Marantz Black Pearl SACD vs. SA11S2 SACD?
In response to a forum on the SA11S2, I made some comments, since I owned one, and now I own the Pearl.
I was quite happy with my SA11 Series 2, but then the Pearl came out, and a friend I know bought it. The black finish was very classy looking, and I got jealous. We made some comparisons between the two, and I have to admit that it made me go buy the Pearl. They both have similarities in sound, but I decided I liked the sound of the Pearl better, and the fact that it was designed like a hotrod modification can be heard. It really is a special player. It just sounds wonderful, though I could live with either player.
To answer questions from the member 4musica, the SA112 and the Pearl sound like they were made by the same designer, because they have a similar sonic characteristic. The soundstages are close enough that you do not hear a big difference in how things are spread across the stage.
The treble range in both are extended, but don't have that piercing, laser like, dry sound like the Benchmark I had a long time ago. But, the Pearl makes high piercing massed brass (like trumpets w/trombones, w/saxophones) ensembles sound more as a massed group, and easier on the ears. It's hard to explain. Since I have ribbons, I hear all these details and extra brightness that recordings have. They are more pleasant to listen to. But this probably depends on your system.
The Pearl has something in the midrange that is very intoxicating. Although voices sound good on both units, in the Pearl a voice sounds more like all of the voice is coming out as an integrated voice in space. Again this is hard to describe.
There seemed to be a bit more bass impact on the SA112, but this was confusing, because at times it seemed the Pearl's bass was easier to follow the plucks of the string bass and hear more details. In terms of the strength of the impact, I would give a slight edge to the SA11, but this was not huge. It all ends up, what do you want? More detail in the bass, or a bit more impact?
The headphone jack is really nice to have on the Pearl, and it sounds better than other headphone jacks I have found on equipment. Marantz describes this as a discrete analog circuit that the designer put considerable attention to, as he did to every aspect of the player.
I would also add that when I used a Bel Canto DAC3, I found that images bunched together to some degree, which bothered me. I was sure of this, because I compared it to the other units I had at the time. The Bel Canto also did not have the clarity or cleanness in the high end of the Pearl. It wasn't bad at all, but it was not in the same class.
So, at this point, I really like the Pearl The fact that it sounds better than anything I have had in my system, which includes separate at least 4 separate DACS, should tell you what a fine design it is. And it is built like a proverbial brick sh-house at 32 pds. and is so beautiful to look at. Now I have one unit for digital playback. No extra DACs, no expensive digital connects, just great sound.