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RGibran
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Marantz SA-11

Cheapskate, can we get a mini review form you on your new machine. I know your an avid vinyl enthusiast, but are you listening to more CD's lately, out of convenience and because of that fine digital front end.

Your thoughts on SACD? Have you had a chance to sample a few of the hi-rez discs?

Inquiring minds want to know!

RG

ohfourohnine
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Re: Marantz SA-11

This is a tough league, RG, in which to write anything approaching a review of a piece of equipment, but I'll do my best to give you some reactions to my new toy and to answer some of your specific questions. Simply put, I'm delighted with the SA 11. So is my wife, who only tolerates my audiophile nonsense. She thought the color of the unit was awful when she looked at a photo, but loves it - to the extent that she suggested I mate it with the accompanying integrated amp. That hasn't happened, and probably won't unless my MF integrated goes south for some reason.

The player offers a multitude of features, many of which, it turns out, are not important to me. After a bit of experimentation, I operate with the noise shaper (digital feedback), DC filter (high pass at about 2 Hz), and the digital output turned off. For SACD playback, I use the direct mode output which doesn't filter the DSD data. For CD playback, the unit offers three levels of filtering varying in terms of roll-off speed and tonal emphasis. I've played around a bit with them from disc to disc and genre to genre, but I usually use the least intrusive of them. My standard is what I get from my analog front end, and these settings give me the closest approximation of that sound - and where SACD is concerned it gets damned close. The features which are most appealing to me are the solid mechanicals of the transport (reassuring to one who was recently frustrated by transport problems), the straightforward remote, and the fact that this is a dedicated two-channel player.

I've done a bit of interconnect swapping with this player. I began with Kimber Silver Streaks but have gone presently to something a little sweeter. Only had the current set-up for a couple of days of serious listening. If I stay with it, which, at present, I think I will, I'll fill you in on the details. I think I'm getting some improvement in CD sound stage solidity with this player, but perhaps that is attributable to the "honeymoon" effect we're all vulnerable to with new gear. The best 3D sound staging I get still comes from the best of my vinyl.

Do I play more CD's now? Probably not overall, but I do play more for what I call real listening. I'm retired and so CD's have always had a place dictated by convenience. Breakfast and the paper are better with Mozart and CD's are the answer when listening isn't the sole focus. For serious listening, this player and well engineered CD's (e.g.; some of JA's stuff) sound better than Redbook ever has in my house. One qualifier I should include here is that many of the CD's I listen to are not sonically wonderful and never will be, I play them for the music. "Louis Armstrong Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 1923 - 1934" suffers only from when the music was recorded. This player, however, gets me as close to the early Louis, Teagarten, etal. stuff as one can get - or so I think. It's a real winner in terms of the pace and flow of the music.

What about SACD's? In a recent e-mail to Jim Tavegia I referred to my involvement with SACD's as my going over to the dark side. Since I got the new player my music purchases have included twenty four SACD's and only six vinyl recordings. Part of that disparity was due to a desire to explore the new medium (the first six or seven SACD's) and part was because I wanted some fine music not available on vinyl (Gatti's recordings of Tchaikovsky 4,5,and 6 for example). Some of them were deliberate duplications so I could make head to head comparisons with vinyl that I already own (Take Five, Blue Train and the Norman Granz Louis and Ella duets on Verve). On Take Five, the SACD reveals more of the disadvantages of close miking on Desmond's sax. What is acceptable breathiness on my vinyl copy becomes a bit of sizzle (mike overload?) in a couple of spots on the SACD. Perhaps DSD reproduced the master a little too accurately.

Now the Louis and Ella is one of my all-time favorites and I know its every note and nuance. Could I tell the vinyl from the SACD on passages where there are no revealing vinyl clicks? I don't know. Maybe. Blind testing isn't my bag, and if it was, my wife doesn't humor me enough to control such a test for me. Suffice it to say, I won't be deliberately buying any more duplicates for comparison purposes, not even a copy of Michaelson's K622 to compare with my vinyl.

SACD is Pretty Damned Good in my opinion. I'll never give up on vinyl, in part because I love the nostalgic rituals surrounding it. If I get lazier than I am now, the idea of playing Brilliant Corners straight through with one push of a button may win out. My music buying pattern in the next year or so will probably tell the tale. Like all the other formats, even my small collection of SACD's includes some real good ones and some not so good. You get only what the engineer and the producer provide. For now, the best thing about my new player is it gave me access to the Gatti Tchaikovsky and a Renee Fleming Handel - great recordings only available on SACD.

Not much of a review of the Marantz player, all in all, but at least it was free of political commentary. In the end, it has always been the music for me. I'd buy the SA11 again because it delivers music very very nicely, and I'd recommend it to anyone even though there is no Musical Fidelity label on it.

You've read long enough. Go put on a record.

Buddha
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Re: Marantz SA-11

Hey, I think that was a great review!

Thanks!

RGibran
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Re: Marantz SA-11

Are you kiddin' me? Awesome review. Way more than I expected.

Thanks for taking the time Clay.

RG

enrico126
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Re: Marantz SA-11

how would u compare its sound quality compared to that of more expensive machines (could you do that?)? for example compared to accuphase, mark levinson, audio research...is there any competition at all^

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Marantz SA-11

A very nice job of reviewing a very, very nice digital player. Keep'em coming.

For me the defining issue between digital and vinyl is noise floor. The lowest vinyl noise floor I have heard in my home is from a Thorens 850 TT, as that price point is about the limit for me. That TT does not look like much, but Thorens did a great job of bearing selection on that table and coupling it with a relatively heavy platter that makes that combination to me very special. To me all you could do to that table would be to try one of the better Rega arms, like the 700, and see what more you could hear.

The low noise floor digital offers is hard to match with a mechanical medium, but I am sure MF's Continuum is pretty special in that regard as well. This becomes more important to me on classical music in which the dynamic range is left pretty much intact and allows the quiet passages to shine. And, as Clay clearly points out, any engineering flaws also shine through.

It was also one of the things like I liked about my old Jolida JD 100 in that it helped me reach the sound of vinyl and give me a low noise floor. With tube rolling you can achieve just the level of "warmth" you want.

I do hope that the industry does continue to support SACD and really regret the fact that Tascam did not allow their DV-RA 1000 recorder play back standard SACD's. That is just a stupid marketing decision and I think many "audiophiles" would have considered that machine for purchase and enjoyment. John Marks was right on the money about that machine as it will be my next player and give me the ability to make some special recordings...that is if I can do all the other engineering things properly.
Tascam DSD Recorder

See, a great review from Clay and not one test report or graph. And I am sure there we no electrons hurt during the writing of his review.

ohfourohnine
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Re: Marantz SA-11

Sorry, Enrico, can't help you with the kind of comparisons you would like. Suffice it to say, I'm happy enough with way the SA-11 delivers music that I haven't been looking for an improvement. The only comparisons I'd consider meaningful would be those I would conduct in my own home, and before I embark on those, I generally have to feel that something is lacking. I suspect someone else on the forum may be able to help you, though. You might try a home audition of the SA-ll and decide for yourself. I think you'd agree that it is better than OK.

ohfourohnine
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Re: Marantz SA-11

No doubt you're right about the digital noise floor, Jim, but that can, I think, be more than offset by what I wind up calling the presence of the best of vinyl recordings. There is an immediacy, a sense of "being there" that I get from some vinyl, and I haven't quite found it on CD or SACD. Maybe I'm kidding myself - after all, vinyl is where it began for me and there is no love like an old love.

CECE
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Re: Marantz SA-11

SACD smokes anything, no noise only what may be in teh original old recordings, but no added noise like on vinyl. SACD has to be the easist most convienent for ultimate audio...some LP's sound real good, but still pain to play, flip after 22 minutes, clean, SACD II even better? DSD II higher sampling better better better, Blu Ray AUDIO? You can be sure Philips is working on something better yet Smaller, cheaper, better

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Marantz SA-11

Clay, you are so right. After all, no matter how much one protests, you never really get over your FIRST LOVE!!!!!!

Vinyl done right is still very magical. I was listening to the Fantasy LP of Tony Bennett and Bill Evans last night after getting home from choir practice. Tony and Bill are right in front of me. I can't ask for much more than that.

The piano sound is accurate as my tt set up will allow. We have all heard great piano recorded sound, but it does differ from recording to recording...and can still be very pleasing.

ROLO46
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Re Hi-Pod.

New boy with big question.
Will we ever get a grown up I-Pod from Apple
With 100 gig HD and digital out and pro PSU
I dont like WiFi and MacBook pro 15" is too
expensive.
I like I-Tunes and Apple lossless codec.

ohfourohnine
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Re: Re Hi-Pod.

Sure like your specs for that "grown up iPod", but there's not much chance we're going to see them from Apple. Jobs is in the movie business now and he's getting lots of encouragement to stick with low rez music. Meanwhile, I've got about 2.5 days of music in lossless on my old fashioned iPod - enough of my favorites to have fun with.

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