The YBA YA701 7.1-channel power amplifier and the YBA YM501 universal DVD player are built into compact midi-size units that are much closer to YBA's hi-fi range in appearance than traditional home cinema.

The stark simplicity of the front panels only reinforces the impression of discrete stripped-down purposefulness.

Component connections

While all the amplifier's audio interconnections are contained in the YA701, a small satellite box, the so-called 'Y-Box', is supplied with the amplifier to handle the video interconnections – composite, S-Video, component video and HDMI (2 in, 1 out) which links to, and is powered by, the YM501 courtesy of the proprietary 'Y-Link' cabling.

The YM501 DVD player has 24/192bit conversion and compatibility extending to DivX, MP3 and the usual rewritable formats and JPEGs. An HDMI output supplements the standard analogue outputs. Rear-panel USB, RS-232 and trigger sockets extend its competence into custom install systems.

Digital diva

The YA701 claims 100W output from each channel, and the signal path is all digital, following digital conversion at the input. Outputs for all channels are available at preamp (line) level as well as from the speaker outputs. Keeping the video and audio circuits separate should help to improve sound quality.

Summing up performance is more than usually complicated. There are hints that something special lurks under the skin of the amplifier in particular, but the disc-player is less impressive.

Our Tech Labs measurements correlate with a rather dirty onscreen appearance, lacking the rock-solid stability that these days is available from even fairly basic DVD-playing machinery.

It just wasn't very subtle, and the player has the unfortunate effect of underplaying some of the more striking video effects: the piercing eyes of Cate Blanchett in the closing scenes of Charlotte Grey being a good case in point.

No HD audio

No YBA equipment can be lightly dismissed, yet this pairing gives every indication that the brand is only just beginning to flex its design muscles.

None of the recent HD surround sound formats from Dolby or DTS are included – almost unforgiveable – and neither are there any room EQ options, though this may be a matter of choice by a company that prefers to see itself as the producer of purist hardware. Even so, there's little excuse for omitting bi-amping options for stereo purposes.

So, while the AVR delivers a clean, punchy sound, this YBA duo just seems a little old fashioned – almost like a work in progress.