Marantz PM-11S3
integrated amplifier
Newport Test Labs
here’s nothing like taking a good
product and making it better, and if
anyone should know how to do this
it’s Marantz, because Marantz has
been doing this very successfully for the 61
years it has been in business (the ownership
of the company has changed a few times over
the six decades, but the brand is the same).
The latest product to benefit from a Marantz
‘facelift’ is the long-running PM-11S amplifier
design, now in its third generation (hence the
‘3’ at the end).
What’s changed? One major change
involves useability, because you can now use
the PM-11S3 in conjunction with Marantz’s
Remote App (available for both iOS and
Power Output: Single channel driven into
8-ohm, 4-ohm and 2-ohm non-inductive
loads at 20Hz, 1kHz and 20kHz. [PM-11S3]
Android) via the Marantz control bus with
Marantz’s new Network player. There’s now
a power-amp direct input, new heavy-duty
copper speaker terminals and, internally, updated versions of Marantz’s Current Feedback
HDAM SA3 modules.
What hasn’t changed? That would be
the triple-stage construction (preamp, dual
power amplifiers, plus phono preamp—MM/
MC), oversized toroidal power transformer,
symmetrical circuit layout, Shottky diodes,
choke power supply filtering and high power
output capability, even into extremely lowimpedance loudspeaker loads. And you’ve
got to love that copper-plated chassis, which
looks absolutely superb…
Marantz PM-11S3 Integrated Amplifier
Newport Test Labs
As you can see for yourself, the front panel
design of the PM-11S3 is perfectly symmetrical, perhaps reflecting the concept of
the perfectly symmetrically circuit layout
within… but I suspect just to satisfy someone
somewhat higher-up in the corporate pecking order than the head of Marantz’s design
team. (I often wonder what goes on in meetings about control layout. If the electrical
engineers allocate only seven ‘user’ buttons,
do the designers go back and ask them to include another circuit, so they can have eight
buttons, to allow them to put four down each
side? Or in a case where the engineers want
nine buttons on the front panel, does the
design team make them take one away or…
more likely, make that function only accessible via the remote control?)
In the case of the Marantz PM-11S3 I
suspect I am speculating spectacularly idly,
because despite the symmetrical layout,
Power Output: Both channels driven into
8-ohm, 4-ohm and 2-ohm non-inductive
loads at 20Hz, 1kHz and 20kHz. [PM-11S3]
there seemed to be no superfluous switches,
nor any desirable controls missing… though
the bass and treble tone controls—and the
balance control—which are nearly always
fixtures on amplifier front panels, were
conspicuously absent, and instead needed to
be invoked by using buttons on the remote
The lighting is also beautiful, so a lot of
thought has gone into this as well, but it’s
fairly bright… presumably to make the PM11S3 stand out in a hi-fi store. There is no
facility for dimming the front-panel lighting,
but you can certainly turn it off if you like,
by pressing and holding (for more than two
seconds) the ‘Display’ button on the front
The fact that the PM-11S3 not only has
a phono stage, but one that accommodates
both moving-magnet (MM) and moving-coil
(MC) phono cartridges shows that Marantz is
Newport Test Labs
The Equipment
Power Output: Single and both
channels driven into 8-ohm, 4-ohm
and 2-ohm non-inductive loads at
20Hz, 1kHz and 20kHz. [PM-11S3]
one of those companies that still holds the LP
in high esteem as a music source. So much so
that Marantz one of the few large multinational companies that is still selling turntables. Some of these are made for it by other
companies (ones that specialise in building
turntables) but I understand that other
turntables in its range are made in Japan by
Marantz itself. No doubt Marantz has also
been keeping a weather eye on the turntable
market, and has noted (along with everyone
else!) that sales of both LPs and turntables are
on the rise…to the extent that in the United
Kingdom, sales of LP records in 2013 doubled
that of 2012, and overall, more LPs were sold
in 2013 than were sold back in 2001!
Significantly, according to the British
Phonograph Industry, 35.3 per cent of vinyl
buyers in the UK in 2013 were under 35 years
of age. No doubt the rise is also due to an
excellent incentive offered by some record
companies (and Amazon), whereby if you
buy an LP, you get a ‘rip’ of the LP for free.
Although the PM-11S has MM/MC circuitry, you should note that there’s only a single
phono input, which is switched between MM
and MC, so you can’t connect two turntables at the same time, with different phono
cartridges, and switch between them.
As noted earlier, the PM-11S3 has both
‘pre-out’ and ‘main-in’ facilities, so you can
use the unit as a pre-amp and send a linelevel signal out to an external power amplifier, or you can use an external preamplifier
and use the PM-11S3’s power amplifier to
drive your speakers. However you cannot do
both at the same time: you have to use the
PM-11S3 either as an integrated amplifier
only, a pre-amp only or as a power
amp only. Although this is unlikely
to be limiting, there are one or two
(admittedly fairly esoteric!) applica-
tions where it would be useful to be able to
separate the pre- and power sections electronically and use them individually. Perhaps
on the PM-11S4?
The instruction manual supplied with the
PM-11S3 is high quality and the instructions are for the most part excellent, though
the same cannot be said for the instruction
manual’s index, where instead of Volume
adjustment being under ‘V’, Tone Controls
under ‘T’ and Standby under ‘S’, as you’d expect, all three are listed under ‘A’ for Adjust.
Mmmm. Can we blame Microsoft’s indexing
function for this, or someone at Marantz?
In common with many modern hi-fi
components, Marantz has built automatic
standby circuitry into the PM-11S3, whereby
if no music has been playing for at least 30
marantz pm-11S3
Integrated Amplifier
Brand: Marantz
Model: PM-11S3
Category: Integrated Amplifier
RRP: $9,560
Warranty: Three Years
Distributor: Qualifi Pty Ltd
Address: 24 Lionel Road
Mt Waverley VIC 3149
1800 242 426
(03) 8542 1111
• High power
• Very low distortion
• Bulletproof build
• Bright lights
• Owner’s manual
Readers interested in a full technical
appraisal of the performance of the
Marantz PM-11S3 Integrated Amplifier
should continue on and read the
page 48. Readers should note that
the results mentioned in the report,
tabulated in performance charts and/
or displayed using graphs
and/or photographs should be
construed as applying only to
the specific sample tested.
Lab Report on page 48
Marantz PM-11S3 Integrated Amplifier
minutes, the unit will automatically turn
itself off. If this is too ‘Big Brother’ for your
liking, or you have a specific application in
mind that requires the unit to be constantly
powered-up, you can defeat this circuit by
holding down the ‘Tone’ button continuously for more than five seconds. (Pressing
the front panel ‘Tone’ button for briefer
periods merely toggles the tone circuitry on
and off… or, if you prefer, between ‘Defeat’
and ‘Active’.)
As well as the automatic standby circuit,
the PM-11S3 also has full-featured protection
circuitry to guard against overheating, shortcircuits, dangerously low impedances, d.c. at
the input and so on. However, try as I might,
I could not get the protection to trigger, even
when using multiple paralleled loudspeakers and playing bass-heavy riffs at very high
volume levels, so I think you can be certain
that the circuit will not trigger prematurely…
only when you really need it to.
The rear panel is a copper-plated masterpiece, with gold-plated RCA connectors used
for all line-level inputs and outputs, except
for the two balanced inputs which are female
XLR types, but also gold plated. Even the
turntable ground post is gold-plated. The
speaker terminals are extremely high quality.
One significant point to note is that ‘country
of origin’ stamp at the bottom right of the
rear panel because you’ll see that, as with all
Marantz’s high-end products, the PM-11S3
is built entirely in the company’s own factory in Japan. Note also that the PM-11S3 is
double-insulated: not only for your personal
safety, but also to ensure that there’s no
chance of any mains hum caused by earthloop issues when you connect your other
components to the amplifier.
In Use and Listening
When I fired the Marantz PM-11S3 up, I was
a little perplexed to see in the central window
the letters ‘ID 0’ and wondered if I’d skipped
some essential stage when setting up the amplifier. It turned out that if you use Marantz’s
FCBS (Floating Control Bus System) system
to link multiple PM-11S3 amplifiers together,
you need to allocate each one its own unique
ID number. One unit has to be designated the
‘Master’ unit (1) and the other units (known
as ‘Slaves’) each have to be allocated their
own ID number (IDs 2–4) so the FCBS system
can distinguish between them. After you’ve
set this up, you can link control operations
such as input selection, volume control, muting, display status, tone control, and so on,
which is particularly useful if you’re bi-amping, though the obvious application is for
multi-channel sound. One very neat feature
of using FCBS to connect multiple PM-11Ss
is that you can switch the amplifier’s output
to mono if you wish, which is great for faultfinding, room acoustics investigations and so
on. However, since I was using only a single
PM-11S3, I didn’t have to change the number
or, in fact, do anything at all for the amplifier to operate perfectly at switch-on… and
neither will you.
Once fired up, you select your preferred
input using the left-most rotary control (the
Source selector). From left to right, the source
selection available is: CD, Line-1, Line-2,
Rec-1, Rec-2, MM (or MC depending on the
setting of the MM/MC button), and Balanced.
(All these are shown via LCD in the central
display window, but abbreviated to CD, L1,
L2, Rec1, Rec2, MM and Bal.) I discovered
what I thought was an oddity with the source
selector, which is that if you have the attenuation switched on (about which more in the
next paragraph), switching the source selector
one ‘click’ either way does not change the
source, but instead simply switches off the
attenuator—the source itself does not change.
I guess there’s a good reason behind this, in
that it alerts you to the fact that the attenuator was active (otherwise you could accidentally ‘blast’ your speakers by switching to an
active source at high volume) but it nonetheless seemed odd to me.
As for the attenuation circuit (a.k.a.
muting circuit) itself, it’s very clever indeed!
Not only can you attenuate the signal, you
can select between three levels of attenuation: 20dB (the default), 40dB and ‘Infinite.’
Interestingly, you have to use the front panel
attenuation button to preset the level of
attenuation, after which you use the remote
control to activate or deactivate it (or the
source selector, as noted).
The volume control appears to be a standard rotary type, but it’s not, it’s electronic,
using a 6116 IC from Micro Audio Systems
in order to allow precise level adjustments to
Marantz PM-11S3 Integrated Amplifier
be made across the range of 0dB to –100dB
in tiny (0.5dB) steps. Curiously, at minimum
volume the central display first shows ‘minus
infinity’, then switches to show ‘MIN’ before
finally settling on showing ‘–100dB’, while at
the opposite extreme, it shows ‘MAX’ before
reverting to show ‘0dB.’ I can only assume
the engineers had fun programming these
Turn the volume control clockwise and
you’ll immediately hear that the Marantz
PM-11S3 is a powerhouse of an amplifier—and that’s even if your speakers are
extraordinarily inefficient. The amount of
amplifier power on tap is truly impressive…
so impressive that I cannot imagine anyone
needing any more power than the PM-11S3
can deliver, even if it’s being used in a room
of well-above-average dimensions. It’s not
just the overall power on tap, it’s also the fact
that even if you’re playing at excessively high
volume levels, the sound of the amplifier is
just as dynamic as it is at whisper-quiet replay
levels, in that when a transient arrives, it’s
delivered perfectly, at ‘way above the average
volume level, with no compression, no hesitation, and without ‘sucking out’ the musical
information immediately before and after the
Perhaps even more impressive than the
sheer power is the cleanliness and clarity
of that power. There’s none of the artificial warmth of a valve amplifier, nor the
artificially simulated warmth of a MOSFET
amplifier, nor the ‘here and there’ sound of a
Class-D amplifier, nor the steely hardness of
a poorly-designed bipolar amplifier. There’s
just an outpouring of clean, beautifully
articulated music, as if it were bursting forth
from the instruments themselves, except
highly amplified. Did someone say ‘straight
wire with gain’? If not, it would be a highly
accurate description of what’s going on inside
the Marantz PM-11S3.
All this power and precision would be
for naught if the amplifier were not quiet,
and the PM-11S3 is certainly this, because
when the music stops, you’ll hear absolutely
nothing from your speakers. No faint hiss,
no background hum, not even a ‘blackness’
that might indicate a total absence of sound.
Instead, you won’t hear anything except
the background noise of your own listening
room. No doubt it’s this silence that contributes to the dynamics, so that not only are
the differences between loud and soft notes
clearly delineated, but also the differences
between soft notes and no notes at all. It’s a
type of silence that I don’t think amplifiers
with on-board DACs can equal.
All of this makes the PM-11S3 a very
revealing amplifier, one that will reward
you beyond measure if you feed it truly
hi-res source material, but one that’s superbly revealing if you feed it well-recorded
16-bit/44.1kHz fare direct from CD. One such
is a favourite recording of mine, as well as
a favourite of the late Chris Green, previous assistant editor—and reviewer—here at
Australian Hi-Fi Magazine, who was a huge
Cyndi Boste fan. I’m talking about her 2004
album ‘Scrambled Eggs’ (Rose St Sessions),
mostly recorded in her own home direct to
DAT by Rob Harwood, and featuring Linda
and Vika Bull, Dave Steel, Tiffany Eckhart,
Garrett Costigan and a clutch of other musical luminaries.
Scrambled Eggs is at heart a collection of
Boste’s favourite songs written by her friends,
most of whom contribute to this album, and
it’s a beautiful album on so many levels. The
songs themselves, of course, but there’s the
obvious love with which they’re played…
you can hear instantly that this is truly
music-making, in every sense of the words,
as if they’re playing not simply to ‘make an
album’ but to honour the music itself. Then
there’s the recording, which is an object lesson into why music should not be overproduced: the sound on this CD is so clean and
natural that the musicians could be playing
in your home live, not issuing through your
speakers. Yes, there are some rough edges,
some unwanted rattles and distortions (on
Bridges especially), and many fluctuations in
level, but if anything, these all just add to the
undeniable authenticity of the sound.
And wait until you hear one of the three
Boste originals on this album. She does a
completely new take on No Way Out (originally on her album ‘Home Truths’), and for
mine, this is the definitive version, by a long
shot. It’s gorgeous. (The other two tracks were
recorded live at the Port Pirie folk festival,
and I prefer the versions she recorded at
Fatsound that can be heard on ‘Push Comes
to Shove’, in terms of both sound quality
and performance.) Make a point of buying
Scrambled Eggs: you’ll love the singers and
love their songs.
Amplifier/speaker matching is a sore point
with many audiophiles, particularly those
who find that their newly-purchased speakers
aren’t a great match for their amplifier, or
that their newly-purchased amplifier doesn’t
turn out to be a synergistic match with their
existing loudspeakers. You won’t have to
worry about amplifier/speaker matching if
you buy the Marantz PM-11S3, because I
found it worked perfectly with all the speakers I tried it with, and some of them were
famously difficult. In essence, the amplifier’s
sound was transparent to the speakers: I was
hearing the intrinsic sound of the speakers
themselves, not the combination of both.
This is significant, because for many people,
I’d bet that the PM-11S3 will be the very last
amplifier they buy!
This amplifier does so many things right that
it’s almost as if the designers had a tick-box
from an audiophile’s wish list and worked
away until they’d ticked all the boxes. Yes, it
has a few little quirks, but if anything, I think
these actually add to the Marantz PM-11S3’s
desirability. This is an amplifier that will, truly,
greg borrowman
‘knock your socks off.’
Marantz PM-11S3 Integrated Amplifier
Laboratory Test Results
As you can see from the tabulated power
output figures, and the bar graphs generated
using those figures, the Marantz PM-11S3
very easily exceeds its specified output of
100-watts per channel into 8Ω loads and
200-watts per channel into 4Ω load. At 1kHz,
both channels driven, Newport Test Labs
measured the power output of its test sample
as being 153-watts per channel into 8Ω and
241-watts per channel into 4Ω. Into 2Ω (for
which the PM-11S3 is not rated) it delivered
335-watts per channel. The fact that the power supply is unregulated, and will thus ensure
greater ‘peak’ power figures is made obvious
by the increase in power output looking at
the single-channel figures, with the Marantz
PM-11S3 delivering 170-watts (8Ω), 273-watts
(4Ω) and 400-watts (2Ω) respectively. And
unlike some amplifiers, the Marantz produces
considerable power levels at the frequency
extremes of 20Hz and 20kHz.
Marantz has not restricted the frequency
response of the PM-11S3 either, with the
amplifier returning a very wideband –3dB
response of 3Hz to 177kHz. The normalised
response is 5Hz to 91kHz ±0.5dB. Over the
audio band, the response is even flatter,
as you can see from Graph 6, where the
black trace showing frequency response is
around 0.1dB down at 20Hz and 20kHz so,
normalised, the measurement is 20Hz–20kHz
±0.05dB. Furthermore, this response is true
both when the amplifier was driving a noninductive laboratory test load (the black trace
on Graph 6) and when it was driving a load
that simulates that of a two-way bookshelf
loudspeaker (the red trace on Graph 6). Even
into this real-world load, the Marantz PM11S3’s frequency response is still 20Hz–20kHz
Channel separation (tabulated, but not
graphed) was excellent, measuring 81dB at
20Hz, 100dB at 1kHz and 115dB at 20kHz. All
three figures are above reproach, and far more
than will be required to ensure adequate
separation and perfect stereo imaging. The
same is true of the balance between the
channels (0.15dB) and the interchannel
phase errors. At and below 1kHz, the phase
error is tiny, while even the 1.23° error at
20kHz would never be perceptible, even with
program material selected specifically to
highlight it.
Distortion was superlatively low,
with Newport Test Labs measuring overall
THD+N figures of 0.005% referred to onewatt and 0.003% referred to rated output.
Basically, this is so low as to be completely
imperceptible to the human ear. However,
even if you could hear some of the distortion,
you’d hear ‘good’ distortion because looking
at the spectrum analyses of the output signal
(Graphs 1 through 4), the only ‘significant’
Marantz PM-11 S3 Amplifier — Power Output Test Results
Load (Ω)
Note: Figures in the dBW column represent output level in decibels referred to one watt output.
Marantz PM-11S3 Integrated Amplifier — Lab Test Results
Measured Result
Frequency Response @ 1 watt o/p
Frequency Response @ 1 watt o/p
Channel Separation (dB)
Channel Balance
5Hz – 91kHz
3Hz – 177kHz
81dB / 100dB / 115dB
(20Hz / 1kHz / 20kHz)
dB @ 1kHz
Interchannel Phase
0.06 / 0.06 / 1.23
degrees ( 20Hz / 1kHz / 20kHz)
0.005% / 0.003%
@ 1-watt / @ rated output
Signal-to-Noise (unwghted/wghted)
85dB / 91dB
dB referred to 1-watt output
Signal-to-Noise (unwghted/wghted)
91dB / 97dB
dB referred to rated output
Input Sensitivity (CD Input)
25mV / 245mV
Input Sensitivity (Balanced Input)
49mV / 490mV
Output Impedance
Damping Factor
(1-watt / rated output)
OC =
Power Consumption
0.25 / 45.6
Power Consumption
73.2 / 428
watts (Standby / On)
watts at 1-watt / at rated output
Mains Voltage Variation during Test
239 – 250
Minimum – Maximum
Marantz PM-11S3 Integrated Amplifier
harmonic distortion component is the
second harmonic (HDL²), which is ‘goodsounding’ because it’s the musical octave of
the fundamental. (So instead of one ‘D’ being
played, for example, it’s as if you played
both the ‘D’ and the ‘D’ the octave above.)
However, even though the second harmonic
is the only significant distortion component,
it’s still 95dB (0.0017%) down at 1-watt when
driving either 8Ω or 4Ω loads, and 85dB
(0.0056%) down at 100-watts when driving
those same two loads. As for those higherorder harmonic distortion components you
can see on these graphs (the small ‘spikes’
rising above the noise floor), these are mostly
at or below either –110dB (0.0003%) or
–120dB (0.0001%).
Since I have mentioned the noise floor,
let’s look at it in Graphs 1 and 3. You can
see that it’s most sitting down around 130dB
down referred to 1-watt, and nearly –140dB
referred to rated output. Also note that at
the extreme left of each graph, a signal
(probably at 50Hz) is more than 100dB
down in both cases, which is excellent. As
for the wide-band noise figures, Newport Test
Labs measured them at 85dB unweighted
referred to one-watt output (increasing to
91dB with weighting) and 91dB unweighted
referred to 100-watts, increasing to 97dB
with A-weighting. These are vanishingly low
levels of noise, probably helped by Marantz
using choke-input filters, which are more
effective at filtering out the RF noise that is
now present on all mains power lines. (And
the way chokes operate which means they’re
continually storing energy in their magnetic
fields that is slowly released to the capacitors,
Newport Test Labs
so that there is a continuous charging
current, probably helped kick the power
output figures along.)
Tone control action was quite unusual,
more like a two-band parametric equaliser,
with centre frequencies at 45Hz and 30kHz,
that offers boost and cut of around 8.5dB. As
you can see (Graph 7) there’s no shelving at
all, but there doesn’t really need to be, since
the controls’ effect at very low and very high
frequencies is self-limiting, so you can’t get
either excessive bass boost or excessive treble
boost. Overall, I’d suspect that in operation,
the effect of the bass and treble controls on
the music will be far more subtle than if a
Baxandall contour were used. So if you’re
normally hesitant about using bass and treble
controls, try the ones fitted to the PM-11S3—
you might be in for a pleasant surprise.
On Graph 7 you can see not only the
‘reference’ frequency response with the tone
controls ‘in circuit’ (the black trace) but also the
frequency response when the tone controls are
switched out of circuit (the red trace).
Newport Test Labs
0.00 Hz
Graph 1: Total harmonic distortion (THD) at 1kHz at an output of 1-watt into an 8-ohm
non-inductive load, referenced to 0dB. [Marantz PM-11S3 Integrated Amplifier]
Newport Test Labs
You can see there’s an overall 1.6dB increase in
volume when you switch the tone controls out
of circuit, which is sufficient that the sound of
the amplifier will appear to ‘improve’ when the
tone controls are switched out, and vice versa
when they’re switched in, even if the bass and
treble tone controls are set to 0dB. In reality,
there’s no actual ‘improvement’ as such, it’s just
a trick of human hearing, which always prefers
the louder of two otherwise identical sounds.
The Marantz PM-11S3 has a low output
impedance (measured by Newport Test Labs
as being 0.04Ω at 1kHz), which means a high
damping factor (200), which in turn means
that this amplifier will be able to keep a firm
grip on even the most compliant bass driver,
and its frequency response will not vary with
variations in a loudspeaker’s impedance.
Square wave testing showed the amplifier’s
response does not extend to d.c. and that
there’s very little phase shift at low frequencies.
The 1kHz square wave is almost perfect, an
excellent result, as is the 10kHz square wave,
which shows a very fast rise-time and only
minor rounding on the leading edge. Loaded
down with a highly capacitive load (2µF
paralleled with 8Ω) there is a small amount
of ringing, but it’s quickly damped and
always entirely under control, proving that
this amplifier will be stable even into highly
reactive loads… such as electrostatic speakers.
Judging by the results measured by Newport
Test Labs during its testing procedures, it’s
my opinion that this is a very well-designed
amplifier, and one where the design has
also been well-executed in production. My
congratulations to both teams.
Steve Holding
0.00 Hz
Newport Test Labs
0.00 Hz
0.00 Hz
Graph 3: Total harmonic distortion (THD) at 1kHz at rated output (100-watts) into an
8-ohm non-inductive load, referenced to 0dB. [Marantz PM-11S3 Integrated Amplifier]
Graph 2: Total harmonic distortion (THD) at 1kHz at an output of 1-watt into a 4-ohm
non-inductive load, referenced to 0dB. [Marantz PM-11S3 Integrated Amplifier]
Newport Test Labs
Graph 4: Total harmonic distortion (THD) at 1kHz at rated output (200-watts) into a 4-ohm
non-inductive load, referenced to 0dB. [Marantz PM-11S3 Integrated Amplifier]
Newport Test Labs
Newport Test Labs
0.00 Hz
Graph 5: Intermodulation distortion (CCIF-IMD) using test signals at 19kHz and 20kHz, at
an output of 1-watt into an 8-ohm non-inductive load, ref. to 0dB. [Marantz PM-11S3]
10.00 Hz
Graph 6: Frequency response of line input at an output of 1-watt into an 8-ohm noninductive load (black trace) and into a combination resistive/inductive/capacitive load
representative of a typical two-way loudspeaker system (red trace). [Marantz PM-11S3]
10.00 Hz
Graph 7: Tone control action referenced to 0dB at 1kHz. Red trace shows increase in level
when switching tone controls out of circuit. [Marantz PM-11S3 Integrated Amplifier]
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November/December 2013
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Read the review…
Hear the sound…
Kiwi designer in
Singapore’s Adelphi Centre
Marantz knocks our
socks off with the
PM-11S3 amplifier
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