'All dressed up and no place to go.' That, alas, is the overwhelming feeling imparted by Marantz's utterly magnificent SA-11S1 SACD player. Aside from the clumsy name and its inherent limitation of stereo-only playback, it just may be the nicest SACD player around. Too bad it arrives precisely as the rumours fly thickest about the format's demise.
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Let's back up a bit and deal with the SA-11S1's main personality quirk. It is, like the stunning Tri-Vista SACD player, a two-channel-only machine. Why? Purely consumer psychology. Y'see, there's absolutely NO justification for knobbling the player's multi-channel capability because there's no reason to assume that the mere presence of 3.1 more analogue outputs will compromise the purist stereo sound. None - zip - gornisht, so I don't expect to see Ken Ishiwata and a dozen Ninjas arriving in the dark of night, refuting it and forcing me to concur at knife-point. Even if they kidnapped my Beatles' 'Butcher Sleeve'.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but just about every multi-channel source component on the market also sports stereo-only output socketry because the manufacturers know that the take-up on multi-channel is neither total nor automatic, and that at the very least most systems are stereo. (Let's leave mono-only playback of SACDs and DVD to the
As for the name, it's an unpleasant reversion to the Akai School of Front Panel Gobbledygook, so I will write it as 'SA11' for the rest of this review.
Lastly, we have to deal with SACD itself. Despite new releases arriving at something like 6-10 times that of DVD-As, the take-up is dire, record stores don't even know it exists and word has it that, last year, vinyl outsold SACD and DVD-A
Although it has a clean and minimalist front panel, the SA-11 is loaded beyond the promise of the half-dozen basic transport controls, on-off and SACD/CD mode buttons. The rear is equally abundant with
A button-filled, beautifully-made all metal remote control, too, betrays hidden depths. Most important are noise shaping to adjust the amount of digital feedback and the three selectable filters you can apply, and herein lies a problem. All sound different enough to favour either different types of material
It was easy to get distracted by the choices, but it's something every fastidious listener will face. Some might even enjoy it, but finding a 'default' setting is impossible. So my comments about sound refer only to traits not effected by filter changes, that is, those I believe to be intrinsic to the sound of the SA-11. The other traits are the variables, dependent on filter setting. Let's put it another way: I'd hate to be demonstrating this in a shop, because you really do need familiarity with each.Read more about the SA-11S1 on Page 2.