|Dear Audiogoners, this is a joint-review of both the Yamaha A S-2000 amp and CD S-1000 SACD player. Please bear with me the part about the amplifier - (they do make a great match) the CD player part is a bit down further.|
I will skip the part on my listening biases and musical tastes, as they are covered in an earlier review of the Anthem 225 integrated. I still agree 100% with this review - it's just that the Yamaha proposition goes further. My Anthem review can be found here: forum.audiogon
About this current review of the Yamaha, this will be the SAME review for both units – the amp and cd player- as it is much easier to treat them as a whole, being so close in form and performance factors.
I have been reading a lot of posts about the Yamaha gear. I even came across an analogy that Yam makes good motorcycles but ordinary audio gear. Very funny, and I think negatively biased. If one is to compare Yam's audio expertise to something as irrelevant as motorcycles within the Yam family, why not at least compare to their musical instruments, especially their famed Grand Pianos (like the C-7) - and the whole range of other musical instruments they make. I played a Yamaha piano for real - and ask anyone in the know of musical instruments; They make honest, good sounding (sometimes exceptional-sounding) instruments.
My point is - they know a thing or two about music (and how it should sound) that even the best electronic whiz kid from digital and transformer-row don’t. Fact is I think, they just didn’t take things seriously again until these current components – as maybe (just maybe) they have recently set corporate goals to be active in the high-end in the last few years.
I have owned many ''high-end'' audio units in the past. Cary monoblocks, Sonic Frontiers Power 2 and line 2 combo, Bel Canto REF 6000 (still own them but wish to sell them now), Electrocompaniet, Simaudio I-5 – and value-leader Anthem 225, a very nice bang for the buck amp. And I won't bother you with a similar list regarding CD players, where some of those units were obscenely priced. This feeling coming when you eventually find out it was all smoke and no fire.
Why have I chosen the Yamaha A S-2000 integrated and CD S-1000 player? For the following reasons:
1. They SOUND exceptionally good, and not just for the price. More on sound later.
2. The build is absolutely first rate. Call me old-school, but I still enjoy boxes that have chuck-full of high-quality, carefully put-together parts with impeccable assembly, in a hefty package. The Yam has it in spades.
3. Tone controls that actually work the way they should. Meaning in a gentle way, without altering the sound other than what you are looking for. This is a blessing as my listening room, my cd's, my audio cables, hell, my listening mood - are less than perfect. Cheaper and less trouble to turn the knob at 12:05 than to change (again) interconnects or to move the furniture around to suit the speakers. I know I said the same thing in a previous review of the Anthem 225, but on the Yamaha, everything is microprocessors and relays – the Anthem is more of your typical set-up – the Yam is very up-to-date technologically speaking.
4. The Looks. This is of course highly subjective, but I for one enjoy the seductive tactile feel of those retro square knobs, the faint LED lights (no more retina-piercing blue LEDs for me, thanks), the very classy faceplate AND of course those real-wood side panels. Maybe I am secretly drawn to the ‘70s design in audio gear – I just think the Yamaha is all class regardless of age.
Special mention given to the SACD player – it is a real looker with that clean uncluttered design and the same real-wood panels.
How they sound.
These Yamaha’s don’t sound like your typical Japanese fare, which I consider somewhat dry, flat and somewhat bright.
They sound very neutral, and remind me of a very much liked Accuphase integrated I used to own. I regrettably sold this one as it was just too much money to have sitting in my listening room. Build quality is – in my opinion – surprisingly almost in the same league however – you MUST see this thing for yourself to believe it. Maybe it is best I try to separate my impressions of the amp from the cd player.
Yamaha A S-2000
Sound is very neutral, and subjectively much more powerful than its 90 watts (8 Ohm) rating. I would say it sounds close (power wise) to a previous Anthem 225 integrated. I think the Anthem 225 is fabulous value, maybe one of the all-time best buys in audioland. But as much as I can recommend its purchase (and I still recommend it as it is wonderful), I feel the Yamaha amp is on a higher level sonically speaking. It just sounds more resolving and more refined. The soundstage is wide and open, the mids are liquid and the bass control is in Bryston category nothing less.
Sounds are so subjective and it is pointless for me to rave on. Is it the best sound I ever heard in an integrated? Up to maybe $ 3K and maybe more, from past experience, for sure. And I would even put separates in this field. I just find it very satisfying.
About the differences between the AS2000 and AS1000. Sorry to disappoint, but the 2000 just sounds more refined than the 1000. If you can A-B both units, you should easily come to the same conclusions – it is not just about those extra XLR inputs on the 2000. Still, the 1000 is a fine amp – not just as stellar as the 2000.
Yamaha CD S-1000 SACD player
No why did I NOT go with the CD S-2000 player as I did with the amp? For two reasons mainly.
1. I could not find the slightest of differences in sound with an A-B comparison using very revealing speakers and cabling. I had both units in my home on trial for 3 days.
2. I have NO USE for the XLR outputs – My amp’s XLR inputs were reserved for the XLR outputs on my DacMagic – which is itself used with both a Wadia 170i transport and an ipod Touch.
Sound of the player.
After lengthy listening sessions with this player used on its own and as a transport with the DacMagic , I prefer using the Yamaha on its own. With the DacMagic, the sound is a bit too forward to my taste, a bit ‘’in your face’’ – this is fine for me with music, but with vocals, it’s just too close for comfort. On its own, using the cd player only, the voice are set back a little, and you can feel the character of those voices more easily – very enjoyable. It is just more natural and pleasurable for me – but that’s only me of course. By the way, my testing was done using standard redbook cd's only - the SACD sound is of course excellent.
This player is a SILENT operator on all fronts, and I cannot recall a smoother operating loading system. I confess to never owning an $8,000 Esoteric machine, but I did own 3K players in the past. This Yammy is something else. The tray just silently wooshes out and back in with no clunking sound at all. It is not a flimsy tray as those found on even 3 times the price players, it is solid metal and feels very strong and stable.
Forgot to mention about the remotes. I wish they were illuminated (of course). Other than that, they have a nice jewel-like finish and are nicely executed, perfectly in line with the quality of the associated gear (have a look McIntosh- and many other manufacturer’s remotes and see what I mean). No cheesy finish here – and they are a joy to use.
Manuals. Now this is a nice change. An actual real manual with real graphics and photos, and nicely executed. Well done and respectful of the owner. Between a pair of white cotton gloves and a crappy manual AND no cotton gloves but a well-executed manual, I’ll take the latter any day.
Packaging. The only flaw in an otherwise stellar ‘’package’’.
It’s ok, double box and all, but just so. The compressed styrofoam does the job or protecting the gear but breaks easily in small pieces. By the time static electricity comes into play, you will be picking stuff off your clothing and taking the vacuum cleaner out! Small detail but wanted to mention it.
That’s about it – Yamaha did a nice job with this series – just to show what a huge company (as far as audio is concerned) can do if they put their minds to it. The pride of ownership factor is certainly there – photos don’t do justice to how beautiful these Yamaha look in real life. More importantly – they sound just as good and have nothing to envy to the ‘’boutique’’ brands.
My apologies for this (again) too long rant.
Happy listening everyone!