Some interesting design ideas have gone into these units, which nevertheless seem a touch lacking in both detail and tonality. Strong bass is a plus, occasionally ragged presentation a drawback
Good build quality
Lacking in detail and tonality
Mixed bag performance
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The Yamaha CD-S1000 and A-S1000 proclaim a certain seriousness of purpose, with large dimensions, considerable weight (especially the power amp, which houses one of the largest mains transformers we've seen in an integrated amp) and rather smart trim.
In fact there's plenty of good solid engineering in there as well. The amp boasts several more or less unusual features internally, including a complex 'floating balanced' arrangement that, in principle, should give more accurately symmetrical performance than normal configurations and a very cunning arrangement for the volume and tone controls.
It turns out that the volume, balance and tone control knobs all operate regular variable resistors which, however, don't handle audio, but instead feed a setting back to the digitally controlled circuits which implement the respective functions.
At centre position, the tone and balance controls are out of circuit: turn any knob a little off-centre and a relay clicks internally as the relevant circuits come into play. The volume is a motorised control which of course 'remembers' settings just like a traditional volume control, but adjusts volume in precise half-dB steps. A built-in phono stage handles both types of cartridge.
The CD-S1000 is, in fact, an SACD player, stereo-only like most of the current crop and with the usual SACD minor drawbacks of slow disc loading and slight mechanical whine. It is neatly assembled inside and there's plenty of fresh air in the case despite the presence of a fairly large mains transformer.
Construction of both units is good, with damping of any mechanical parts likely to resonate, including the heatsinks in the amp.
Although these units produce a sound of considerable scale, there were some doubts about both tonal neutrality and the precision of presentation.
It's a shame to have to report that such a good-looking and thoroughly-thought-out new arrival on the market emerged as one of the less successful in the test (among a strong field, let it be said), but that's pretty much the inescapable conclusion of our blind listeners' notes.
Not that there wasn't some praise and we're happy to report that these units could be just the thing for lovers of big bass. Low frequencies seem quite untrammeled and extend way down with real weight and attack. Possibly slightly more weight than there should be, but then that's not such a crime and after all can work as an effective foil to the slightly light bass of many smaller speakers.
At the other extreme, treble is clear and crisp, though perhaps a little too crisp for some tastes. However, midrange is good with particularly clear presentation of voices, so much so that listeners whose main musical fare is voice-based could easily forgive the slight bass and treble foibles.
As for precision, there's an occasional hint of raggedness and some vagueness in the stereo image, plus a slight lack of 'air' around the sound (also audible with SACDs), which was commented on at various points by all our listeners.
The phono stage slightly accentuates this and also the treble lift, but its bass is actually a little more natural than the line inputs'.
In general there's a welcome degree of get-up-and-go in the sound, which brings plenty of life in its wake and, in combination with the large-scale nature already mentioned, makes for a listening experience that can certainly induce a grin, with the right music.