Our Ultimate tube modification to the Marantz SA-11s1 is now available. The stock machine is a very good 2- channel CD/SACD player. It is beautifully built to the highest standards. It is already rated Class A in Stereophile. Our mod takes the machine to a new level. We take a wonderful machine and make it a truly world-class machine that is as good as anything we know of under $15,000.
Our mod is performed on the front left and right channels only for critical stereo reproduction, whether the source material is Redbook CD, DVD-Audio, SACD or any other format! All formats are equally improved since the dominant portion of the mod is to the analog output stage. The signal for all formats utilizes the very same digital chip sets and analog output stage both. To reiterate, the same circuitry handles all formats, thus the mod won't improve one format more than the other. They all aregreatly improved!The Ultimate for the Marantz SA-11 [$3,190 + freight retrofit] can be broken down into 3 parts:
Part 1: The "new" PCX-designed fully differentially balanced tube output buffer stage is installed with concurrent output via both RCA and XLRs, which has its very own, dedicated power supply PCB and toroidal power transformer - 3 modules in all. This module was conceptually designed by Chris Johnson, Sonic Frontier's (SFI) founder and former president. The actual circuit design and electro-mechanical integration was developed by two of SFI's former senior designers , Glenn Dolick and Zdenko Zivkovic. (This vacuum tube-based output buffer stage can be installed into any player which has physical space for all 3 component parts. Although it was designed to be used with DACs which have differential output per channel, we can also install it into units which have traditional single-ended output.)
- Two-tube capacitor-coupled circuit which can use a variety of tubes including 6DJ8s, 6922', 7308s or any of their derivatives (ships with ElectroHarmonix EH-6922s). It can also be used with the Russian super tube, the 6H30 made famous by both BAT and later, ARC.
- Parts quality is superb. We use 5uf AuriCap output coupling caps with Rel-Cap TFT Teflon bypasses; premium Azuma gold-plated ceramic PCB tube sockets; Riken precision carbon comp resistors; Audio Note tantalum resistors; Cardas PCB-mount RCA jacks; Neutrik gold-plated XLR connectors
- Multiple fully regulated power supplies all on their own distinct power supply PCB, featuring Black Gate electrolytic caps in critical locations and IR Hexfred ultra-fast soft recovery diodes
- Our own custom-made 200% duty cycle, low noise, low stray field toroidal power transformer.
- We upgrade the hypercritical I-V and analog-filter op amps, replacing the cheap, stock surface-mount parts (currently about 50 cents each from JRC) with the very best dual op amps offered by Burr-Brown, the OPA-627-AUs, mounted to special SMT-to-SMT vertical adapters (which are 50 times more expensive than the stock part). These parts dramatically enhance both the unit's technical and subjective audio performance. The SA-11 Ultimate still uses 4 (not 6 as in the Level 2) of these dual opamp upgrade modules (2 were not needed as we now have the tube output buffer stage). For comparison purposes, op amps of this quality are usually found in 2-channel products retailing for $5,000 to $10,000! This upgrade alone is analogous to upgrading a car from a 4-cylinder to a V12 twin-turbo!
- The output signal currently exits these stages via a minuscule tin/lead plated printed circuit board (PCB) trace. However, in our mod, we instead use both shielded interconnect and hookup wire which contains 99.999% pure, long-grain 23-awg solid-core silver DH Labs wire with foamed Teflon tape-wrap insulated (the very best)
- The critical signal resistors (22 in all) are changed to precision Japanese made Riken Ohm Carbon comp types with gold-plated copper leads. These replace the cheap, magnetic, China-sourced metal-film resistors in the stock unit
- All critical caps changed to the best Film and Electrolytic types:
- Black Gate FK and N Series caps (5) replacing the cheapest quality generic electrolytic caps in the stock unit
- Precision 1% polystyrene film and tin foil caps (14) are installed in the analog filter stage, replacing cheap tantalum caps in the stock unit
- The power supply has been upgraded with 9 Black Gate FK, NX, STD series electrolytic caps (replacing cheap ceramic and/or generic electrolytics) and all critical analog supply diodes (currently generic quality) have been replaced with ultra-fast soft-recovery Fred-type diodes
- 4 Vishay-Telefunken and 5 International Rectifier Hexfreds
- A pair of small Bybee Slipstream Quantum Purifiers are installed in the power supply just after the IEC inlet, in line with the transformer primary windings. These noise suppression devices work at a quantum level, helping quiet the power supply, allowing for a blacker background, which promotes increased perception of dynamic contrasts.
- The chassis resonances have been dampened with SoundCoat (2 sheets-1sq. ft)
- External vibrations have been isolated via (4) large compliant Ear Sorbothane feet
- ERS EMI/RFI paper is placed in critical locations to suppress stray EMI and RFI fields within the unit
- We use WBT 4% lead-free silver solder throughout.
The above prices includes your choice of balanced XLR or single-ended Cardas outputs. Both together are an additional $200. The finished Ultimate modified machine is superb and only approached by our own Ultimate modified Denon DVD-5910 in performance at anywhere near this price.
The Marantz SA-11S1 has received universal praise as a superb SACD player with very good Redbook performance. It is extremely well done and rated Class A in Stereophile. We wanted to offer a reasonably priced upgrade to our State of the Art Ultimate tube upgrade. The Level-1 presented below is just that. We ring all the performance out of it as a solid state machine and do it at a very reasonable price. The modified unit is a large improvement over the stock unit. The mod was designed by Chris Johnson, the founder and former president of Sonic Frontiers.
The following details the modifications for the Marantz SA-11S1 CD/SACD Player [$1,800 + freight retrofit) :
- 27 x Black Gate STD, FK, N and PK-grade power supply and output coupling capacitors
- 2 x REL-CAP Teflon TFT film and foil coupling caps bypass the main BlackGate output caps
- 12 x 1% polystyrene film and foil capacitors in the analog filter stage
- 52 x Riken Ohm ½ and one watt 1% carbon comp. resistors (gold-plated leads) in the signal path
- 8 x Telefunken SF4007 Ultra-Fast Soft-Recovery Diodes aeplace/rebuild the bridge rectifiers. These are used in the sonically critical power supply positions.
- 1 pair of premium machined DH Labs direct gold-plated-over-copper-body Teflon insulated RCA female jacks replace the cheap stamped stock modules
- 4 x large EAR brand Sorbothane isolation feet with new mounting hardware
- 2 sheets of SoundCoat chassis damping materialcut & applied where applicable to control chassis resonances
- 1 sheet of ERS suppression cloth to reduce EMI/RFI
- 4 DH LABS 99.999% pure solid-core long-grained silver output signal wires, w/foamed Teflon tape wrap dielectric, on the output jacks
- 1 Acme Audio Labs silver-plated cryogenically treated IEC power inlet replaces the cheap connector of the stock player
- WBT high silver content (4%) solder used throughout
- 9 hours labor
Sonic improvement of the mod
The modified unit is now better in virtually all performance areas. It is a tad warmer and more tubelike. Dynamics are greatly improved. Midbass slam & low bass extension are both better. It has better detail across the board. Imaging specificity is also improved as is front to back depth.