Marantz SA11-S1 CD/SACD Player

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Marantz SA11-S1 CD/SACD Player

Pros

  • High performance, superior sound reproduction, suitable for all kinds of music

Cons

  • No multi-channel support

Bottom Line

The Marantz SA11-S1 really is the complete package: stunning sound quality, gorgeous looks and dreadnought build quality

Would you buy this?

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Forget all the review speak, subjective ratings and technical mumbo-jumbo. The simple fact is that all the hi-fi components I've ever reviewed fall into three broad categories.

There are those that perform so poorly I can't wait to send them back to the manufacturer/distributor. Nowadays products in this category are very much in the minority.

Then there's the middle ground of solidly performing, well-engineered products that would not leave me feeling short-changed if I had to live with them permanently.

Finally, there are the select few components that I've fallen head-over-heels in lust with, that have shocked me with their powers of musical communication and insight. This is the equipment that still draws a wistful sigh when I close my eyes and recall the way it brought music to life in my living room. Only a handful of components have reached that exalted state. The Marantz SA11-S1 is one of them.

To my eyes, it is the best-looking player Marantz has ever produced. With its solid metal fascia, copper-plated chassis and heavy-duty super ring transformer, the 14kg SA11-S1 is built less like a brick outhouse than the finest bathroom in a Sultan's palace. Sitting three-a-side, the six basic playback controls flank a slightly raised central panel that houses the disk drawer, a large LCD and a power on/off button. On power up, the playback controls are bathed in a soft blue ambient light, which you can dim via the handsome RC-11SAS1 remote control.

Like its earlier stablemate, the SA-14 ver.2, the SA11-S1 offers only stereo and not multi-channel SACD playback. This is a player aimed squarely at hi-fi traditionalists who couldn't give a tinker's about hearing their music in surround-sound but who want the best possible stereo replay.

The SA11-S1 offers a choice of three user-selectable filters, while a noise shaper function improves linearity at low playback levels. I experimented with all three filters, and ended up settling on filter one. But really, with the SA11 in your system, all you'll want to do is spend your time listening to music, not fussing over filter settings.

So how does the SA11-S1 sound? In a word, captivating. Actually, let's try a few other words as well: musical, accurate, focused, dynamic, natural. Able to deliver subtlety and refinement when required, yet equally at home with pounding rock and thundering orchestral crescendos, the SA11-S1 is hard to fault, so convincingly does it serve the music.

A brilliant CD player then, yet scarily, the SA11-S1 manages to raise the bar even higher on SACD playback. The delicacy and drama of Ravel was highlighted as never before, while on Raise Your Spirit Higher, the massed vocals of Ladysmith Black Mambazo enjoyed new levels of realism and harmonic complexity. And 'Let's Get It On', Marvin Gaye's ode to carnal pleasure, had the hormones fair dripping off the Marantz's gleaming silver fascia.

The Marantz SA11-S1 really is the complete package: stunning sound quality, gorgeous looks and dreadnought build quality. It surely sets new standards for all-round excellence in the sub-$10K CD player market.

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