Marantz’s NA-11S1 is similar in functionality to its more affordable stablemate, the NA7004 streamer, in the sense that it’s effectively a DAC that also offers media streaming via Ethernet. But this new high-end design introduces the latest ‘Marantz Music Mastering’ digital signal processing and the option to play Direct Stream Digital (DSD) from a computer via USB.

In addition to its rather niche DSD functionality, the unit also plays PCM at up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution (digital input and format permitting), in WAV, WMA, MP3, MPEG-4, FLAC and ALAC flavours. This comes into the unit via optical (up to 96kHz), RJ-45 LAN (Ethernet) or USB Type A and B connections. There’s also Apple AirPlay connectivity, so you can wirelessly stream music from your computer or iDevice at Apple Lossless quality.

Marantz has chosen the popular BridgeCo network platform here. Ken Ishiwata says this is partly because it offers Apple AirPlay, and also because the company has employed it extensively in its range of AV receivers.

If you ever wondered where all the world’s copper reserves had gone, then look no further than the casework: lots of it comes inside each NA-11S1, from the plated chassis cladding to the multiple secondary windings of the beefy toroidal transformer, itself in a copper-coated enclosure.

The power supplies, streaming board, DAC section and analogue output stages are each segregated from one another and the latter is fully balanced, and sports Marantz’s HDAM-SA2 and HDAM modules. The unit uses carefully selected passive componentry, and there’s a separate section incorporating a dedicated headphone amplifier with analogue volume control.

The unit is immaculately finished, and its sculpted fascia sports Marantz’s corporate design flourish with blue ‘mood lighting’ pouring from the central pillar. Ergonomically it is straightforward, with the main functions – track and input selection – given their own buttons, and the rest is left to a menu. Like the fascia display, the remote disappoints – the front panel is a dog’s dinner of fiddly buttons, and it’s part metal, part plastic.

Trademark sound

Regardless of input, the NA-11S1 proved an extremely able performer with Marantz’s trademark clean, crisp and open sound. Working in DAC mode with a Cyrus transport connected via the electrical coaxial input, this big black box gingerly trod the delicate path between euphonic and forensic. As a rule, it proved agnostic about the type of programme material used.

It’s a strong performer at its price then, as evinced by the beautiful sound it squeezed from a CD of Isaac Hayes’ Shaft: Original Soundtrack [Stax]. ‘Cafe Regios’ proved an amazing auditory experience, with a large and vibrant recorded acoustic inside which the instruments were locked tightly. The soundstage didn’t fall back far, but still the music gave the feeling of being hewn from granite.

The bass was strong and sinewy rather than plump and overblown, with no sense of rhythmic slurring. Tonally it proved quite even, with just the slightest glint across the upper midband and treble, making for a light, breezy, open window into the music.

Hi-res files streamed from a NAS drive really stepped up a gear. Wings’ Band On The Run at 24-bit/
96kHz was bubbling with detail; electric guitars were deliciously crisp and natural, combining a raw edge with a lovely tonal richness.

The NA-11S1’s DSD performance proved superlative. Alex de Grassi’s The Water Garden [Blue Coast Records] was exceptionally clean and open, yet blessed with a beautifully lilting, unforced quality. The acoustic guitar work was effortless and tonally sublime.

Verdict

Marantz’s new NA-11S1 shows just what is possible from modern high-res digital sources. It has a plethora of facilities, including stable streaming and USB provision, and is beautifully built. Its subtle, smooth and intricately detailed sound sets an enviable standard.

Originally published in the 2013 Yearbook