On release Yamaha’s AS500 stereo amplifier was highly praised, it offered a host of features, fine sound and ample power to drive relatively demanding speakers… Best of all it was for around £300.
However since then Marantz, Rotel and Cambridge Audio have all released shiny (literally in some cases) new products, thus seemingly rendering Yamaha a bit tired and old-fashioned. Yamaha have now released their latest incarnation of the budget amplifier, the imaginatively named AS501 to challenge the established players for a piece of that pie.
The AS501 is very similar in looks to the old AS500, which was a fine looking beast. It has a lovely retro feel, clearly taking styling points from 80’s era Japanese Hi-Fi with the use of clean design lines, and I like it. It has lost the record output selector which I would say is not necessarily a bad thing, and the number of input LEDs has increased with the number of inputs. The volume knob has a nice smooth action with a lovely weight to the movement. It also carries the bass, treble, balance and loudness dials from the AS500 along with the direct button to defeat all these dials and provide the shortest path for the audio signal which will provide the best possible sound quality.
Connections on the rear are carried over, however there is the welcome edition of an optical and coaxial input giving you an easy method to connect your television and improve its sound quality. You still have spear A and B independent switching, a phono stage for your record deck, 3 line level inputs, 2 recording loops and a dedicated sub-woofer out. The build and finish quality is typical Yamaha, superb. The unit feels lovely and solid like it could last a life time.
So its how does it sound? The first thing that strikes you is the crisp high frequencies, the cymbals float along at a lovely pace and you can here the delicacy that Max Roach is striking them with. Acoustic guitars sound life like, the strings being struck in a lovely controlled manner, composed yet free. Vocals sit centre-stage exactly where they should be. This is very much where the Yamaha strengths lie, making it sound lovely with simple acoustic music, however unfortunately from here things become a little less clear.
At low volumes the bottom is muddled and ponderous, slowing the pace of the music right down. When you turn the volume up the bottom end certainly lightens up gaining the agility, the treble and mid range, but at this point the treble starts to sound harsh and I find I’m experiencing a fair amount of sibilance. Which is a shame, it has a claimed 85 watts a channel at 8 ohms, it feels like it desperately wants to be played loud and really use its available power. If this amplifier is paired with some fairly neutral to warm speakers it is does alleviate the issue to certain degree- a quick note before the conclusion, this is not a ‘relaxing’ or laid back amplifier. This is not a criticism, you just need to bare that in mind when selecting this an amplifier .
I think that the AS501 is a fine amplifier for certain types of music, it revels when fed simple or acoustic music but if your taste is dance music, rock or any music with a more prominent bottom end then this may not be the amplifier for you.
Head down to your local store for a demonstration to hear for yourself!
Author – Jon, Cardiff store