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  1. #1
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    Marantz SA-11s1 or NAD M5 cd player

    I just purchased a new NAD M3 integrated amplifier to go with my new ProAc Studio 140 speakers. Now I want to upgrade my NAD C542 cd player. I can get a deal (about $2,000 after taxes) on a new NAD M5 cd/sacd player or a used (1.5 year old) Marantz SA-11S1 cd/sacd player. Any opinions on which way I should go?

  2. #2
    Ajani
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    $2000 CDN? I don't remember what the Retail price for the M5 is in Canada but I know it's $1800 in the US, so I'm not sure whether you're getting a good deal or not...

    Anyway, if I was building a setup from scratch I'd go with the Marantz, since I've always prefered Marantz CD players to NAD players.... But since you already have an M3, you might be better off getting the M5 for system synergy....

    If you can, try auditioning the Marantz and NAD in your setup to see which you prefer...

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    Quote Originally Posted by cameronbaskey@rogers.com
    I just purchased a new NAD M3 integrated amplifier to go with my new ProAc Studio 140 speakers. Now I want to upgrade my NAD C542 cd player. I can get a deal (about $2,000 after taxes) on a new NAD M5 cd/sacd player or a used (1.5 year old) Marantz SA-11S1 cd/sacd player. Any opinions on which way I should go?
    Hi, Cam,

    Congradulations on the M3. Reviews suggest it is a really nice unit -- the warm NAD sound of their mainstream models only better.

    The NAD M5 has one very big advantage over the Marantz SA-8001: multi-channel output. However if you don't expect to use it in an M/C system then that's irrelevant. C$2000 sounds like an OK deal, (given that Canadians get screwed over by distributors here), but not a great one. For the difference in price and 2-ch use, given the very high reputation the SA-8001 has earned, I would definitely go with the SA-8001.

  4. #4
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    Thanks, I didn't realize that the NAD M5 had multi-channel output and bass management capabilities (thought that was just the M55). You're right, I don't need that so it is a non-issue.

    You're also right that we Canadians do get screwed from distributors here (for example, I could have got over $1,000 off the price of the M3 if I lived in the U.S.!). I'm not sure what the SA-8001 goes for in Canada but I'm sure that it's at least $1,200 if it's selling for $900 in the U.S. That puts it at around $1,400 after taxes. I can get the used SA-11S1 for $1,800 (no taxes). Do you think it's worth the extra $400 to get the 1.5 year old (former) top of the line Marantz SA-11S1 over a new SA-8001?

  5. #5
    Ajani
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    Marantz is one of the few companies that I know doesn't vary much in price between US and Canada (ignoring GST)....

    The SA-8001 retails for $1,000 CDN and the SA-11S1 retailed for $3,500 CDN (it's been replaced by the SA-11S2)... so if you can get it for $1,800 that's a pretty good price...

  6. #6
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    It's true

    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    Marantz is one of the few companies that I know doesn't vary much in price between US and Canada (ignoring GST)....

    The SA-8001 retails for $1,000 CDN and the SA-11S1 retailed for $3,500 CDN (it's been replaced by the SA-11S2)... so if you can get it for $1,800 that's a pretty good price...
    Right, Ajani. Checking the Marantz Canada website, the SA-8001 is C$1000. So, Cameron, you ought to be able to get, say, a 10% discount somewhere. If they were closer to the same buck I'd certainly go with the SA-11S1: it has some nice feature such as fully balance operation. On the other hand for twice the price I'm not sure.

  7. #7
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    Thanks folks, great input. I'm going to try to audition both in my system at home.

    Two final questions:

    1. Would you ever buy a used (1.5 year old) cd player? What are the potential risks over new? At $1,800 all in, I'm tempted to try the Marantz SA-11S1.

    2. Can I really expect to hear significant improvments using balanced connections over standard high quality interconnects?

  8. #8
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Well ...

    Quote Originally Posted by cameronbaskey@rogers.com
    Thanks folks, great input. I'm going to try to audition both in my system at home.

    Two final questions:

    1. Would you ever buy a used (1.5 year old) cd player? What are the potential risks over new? At $1,800 all in, I'm tempted to try the Marantz SA-11S1.

    2. Can I really expect to hear significant improvments using balanced connections over standard high quality interconnects?
    There are plenty of people who would never by a used piece of equipment. For my part I've owned quite a few and been well served by them in general. On the one hand, a CDP is a mechanical device and more subject to failure than say, an amp. On the other hand I have a Techinics player I bought in 1991 that still works well.

    A balanced connection will often be subtly better if both your up and downstream components have balanced connections, and especially if both components actually have fully balanced circuitry. The other factor is that balanced interconnects are much much better for longer distances since they have inherently resistant to external noise and interference.

    I believe the Marantz SA-11S1 has fully balanced circuitry; in any case the its sucessor, the SA-11S2 says it does. The M3 does have a pair of balanced inputs but I saw no reference to balanced circuitry; the lack of balanced Pre Outs suggests that it isn't fully balanced. As a pure guess, I'd say any improvement on account of a balanced connection between the 11S1 and the M3 will be very tiny.

  9. #9
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    Balanced Connections - NAD M3

    The following is written about the NAD M3's balanced inputs on their website:

    A balanced line input is also provided using identical JFET buffers feeding a discrete differential amp and yielding common mode rejection in excess of 80dB.

    Not sure if this means the unit itself is fully balanced or not...

    The NAD M5 cd player only mentions "Balanced 600 Ohm Stereo Outputs " for long cable runs and compatability with professional equipment, whereas the Marantz SA-11S2 goes so far as to say "Full Balanced Analog Audio Stage with HDAM® SA2".

  10. #10
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    Surmise

    Quote Originally Posted by cameronbaskey@rogers.com
    The following is written about the NAD M3's balanced inputs on their website:

    A balanced line input is also provided using identical JFET buffers feeding a discrete differential amp and yielding common mode rejection in excess of 80dB.

    Not sure if this means the unit itself is fully balanced or not...

    The NAD M5 cd player only mentions "Balanced 600 Ohm Stereo Outputs " for long cable runs and compatability with professional equipment, whereas the Marantz SA-11S2 goes so far as to say "Full Balanced Analog Audio Stage with HDAM® SA2".
    I'm not technical savant, but the NAD comment suggests that the "differential amp" blends the balanced signals to creat a single-ended one and that the downstreams circuits are single ended.

    The Marantz SA-11S2 doesn't sound like its fully balance except for the analog sections, though these are likely the most important in this regard.

    There are many exceptional components that are single-ended and balanced isn't a big deal in itself, except that the can be synergy among a set of fully balanced components. In my case I have fully balanced preamp and power amps, so a balanced source might be slightly more interesting to me. On the other hand, without listening to the both in my system, I'm inclined to say the Marantz SA-11S2 wouldn't be worth twice the price of the Marantz SA-8001 to me.

  11. #11
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    Bought the Marantz SA-11s1

    After auditioning the NAD M5 and the Marantz SA-11S1, I bought the Marantz. They are both excellent players, but there are some key sonic differences...

    I auditioned the M5 at a dealer on the same amp that I have (NAD M3) and did head to head comparisons with my current cd player (NAD C542). Speakers were KEF (not sure of the model, although they looked like relatively high end full range floor standing speakers). The difference between the cd players was notable but not as big as I expected. The M5, upon close listening (Diana Krall, Eric Clapton, Jacques Loussier Trio) sounded more laid back, three dimensional and analogue. When I say analogue, I mean what I remember analogue sounding like - truthfully it's been over 10 years since I've heard an analogue source - something I'm sure is true of many of us novice reviewers who mention "analogue" sound. The M5 did a better job of re-creating the intimate recording environment of these jazz recordings - putting you in the room where the music was recorded. In this way it was more engaging. However, it didn't have the same degree of high end "sparkle" that the C542 did. I guess some more experienced reviewers might say that the C542 was artificially adding this sparkle and that it has a more digital sound than the M5. In the end, I'm not sure which player got the high end right as I was not there for the recordings (what reviewers really are??). I guess it comes down to personal preference. I liked the M5 sound better myself, particularly with the sense of space that it added to the music. The lack of "sparkle" was not that it did not convey all the high end detail of the C542, it was just not as prominant vs. the low and mid frequencies. This tonal balance sounded better on acoustic music to me than the C542's greater emphasis on the higher frequencies. While less engaging upon first listen on things like female vocals and finger snaps, the M5 sound was much easier to listen to over extended listening sessions. I suspect that it would also be more forgiving of some of my poorly recorded, "bright" or "sibilant" sounding CDs.

    Listening to the Marantz SA-11s1 on my system at home (NAD M3 integrated amplifier, ProAc Studio 140 speakers), I'm not disappointed with my purchase. Although it does not "match" my M3 visually, it is a beautiful and hefty player. Sonically, it's difficult to say how it compares to the M5 cd player directly as I can't do back to back comparisons. The key difference I notice is that it is not lacking in high end "sparkle". Of course, this depends on the filter setting. The SA-11s1 has three filters that can be used to fine tune the sound, depending on your preference, the source material, etc. Filter 1 excels in making good quality recordings sound natural and spacious with extremely good lateral imaging and depth. Filter 2 focuses on "accurate reproduction of bass and lower midrange", with a slightly rolled off high end (without sacrificing much imaging/depth) - this filter sounds a lot like I remember the M5 sounding and is great for bass-shy recordings. Filter 3 appears to emphasize sharpness and clarity - focusing on the "sparkle". The difference between the 3 filters is subtle but definately noticeable. Regardless of the filter used, the Marantz has an extremely smooth and detailed sound and definitely outshines my old NAD C542.

    The key advantage of the SA-11S1 over the NAD M5 is this ability to use the 3 different filters to tweak the sound slightly to fit the recording and your preference. I guess this is a similar concept to some other players like Musical Fidelity (switching between tube and solid state pre-amps) and DACs (switching between upsampling modes). Particularly in the redbook cd space, there certainly is a HUGE range of recording quality and style available, so it's really nice to have a top notch player that is close to the best at getting all the fundamentals correct that also lets you tweak the final output enough to allow you to enjoy your best recorded cds without making your poorly recorded cds unlistenable.

    Highly recommend the Marantz SA-11S1!!

  12. #12
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    Nice going

    Congrats on your choice, Cameron,

    I think it's a very valid one given you are interested only in stereo, not M/C.

    Fine sonic differences among components are very hard to judge expect on an "all else equal" basis. Hence not having both the NAD and Marantz players together in the same place for audition does cast some doubt on the evalutation. Nevertheless that Marantz has a fine reputation and you have no reason to look back.

    Incidentally, both the NAD M3 and Marantz players are each handsome looking units, and it wouldn't bother me in the least that they don't match -- hey, variety is worth something in itself.

  13. #13
    nightflier
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    Cameron,

    Just a quick question: did you consider any other players?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by cameronbaskey@rogers.com
    However, it didn't have the same degree of high end "sparkle" that the C542 did. I guess some more experienced reviewers might say that the C542 was artificially adding this sparkle and that it has a more digital sound than the M5. In the end, I'm not sure which player got the high end right as I was not there for the recordings (what reviewers really are??). I guess it comes down to personal preference. I liked the M5 sound better myself, particularly with the sense of space that it added to the music.
    You've made an astute observation. Better components and cabling typically sound less *bright* for many reasons. Distortion is an additive phenomena. The effect of RFI adds a artificial tizziness to the top. Once you listen to such differences over time, you may find like I do that the less bright sound actually has clearer high frequency response. Once the crud is gone, more real resolution is now evident. It's just not buried in the noise. While I really like my NAD T763 HT receiver, it sounds a touch bright as compared with a better Threshold amp.

    Similarly, bass traps work by removing upper bass peaks. Once those artificial peaks are removed, the real low bass response becomes more apparent.

    rw

  15. #15
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    Good point about not being able to make reliable comparisons on different systems! It was impossible to make head to head comparisons between the NAD and Marantz players given that I could not listen to them on the same system at the same time. I think most of us are in this connundrum when buying new equipment. The ideal would be to take all players you are interested in auditioning home and doing A/B comparisons using the same interconnects. If only this was possible... In the end, the key is just to go with something you like the sound of on your system and try not to stay up at night thinking of the "what ifs"!

    In the end, I think I would have been happy with either the NAD M5 or the Marantz SA-11s1 at the end of the day. They both have received great reviews and, more importantly, sounded great to me!

    I also auditioned a Densen and an Audio Note player. The Densen sounds nice and neutral and has good upgrade capabilities (you can upgrade software over the Internet!) but I didn't come away from the audition thinking "man, that sounded way better than my NAD C542" so I didn't pursue it any further. I borrowed a friend's Audio Note tube cd player to try out on my system at home. It had a really detailed mid-range (heard some harmonics that I didn't hear before on guitars and male vocals) but had a dramatically rolled off high end that I couldn't live with.

    I would have liked to try the Musical Fidelity A5.5 and the Ayre CX-7e as I read many great reviews on both of those players. Unfortunately I couldn't get my hands on any to try. There was a used Musical Fidelity A5 available on Canuck Audio Mart but the seller had no equipment at her home for me to test drive it on, so I passed on the sale.

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