Marantz PM11S3 review

 Links to the specs:

The technical blurb:

The internal design is divided into six sections - input stage, dedicated preamp power supply, two separate power amplifier sections, a shielded, toroidal mains transformer and reservoir capacitor bank. 
The input stage is where all input signals enter the PM11S3, for example from your SACD player, turntable and network player - the input stage has a pre-amplifier with volume control adjustment, which amplifies the low level input signals to prepare them for the power amplifier stage. The preamplifier contains the famous HDAM module (Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Module), a Marantz exclusive development known for it's phenomenal audio quality. 
The HDAM is built from discrete components including transistors, diodes, capacitors and resistors - no integrated circuits are applied. Different versions of the HDAM are designed for different applications, in the preamplifier of the PM11S3 the HDAM SA2 is applied. On comparison to standard op-amps, the HDAM is extremely fast, significantly faster than a standard op-amp - speed is important when in an instant, a great deal of power is needed, for example during musical peaks. Noise generated by the HDAM is virtually zero, preserving the quality of the music signal - there are op-amps available with low noise, but they are slow to respond to musical peaks. Marantz engineers custom design the HDAM using only those discrete components know to sound completely transparent, which enhances the overall performance of the PM11S3 - this is not possible when designing circuits with op-amps, since many components are already chosen by the chip manufacturer in the silicon die of the op-amp. 
For the connection of a moving magnet or moving coil cartridge equipped turntable, the preamplifier section also includes a dedicated phono equaliser. Constant current feedback technology is employed, giving very low phase shift over the audio frequencies, plus very fast response to musical transients, and is a very good match to any phono cartridge on the market. 

The dedicated input stage power supply section is totally separate from the output power stage power supply, helping to keep input and output sections totally isolated from each other, which minimises noise and distortion, keeping the precious audio signal as pure as possible. Very large custom designed reservoir capacitors are employed in this power supply - these capacitors store electrical energy, and the larger their capacitance, the more energy they can stored - the two 15,000uF reservoir capacitors ensure that during musical crescendos, power can be released in an instant when needed, which enables the amplifier to deliver dynamic, powerful audio in response to the ever changing music signal. 

The next two sections contain the left and right channel power amplifiers, which are again separated from each other using electromagnetic shielding to eliminate crosstalk between the channels - the power amplifiers amplify the current and voltage of the preamplifier audio signal to a level strong enough to drive a loudspeaker. The power amplifiers employ the HDAM SA3 technology together with current feedback, which gives a much faster response than the more common voltage feedback technique. 

The current capability of this latest version of the PM11S3 is even greater than before, enabling it to drive low impedance loudspeakers to high levels with ease - each amplifier can deliver up to 100W into an 8 ohm load, but also 200W into a 4 ohm load, meaning that the amplifier is linear - it delivers twice the output power when the load is halved - almost all other amplifiers on the market would deliver below 200W into the 4 ohm load, so this is an exceptional performance from the PM11S3. To keep the amplifier temperature stable under all operating conditions, the PM11 S3 is fitted with a very efficient and large aluminium finned heatsink - in this way high power can be delivered for longer periods with no detriment to reliability. 

The power supply for the two power amplifiers occupies the next two sections, comprising a high 750 VA rated toroidal transformer with low impedance secondary windings and a very low electromagnetic leakage in one section, and two 22000uF reservoir capacitors with diode bridge rectifiers in the second section. The benefits of the toroidal transformer over the more common laminated core type are:- toroidal has a lower magnetic field, causing less disturbance of the audio signal in other parts of the amplifier toroidal has less mechanical hum toroid is efficient in delivering high output currents 

As well as several pairs of unbalanced inputs, the PM11S3 is also equipped with a pair of balanced inputs - these balanced inputs are significantly less susceptible to disturbance from external magnetic fields than unbalanced inputs - the SA11S3 has balanced outputs, and this is the recommended connection to the partnering PM11S3 for maximum fidelity. The speaker output terminals are Marantz's high quality copper design, with two pairs for each channel for speakers A and speakers B - speakers A is used to connect your main loudspeakers, and speakers B can be used to connect a second pair of speakers in another room. If you only have one pair of speakers, the terminals can also be used to bi-wire your main loudspeakers. The rear panel switch for all of these setups should be set to 'stereo' which is the default setting. Bi-amping can be achieved by setting the switch to the alternative 'bi-amp' setting, and then using the FCBS bus(floating control bus system) to connect a second PM11S3 with each PM11S3 controlling only one speaker - one pair of speaker terminals drives the tweeter, and the other pair drives the bass drivers. One PM11 becomes the master volume for the other, with the other being a slave. A 5.1 home cinema surround system can be created in this way using three PM11's, one for the front left and right speakers, one for the centre channel speaker, and a third for the surround speakers - in this case the rear panel switch needs to be set to stereo. This setup, in combination with a high end AV preamplifier such as Marantz AV8801, a truly high-end surround sound system can be created. Ease of use has taken a step forward since the introduction of the Marantz NA11-S1 network player - when combined with the PM11S3 and the remote bus connection is made between both units, a new Marantz app allows iOs and Android hand held devices to control every aspect of operation.

Main Features
- 2x 100 Watts (8 ohm) / 2x 200 Watts (4 ohm)
- Current feedback technology provides wide range, very fast and accurate signal handling
- Toroidal transformer
- Full discrete 3 stage amplifier construction
- New HDAM®SA3 circuitry
- Rigid Premium Chassis with 5mm thick Aluminum top cover for anti-vibration
- Copper plated chassis
- Marantz original high quality and high-purity copper speaker terminals SPKT-100
- Power Amp direct input for easy integration in an AV setup
- MM/MC Phono input with HDAM
- ECO Friendly : Auto standby, low power consumption in standby mode

You get some very juicy parts:

  • 750 VA toroidal transformer
  •  two massive 22,000 uF electrolytic capacitors
  • 15,000 uF filter capacitance for the pre-amp section
  • HDAM-3 modules
  •  eight copper-plated speaker terminals
  •  Dynamic power at four ohms, of 252 watts and at eight ohms 160 watts

An amplifier is a product that should be a simple component that goes between the source that converts  0 and 1s into music, and the transducer, which then sends the signal out as what we call music.

Ideally it does not add any color, and has an infinite power supply, and can cope with whatever load the speaker presents. It should have a standby mode, so it can keep the important circuits powered up, whilst not costing the earth to power.  There should be sufficient inputs to cater to a wide variety of sources, and having a XLR input is a good things. Other niceties will be a HT bypass mode, so it can be used as a power amp to power up the front channels of a HT system. A good remote, a built in DAC and pre-outs round up the wish list I have.

The Marantz PM11S3 meets most of these feature wish list requirements and most importantly it sounds good.

I have already own 4 previous Marantz amps, plus two CD players and a HT processor (the wonderful DP 870), so I am partial to the Marantz house sound.

I was in need of a replacement integrated amplifier which could also power up the front two channels of my HT system, which was fronted by the B&W 804D. These are detailed speakers, with lots of scale, weight but tend towards the bright, and I was looking for something that could tame that aspect a bit, but also retained the detail and had the grip to present a solid bass, and the dynamics to match.

Speaking of weight, this is probably the heaviest amp I have carted into my place. Only my previous AV amp, the SR 12 came close, and this was ‘only’ a two channel stereo amp.

Everything about this amp spelt quality, and the tactile feel of the casework, the buttons and dials all had a certain hewn from a single piece of metal feel. Even the remote was solid metal, but I wished it had backlight.

Run your hand down the 5mm thick aluminum top cover, press the banana cables into the solid copper binding posts and gaze lovingly at the blue backlights and you know the money was spent to make a product that looked good and was built to last. You also feel assured that there are choice bits inside too (see the list earlier).

Apart from missing a built in DAC, it had everything in my wishlist, and since I had already invested in the NA 11S1 from the same Premium 11 series, it was a logical choice. A good deal from the local dealer sealed the deal for me, and if you could buy it in Asia, Marantz was especially well priced.

How does it sound then?

Now before I even get to the sound, let me tell you about hum.. the bane of any setup and especially common in those where there is a RCA connection to the amp from another pre-amp or amp.

Whatever they are doing in the construction, it’s all good as the noise floor is amazing, or more accurately, there is absolutely no noise at all.

When you power it up, the thing that strikes you is a certain rightness with the music, you get details, good strong mids, highs and bass, but you won’t feel fatigued at all. The sound stage is deep, about 2m behind a speaker, and instrument differentiation and placement is easy, quite effortlessly, and there is a sense of rhythm, with good pace. Now if anyone is concerned about the ‘only’ 100w at 8ohm specs, I did not find any issues at all with both volume and dynamics with my 804D, which can dip into the 4ohm region.

I have not tried it with a more difficult to drive speaker, but sounded in control even as I turned up the volume.

Moreover, it was a simple non-fatiguing sound, that you could listen to and pick up details, but without any stress on the ears from a shiny treble.

In HT bypass or Power Direct Mode, it matched up with my Denon AVR 4520 and kept paced. With Audyssey auto-Eq, I don’t see most buyers having any tonal matching issues with their AV amps. This amp will certainly give those anemic amp sections a solid boost.

The sound is smooth without blunting the higher frequencies, and you will find it detailed, yet enjoyable.

The amp is stable, and only warm to the touch even after a long listening session. When you use it in the dark, the blue LED light has a nice warm feel, but would have been nice to have a backlit remote, especially for such a premium product.

I have found a very reliable and perhaps expensive way of taming hum.. I am talking total silence...
The PM 11S3 is one piece of quality equipment.
Sound quality aside, it is really well built, and everything screams quality. When you use it, it is absolutely silent. Switch channels, or even if you switch it one before turning on the processor and you won't get any sound or thump.

Even after a night of use, it doesn't get more than warm.. and there are no fans, its built to last.

Compared to my Emotiva XPA-3, and Rotel 1572 power amps, which I used to power the front channels of my HT setup, the PM 11S3 offers a more musical and detailed insight into the music, free of the AV amp itself, which in my opinion is excellent in home theatre, but a significant distance behind in music. The PM 11S3 allows one to enjoy one's music collection with a more refined product, and it is a huge step up from the average AV amp, but it's connectivity allows you to retain the same speakers for both functions, and this is one of it's main selling points, and a significant upgrade from the older PM 11 S2.

If you have owned an integrated amplifier before, this amp offers refinement, and dynamics beyonf it's rated specs, and you will also know what kind of setup you are looking for, and it's important to partner it with the right speakers. 

I would avoid speakers that sound slow and warm already, and stick to the neutral or those with a more detailed and perhaps brighter treble.  

I swopped out a 250W amp for this but I never missed the power. And you get this Eco standby mode, which is a nice little thing for the tree-huggers. Seeing a lower electricity bill never hurt anyone too..

Found more measurements of the power output of the PM 11S3, and Hi Fi News measured it as:
The partnering amplifier makes a mockery of its '100W specification, delivering a huge 2x160 w at 8ohm and 2x260w at 4ohm right up to 680w at 1ohm (or 26A) under dynamic conditions'

And I have successfully played a dff track on the NA11 S1 with the aid of Jriver, but it doesn't play the dsf file.

 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.


  1. Thanks for a great review Pete. In your experience, did it take long for this amp to fully break in? The reason I ask is that I read elsewhere that it could take up to 200 hours to fully settle and open up. Was this your experience? Many thanks!

    1. It does take a while, but I don't recall how long. It's been a joy using it.

    2. Thanks for the reply. Cheers!

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