Yamaha has been through some lean times but the company seems to have ridden the storm and shows no sign of waning (at least in terms of its prodigious and ever-expanding product lineup).
The company seems adept at embracing new developments whilst leveraging its rich 125-year-old musical heritage and expertise in working with traditional material such as wood as much as transistors and capacitors. One such example is the new Soavo (or NS-901) range, a stunning looking collection of full-range floorstanders and bookshelf speakers developed in collaboration with acclaimed designer Toshiyuki Kita. As well as a piano black gloss finish identical to that used on Yamaha grand pianos, the cabinets have an unusual trapezoid shape that reduces standing waves. The build quality is impeccable with three-way mitered joints and vertical ladder bracing. Newly developed drivers that utilise Yamaha’s A-PMD (Advanced Polymer-injected Mica Diaphragm) are used for the mid-range and woofer, with an aluminium tweeter and a heavy aluminum diecast tweeter plate that minimises unwanted resonances.
The more affordable NS-700 series has slightly reduced power handling but borrows heavily from Soavo in many respects, eschewing parallel vertical and horizontal lines and introduces another aesthetic element derived from Yamaha’s musical DNA with a subwoofer port reminiscent of a guitar’s sound hole and a grille net shaped like the body of a guitar. A-PMD cones also used for the drivers, which are light, rigid and sturdy and provide very fast response times. Both Soavo and the NS-700 ranges offer surround speakers and a subwoofer for multi-channel home cinema use.
Audiophiles everywhere have much to celebrate, including the simple VU meter, which looks to be on its way back, featuring for example on Yamaha’s S2100 series. This is a much more affordable version of the acclaimed S3000 series of audiophile grade components and consists of the A-S2100 amp and CD-S2100 CD/SACD deck. Like its flagship stablemate, the A-S2100 is an example of floating and balanced topology in practice, which should remove any negative impact of minute fluctuations or ground noise. Power is rated at a bountiful 160W/channel (albeit into a 4 ohm load), and the amp’s MOSFET amplification is arguably akin to valve amplification at less expense. The deck meanwhile boasts high grade construction, has separate power supplies for digital and analogue circuits and uses the impressive ES9016 SABRE32 chip for its DAC. USB, optical and coaxial inputs allow users to take advantage of the high-end DAC with other source components.
Yamaha has been king of the soundbar market for a decade, and continues to adapt and innovate as required. The YSP-2500 is a high-end model with a shallow profile (it can slink as low as 51mm tall) compatible with many of today’s low-down TV screens. It supports 4K Ultra HD signals at 50/60Hz, has the ubiquitous wireless subwoofer and can wirelessly stream audio over Bluetooth. Using proven technology to bounce audio from its 16 mini drivers its home cinema performance should be beyond reproach and a premium remote handset, complemented by a slick iOS/Android app should maintain Yamaha’s good track record of user-friendliness.
At the other end of the seriousness scale Yamaha has launched a quintet of premium AV receivers under its Aventage label. These are built to enthusiast-level standards with the top of the range RX-A3040 and RX-A2040 sporting an H-shaped cross member frame and a fifth central foot to help reduce vibrations. All models are equipped with 4K 50/60p compatibility, hi-res audio decoding, Wi-Fi and Wireless Direct, which streams music using AirPlay directly from a smartphone or tablet in the absence of a wireless network and allows control of the receiver using the impressive AV Controller app. As ever, Yamaha offers a baffling array of DSP modes including DSP HD3 on the RX-A3040, which uses extra channels to create virtual higher and wider sound fields. Real extra height channels will however materialise in the guise of an eagerly awaited Dolby Atmos update.