Review: Yamaha A-S1200 Integrated stereo amplifier – Nostalgia always goes well with hi-fi enthusiasts and retro scores with hipsters. They also understood that at Yamaha. But the new A-S1200 integrated stereo amplifier shows that a retro design on the outside does not preclude modern technology on the inside.
Yamaha A-S1200 Integrated stereo amplifier
The A-S1200 is the entry-level model of the three better stereo amplifiers that Yamaha introduced just before the end of the year. Connoisseurs will immediately realize that this is the successor to the A-S1100. The new amplifier therefore resembles that popular predecessor like two drops of water. Yes, the VU meters that are specific to the AS line are available again.
The Yamaha A-S1200 of 2,099 euros is an integrated amplifier of 2 x 90 Watt. Without own DAC part or streaming, but with the necessary analog inputs. This makes the A-S1200 slightly different from the super complete integrated amplifiers such as the Arcam SA30 or the NAD M10 which we viewed earlier. The Yamaha has fewer options than those all-rounders, but those digital functions are also the most subject to an aging process. So no AirPlay or Chromecast, or whatever. The Yamaha A-S1200 is really a fully analog stereo amplifier that is intended as the beating heart – or powerful engine – of a music system that consists of several devices. Just like before.
|What||Analog stereo amplifier|
|Power||2 x 90 Watt (8 Ohm, loaded over the full frequency range, 0.07% THD)|
|Inputs||5 x analog cinch pairs, 1 x phono-MM (MM or MC)|
|Dimensions||43.5 × 15.7 × 46.3 cm|
Illuminated VU meters
The design that beckons to the heyday of hi-fi in the 1970s is a big part of the appeal of this amplifier. It is a kind of device that a lot of people will have a love at first sight experience with. Or you must be a fan of more futuristic designs, genre Devialet Expert or those NAD’s M10. At Yamaha they know very well how to seduce retro enthusiasts. Everything is used: beautifully illuminated VU meters, a solid volume knob, beveled rotary knobs for the tone control and a power knob that changes position with a firm clicking sound. The front of the A-S1200 has been kept sober for the rest, which works very well with the silver-colored version. But the black version is also good, although the seventies vibe is still slightly bigger with the metal-colored edition. This is partly because the sides are covered with a black gloss lacquer, which contrasts nicely with the silver color.
If we are allowed to talk about those VU meters: here you also immediately see the difference between the three new AS models (A-S1200, 2200 and 3200). With the A-S1200 you get a compact, illuminated strip with two meters. With the top model, those meters are a lot bigger and more impressive. You can also adjust the function of the meters or even switch them off with a rotary knob. It also remains just a visual feature, jumping meters will not change your listening experience. Nice, though.
The A-S1200 may be an entry-level model, but it remains a more expensive amplifier. You will also notice this in the build quality. This Yamaha is simply very solid and solid, which leaves a lasting impression. That too is honoring the seventies, because the better amplifiers of that time were indeed built like a tank and proved to withstand the test of time. Of course we can only make our own assessment of durability, but the finish of this device gives some confidence that you can continue with it for a long time.
Ready for all turntables
Solidity prevails with this device, also at the rear. Here, too, no compromises were made on the finish. Often this is just the place where manufacturers cut some corners – under the motto ‘out of sight, out of mind’ perhaps – but Yamaha does not drop any stitches here. The loudspeaker terminals, for example, are large and made of metal. No messing around with cables that you have to try to clamp, banana plugs and thick cables fit in without problems. It seems like a detail, but it is not. As befits a hi-fi device with its roots in yesteryear, everything is provided to connect two pairs of speakers. The button to switch between speakers A and B (or to let them play together) can be found at the front.
While you’re at the back, you will notice that this amplifier only has analog cinch inputs. Five pairs, plus one more pair of cinch inputs to connect a turntable directly. The A-S1200 is ready for both MC and MM cartridges, a nice extra for vinylistas.
Nowadays you do not find this with every amplifier, but there is also a pre-out and a line-out. This way you can also connect a subwoofer.
To talk about the lack of streaming or room correction: this must really be a conscious choice for an old-school concept. After all, Yamaha has those technologies in-house, in the form of the excellent MusicCast platform and with YPAO, and does offer amplifiers where those things are built in. We are thinking, among other things, of the R-N803D of approximately 900 euros. Also an amplifier that performs well for its class, but not at the level of the purity-oriented AS family.
Open the hood of the A-S1200 and you will encounter a relatively simple but symmetrical construction. Yamaha did not have to come up with complicated constructions to isolate a digital hatch from an analog output stage. Your attention will immediately be drawn to the four gigantic capacitors in the middle, with a very large toroidal transformer underneath. This gives confidence that the power supply can handle playing more challenging pieces of music with large dynamic jumps. Equally impossible to miss are the two gigantic cooling fins on either side of the power supply, each of which has a printed circuit board mounted. They certainly contribute a lot to the total weight of 22 kg. In any case, the structure looks very neat and tidy.
One of the novelties of the A-S1200 (and the two other new models) is mainly the stiffened chassis, more specifically how the heavy parts are attached and how the amplifier stands on a piece of furniture via new legs. This is what Yamaha calls mechanical ground, designed to prevent minor vibrations of the parts. It is difficult for a tester to judge the impact of this, but we have heard from designers that micro-vibrations can have an impact on the sound. Incidentally, it is also in this area that there is a difference with the more expensive A-S2200. It looks very similar and offers a similar capacity, but is built up a little more thoroughly ‘grounded’ internally.
Can go in all directions
No WiFi or network connection also means no app control or smart functions. Logical. The A-S1200 does come with a classic – but again: solid – Yamaha remote that does not break down the luxury feeling. We can imagine that for an amplifier like this you sometimes crawl out of the sofa to operate those seventies buttons on the device. That is also satisfying, because every button you touch provides tactile feedback at a premium level. If you can’t imagine anything, get into a small Renault and push a button. Now do the same in a Mercedes. Whether that is worth an additional cost is of course a personal preference.
An image floated around previous generation Yamaha amplifiers that they had a ‘Japanese’ sound, or we got that impression after all. That story was not entirely correct anyway, because the Japanese brand always had its devices for the European market tuned in Germany so that they better matched the local music taste. Nevertheless, previous Yamahas were sometimes a bit more analytical in nature – for example compared to a Marantz – and there was a strong focus on detailed reproduction. We hear that less with the A-S1200. For testing, we first pair them with a pair of Dali Rubicon 2s, then with a set of KEF R3s, whereby especially those Danish Dalis deliver a successful marriage. Frisky and fast enough to make ‘Ring Road’ by jazz former player Mohammed Abozekry lifelike, sufficiently tight to keep Radiohead’s ‘Burn the Witch’ coherent and with a warm glow that ‘Mon Raymond’ by Carla Bruni seductively in our test room.
Many music lovers will be satisfied with the A-S1200. It’s an all-rounder that won’t disappoint, whatever your musical preferences.
Yamaha A-S1200 Integrated stereo amplifier – Conclusion
The Yamaha A-S1200 is an excellent stereo amplifier for those who find good sound quality as important as a retro radiation. That sounds a bit frivolous, but those who listen intensively to music can also give their eyes something as a gift.
However, the comments about the appearance of this amp shouldn’t distract you from its other qualities. Because there are. The lack of streaming or a digital hatch can indeed be a minus for some. This is not an amplifier that you just plug in to start streaming. For others, this is a plus because it is precisely those streaming functions that can undermine the lifespan / usability of a device. You don’t depend on software updates that may or may not pop up.
The A-S1200 is certainly a stereo amplifier that can handle something. You can easily control typical speakers. It also seems to us that this ear-friendly device fits more speakers better than some older, more analytical Yamahas. If you do not need built-in DAC or streaming, then it is an excellent choice in its price range.
Positives of Yamaha A-S1200 Integrated stereo amplifier
- Excellent build quality and finish
- Stable power supply
- Pleasant, slightly warm presentation
- Moderately powerful
- Sustainable concept
Negatives of Yamaha A-S1200 Integrated stereo amplifier
- Requires sources with analog outputs