Glen Wagenknecht
Financial Interests: Click here 
Sources: Audio Space CDP 8A CD player
Wyred 4 Sound Music Server
DACs: Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2, Grant Fidelity Tube DAC 11
Preamplifier: Audio Space Reference 2S, Tortuga Audio LDR6 Passive
Amplifier:Bel Canto 200.4 Tapping TP22
AV Receiver: Pioneer Elite SC-25
Main Speakers: Apogee Duetta Signature, Paradigm Servo 15 subwoofer
Audio Space AS-3/5A
Rack: Codia Acoustic Design Stage 3000 BAB
Stands: Charisma Audio Function Stands   Target Stands
AV Speakers: JohnBlue M3s
AV Subwoofer: Paradigm PW-2200
Desktop Audio Speakers: Swans M200 MkIII
Desktop DAC/Pre Headphone Amp: DA&T U-2
Cables: Arkana Physical Research Loom, Audio Art SE and Classic cable looms, JPS Labs Ultraconductor 2 speaker cables, Madison Audio Lab E3 Extreme 1 Interconnects/Extreme 2 speaker cables, Signal Cable Silver Reference interconnects and speaker cables, digital optical and coax cable, Audio Sensibility Impact SE balanced interconnects and USB digital cables, DH Lab Power Plus AC cable.
Resonance Control: KAT Audio Terminator 1 Feet, Solid Tech Feet, EquaRack Footers, Weizhi Precision Gold Glory footers, Boston Audio TuneBlock2 footers, Audio Exklusiv Silent Plugs, Audio Exklusiv d.C.d. Base and d.C.d. Footers, Superspikes, CA Electronics Standard Cones, Feet, Cable Clamps, Isoacoustics L8R130, Aperta and L8R200 SUB speaker stands
Powerline conditioning: Exact Power EP15A, Noise Destroyer power filtration
Accessories: TrueHarmonix Black Magic CD Mat, Herbie's Super Black Hole CD Mat
Main Room size: 12' x 17'
Home Theatre: 10.5' x 16.5'
Review component retail: $3'699.95 Canadian

When Yamaha Canada asked if I would be interested in taking a critical look at their heavyweight A-S2100 integrated amplifier, there was no question about the answer. Two prior review encounters with their products, one the leading edge A-S801 integrated (with internal DAC), the other the spectacular NX-N500 amplified loudspeakers (with built in DAC/Pre) had proven that Yamaha could tackle high-end expectations with technological sophistication and exceptional musicality. I had already heard some eyebrow-raising scuttlebutt about their flagship A-S3000 integrated. A chance to audition their next model down promised to be an intriguing adventure. Out went all the e-mails and a review was arranged. Over the course of it, I threw an endless barrage of questions at the patient Yamaha representative. Wherever you see quotation marks, they are excerpts of his tireless efforts to give me insight into the evolution and workings of the musical beast. If you're ready for some fun, let the adventure begin.

In shaping the direction of their numerous product lines, Yamaha face the dual conundrum of anticipating as well as responding to the changing needs of the market place. It's not easy to stay relevant and competitive in the audio game. When requests started to emerge for a new product that preserved the accuracy of their existing 1000 and 2000 series integrated amplifiers but which would be voiced a little more in the organic camp, Yamaha listened. The original designer of those two components, chief engineer of hifi products Susumu Kumazawa, rose to the challenge, applying his technological acumen with "far greater focus on tone, warmth and what he refers to as 'groove' which means the foundation (bass)". Thus a new generation of three premium Yamaha integrated amplifiers was born.

The new core design philosophy finds common technical ground throughout the line by adopting a balanced floating design to tackle the issue of ground noise and achieve a superior signal to noise ratio; plus the use of Mosfet gain to achieve the goal of warmth. These output devices share some of the same technical traits as valves and therefore can impart a similar sonic signature. Here they are implemented in a Class A/B design, applying a judicious amount of negative feedback to keep the circuit neat and tidy. This new generation of higher-tier Mosfet parts is aimed squarely at the hardcore audiophile community. The final Yamaha design is more conservative in connectivity, eschews internal digital processing and concentrates on perfecting the analog signal path through execution of layout and quality of parts - in other words, getting the fundamentals right.

The differences between the top through bottom model of the new range rest in practical compromises of execution inherent in achieving a range of marketable price points. At their core however, they must meet the designer's standard. To quote, "he wanted components that measured well but were fun, emotional and could be listened to for hours. Low frequency energy and control were really important, with an expressive and open midrange and easy and airy highs". Let's take a look at these three new models. The top rung belongs to their flagship A-S3000, a formidable beast that flexes 100wpc/8Ω in a sophisticated 54.2lb/24.6kg enclosure at a serious $8'999.95 Canadian price point. This represents Yamaha's current all-out assault on the integrated front and has achieved both critical and popular success. Trickle-down technology to its lower brethren is intended to preserve much of the flagship's ability but scaled to a lower price. At the bottom of the group sits the A-S1100 with 90w/8Ω weighing in at a still substantial 51.4lb/23.3 kg but far less substantial $2'499.95. In the middle of the family is the A-S2100, mirroring the power output of its baby brother with a small weight gain of .2lbs but higher level of trickle down under the hood, accounting for its asking price of $3'699.95. When I asked about the differences between the 3000 and the 2100, the response from the distributor was quite logical.

"There are countless differences... aside from better internal components, the A-S3000 has a shorter signal path with very little solder. Critical points use brass washers and screws that are tightened to a specific pressure. Internal wiring is better and thicker gauge. Copper plating and aluminium are used throughout the chassis." Just how much heritage was retained from the A-S3000? The huge strength here is the direct translation of the preamp stage from the big brother, making the A-S2100 integrated fully balanced from input to output. It sports a single pair of traditional XLR for full-fledged balanced but also does internal conversion of the single ended inputs to balanced. The junior sibling A-S1100 moves to a layout of entirely separate circuits for balanced and single ended and gives up the conversion.

Power supplies on the A-S2100 and A-S1100 are somewhat different. Caps in the 2100 spec out at 22'000µF per cap x 4 vs. 18'000µF per cap x 4 for the 1100. Between the 2100 and flagship 3000, the most interesting divergence lies in the transformer. It shows that Yamaha aren't playing a deceptive bigger-is-better numbers game. "The A-S3000 has actually a slightly smaller toroidal transformer of 626VA vs. the slightly larger EI in the A-S2100 but the 3000 in fact sounds more powerful because its internal impedance is very low." Each of the models offer left/right symmetrical designs in escalating levels of sophistication and also attacks resonance control with increasing levels of mechanical isolation and rigidity in relation to their price tags. The flagship A-S3000 and the A-S2100 receive the benefit of height-adjustable spiked feet with the ingenious incorporation of removable magnetic padded caps for a choice of contact interface on whatever surface they will rest upon.