Yamaha A-S2000 Integrated Amplifier
Product Type: Integrated Amplifier
Reviewed By: Chris Croft, tested By: Steve Holding
Magazine: Australian Hi-Fi: November/December 2008
Distributor: Yamaha Music Australia Pty Ltd
Who Sells What/Website: Yamaha
The A-S2000 puts Yamaha squarely back into high-end audio territory.
It’s a matter of no small concern to me that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to buy a two-channel amplifier bearing the name of a major multinational manufacturer yet it’s equally highly satisfying to find that there are several major multinational manufacturers still building two-channel audio amplifiers. And if this sounds contradictory, it is. But that’s a good introduction for Yamaha’s newest*—and best!—two channel amplifier because although it’s thoroughly modern, it’s been derided by many for its so-called ‘retro’ looks, which hark back to the décor of the 80s. [*As the result of Yamaha releases since this review was originally written, this is no longer the case. Please see the "Stop Press" paragraph at the conclusion of this review...Editor]
In my books, the A-S2000 integrated amplifier is a good-looker! Unfortunately, because Yamaha has decided that brushed aluminium would look classy, it doesn’t look nearly as good in any of the photographs I’ve seen as it really does in the flesh (because brushed aluminium is notoriously difficult to capture on film or in pixels)—so by all means use whatever photos accompany this review as a guide, but my advice is to take the time to check one out in a store for yourself. And while you’re there, try picking it up! It tips the scales at nearly 23kg, most of which is due to the enormous weight of the power transformer. Yep, Yamaha has gone the true ‘audiophile’ route and eschewed a switch-mode supply in favour of a traditional linear supply. However, it isn’t a typical linear supply, because I understand that Yamaha is using constant current/constant voltage supply rails. Neither is the amplification circuitry entirely traditional. Rather than provide a standard unbalanced circuit, Yamaha’s A-S2000 is completely balanced, all the way from its gold-plated XLR inputs to (just before) its large gold-plated speaker terminals. Although this type of circuitry is often found on high-end audiophile power amplifiers, Yamaha claims the A-S2000 is ‘the world’s first integrated amp to offer full stage balanced transmission’—and I’m not about to argue. And never you mind if you don’t have a source component with balanced outputs: there are standard unbalanced outputs on the A-S2000 as well.
The front panel controls have been restricted to providing what you need and little else (though there are some who would argue that you really have no need of bass, treble or balance controls, which are certainly featured on the front panel). The volume control is motorised, so it turns if you use the volume buttons on the remote control, but this has meant that if you prefer to rotate the knob by hand, it feels a little ‘stiff’ under your fingers, and when you let it go after turning it, it tends to move back fractionally counter-clockwise, rather than staying exactly where you positioned it.
The source input control uses electronic switching so it’s possible to make it rotate continuously in either direction, without reaching a physical ‘stop’. However, unlike many similar controls, you will reach a limit on your source selection. If you rotate clock-wise, the source will ‘stick’ on the phono input, no matter how much further you rotate the control to the right. Likewise, when rotating the control counter clockwise, once you reach the ‘Main Direct’ input, that’s the input that will stay active. In between, you’ll find ‘Line 1’, ‘Line 2’, ‘CD (Balanced)’, ‘CD (Unbalanced)’ ‘Phono’ and ‘Tuner.’ The phono input has dual personalities, because it’s set up for both moving-magnet (high output) and moving- coil (low output) phono cartridges. As you can see from the photo, the MM/MC switch is on the front panel, just below and to the left of the source selector. I really would have preferred a more discreet (and thus less easily accessible) switch on the rear panel—I mean how often are you going to switch back and forth between the two… seriously?
The phono selector switch has been ‘twinned’ (one suspects primarily for visual effect) by an ‘Audio Mute’ control. This doesn’t completely mute the signal, but it does attenuate it by 20dB, which at most sensible listening levels will amount to much the same thing. A light above indicates when the muting circuit is active, and this is not as silly as it seems, because although the switch looks like it can be in either of two positions (up or down), its action is actually only momentary: press it down to activate the muting and it will spring back up. To defeat the muting, you just press the button down once more. It will spring back up again.
At the far left of the front panel are a power on/off switch, an infra-red receiving window, a 6.5mm phone socket with ‘Trim’ control, and a rotary speaker selection switch with positions for ‘Off’, ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘A+B’. The ‘Trim’ control affects the gain of the separate headphone amplifier, which is capable of driving low-impedance headphones. As well as the obligatory ‘Unity Gain’ (0dB) there are three other fixed gain settings: –6dB, +6dB and +12dB.
Around the back you will find everything is beautifully laid out, though I couldn’t understand why the speaker terminals are installed on the diagonal. Initially I thought to myself: ‘wonderful, they’ve staggered the terminals to make it easier to slip the wires in’, but when I looked more closely, the opening for the (+) terminal on each pair is still partially obscured by the body of the (–) terminal. However, if you have speakers connected to both A and B terminals, or you’re bi-wiring, the angled terminals do make it much easier to connect to the ‘A’ pair than is usually the case, so perhaps this was the reason after all.
In Use and Listening Sessions The remote control provided with the Yamaha allows you to select the required input, adjust volume, and control the mute function. That’s it. All these functions are provided on a ‘jogwheel’ at the bottom of the remote, making one-handed operation of the remote a breeze. The buttons that are rowed up from the jogwheel to the top of the remote are superfluous unless you happen to also own a Yamaha CD player and/or AM/FM/DAB+ Tuner.
I confess that I ‘couch-potatoed’ and used the remote control for almost the entire period I had the A-S2000 on loan for this review. I did use the front panel controls just enough, however, to note that the source selector knob has a slight in-built delay, so if you spin it too fast, either nothing happens at all, or you stand a good chance of selecting an input other than the one you wanted. However, if you turn it slowly and deliberately, input selection is always quick and accurate. I also did not use the tone or balance controls, other than to see how they worked. I found that they ‘feel’ very good under the fingers, though mostly because there’s no click-stop action, which gives a silky-smooth rotational action. However the lack of click-stops, combined with the absence of calibration marks on the front panel, means that if you do need to adjust these controls to and from preset points for any reason, you’ll need to chinagraph in a couple of reference points of your own. I was particularly pleased to find that the muting logic is perfect: if the amplifier is muted, turning either the front panel volume control or touching either of the volume buttons on the remote will defeat the muting action (as will pressing the spring-loaded mute button itself a second time). Believe it or not, this makes Yamaha one of the very few manufacturers that has proved itself capable of actually getting a muting function right!
I can never resist ‘winding up the wick’ when reviewing amplifiers (and most especially if the speakers connected to it are review samples as well!) and I confess I did so right at the outset with the A-S2000, because it seemed so physically ‘small’. After some experimentation that no doubt left my neighbours wondering what was going on, I was left in no doubt that Yamaha was obviously being conservative with its power output specification, because there was no way the A-S2000’s output was limited to 90-watts: it was very evidently delivering far more power than this. At least readers will have the benefit of being able to see Newport Test Labs’ results when reading this review. I didn’t have this luxury, as the A-S2000 had yet to be tested at the time I was writing this review. Certainly, in my room, which is much larger in area than normal, and also has a vaulted ceiling, the A-S2000 was far more powerful than I’d need, no matter what speakers I connected. I could not hear any clipping on peaks, and I could hear absolutely no congestion (distortion) when playing continuously at extremely high levels. The only evidence of there being anything untoward with operating at such volume levels was that the sides of the amplifier (where the heatsinks are located internally) got quite warm, but this is to be expected with any high-power amplifier that doesn’t use fan-cooling.
Performance was equally good at the other end of the scale, which for most people is the more important. I’m talking here of circuit noise, of course, and in this regard the A-S2000 was as quiet as a mouse—quieter actually, because whereas I can sometimes hear mice scurrying around my place at night, along with the odd possum—I couldn’t hear a peep from the A-S2000… no buzz, no hum, no hiss, just perfect silence. This means that when you’re playing in a quiet environment, the music is almost surreally presented, with a level of accuracy and precision that is almost unnerving. You can really hear the silences between notes, those all-essential musical ‘gaps’ that are supposed to be there but are blurred by inferior audio components.
Combining low noise with high power means incredible dynamics, and this was certainly true of the performance of the AS2000, though the amplifier was so dynamic that I also suspect that the full-stage balanced circuitry was helping out in this regard, because I’ve heard other amplifiers that were as quiet—and even more powerful—that were not as dynamic as this A-S2000. I guess another factor in the amplifier’s dynamic ability might be the speed of the output devices Yamaha is using.
Yamaha is highly regarded in a great many diverse fields— and you can’t get more diverse than building both high-performance motorcycles and concert grand pianos!—and when it comes to electronics, it certainly builds some of the most highly-regarded AV receivers on the planet. But when it comes to pure audio amplifiers, Yamaha’s equipment is generally described as being ‘good-value’ and ‘reliable’ rather than ‘high-end’, despite the fact that over the years, it has built some undeniably high-end products… including superb high-end loudspeakers, which is highly unusual for a Japanese company. My view is that the A-S2000 puts Yamaha squarely back into high-end audio territory, because it’s a ripper of an amplifier. This means that you’ll just have to add the extra descriptor ‘high end’ to ‘good-value’ and ‘reliable’, so with the A-S2000, Yamaha has won the trifecta! # Chris Croft
Just as we went to press, Yamaha Australia released an A-S700 two channel integrated amplifier ($999) that is in many ways very similar to the AS-2000 reviewed here. Also, a short while after this review was written, Yamaha added an even-more-similar two-channel amplifier to its line-up, the A-S1000 ($2,299). At the time the review was written, however, Chris Croft was correct in saying the A-S2000 was Yamaha’s ‘newest’ two channel amplifier. Editor
Readers interested in a full technical appraisal of the performance of the Yamaha A-S2000 Integrated Amplifier should continue on and read the LABORATORY REPORT published in the attached pdf. 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.
Yamaha A-S2000 Integrated Amplifier
Category: Integrated Amplifier
Warranty: Five Years
Distributor: Yamaha Music Australia Pty Ltd
Address: Level 1, 99 Queensbridge Street, Southbank VIC 3006
T: 1300 739 411
T: (03) 9693 5111
F: (03) 9699 2332