Yamaha A-S701 Amplifier

Cast your mind back to the late 1980s, when many Japanese makers were offering lamps that were integrated with inbuilt 16-bit DACs to manipulate DAT, CD and pre -DAB digital broadcasting technologies that never actually took off in the united kingdom. On first appearance, the GBP560 Yamaha A-S701 amplifier featured here could easily have been mistaken for a product of that age; our review sample's aluminium frontage has even been finished in the then-trendy black (silver can be found as an alternative).

The styling is retro in other respects, with the Yamaha brand rectangular control knobs harking back to '70s classics like the CA-1000.The A-S701 does not have that 1973-classic unit's switchable pure Class A mode, being first and foremost a complemental Class-AB layout based around paralleled pairs of Sanken power transistors capable of delivering up to 100Watts RMS per channel into eight-ohm loads. There are, however, plenty of other gizmos.

Tone controls? Yup, they're here. So too is that 'Yamaha particular', a continuously-variable loudness control. This gives the user total manual control using a central 'flat' place maintaining neutrality. The concept is that you simply correct the volume to a degree you're happy with and then rotate the loudness control for everything you consider to be the most tonally-balanced sound.

Tone controls are arguably useful as they can tame bright-sounding recordings and bass-heavy speakers. Sadly, they are able to also basically compromise sound quality.

Bearing this in mind, Yamaha gives you the capacity to conquer such gadgetry. There are in fact two modes that are such. One, 'Pure Direct', switches out the loudness and tone controls. The other, 'CD Direct Amp', bypasses both the tone controls along with the input signal selector providing a direct course for the CD input.

The A-S701 additionally gives you lots of connections. Are three line inputs as well as independent inputs for tuner and CD. The relevant phono input works for MM or high -output MC cartridges.

And then there is the A-S701's on-board DAC. Its PCM- only coaxial and optical input signals will go all the way to 24-bit/192kHz courtesy of a Burr-Brown PCM5102A DAC.

No USB input signal is offered alas. In output terms, Yamaha has catered for two pairs of loudspeakers (both, either or none may be active) and cans. Those with smaller bookshelf-type speakers will appreciate the A-S701's capability to join a powered subwoofer. Other features include power-saving vehicle stand by and remote control.


Lots of Yamaha supplies in the '70s and '80s can, if it's been looked after, still sound great now. The A S701 continues this tendency.

Sources comprised a Squeezebox Touch, playing my steadfast Linn LP12/Basik/Ortofon 540 MkII, and music stored in FLAC sort on an SD card.

First up was a Hungarotron CD rip including Bela Bartok's 'Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano as performed by Miklos Szenthelyi, Denes Kovacs and Zoltan Szekely. An old (1970) analogue-sourced record it might be, but the A-S701 managed to conduct this jazz-influenced chamber work with vibrant tonal colour and intimacy. The third movement, which borrows in the rhythms of Bulgarian folk music, is propelled along. That was with the onboard DAC of the Yamaha. Changing to the Squeezebox's analogue output coupled coarsening that was perceptible having a slight blurring of the stereo image.

The brief of the DAC was to increase the sound of multimedia devices and that goal has been certainly fulfilled by Yamaha.

It failed to match the absolute musical joy that the A-S701 managed to produce when our DAC64 was connected between the CD line input and the Squeezebox. Here the music got an organic flow that excited yet at once remaining natural.

You do not desire to use the tone controls unless you have to, though. Even when they're in their principal (i.e. neutral) positions, their mark is left. The strong Mini-Moog bassline of Quincy Jones's 'Razzamatazz' sounds better-defined and more managed with them taken out of circuit. With more sophisticated music (Beethoven's '5th Symphony', DG/Kleiber/Vienna Philharmonic) the soundstage is more natural and discreetly-comprehensive.

The phono stage does not reach the heights that Yamaha scaled in the era when musical life revolved at 33rpm. It lacks bass depth although energy and timing are apparent. Presentation veers towards brightness, and a few of the musical components that are more fine are smoothed over. But records are definitely pleasing and what we have here is a workable phonograph record 'starting point'.


As an amplifier, the A S701 can't be criticised. It strikes a sensible balance between connectivity, user convenience and sound quality. Did it sound endeavored, despite orchestral climaxes. That puts the A-S701 into context: it does it nicely, at an affordable price and it does a lot.

Yamaha A-S701 Amplifier photo