Glen Wagenknecht
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: Audio Space CDP 8A CD Player
Wyred 4 Sound Music Server & DAC-2
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 1000
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, DH Lab Power Plus AC cable.
Resonance control: Solid Tech, 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, and Black Diamond
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 room: 10.5’ x 16.5’
Review component retail in Canada: $999 Canadian

This review marks a first for me. Not only is this a follow-up review, it actually follows up my very own review on the Yamaha A-S801 for Canada HiFi. Your obvious question is, why the double dip? The simple reason is, this integrated showed such strong potential, it warranted a more extensive grilling and comparative analysis than the original piece—specified by my publisher there to be briefer than 6moons allows—could accommodate. By necessity, some portions overlap. Short of readers going back and forth to check for the extra material, that can’t be helped. Bear with me. This is the extended director’s cut because there’s a lot more to this tale.

Martin Hill, Yamaha national AV sales manager
High-End skeptics and snobs are bound to raise an eyebrow. "Since when are Yamaha an audiophile brand?" The folks at Yamaha must wince each time that question comes up. Sometimes it’s tough being the big guy. Audiophiles generally take a rather snobbish view of major brand giants playing at the HighEnd table. They assume that boutique product from "specialized" manufacturers adhere to a higher art. Snobbery can be a dangerous and costly prejudice. Katchinnnnnng.

Yamaha have their hand in every aspect of the musical process, be it education, musical instruments, the recording chain all the way through to its entertainment divisions. They have a wealth of expertise and are no stranger to innovation in their consumer lines. Early support of surround sound and high-grade DTS decoding brought the medium out of the prosumer closet and into general acceptance. Their tuners remain legendary, their straight-line tracking turntables and Beryllium-based speakers so advanced, they continue to be highly sought after. All of these products blurred the line between consumer and HighEnd fare to mark turf of technically sophisticated yet comparatively affordable gear which demonstrated the advantages of being a major industry player: scale of operations and concomitant cost efficiency. Sometimes it’s good to be the big guy.

But them be past glories. What have Yamaha done for us lately? Well, the company have recently made quiet inroads back into our homie turf, specifically in their integrated division. Their recently introduced flagship A-S3000 hits almost $7’000 and intends to showcase their best effort in design refinement and muscle. Whilst stellar in execution, it is also old-school conservative in flexibility. It represents their statement on traditional design done up in fashion. This is not going to be that review.

Instead, we’ll lavish some attention on a beast of an entirely different philosophy, which gives up some of the absolutes afforded a flagship to pursue new worlds of flexibility. This is Yamaha’s interpretation and execution of musical heritage married with modern state-of-the-art digital. At a comparatively paltry $999, the Yamaha A-S801 integrated could become a watershed product for popular digital playback. Audiophiles may balk at the prospect of an integrated being any HighEnd poster child but the integrated in this case may be the right form. The receiver, with rare exception seen as the current everyman device, is also viewed as jack of all trades and master of none, with mandatory inclusion of A/V multi channel. Separates are at the opposite end. They are costly, occupy serious floor space and require what audiophiles call "real" cabling to blossom. The stereo intie occupies the middle ground of flexibility and upgradeability with the advantage of more direct connections between stages for greater sonic predictability. Done right, it can approach the absolute abilities of separates. The smaller dedicated audio firms have long demonstrated that fact with a vengeance. Yamaha itself have used this platform in the past in both multi-channel and 2-channel flavours. What have they assembled this time?

The A-S801 is classically styled, measuring 17.125" x 6" x 15.25" WxHxD and weighing 26.7lbs. It comes in a choice of brushed silver or black. Included is a simple slender multifunction remote which mirrors the front panel functions. The Yamaha offers all the traditional connectivity: MM phono for the legacy turntable, CD, tuner, three line-level inputs and 2 record outs. For the headfi crowd, there's a headphone output. It even sports a subwoofer out to accommodate a 2.1 system. The legacy world you know and love remains well covered but the major potential of the A-S801 lies in the new worlds of digital.

Will it do wireless streaming? Yes, it has Bluetooth® with an optional $69.95 adapter. Can it handle computer files and music servers? The A-S801 is equipped with a multitude of digital connectivity. There are coax, optical and USB inputs to accommodate even the most advanced high-resolution files. It is indeed a well-equipped digital hub but the burning question remains: "How good is the internal DAC?" The answer, "very good indeed." Yamaha incorporate the highly regarded 32-bit Sabre Premier ESS Technology chip that plays the digital game in best current fashion. The optical and coax digital signal will hit 24/192 resolution, USB supports native DSD and 32/384 (Windows, Mac support is 24-bit.) This is high digital horsepower for a modestly priced integrated so I had to wonder. Had Yamaha compromised elsewhere?