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This review first appeared in the February 2009 issue of and can be read in its original German version here. It is herewith translated and presented to an English-only audience through a mutual syndication arrangement. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end has a link below it to his e-mail should you have questions or feedback you wish to send. All images contained in this review are the property of or Audium. - Ed.

Reviewer: Jörg Dames
Sources: Fonel Simplicité, Wadia 170i Transport & Apple iPod & Benchmark DAC1 USB
Amplification: pre/power - Myyrad MXA 2150, Fonel Emotion, Funk LAP-2.V2, SAC il piccolo monos; integrated -Accuphase E212, Abacus Ampino Rieder
Loudspeakers: Thiel CS 2.4, Sehring S 703 SE
Cables: low-level - Straight Wire Virtuoso; high-level HMS Fortissimo, Reson LSC 350
Review Components Retails: €579 for integrated, €479 for CDP

Martin, Taylor, Gibson and a few others I'm not personally that hip to - what am I talking about? Well-known suppliers of guitars and, if we transpose our hifi nomenclature to musical instruments manufacture, mostly high-end makers at that. Not wanting to scale the €1,000 barrier, I ended up with a Western-style guitar a few years ago, a Compass CPX-15SA by Yamama, one of the bigger global instrument suppliers. Granted, most serious guitarists would give my choice no second thought, particularly because those other makes did offer their own models within my budget. Alas, my play testing suggested that the big names didn't fully live up to their cred at my entry-level stickers. At higher prices of course, what they had to offer was brilliant fun.

To avoid misapprehensions, I'm neither a talented string acrobat nor a guitar expert. Rather, I am the type who grabs a few chords alongside a bottle of Chardonnay in the evenings. To get with today's program, in matters of hifi and after a protracted 'creative vacation', Yamaha has once again achieved a certain market prominence. Our interest today is in their new entry-level kit, i.e. the 700 Series positioned below the larger 1000 and 2000 components, in particular the A-S700 integrated and matching CD-S700 CD player. I let slip now that one of these caused a nice fat surprise during the audition. However, relative to technical innovation, this price class shouldn't warrant more than a few brief sentences, should it? Well, I'll need just a bit more to cover essentials.

Tech A-S700
To kick off with the anticipated downscaling vis-à-vis its bigger stable mates, it’s actually not output power which falls under the hammer. Our smallest integrated still offers a solid 90wpc into 8 ohms. With damping factor, there’s no shorting either. Unlike the 160 figure its stable mates clock, the 700 specs out at 240 into 8 ohms. The power supply derives its energy from 247VA toroidal iron. Naturally, the 700 piece does make eventual concessions. It eliminates the six-band loudness controls; sports different footers and an enclosure without wooden cheeks and certain plastic rather than metal bits on the front; and no fully symmetrical circuitry. Dubbed ToP-ART by the Japanese, remnants of symmetrical architecture in the A-S700 do show up in the dual-mono assignation of parts in the output stage to improve channel separation.

Paying surprising attention to resonance and microphony effects even in this sector, Yamaha gifts the A-S700 with a vibration-resistant frame construction and specially designed bottom plate. A vertical brace below the cover adds chassis stiffness. For critical inside junctions, the Japanese rely on massive wire bridges, not circuit traces. Then they adopt star earthing whereby all gain stages reference back to a single point to minimize ground plane differentials and improve S/N and dynamic range. To increase bandwidth, Yamaha specified custom-made block capacitors with critical anode-foil materials, vibration-damping sleeves and iron contact pins. Neither high drama nor masterpieces are four somewhat flimsy plastic switches (input selector and volume control are metal however) and binding posts that accept bananas only after some hassles.

Right behind the CD input sits an op amp which Yamaha's marketing turned into CD Direct Amplification to signify a discrete gain stage. This is said to stabilize the signal prior to entering the main circuitry while maximizing noise and dynamic performance. Two further items warrant mention as they relate directly to usage. The rotary loudness control does not, as might be expected, attenuate the highs or lows but rather, the mids. The actual degree of attenuation is linked to the position of the master volume. Though I categorically do not meddle with any such controls, Herr Volker Düsing, Yamaha's product manager, had this to say: "Down to about room volume, leave the loudness control at flat. Below that, trim the volume not with the master attenuator but the loudness contour."

Around back and easy to overlook is an impedance switch that "guarantees equivalent power delivery into 4-ohm speakers and minimizes thermal issues under high power draw". Not being a member of the whisper volumes brigade, I'd duly forgotten about this switch and fired up my somewhat impedance-critical Thiel CS 2.4 in the 8-ohm position
without booking any problems or even faint suspicions thereof. It's then most likely a party feature for extreme scenarios rather than anything to fret over in normal use.

Tech CD-S700
As expected in this price range, the CD player also goes without the fully symmetrical layout of the 1000 and 2000 Series components. And like the integrated again, it does employ dual-mono parts in its analog section. The power supply transformer is necessarily scaled back but the product lit retaliates with terms like independent structure power unit and, likely to be misunderstood, non-feedback power supply. The latter refers to discrete transformer secondaries for the analog, digital and transport sections with discrete grounds, purportedly to minimize crosstalk between the three windings. Indeed, the Japanese seem keenly focused on sound-optimal earthing schemes. The BurrBrown 24-bit/192kHz D/A converter for example ends up on the analog output, not as customary on the digital PCB. This isn't for autonomy but the opposite: the ground reference points for converter and output stage are shared. As per Düsing, this solution trickled down from their big DSP-Z11 AV receiver "to improve distortion behavior at small amplitudes". On interfaces, the CD-S700 shows one pragmatic and two 'high-endish' elements. Pragmatism is served with a USB input. Connect stick, external hard drive or similar and just like with a CD, the display shows off first track data. It's a good move but sadly limited to lossy MP3 and WMA feeds.