Sometimes, it’s the simple things that make all the difference. The synergy between 2 components, or that piece of budget hi-fi that ors everything right. Here, however, it’s a CD tray – the tray belonging to Yamaha’s CD-S3000, in itself a marvel of engineering. Press the button and the whisper-quiet tray glides smoothly from its precision-cut slot, sliding open to accept the disc. Press it again and, after a moment, a soft clunk and a relay click signify the beginning of what will be a wonderful musical journey. Sit back, dear reader… and listen.
Sitting on the rack, you’d be forgiven for thinking the CD-S3000 was an ordinary CD player. But it’s more than that – it’s a work of art. A product designed to demonstrate the panicle of audio technology, from a company who arguably does it best. Yamaha have been in the business for over 125 years – and, in that time, they’ve produced some of the finest musical instruments and hi-fidelity audio equipment. Their pianos are world-renowned. Their speakers are used in studios worldwide. And their products can be found in the homes of many, many audiophiles who spend years searching for the perfect sound.
Attention to detail is key here. The CD-S3000 is a monster – weighing in at over 19KG, it ways more than many integrated amps. And it’s an object of beauty, clad with aluminium and wood panels, both to enhance its looks and reduce vibrations. But yamaha hasn’t stopped there…
Inside, the CD-S3000 is a marvel of technical engineering. Separate power supplies, with independent transformers power the digital and analogue circuitry. These toroidal transformers, 14.9VA and 25VA for the analogue and digital circuitry respectively, are copper-encased for shielding.
The analogue and digital sections are positioned either side of the central CD loader mechanism to realise ideal weight balance, and the power supply block capacitors are mounted directly on each board to minimise signal paths. As with the A-S3000, clever routing of cables and low-resistance screw-type connections further reduce signal paths to guarantee the best sound quality.
For the CD drive, Yamaha didn’t opt for the usual cheap plastic off-the-shelf model – instead choosing to build a custom drive with an aluminium tray and precision laser assembly. That tray features a meshed wire drive to guarantee smooth, luxurious operation to match the rest of the player. They didn’t stop there – each drive is supported by heavy anchors to reduce the effects of vibrations when reading the disc, and each drive is meticulously levelled at the factory to give the laser the best chance of picking up every minute detail.
The DAC employs the ES9018 from ESS Technologies, and features a single-stage transmission output stage, which significantly reduces signal loss, and NFB (negative feedback) when compared with a conventional, multi-stage output. The CD-S3000 is designed to give best results when using in a fully balanced configuration with the companion A-S3000 amplifier. The ES9018 is a high-precision, 32-bit DAC chip with an internal master clock, jitter eliminator and a fully balanced signal processing circuit. It features an 8-channel D/A converter, with 4 D/A channels per side operating in dual-differential mode to guarantee every minute detail is captured.
Digital inputs, 1X optical and 1X coaxial, allow you to connect other sources such as a streamer or blu-ray player and benefit from the CD-S3000’s DAC. An asynchronous USB input accepts samplings rates up to 24-bit, 192KHZ. It uses a custom IC with an internal master clock, enabling it to perform low-jitter transmission of audio signals. Using Yamaha’s Steinberg driver, available as a free download from their website, the CD-S3000 supports the ASIO 2.3 protocol. This is the standard protocol for professional use digital audio, and allows greater throughput and lower latency than the standard USB audio driver.
Yamaha’s ‘Pure Direct’ mode allows you to switch off the display and the digital outputs when playing back analogue audio. This improves sound quality by reducing interference – with Yamaha claiming it to offer a warmer, more natural sound. And finally – the chassis has been copper plated to ensure low impedance, and the player sits on Yamaha’s custom adjustable feet. Identical to those found on the companion A-S3000, these feature removable magnetic feet exposing spikes that can be used with suitable furniture. They can also be used to level the player if necessary.
Packaging is similar to that of the A-S3000 – wrapped in its foam-like cloth material, the CD-S3000 is supplied sandwiched between 4 rectangular polystyrene blocks. The remote, batteries, power cable and a basic interconnect cable sit in slots atop the player, with some documentation held in a cardboard holder at the side.
Right off the bat, I was surprised to see an interconnect cable included, even one as basic as this. It’s unlikely that you’d such such a cable with a system at this price – and given that, I would’ve preferred a USB A-B cable instead.
At over 19KG, the CD-S3000 is considerably heavier than many CD players on the market. And it’s solid, too – thanks to its 7MM thick front and 6MM thick top aluminium panels and solid wood sides. The top panel features precision-cut vents designed to match those on the A-S3000. The usual thump test reveals that the CD-S3000 is all but insusceptible to vibration – the top yielding a dull thunk with no discernible resonance.
The front panel is clean and simple. A rocker switch for power is accompanied by controls for pure direct, source, and a layer selector for SACDs. The 6MM aluminium disc tray lines up perfectly with the open/close button – both situated directly beneath the display, its glass panel precision cut and fastened behind the front panel leaving no discernible gap. To the right, controls are limited to play, pause, stop, next and previous.
All buttons are cut from aluminium. Controls are solid, with a nice tactile click – and there’s no gap between the front panel and the control when the controls are pressed.
Spin the player around, and there’s a lot more going on. A central 2-pin IEC power connector provides power to the unit. It’s worth noting that if your rack has a leg at the rear, you’ll need to ensure there’s enough clearance to clear the cable’s strain relief – a connection positioned to either the extreme left or right would’ve been preferred.
XLR, RCA, optical and coaxial output jacks are provided, as well as the inputs for optical, coaxial and USB. All connectors are high quality, with no flexing or unpleasant sounds with pushing on tight connectors.
Finally, remote jacks allow the unit to be controlled by other components, and a system connector allows for diagnostics and servicing if required.
The remote supplied with the CD-S3000 is similar to that supplied with the A-S3000 – with the exception of a number of controls relating to the CD player itself. While the A-S3000’s remote offers basic playback controls, the CD-S3000’s offers the ability to program the player and perform other functions. The remote also offers volume and input controls for the A-S3000, so you can use 1 remote for both.
The remote is a solid, chunky a faire with a thick aluminium facia similar to that found on the player itself. The control layout is logical, and controls are easy to locate when you’re lost in the music – there’s no reaching for the manual to figure out which button does what.
Interestingly, while I encountered issues using the A-S3000’s remote, I did not encounter any with that supplied with the CD-S3000. The remote worked flawlessly and was a joy to use. It’s got great range, and works well even when aimed vaguely at the player – and even the battery cover, which keeps the 2 supplied AAA batteries in place, is high quality.
Flick the CD-S3000’s rocker switch, and you’ll be greeted by relay clicks. The CD-S3000 will remember which source it was previously switched to – right out of the box, it starts up in CD mode. If there’s a CD in the player, playback will begin automatically.
The CD-S3000 employs a hard power switch, like that found on the companion A-S3000. Leaving the front power switch in the on position, the player can be brought in and out of standby mode by the remote – switching off at the front panel cuts all power to the unit. In standby, the player consumes only 0.3W – and, by default, the player automatically enters standby mode after a period of inactivity.
Upon first use, and all uses thereafter, I noticed the CD-S3000 is distinctly slow to respond to most commands. The player takes a significant amount of time from power on until the tray can be opened – and disc loading is slow, too. Skipping tracks, changing sources, or toggling pure direct mode are all as responsive as one could hope for.
Upon pressing the eject button, the tray glides smoothly from its slot, emitting a silent whisper as it goes. 4 rubber strips with indents are adhered to the tray to keep the CD in place, allowing you to line it up in the centre of the tray. The player supports both 12Cm and 8CM CDs, and the rubber helps to prevent your CDs becoming scratched – a nice touch.
A further press of the eject button will close the tray and scan the CDs table of contents. pressing the play button when the tray is extended will cause the tray to close and playback will start without any further intervention – the same result can be achieved with a gentle push of the tray.
On a couple of occasions, I would insert a CD into the CD-S3000 only for it not to be read – I had to open and close the tray again so the player would recognise I had inserted a disc. I’m not sure what causes this issue – it’s not one I’ve been able to reproduce reliably.
The player supports sequence programming, as well as shuffle and repeat etc. The remote is required to use these functions. I rarely if ever use these modes, so this wasn’t a problem for me – and i only used the basic playback functions on the A-S3000’s remote to control the CD player since i had that remote to hand. The CD-S3000 also supports gapless playback – necessary so as not to ruin the flow of some albums. Many players with advanced digital processing contain small amounts of buffer memory, and thus don’t support this function. But it’s supported here, and a welcome addition at that.
Sources are selected by repeated pressing of the front panel source button. Available sources include CD, optical, coaxial and uSB. When operating in CD mode, an output muting relay mutes the output of the CD-S3000 until a disc is playing. This helps to prevent operational noise being heard through your amplifier, such as when the player is reading the discs table of contents (TOC).
When playing back a digital source, the player displays the sampling rate of the signal being fed to the unit. Sampling rates of up to 24-bit, 192KHZ are supported. To guarantee maximum compatibility with all digital sources, the ES9018 employs PLL to generate clock signals synchronised with that of the digital audio signal. There are are 7 PLL bandwidth settings, allowing you to alter the accuracy of the internal clock in the DAC to allow for greater tolerance in fluctuations in the clock of the digital source. All digital sources used worked flawlessly, including USB connected to a MacBook pro.
Playback of single layer, dual layer, and hybrid SACD discs is supported. The CD-S3000 can also play back MP3 and WMA discs, with a maximum of 648 combined files and folders (limited to 299 folders). Only CBR files up to 320KBPS for MP3 and 192KBPS for WMA can be played – variable bitrate files are not supported. Playback of MP3/WMA files is in alpha-numeric order. The unit does not support copy-protected WMA files, and also does not support CD text.
The CD-S3000 shares many of the characteristics of the A-s3000. The smooth, natural sound with a touch of warmth, and astounding detail retrieval are all traits carried over from the companion amp. What the CD-S3000 has that the A-S3000 lacks ,however, is the ability to disappear – an ability to get completely out of the way and let the music do the talking.
The CD-S3000 offers up a wide, expansive sound stage, and dynamic grunt is there in spades. Spin The Killer’s ‘Battle Born’ album, and the player resolves small details such as the shaker in ‘Heart Of A Girl’, and the creak of the hi-hat pedal during the intro of ‘From Here On OUt’ with ease.
It’s not particularly forgiving with poor recordings – spin Evanescence’s ‘Hello’ from the 2004 Fallen remaster, and the harsh highs take precedence. This is no fault of the CD-S3000 – it’s one of those tracks that, unfortunately, fell fowl of the digital age. Other CD players are, however, better able to dull the harshness, rendering the performance more enjoyable.
Spin Lover Of The Light from Mumford and Sons ‘Babel’, and not only does the CD-S3000 accurately portray the recording space, but it’s also able to capture the rattling of the snare drum that occurs naturally upon each kick of the bass drum. This is something that, as a drummer myself, I appreciate.
‘Simple Man’ from Shinedown’s debut Leave A Whisper displays a warm, almost analogue sound. The CD-S3000 accurately portrays the closed-in, heavily soundproofed room acoustics – and there’s a huge amount of space between the guitars and central vocals. While some CD players tend to bring aspects of a performance forward in the mix, the CD-S3000 remains faithful to the original recording throughout, allowing the vocals to appear further in front of you.
The CD-S3000’s sound was consistent across both CD and digital sources, though I did find the optical source sounded somewhat thin and veiled when playing content streamed via a Stream Magic 6. Greenday’s ‘Are We The Waiting’ sounded more constrained than I’m used too, the drums seemingly unable to reverb and resonate as they do on the original CD. When playing the same track via USB, the sound was more in line with that of the CD.
Yamaha’s CD-S3000 is a work of art, both inside and out. It’s built like a tank, with an illustrious design and a luxurious feel when operating.
There are a few operational quirks – the time taken to read CDs, and the occasions when the player fails to recognise a disc has been inserted.
However – most importantly – it sounds stunning. Its transparent, natural nature means it’ll get the best from any music you throw at it. If you’re looking for a player that puts the musicians in the room, the CD-S3000 is the player for you.
But it’s not just a CD player. It’s the last CD player – if you can live with its operational abnormalities, this is the last CD player you’ll ever need. It’s also a high end DAC for your other digital sources – and it’ll get the best from those, too. Highly recommended.