This system comprises the basic trio of components, the likes of which could have been at the core of an audio system 25 years or more ago, albeit brought up to date. The electronics are both from Yamaha’s current flagship S3000 range, which consists of just two products: the CD-S3000 CD/SACD player, and the matching A-S3000 integrated amplifier. Meanwhile, the loudspeakers are the larger bookshelves from Monitor Audio’s new Gold series, the Gold 100, which replace the popular GX100 models.
Yamaha has not skimped on its flagship pairing at all. These are products built to show what Yamaha is capable of doing when all the stops have been pulled out, and simply from the point of lifting either product out of its packaging, you know you aren’t dealing with some middleweight. Take the CD-S3000 for example: lifting that out of the box, you could mistake it for a power amp, and a substantial power amp at that. It’s comprehensively well built, right down to the disc drawer – no plasticky, wobbly sled, this mech glides out of the front panel, is held in place with a positive, rigid feel, and gently withdraws to play your discs with military-spec confidence. You even have the option of spiked or normal feet.
The Yamaha CD-S3000 is not simply a disc player, because to survive as a CD/SACD player in 2015, a device also needs to support a range of digital inputs. The Yamaha CD-S3000 comes with coaxial, optical, and USB inputs. Yamaha supports DSD64 and DSD128 file replay, but rolls its own Steinberg ASIO driver for PC and Mac, and its website has a recommended configuration for Foobar replay. Essentially, instead of the more commonplace ‘DoP’ system (where the DSD file is wrapped in a pseudo-PCM outer shell to be read by compatible hardware and software) this sends native DSD files from computer to player. It’s unclear whether DSD sounds better this way or through DoP, or indeed whether there is a difference to be heard at all. Both DSD and PCM files are fed through the player’s ESS9018 32bit 192kHz Sabre DAC. The CD-S3000 has balanced and single-ended outputs.
Moving over to the A-S3000 amplifier, it’s obviously reminiscent of those vast Japanese amps and receivers of the 1970s and 1980s, especially with its large VU meters. No fluro displays here, these are proper waggling needles illuminated by bulbs, the way things always used to be in the good ol’ days. It has tone controls, and all the knobs and dials have the kind of solid ‘thunk’ and resistance to your fingers that exudes old-school quality. Yes, these things appear facile and unimportant next to the technical details, but they ultimately inspire confidence in the product, and are not to be sniffed at.