Yamaha A-S201 Amplifier

There's no doubting Yamaha's pedigree in hi-fi. It has been a major player since the early sixties, and has always invested heavily in new technology to give its products the edge. The new A-S201 is an evolution of its S200 entry-level integrated amplifier, and has been designed with convenience in mind as it moves away from the more retro-styled gear of the past few years. At the price, it's well finished and has beautifully clean styling - you simply wouldn't believe it to be a cheap unit until you touch the flimsy pressed steel top plate, which is about as thin as Yamaha can get away with. The fascia uses a combination of a fluorescent display and buttons to vary bass, treble and source, and there's a Pure Direct mode to bypass these.

The company claims 100W per channel for the A-S201, and this comes courtesy of carefully laid out circuitry. Yamaha says the power transformer sits near the power amp circuit to reduce power loss. Signal ground and power supply ground share one common point to give what's claimed to be a better signal-to-noise ratio. A moving magnet phono stage is included, and the amp features a power management function that can switch it off at a preset time (2, 4, 8 or 12 hours) if desired. Low standby power use is also claimed.

Interesting, this. It's abundantly clear that the Yamaha isn't an expensive amplifier in some respects; it's not over burdened with bass, for example, and the treble isn't the most spacious ever heard on an integrated amplifier. But its musical performance has a coherence to it that some others here lack. It's interesting to contrast it with the Pioneer A-50, which is more powerful and punchy, but sounds rather opaque by comparison. The Yamaha doesn't over reach itself, trying to bite off more than it can chew and the result is that what you do get is very well digested. Computer World just breezes along, the amp throwing out a good deal of detail into a narrower soundstage than some here, but it is better delineated and images are located more securely.

Although not powerful by the standards of the group - only the NAD D 3020 seems less potent - again within its performance envelope it is convincing. The powerful Kraftwerk bass transients don't upset it one jot, and it holds everything together better despite throwing out less prodigious bass levels. The crescendos on the Squeeze song are the same; the amp holds things together and the result is musically convincing unlike some others here. True, tonally the Yamaha lacks variety and much in the way of colour, but its basic default position is slightly warm and woolly and that makes everything sound agreeable. The Fun Lovin' Criminals track again shows limited power, but the A-S201 is more interested in having a stab at the complex interactions between the drum machine snare and hi-hats than some here. It proves a friendly, enjoyable and rather pleasing little integrated that represents.

Yamaha A-S201 Amplifier photo