Review:Yamaha A-S3200 – Modern Technology and Sound in Retro Packaging

Review:Yamaha A-S3200 offers the listener a transparent and neutral window on the recording and lets you look deep into that recording.

Review:Yamaha A-S3200 – The Japanese Yamaha unveiled three new integrated amplifiers called A-S1200, A-S2200 and A-S3200 last spring . The appearance and in particular the prominent centrally placed VU meters are very reminiscent of the past. However, according to the manufacturer, modern technology is hidden under the hood.Does the A-S3200 from Yamaha sail exclusively or mainly on feelings of nostalgia or is the A-S3200 just a good amplifier with a nostalgic appearance? We are going to investigate the A-S3200.

Yamaha: Maker of audio equipment, musical instruments, motorcycles, outboards and much more

Yamaha A-S3200

The Japanese Yamaha has existed as a brand name for more than a hundred years and has undergone many transformations. The company was founded by Torakusu Yamaha (1851–1916) in 1887. Originally Yamaha built musical instruments and from the early twentieth century pianos were an important part of the portfolio. Specialist knowledge of production methods, plastics and metal alloys is used to continuously expand the product range. The amount of different products that Yamaha builds or has built is too many to mention. About ten years after the Second World War, Yamaha even started building motorcycles. Incidentally, these activities were sold in 2001 to car manufacturer Toyota.

Yamaha A-S3200

Yamaha has continuously built musical instruments from the beginning. At first these were acoustic instruments (including guitars, pianos and wind instruments), but later synthesizers and electric pianos were added. Yamaha’s DX-7, a velocity-sensitive synthesizer, was on many stages in the eighties of the last century.

From the early 1970s, Yamaha started making sound equipment and parts for sound equipment, both for the professional market and for the living room. Yamaha has roughly about a hundred years of experience building musical instruments and now about fifty years of experience building sound equipment. That’s quite a long track record.

nyone who makes many different products runs the risk of losing focus. That does not seem to be the case with Yamaha. Pianos, concert grand pianos and other musical instruments are continuously an important part of the portfolio, as well as sound equipment for the professional and consumer markets. Yamaha has an understanding of making music, but also of recording and reproducing music.

Sound equipment in the 70s and 80s of the twentieth century, shortcomings

Yamaha A-S3200

Sound equipment has of course been around for more than a hundred years. It all started with radios and later on record players were added. Anyone who could afford it also owned a reel recorder. The cassette tape, invented by the Dutch Philips, came on the market in the 1970s. Affordability and reliability increased, also due to the invention of semiconductors.

From around the end of the 1970s there was a certain standardization in the shape and dimensions of audio components. In the eighties there was a so-called hi-fi set in many living rooms: that is a stack of components from the same manufacturer where the front plates were tuned to each other and the stack usually consisted of an amplifier, tuner, cassette deck and record player, and of course a pair of passive speakers. The amplifier was usually an integrated model, but sometimes there was also a separate pre and power amplifier. The whole was in a matching chipboard cabinet with a glass door and a glass lid. At the bottom there was room for LPs and / or cassette tapes. The IR remote control had yet to be invented. The amplifiers from that time were often equipped with VU meters.

The equipment of that time, especially the amplifiers, had roughly two disadvantages.

First, the noise level was so high that noise was usually noticeable, especially with good headphones. The noise level of amplifiers was not really a problem because the connected sources, ie record player, tuner and cassette deck had an even higher noise level. This changed with the arrival of the CD player. After all, a CD player has a much lower noise level and the result was that the noise level of the amplifier was much more prominent. At a rapid pace, the noise floor of amplifiers was pushed down in the late eighties and early nineties. A modern amplifier, also a budget model, does not make any noise or at least not disturbing and that was different in the sixties and seventies.

Second, the components in the 1970s and 1980s may have looked nice and were sometimes well built, but the lifespan and trouble-free operation left something to be desired. Potentiometers (volume control, tone control, balance control) on average started to crack after a few years. Source selector buttons had a lot of crosstalk and sometimes contact problems after several years, resulting in channel inequality or annoying cracking. Loudspeaker connections were designed as spring-loaded tabs that could just hold a table lamp cord. The user could often choose between speaker pair A and / or B, but the power to the speaker buttons on the front sometimes ran through relatively small switches, which could also crack after a few years. Silent toroidal transformers were a rarity. Signal paths were more than once unnecessarily long and not well thought out and we can go on and on. Perhaps unnecessarily, of course it was possible to enjoy music. It may just be what you are used to.

In addition to pushing down the noise floor, these problems were also addressed later. Signal paths became shorter. Source selection buttons usually no longer carry a music signal, but control a dedicated relay (and this relay can also be controlled with an IR remote control). Loudspeaker connections were made much heavier, even with cheap amplifiers. And speaker selector buttons no longer had to process high current. This has increasingly been left to a relay with gold-plated contacts and gold-plated contacts are known to increase the transition resistance much less quickly with time than with a normal copper contact. Well-built gas-filled relays with gold-plated contacts are practically indestructible. A silent toroidal transformer has increasingly become the norm, also in budget amplifiers.

We seem to digress a bit. Why do these thoughts come on suddenly? Enter the A-S3200, the largest of a set of three new integrated amps from Yamaha.

Yamaha A-S3200: retro appearance with modern technology

Before we start listening to music, we look at the technology of the A-S3200. After unpacking, we look at the outside and the specifications of the manufacturer.

After the A-S3200 is connected, it will turn on. We hear a number of clicks in succession. These are relay clicks. A small rotary knob is placed on the front to choose between speaker pair A and / or B. Turning the knob causes fat clicks under the cover. At first hearing Yamaha has placed heavy speaker relays. So there is no music signal over the small button on the front. When we turn the source selector, we also hear the necessary clicks again. The delicate music signal does not run over the rotary knob itself, but the rotary knob controls the relays behind it.The device is heavy in relation to the specified power. The two pairs of brass speaker connections, which are suitable for banana plugs, forks and bare wire up to a diameter of six millimeters, are among the heaviest ones we have seen in recent years, especially in this price range. Under the hood is a toroidal transformer supported by four smoothing capacitors of 22,000 uF each.

The A-S3200 is equipped with a tone and balance control consisting of three rotary knobs. When the appropriate knobs are in the center position, tone and balance controls are bypassed and thus have no effect whatsoever on the signal.

Yamaha A-S3200: Analog circuits only

The entire signal circuit is fully balanced and the A-S3200 has two pairs of XLR inputs. In addition, four cinch inputs are available and a turntable input that is optionally suitable for mm cartridges or mc cartridges (selector switch on the front panel). Then there is also a power amplifier input with which the A-S3200 can be included in a larger system where a different device takes care of the volume control. And the placed pre-amplifier output can be used to drive another power amplifier or an active subwoofer.

Completely in line with the amplifiers from roughly thirty years ago, the A-S3200 has no digital circuits or inputs on board. A user will therefore have to connect a separate DA converter or streamer in order to process a digital signal.

Yamaha A-S3200

The lack of streaming features has an advantage. The user does not have to accept terms of use and cannot be spied on. Streamers have the annoying quality of being dependent on software and software updates, just like computers. The A-S3200 cannot suffer from updateritis because it has no software on board. Streaming functions cannot fail or be “improved” against the user’s wishes. The lack of a streaming platform is not a disadvantage; it is an advantage because it makes the A-S3200 future-proof. The A-S3200 has no aging-sensitive functions on board.

Of course, a streamer is handy and offers a large well-stocked or perhaps endlessly full jukebox that can be operated from the couch. Streamers can no longer be ignored in the current audio landscape. The user of the A-S3200 can connect a streamer / DA converter to the A-S3200 according to his own taste. Chances are the streamer will age faster than the A-S3200. If the streamer needs to be replaced, the A-S3200 can be left standing.

Yamaha A-S3200: modern analog amplifier

n short, it means that the A-S3200 at first glance is very reminiscent of the amplifiers from thirty to forty years ago. The appearance will evoke a nostalgic feeling in enthusiasts. But that’s just the look.

When it comes to build quality, the A-S3200 has completely broken with the past. The build quality is nothing reminiscent of the devices of the past. The A-S3200 has a negligible noise floor. All connections on the rear are of exemplary quality, especially the speaker connections. The power supply is of a much higher build quality than was usual in the past. Music signal and loudspeaker power no longer run over small crack-sensitive buttons. Finally, Yamaha supplies a nice IR remote control with the A-S3200. The earlier amplifiers with VU meters did not have that.

Oh, and those who are bothered by VU meters can turn off the A-S3200’s VU meters.

We’ll take a look at the specifications of the A-S3200, then put it in the test environment and then we’ll do what it’s all about: listening to music.

Yamaha A-S3200

Yamaha A-S3200: technical specifications and features

The dimensions of the Yamaha A-S3200 are 435 x 180 x 464 millimeters (W x H x D) and it weighs almost 25 kilograms. The A-S3200 is a large and heavy amplifier. It stands on adjustable feet and can therefore always be placed wobble-free. Incidentally, this is the same model of feet that is screwed under the flagship pair M-5000 and C-5000. The top is open so that heat can easily flow out of the interior. The A-S3200 did not become more than lukewarm during our test period.

The stated capacity is not specified very clearly. The two-channel weighted output power is 90 Watts per channel for Asian models and 100 Watts for the other models, both in eight Ohms (20 Hz to 20 kHz, 0.07% THD). The dynamic power is 100 Watt for Asian models and 120 Watt for the other models. The IEC power (1 kHz, 0.07% THD) is 105 Watts at eight Ohms. There will be different measurement methods here because Yamaha will not release all kinds of sub-models of the A-S3200. Roughly speaking, the power of the A-S3200 equates to 100 Watts per channel at eight Ohms. At four ohms that is 150 watts. That is enough to fill a somewhat larger listening room with music.

The power bandwidth runs from 10 Hz to 50 kHz (eight ohms, 0.1% THD, 50 watts). The damping factor at eight ohms is 250. The frequency range is from 5 Hz to 100 kHz at level –3 dB. At the –0.3 dB level this is 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The residual noise is 33 uVolt according to Yamaha. The balanced inputs have an S / N ratio of 114 dB. When using a cinch input, this is 110 dB.

Yamaha A-3200: test environment

Yamaha A-S3200

We have hung the Yamaha A-S3200 on three different speakers of various backgrounds. The floorstanding KEF R5 and the floorstanding Piega Premium 7 are dynamic loudspeakers with a different sound signature. Thirdly, the A-S3200 has also been allowed to drive electrostatic loudspeakers type ESL63 from the British Quad for a while. The source was a Wadia 321 DAC that received a digital music signal from a modified Sonos Connect . Because a streamer and DA converter type DS-10 from the Italian Gold Note was also available, the Yamaha A-S3200 was also provided with music signal for a while by the DS-10.

Yamaha A-S3200

Before we discuss the sound, we can already reveal that the Yamaha A-S3200 had no trouble with any of the three speakers. Not all amplifiers can handle electrostatic speakers well, for example. Whether or not to be able to drive electrostatic loudspeakers properly is not in the price of an amplifier. It is therefore not the case that only expensive amplifiers work stable and well in combination with an electrostatic loudspeaker. There are also expensive amplifiers that prefer not to see a capacitive load. The KEF R5 has an impedance of eight ohms, the Premium 7 from Piega has an impedance of four ohms. Quad’s capacitive ESL63 has an impedance of eight ohms (all impedances average). Yamaha’s A-S3200 turned out not to matter. In all cases it worked stably.

Play the music, maestro!

Yamaha A-S3200: sound, neutral and transparent under all circumstances

We have of course brought in all kinds of music again. As befits a modern amplifier, the Yamaha A-S3200 is not picky. He handles a great classical symphony orchestra just as easily as a heavy metal band as a modest singer / songwriter.

In all cases, the solid foundation of the low tones is striking, also when driving a capacitive load. The A-S3200 appears to have very good control over the reproduction of low tones. Nowhere does it get woolly and nowhere do the low tones try to take over. The bass reproduction is full, but the listener does not get misplaced kick in the stomach. The songs “Eat The Elephant”, “Hourglass” and “Get The Led Out” from A Perfect Circle (album “Eat The Elephant”) have incorporated a challenging quantity and quality of low tones into the composition. The A-S3200 keeps the speakers tightly under control. Control is extremely good. Garbage’s “Deadwood” also contains a challenging layering of low tones. The A-S3200 is clearly not a budget amplifier, because budget amplifiers often fail here by sounding just a little too thin or just a little too woolly. Yamaha has left out any effect and takes the connected speaker into a hold. The layering of the low tones in “Deadwood” comes into its own.

We choose Ayreon’s album “The Theory Of Everything” and play “The Mirror Of Dreams”. The duet of two singers is accompanied by an acoustic guitar and a flute. The guitar sounds warm with an edge of metal. The flute sounds warm and velvety. Metality and velvety play together beautifully and realistically. The voices of the vocalists give the listener goosebumps. “The Mirror Of Dreams” merges seamlessly (gapless) into “The Lighthouse”. A plucking bass guitar is accompanied by a guitar. The murmur of the sea can be heard in the background. The latter is often omitted, but the A-S3200 shows all the details, including the subtle ironing. The sound is transparent and neutral. The A-S3200 adds nothing.

The death of an artist can cause a renewed interest in his work. For example, in recent weeks we often have the relatively old film music of Ennio Morriconeplayed again. “Main Theme” from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” has noise on board. After all, it is a relatively old analog recording, but this old analog recording now also has big dynamic jumps on board. The trumpet solo has a wonderful sharpness as can be expected from this brass instrument. Nowhere does the playback close, not even when the orchestra is playing in the fortissimo position. And the noise? This isn’t an audiophile recording, is it? The noise is not disturbing at all, but somewhat symbolizes the dustiness that is prominent throughout the film. Just as the velvety percussion symbolizes the hooves of horses in the sand. A recording does not have to be audiophile at all to affect the listener musically.

No-Man ‘s album “Love You To Bits” has woven prominent dance influences into the music, although it is not quite a dance album. The dynamic jumps are probably too big for that and there are also very quiet passages in the music that could empty the dance floor. But for those who love dance music, it is good to know in this context that the A-S3200 makes it difficult for listeners to sit still. We catch ourselves sitting on the couch gently moving with the music. The A-S3200 tries to get us up. No, we’ll just sit there and continue browsing our music collection.

Porcupine Tree’s “Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape” has great layering and a stereo image that is wider than the distance between the speakers. Very slowly the tempo is increased and more instruments are added. The recording is full of details and all kinds of things happen in the wings of the music. The high-pitched bell that falls after about three minutes has a hypnotic effect. The A-S3200 lets you hear all the subtle details and can dynamically lash out at the same time. The electric guitar floats above the recording and does not seem to be stuck in space, but rather to move in space and float around. The high bell remains individually perceptible, even when the tempo is increased further and the band works towards a climax. Is Porcupine Tree’s “Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape” a modern Bolero? Everyone can interpret that for themselves.

We choose the Rammstein album “Reise, Reise” and select the song “Dalai Lama”. The cymbals and other percussion immediately drag us into the air. The sound is wonderfully fat, as befits Rammstein, but now full of details. The music sounds friendly with an unmistakable threat. Threat of what exactly? No, no spoilers here. Those who want to know should listen to “Dalai Lama” themselves.

We play Tool’s “10,000 Days (Wings Part 2)” from the album “10,000 Days”. This song also has great dynamic jumps. In the background rain and a few thunderstorms can be heard. The thunderstorm can be heard with every amplifier, but the quiet murmur of rain or the sea in the background can sometimes fade a bit too far into the background with some usually cheaper amplifiers. Not so with the A-S3200, which just as easily shows subtle details as powerfully playing instruments at the same time. The details do not snow at all, even with the continuous drumming of a double bass drum. Perhaps unnecessarily, of course the recording must also have a certain quality. No amplifier can fix the tinkering of a recording engineer.

We have to finish, but we still play Beethoven’s “Overture Egmont”, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Rock music didn’t exist in Beethoven’s day, but the three-quarter time in the first half of Overture Egmont makes us rock back and forth involuntarily. Beethoven works towards a bang climax that ends with strings and brass playing fortissimo, opening all registers. The A-S3200 doesn’t budge and makes the symphony orchestra shine.

In summary, the tone of the Yamaha A-S3200 is neutral and transparent with very good control over all tonal areas. The power supply is extremely heavy when the output power is taken into account. This will undoubtedly contribute positively to the beautiful and controlled bass reproduction. We appreciate the fact that Yamaha omitted effect seeking. The A-S3200 is stable regardless of the connected speaker type and has no problem with a capacitive load.

The A-S3200 mainly shows the differences between the speakers and does not have a prominent sound of its own. The ESL63 from Quad is a resolution champion. The A-S3200 has a high resolution and shows the smallest details in the recording. At the same time, the layer reproduction has a solid foundation. The KEF R5 has a hint of warmth that is noticeable. The Piega Premium 7 sounds neutral with a hint of coolness. All differences between the speakers are clearly visible. Which speaker sounds best? That is a bit of a matter of taste. The A-S3200 is an all-rounder and the user is free to choose a speaker according to his own taste. The A-S3200 has enough power on board to drive a slightly less than average sensitive speaker.

The A-S3200 offers a lot of music pleasure for the asking price. Of course it can be even better, but then the buyer has to withdraw much more money from his pocket than the amount of 5,799 euros that is asked for the A-S3200.

Yamaha A-S3200: place in the market, who is this amplifier for?

At first glance, the A-S3200 seems to appeal to feelings of nostalgia. The VU meters are a clear reference to the past. Technically, however, the A-S3200 has nothing to do with the past. The build quality of the entire device, the heavy-duty power supply, the fully balanced signal circuit and the beautiful IR remote control are all contemporary. Those who have nothing to do with nostalgia should not be put off by VU meters. After all, they can be turned off. Anyone looking for a good amplifier should check out and listen to Yamaha’s A-S3200 at a dealer. The build quality raises the expectation of a long and trouble-free life.

Devices with all the trimmings can be handy, but they also limit freedom of choice to a certain extent. Digital inputs and functions are missing on the A-S3200. Yamaha has concentrated purely on analog circuits and has gone to the trouble of implementing these analog circuits and everything around them properly. Some buyers will find the lack of digital inputs a shortcoming. The other will appreciate it because then a DA converter and / or streamer of their own choice can be installed. And if the streamer no longer receives support or stops working, the A-S3200 can stand. The A-S3200 has no modern but rapidly aging gadgets on board.

Yamaha A-S3200: conclusion

The Yamaha A-S3200 offers the listener a transparent and neutral window on the recording and lets you look deep into that recording. Control over all tone areas is beyond expectations. The VU meters evoke feelings of nostalgia, but build quality and sound are completely contemporary. The A-S3200 has no aging-sensitive features on board and seems to have a very long and trouble-free life ahead.

PLUS POINTS of Yamaha A-S3200

  • Very good build quality
  • Heavy-duty and modern power supply
  • Transparent, neutral and detailed sound
  • No aging-sensitive functions on board

MINUSES of Yamaha A-S3200

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