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Marantz SA-11S2 SACD Player Review

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PRaT and Micro-Dynamics

This is an area where the SA-11S2 doesn’t quite measure up to the big boys, like the top-of-the-line Audio Note players or DACs. Truth is, it isn’t even as good as Marantz’s own SA-KI Pearl SACD player in this area. (Jack auditioned the same SA-KI Pearl unit after Constantine reviewed it in June, 2010. –Ed.)

Harmonics

I would be remiss if I didn’t reiterate about the rich and musical harmonics of the SA-11S2. There is just something in the reproduction of the harmonic structure of music that moves a music system beyond being just an ensemble of good equipment. It’s an intangible element that lets you enjoy the music more. Put simply, it lets you be part of the musical experience right there in your room.

MarantzSA11S2-2

Specific Examples

Jennifer Warnes – The Well SACD
This SACD is quite impressive sounding and I enjoy most of the music. Cut 6 has a beautiful piano on it which sounds rich, and beautiful with the SA-11S2. Cut 7, “The Panther”, starts with beautiful bells and cymbals. The top-end is very pretty and the SA-11S2 sounds very nice on this cut. It only has sins of omission, but not as clear and transparent as the best. The last cut I want to talk about is cut 11, “The Wall” (reprise). The SA-11S2 lets you hear the dynamics in the bass and Warnes’ voice sounds very natural.

Ray Charles – Genius Loves Company SACD
I get a kick out of this SACD, the music and performances are just great. On cut 5, the bass sounded quick, dynamic, and the voices were very warm and lush. Likewise on cut 7, the voices were nice, especially Willie Nelson’s. The scale of the orchestra above and outside the speakers was huge.

Duke Ellington – Blues In Orbit SACD
This is one of the great SACDs to be released. On cut 2, the bass was a little ill-defined, but the sax was very nice with that right-in-the-room-with-you sound. Cut 3 is a beautiful one. The piano is a little soft, but the bass was quick, the drum was deep and big, and there is good bite on the horn solo without a trace of edginess.

MarantzSA11S2-3

Comparisons

I just happened to have two other SACD players in the house at the same time as the SA-11S2. One was Marantz’s own Limited addition SA-KI-Pearl at $3,000 and the other was the Sony SCD-XA5400ES with the Vacuum State GmbH Terra Firma Lite Clock Upgrade at around $3,500, depending on what price you get the Sony for. So let me take a moment to compare the differences in their sound with you.

Jennifer Warnes – The Well SACD
On cut 6, the piano is more delicate, with quicker dynamics with the Pearl. With the VSEI Sony, you can much more easily follow the tune on the piano, and also more easily hear the difference in the playing of the left and right hand. With the SA-11S2, however, the piano is richer and bolder. On cut 7, “The Panther”, the Pearl handled the bells and cymbals with a delicacy and richness of tone that was just beautiful while the VSEI Sony was quicker and more precise. Then on “The Wall” (reprise), the VSEI Sony had a much tighter bass with quicker micro-dynamics. The Pearl was slightly more natural-sounding on Warnes’ voice, while the VSEI Sony let your hear more breath around the voice. Still, the SA-11S2 had the biggest, riches, and most dynamic sound of the three.

Ray Charles – Genius Loves Company SACD
With the Pearl on cut 5, the voices were a little less lush than with the SA-11S2. With the VSEI Sony, the bass was quicker and the voices were more transparent.

Duke Ellington – Blues In Orbit SACD
Cut 2 with VSEI Sony brings the bass into focus, deep and tight, the horns lock in place. Still, it is not as lush sounding as either of the Marantz units. On cut 3 there is more PRaT with the Pearl, and the VSEI Sony let’s you hear a little further into the music. With all three, it is very easy to relax and enjoy the music.

Conclusion

The SA-11S2 Reference SACD/CD player offers a level of build quality seldom seen for $3,000. I think it will appeal more to people who prefer harmonic richness to the highest level of detail and resolution. This will, in the end, depend on how it mates with your system. The Marantz’ quality is much better than the Sony, and it offers an alternative to the quick, and nimble tones of the Pearl.

2 Responses to Marantz SA-11S2 SACD Player Review


  1. Pete says:

    Thanks for the insightful review. I would agree whole-heartedly with your observations, especially about PRaT and Micro-Dynamics. These of course should not be a deal breaker when considering this player as it stands out in other areas. The Marantz presents a true sense of ‘being there’. It is definitely not, in my opinion, as bombastic as the KI-Pearl which I felt was too ‘in your face’ sounding. The SA11-S2 is perhaps more classical and jazz and less rock and pop in it’s demeanour. This is not to say it can’t handle the latter two, it’s just that it is perhaps a little warm around the edges in relaying the more jarring notes. I’ve had mine connected to the PM11-S2 with Cardas Golden Reference XLR and PS-Audio AC-12 power cables and the results have been quite satisfying in bringing out the best of this player. Speaker cables are Synergistic Element Copper connected to Proac D1/Tablette Anniversary speakers.

  2. Dung says:

    one of the best CD and SACD players in audio hiend component system.

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