Integrated stereo amplifiers are perceived to be so old-school and basic. These amps have always offered only the simplest features like input for CD, volume control, aux, and radio input, and a phono input for a turntable at times. You might find treble and bass controls but most amps lacked important functionality like a remote control.
Classic integrated stereo amplifiers are still made and sold. One such model from Yamaha is the A-S801 which looks very similar to Yamaha’s integrated amplifiers from the 70s and 80s but packs a lineup of features that suit modern users. It is a vintage device matched to 21st-century audio standards for high-resolution streaming.
In this post, let us take a closer look at the Yamaha A-S801 natural sound integrated stereo amplifier and try to learn more about its features, offerings, performance, and limitations in depth to help you understand what you can expect from it.
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Ever since its inception in 1887, the Yamaha corporation has been growing to become the biggest manufacturer of musical instruments, and a world-leading brand of audio/visual products and other appliances, components, and solutions. Today, Yamaha owns and operates a number of subsidiaries and companies in different parts of the world.
The brand strives to create products and services that cater to the diverse needs and preferences of people around the world. Music and audio components are recognized globally for their superior quality in design, technology, acoustics, craftsmanship, and customer satisfaction.
Products falling under the Yamaha brand name are highly regarded by institutions, professionals, business owners within relevant industries, and general consumers worldwide.
As the world’s leading manufacturer of audio equipment and musical instruments, Yamaha is perfectly positioned to express every note and tone as the artist intends.
The brand offers a wide range of Hi-Fi components including turntables, stereo receivers, stereo amplifiers, and CD players. Its line of integrated separates and amplifiers is built with rich music heritage and provides superior-grade amplification to extract the full range of natural sound that Yamaha claims to achieve.
Yamaha recently introduced the flagship model A-S3000 integrated amplifier that challenges the high-end spectrum but at a price of $8000, it will turn out to be an admiration for many and an asset for a lucky few.
However, those who cannot afford such statement pieces can check out other offerings Yamaha presents in the integrated lineup. The Yamaha A-S801 comes at an attractive price to take a unique view of what an integrated should accomplish, and can become the amplifier of choice for many.
Yamaha A-S801 Integrated Stereo Amplifier Review
The Yamaha A-S801 integrated amp is a good all-rounder from a reliable and experienced manufacturer. It is one of the latest in the line designed to hit the sweet spot between high-end amplifiers like the A-S1100 and lower models such as the A-S701. Though Yamaha amplifiers are all excellent performers in their own right, A-S801 integrated is something that delivers a balance of everything.
The Yamaha A-S801 grasps so many technology features from its high-end predecessors but still manages to come at an affordable medium-range price of $1000/£899.
It is a two-channel integrated stereo amplifier which is the only amp that comes with a built-in audiophile USB DAC. The model is designed keeping versatility in mind and aims to embrace almost every music playback format presently available in the market.
The integrated amplifier offers impressive sound quality with a wide range of features and benefits you with digital inputs, good looks, and superior musicality with a rich, natural sound.
- Minimum RMS output power – 100W+100W at 8 ohms, 20Hz-20kHz
- Damping factor – 240
- High dynamic power per channel – 140/170/220/290W (8/6/4/2 ohms)
- Frequency response – 10Hz – 100kHz +/- 1dB
- Signal-to-noise ratio – 99dB
- Total harmonic distortion – 0.019%
- Audio in/out – 8/2
- Inputs – USB, Optical, Coaxial
- Outputs – DC, Subwoofer
- Standby power consumption – 0.5W
- Dimensions – 15.25 x 17.13 x 6 inches
- Weight – 26.7 pounds
Build and Design
The Yamaha A-S801 integrated amp boasts a robust, durable construction with a thick brushed aluminum faceplate. The build of the unit focuses on structural integrity with a double-bottom design with a 1mm thick iron plate, an anti-resonance base for heat sinks and power transformer, and a center bar to dampen resonance and improve rigidity.
This amp also boasts custom-made block capacitors, a custom-made power transformer, a one-point grounding system, two direct-signal path speakers, and extruded aluminum heat sinks.
It comes in a full-size case and offers a choice of black or silver finish. You also get a simple, multifunction remote control with it. The amplifier is backed by a two-year warranty on parts and labor which is quite good for the price.
The amp’s front panel is simplistic yet elegant and reminiscent of the integrated amplifiers from the past. All the controls are laid out intuitively with tiny amber LED lights on the faceplate to provide a visual representation of settings. Impressive inclusions are a number of DSD and PCM lights that display different resolution levels of the digital playback.
The Pure Direct and CD Direct push buttons can be easily recognized and are smartly sized for your fingers. The volume control also has an advanced design boasting an analog pot to match a digital control using Yamaha’s proprietary contour.
Also seen on the front panel is a speaker selector switch that enables selecting multiple options from A and B to off, allowing the use of the amp as a headphone.
The rear panel of the amp houses connectivity options. All the inputs and outputs are marked clearly and laid out intelligently. There is also a DC output jack that can power an optional Bluetooth adaptor.
Moreover, it also includes a traditional grounding terminal for the phono input. The manufacturer has picked shrouded gold-plated speaker terminals that accommodate banana connectors and bare wire but don’t accept spades.
You get two pairs of terminals to be able to use double cables for bi-wiring. Another switch for high/low selection can be found below to set the performance to optimum for speakers with varying impedances using the limits specified clearly for different combinations.
A female 2-pin IEC chassis-mounted jack facilitates power input. A thick AC cable can be detached and replaced with an aftermarket cord.
The amp has two unique features on the back panel. The first is the audio power standby switch which allows initiating a power down in standby mode in case the device is left idle for over 8 hours. This is a nice touch that helps during occasional memory lapses. The second feature is the 90Hz low-pass subwoofer output catering to a powered sub that works in a purist configuration and keeps the speaker signals in full range.
Let us take a look at some of the most impressive features of this integrated amp.
High strength chassis
To dampen the vibrations effectively in order to avoid any negative effects on sound quality, the amp boasts a chassis featuring a double-bottom design with a 1mm iron plate.
Moreover, a strong and stable anti-resonance base supports the heat sinks and power transformer in the amp section.
These innovations in design enable this amp to achieve a superior signal-to-noise ratio, resulting in natural, rich sound production.
Simple yet sophisticated design
The amp boasts a simple, beautiful, unique design inherited directly from the brand’s hi-fi audio components. The integrated amplifier also features a user-friendly layout that is easy to operate.
The front panel has an aluminum construction with a richly textured silver hairline finish. The control knobs also have the aluminum finish as on the top-end models.
The amp features custom-made block capacitors, a custom-made power transformer, extruded aluminum heat sink, a one-point grounding system, and other high-quality parts to handle the most demanding audio conditions effortlessly.
The quality of each of these components and the way they work together determine the device’s overall sound quality and performance. Yamaha uses the best quality of parts selected carefully and tested well for their properties.
The company has picked the 32-bit, dual channel D/A converter from the ESS technology for this amp. This DAC is known for its high-precision 32-bit audio processing power and the ability to handle massive amounts of data with native DSD 5.6MHz and full PCM 384kHz.
As the DAC generates its master clock, jitter elimination works to allow conversion with minimum impact of clock jitter. Also, the 2-channel D/A converter sits inside the chip for a double differential operation that results in an exceptionally high-quality signal output and high performance with an impressive signal-to-noise ratio.
Support for native resolution
The D/A conversion feature of this amp supports the PCM as well as native DSD resolutions, allowing for a direct connection to PCs and playing the highest-resolution audio content available today. The USB device controller also has its master clock which eliminates any jitter.
The Yamaha Steinberg USB driver is high throughput and low loss. When a music file is being played, you can clearly view the sampling frequencies being used through the indicators on the front panel.
Digital audio input support
The Yamaha A-S801 comes equipped with digital and optical coaxial input terminals. The coaxial helps receive audio from a Blu-ray disc player while the optical allows receiving audio from a TV.
The received audio remains in the digital domain to deliver a pure and dynamic sound for almost every source.
Variable loudness control
The integrated amp also boasts an analog loudness control on the front panel that utilizes electric volume for superior sound quality, allowing you to adjust the loudness effect as you wish.
This control works separately from the volume and adjusts the balance of high and low frequencies delivering a full tonal range at any level of volume while compensating for the natural loss at soft levels.
Better sound purity
Boasting a direct connection to CD input with CD Direct amplification, this amplifier maximizes the signal-to-noise ratio of the CD sources.
Activating the Pure Direct mode enhances the experience by selecting the shortest circuit route for the music signals, whereby they bypass the buffer amp, balance, tone, and loudness controls to remove any degradation and produce the purest sound.
Phono MM terminal
With this integrated, you can enjoy the best of both worlds with the facility to listen to analog vinyl as well as the latest digital formats. Phono MM terminal facilitates connecting a turntable to play vinyl records.
The amp offers a connection for a YBA-11 wireless adaptor to enable you to stream music from any Bluetooth-compatible device including smartphones and laptops. The unit’s digital coaxial connection and aptX audio coding algorithm make it possible to enjoy wireless music streaming with great sound quality. The YBA-11 can be powered using the DC out connection on the amplifier’s rear panel.
Simple remote control
The included remote control has a clean and simple design that facilitates a comprehensive single-handed operation. Adjusting inputs, volume, and other settings is quite easy. The remote can also be used to control a Yamaha CD player.
Rotary Encoder for input selection
This feature makes it quite easy to select the input source. A premium hairline finish gives a nice feeling while LED lights clearly display the selected source so that you can effortlessly switch between sources, even in the dark.
Auto power standby
This feature, when activated, puts the amp into standby mode if the user does not execute any function for eight hours. This is quite helpful in minimizing power usage when the device is not in use and in case you forget you turn the amplifier off.
The amp path utilizes the proprietary technology of Yamaha and boasts an input-to-output Direct Symmetrical Design with the left and right channels laid out in a symmetrical layout for the optimum purity of the signal. The I/O signal path further confirms the clean and direct approach the unit adopts.
You get the option of employing a CD Direct switch that bypasses the balance and tone controls or even the Pure Direct mode that bypasses the buffer amp, loudness, balance, and tone controls to get to the closest to the purist approach. The option of activating and deactivating these functions should cater to both casual listeners as well as hard-core audiophiles.
The A-S801 does not use class D output for higher output like most other models of the time. It rather uses a class AB output circuit. Looking at the way the manufacturer specs the power of this unit, it is done at full bandwidth, 8 ohms, and two channels driven at a low distortion level of only 0.02%. Apart from a solid amp section, this model also includes a digital section with ESS technology 32-bit DAC via USB as well as a coax to connect digital inputs. It also comes with a MM phono section to allow vinyl playback.
With this amp, you might not be able to bind up the sound to result in an immersive experience but it is powerful enough to drive a load of 4 ohms with an ease that most other multi-channel AV receivers cannot. This is possible with the ample heat dissipation delivered by dual heat sinks, a huge E-Core transformer supplying the power, four output devices per channel to get more current, and the massive capacitor bank for reserves.
The input impedance for analog inputs is 47kohms which should work fine for most sources. The subwoofer output on the RCA jack has an impedance of 1.2kohms. The impedance selector switch on the back panel can be used to adjust the output impedance for your speakers. Apart from the auto power standby switch, the amp also offers a two-prong IEC jack for a power cord connection.
As there are no standard line-out jacks, there is no possibility of adding more amplifiers or using separate subwoofers for the two channels. Looking at the increasing popularity of headphones, the unit includes a headphone jack with a rating of 54mW into 16 ohms and 400mW into 300ohms.
What is Included in the Box
The Yamaha A-S801 integrated stereo amplifier comes with all the accessories and components included for easy installation and setup. The package contains the amplifier unit, remote control, power cable, and 2 AA batteries along with the user manual and warranty card.
The user manual is quite informative and detailed and explains all the features and functionality of the amplifier well. You can refer to it for controls, handling and usage instructions, installation and connections, as well as troubleshooting tips. The manual also explains how you can play different types of music files from various sources.
Installation and Setup
Installing and setting up the Yamaha A-S801 should be simple and hassle-free with a detailed, comprehensive user manual to help you in case you need assistance. The included power cord can be used to connect it to the PC. The Yamaha Steinberg driver is also easy to install and makes the procedure simple.
The A-S801 utilizes gold-plated RCA line-level connectors and 5-way speaker binding posts. It is possible to connect two speakers to the amp and these are wired in parallel to avoid any degradation generally seen while connecting speakers in a series. The sub output has no separate volume control but has a fixed LPF response of 100Hz.
The amplifier offers optical, coax, and USB inputs, allowing you to play a wide variety of file formats. There are no preamp outputs. The Type A USB port on the rear panel powers the Bluetooth adaptor you can use to play music collection on your phone. Using the remote is comfortable as the buttons to lower or raise the volume are separated from other buttons for easy access.
The Yamaha A-S801 sounds smooth and sweet, particularly with vocals. You can enjoy the same smooth sound when advancing the volume to a louder level. Playing an AIFF file from a CD, you can find a nice mix of detail, impact, and bass. Percussion instruments sound accurate though they blur into the background a little more than other systems. The amp’s microdynamic verve makes the music sound lively.
Playing a track from your phone through a Bluetooth connection, you might experience an impressive reproduction quality with a lot of dynamics and sparkle, though less detailed than PC but quite enjoyable. If you are fond of listening to the collection from your smartphone, you can consider investing in the YBA-11 Bluetooth adapter.
Checking how the A-S801 handles solo instrumental, it can be said that it does a good job at reproducing the guitar while the treble is extended and not peaky. Evaluating its performance of soundstaging, you can expect good reproduction with clarity and detail without any trace of distortion. Even if you play a track recorded at a low level, the amp has no trouble reproducing the bass with a punch and impact.
Connecting your pair of headphones, the amplifier makes them sound much better. This means if you have a decent pair and you only use them with your phone, upgrading to the A-S801 is a good idea.
- Honestly rated amp section
- Excellent fidelity across operation modes
- USB DAC support
- Sturdy construction and sleek design
- Gold-plated terminals
- Wide range of input and output options
- Easy to install and setup
- 2-year warranty
- Non-defeatable LPF on subwoofer output
- No preamp outputs
- Remote is basic
- No line-out jacks
Considering the price point and the reputation of the manufacturer, it is easy to say that there is no other audio component with as many features as the Yamaha A-S801. Moreover, the features are not simply thrown in to impress; the amp lives up to the specifications and delivers a truly enjoyable sound experience. Though it doesn’t compete with the more expensive systems, it successfully facilitates genuine musical enjoyment that audiophiles would appreciate.
The Yamaha A-S801 looks great, sounds amazing, and comes loaded with several useful features at a price that seems to be a bargain. People who simply want to invest once in a good hi-fi component to play their files and those who want good sound with flexibility at an affordable price would surely find this unit a great choice. The Yamaha A-S801 integrated stereo amplifier would certainly be the only hi-fi purchase they would ever need to make!