What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Wed, 4 Mar 2009, 11:00am

Yamaha A-S700

Tested at £400
60100
3

‘Inoffensive’ doesn’t mean ‘enjoyable’; the Yamaha’s on the wrong side of the line

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For

  • Thoughtful design and hefty spec
  • staunchly middle-of-the-road sound

Against

  • Outmuscled and outgunned by virtually all its rivals

Hardly seems fair, does it? Here's a perfectly likeable, solidly built and thoughtfully finished amplifier that scored a firm four stars last time out.

It's come down a full £100 since then, yet it's come down a star too. It's an eminently justified verdict, though, and here's why.

Actually, no. Let's start with the positives. There are, after all, quite a few. The looks, for instance: in a group of play-it-safe, me-too designs, the modicum of flair Yamaha has shown in the A-S700 is very welcome.

Specification, too, is on the money; a couple of tape loops, a moving-magnet phono stage and binding for a couple of pairs of speakers is all good news, while a claimed 90 watts per channel doesn't look too shabby either. Also, the Yamaha has a slick and very pleasant remote.

At first listen, the A-S700's sound makes as much sense as its spec-sheet.

Lou Reed's I Wanna Be Black has all its nasty jagged edges smoothed off by the Yamaha's safety-first approach – you'd never call its presentation thrilling but it's a spacious, detailed and, above all, gloriously easy listen.

Painless heft slides into anonymity

There's reasonable dynamic heft on tap, but not enough to cause any distress to the more genteel listener.

Some amps that sound initially exciting can prove wearisome over time, but there's no danger of the 'S700 fatiguing the listener with attack – it's as slick as a front-bench politician.

Pitted against comparable rivals, though, ‘smoothness' and ‘slickness' become synonyms for ‘blandness', and that's the A-S700's problem in a nutshell. In an effort to cause no offence it has rather stripped itself of character.

On top of this lack of ambition, the Yamaha's feeling the squeeze from all sides. Yes, it's handily less expensive than it was, but since we last heard it the entire sector's been reinvigorated.

And other amplifiers in this class have become a little cheaper too.

In isolation and on paper the A-S700's got plenty going for it, but in practice this expensive amp is one of the least alluring.

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