Audiophiles love overachieving products, and two of the most impressive ones I’ve encountered in the past year are the $1650 YBA Design YA201 integrated amplifier and the $995 Rega Apollo CD player. Both of these mid-priced products sound as if they cost more than they do. YBA Design is a value-oriented subbrand descended from YBA—one of the most prestigious high-end audio manufacturers in France (the firm takes its name from the initials of its founder, Yves-Bernard André). YBA Design products are designed in France, but built in Asia to hold manufacturing costs down. Words can’t do justice to the YA201’s breathtaking appearance, but what’s even more impressive is its sound.
YBA products are famous for their three-dimensionality and vibrant midrange detail, and the 100Wpc YA201 is no exception. Through the YA201, musicians seem to appear onstage with almost sculptural solidity, and at times the amplifier even gives the illusion that the music is illuminated from within—making subtle inner contours and details easier to hear and appreciate. This, in a nutshell, is the sonic magic that makes the YA201 sound more expensive than it is.
To hear what I mean, try a high-quality recording of complex orchestral material, such as David Chesky’s “Concerto for Violin
and Orchestra” from Area 31 [Chesky]. The piece opens with a complicated rhythmic theme carried by tympani, hand claps, and a celesta, then unfolds into an angular yet sweet-sounding solo violin passage. Seemingly without effort the YA201 highlighted the earthy punch of the tympani, the sharp “pop” of the hand claps, and the mysterious ring of the celesta, and then shifted gears to nail the incisive sound of the violin. At the same time, the amp captured the reverberant interior of the recording space so believably that I almost felt as though I could get up and walk out onto the stage.