Yamaha A-S500 Amplifier

There's no mystery to Yamaha's formula - take one rather chunky power amplifier circuit, stick it in a big box with lots of facilities and sell it for rather less than anyone would expect. Meet the A-S500, then. We reviewed its more expensive A-S2000 big brother, and it's a case of deja vu all over again. Indeed, despite being many hundreds of pounds cheaper, it seems to have lost relatively few watts and even fewer knobs. Only die latter's lovely wood-cheeked styling has gone...

Despite being the cheapest in this group by a country mile, the Yamaha appears - on the surface at least -to give little away. The knobs move with a precision feel; there's little sense at all that you're sitting in hi-fi's cheap seats. Factor in that feature-festooned fascia, and you wonder in there's any money left to put anything inside the box.

A full complement of seven inputs is offered, including one for an iPod dock. Switchable speaker sets and a record out selector are included, and there's even a variable loudness control - a real blast from Yamaha's past. Best left alone, with the Pure Direct button deployed, we found.

An interesting one, this - an object lesson in competent and affordable solid-state amplification, you might say. Having reviewed the A-S2000, there's definitely a house sound to Yamaha's current range of products. Expect a big-hearted, powerful nature that's a little - but never too - upfront, and you have the measure of the A-S500...

Beginning with the Vivaldi track, it was obvious from the word go that this amp is no shrinking violet.

It attacked it as it might, say, New Order's Blue Monday - which is to say in a thumping, disco fashion. Trouble is, that wasn't quite what was called for at all times.

One panelist commended the Yamaha for its drive and gusto, as it really gave a sense of body to the orchestra. "You could feel the intent there", he said. Timing was also generally applauded, this amplifier's force of personality pushing the music along.

Tonally, it proved a little hard. The A-S500 has a big, fulsome bass but across the mid and treble the panel felt it sounded 'chrome plated', and that really showed on the electronica of VCMG. Once again, the listeners were impressed by the purposeful bottom end, and they liked its grippy detail too, the amp giving a highly visceral feel to that synthesised bass line.

Everything was crisply etched and explicit, nothing was left to the imagination, no matter what sort of music you played.

In a way, that was its problem, as the Yamaha lacked subtlety. Some commented on the way there was plenty of detail on the Jim White piece, but still things sounded too processed. The sultry vocals of the Sade track confirmed this; they didn't sound as organic as the other amps here. Imaging was thought a little weak, too. Overall then, a decent performer for the money.

Yamaha A-S500 Amplifier photo