back. A new window of clarity and punch was revealed, much to my delight. One last oldie but goodie was Canned Wheat by the Guess Who, an overlooked album in the pantheon of classic rock, with a rerecording of "No Time" which was featured on American Woman. I was very pleased how modern and undated the recording sounded through the Marantz set up. Acoustic drum and guitars, keyboards, and electric guitar leads all occupied their proper place in the soundstage,with a clarity I had not experienced before.

SC Front

Moving on to the present, the self titled reunion album by Stone Temple Pilots appeared in my mailbox and I was eager to hear how newly recorded, heavy hitting rock sounded through the Marantz gear.  I was not disappointed. Being a fan of their older records, I thrilled by the familiar sound of the weaving guitar riffs, heavy bass lines and out of left field melodies sung by illustrious lead singer Scott Wieland. I was worried the album would suffer from over compression and pro tools hell like so many modern releases, but it did not. The Marantz gear did everything right on this one. Drums were slamming, vocals were front and center and guitars were gritty with real bite, not "hifi system" bite.  I took a completely different turn on my final evaluation disc, Hamsa, by Bustan Abraham, a Middle Eastern ensemble that plays Arabic and Gypsy instrumental music. It is a very well recorded disc, with traditional acoustic instruments creating exotic, beautiful melodies over sensual rhythms. The Marantz gear handled it with absolute grace, preserving the timber of each instrument, but creating real drive.


Marantz seems to be putting out beautiful products these days in what I consider to be a bit of a renaissance. They have produced some superb sounding SACD players, amplifiers, and now even a universal Blu-Ray player in an effort to stay cutting edge. Their Pearl series of commemorative components were reviewed very favorably 'by my colleague (SA-KI / PM-KI ). This is clearly not a company resting on its laurels. Their Reference series of components, from my experience, clearly deserves that label, and I for one can't even imagine how good the flagship Reference stuff sounds.

SC Rear

I love the sound of tubes, or maybe more accurately, the sound of "tube magic". But I am not an absolutist. I own solid state amplifiers and have heard some that were very impressive but always had one chink in the armor or another. I now have found a solid state system I can easily live with and not worry. The SC-11S1 control amplifier and SM-11S1 power amplifier are made to an incredible standard, have the legendary Marantz name behind them, and in my opinion, are priced very fairly, if not under priced.  I have heard far more expensive components that bored the pants off me. Not so here, these are some of the most musical solid state performers I have encountered. To be as thorough as possible, I used both components in various systems, including my in bedroom, driving Spendor floor standers and the results were just as remarkable. Even at lower volumes, all previously mentioned attributes remained.

The SC-11S1 is a fabulous preamplifier, with a ton of customizable features, a very neutral presentation, and excellent sound staging. The SM-11S1 power amplifier offers up a large soundstage, a near perfect tonal balance, and total authority over even hard to drive speakers. I believe it was the star of the show, and it does certain things no tube amp can do.  It's exquisite, taut, and articulate bass pretty much blows away most tube designs, but what is most surprising are the liquid mids, extended, yet utterly relaxed high frequencies and holographic imaging. In case there is any doubt about how impressed I was with the SM-11S1, I have put it on my shopping list for purchase in the near future. Enough said.



Main In/Pre Out - / Balanced: 1, Unbalanced: 1 Bridge Mono Mode/Bi-Amp Mode - / X (as a monaural control amplifier) Headphone Out 1 (A balanced input current feedback headphone amplifier) Phono Input MM/MC (Constant Current Feedback Phono EQ Circuit) Analog L&R In Balanced: 2, Unbalanced: 5 Analog L&R Out Balanced: 0, Unbalanced: 2  Dimensions W x H x D (Inches) 17-5/16" x 5" x 17" Weight (lbs) 35.3


Main Channel Amp In Balanced: 1, Unbalanced: 1 Bridge Mono Mode  Headphone Out 0 Analog L&R In 0 Analog L&R Out In/Out Number of Channels 2 Output Power/Channel (20Hz - 20kHz) Stereo Mode: 110W x2 (8 ohms), 220W x2 (4 ohms), BTL Mode: 420W (8 ohms) HDAM HDAM-SA3 Power Input Sensitivity/Impedance Balanced: 2V/22k ohms, Unbalanced: 2V/22k ohms Frequency Response 5Hz - 120kHz (1W, 8 ohms) S/N Ratio Balanced: 101dB, Unbalanced: 101dB (Dimensions W x H x D (Inches) 17-5/16" x 6-5/8" x 16-15/16" Weight (lbs) 58.6

Reviewers Associated Equipment System 1:
  • CD Player: Naim CD5 XS with Flatcap 2X,
  • Preamp: Audio Research SP16
  • Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Rogue Atlas Magnum
  • Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, Thiel CS2.4
  • Cables: Kimber/QED/Acoustic Zen (AC)/Transparent (AC)/Element Cable
  • 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
  • Tape Deck: Revox A77, HHB CD Recorder
  • Preamp: Belles Soloist 3
  • Amplifier: Revox A722, Belles Soloist 5
  • Speaker: Spendor S5e
  • Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio(AC), Pangea Audio, RS Cables, Element Cables. 
  • Accessories: Atacama Stands

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