Yamaha A-S501 Review 313

Please see This Post for a detailed rundown of our reference system.


For me, the award-winning Yamaha A-S500 was something of an eye opener. It was one of my first modern hi-fi amps – save for a couple of previous budget amps, a Cambridge Audio A5 and Sony TA-Fe370. While my previous amps and systems had given me many, many hours of enjoyment, it was my A-S500 that inspired me to build my first serious hi-fi system – a system in which cables mattered, a proper rack replaced the usual stacks of gear, and the speakers are taken down from the walls and positioned for true stereo sound.

Fast forward a couple of years, and the A-S500 moved onto a new home, and was replaced. However, that amp is one I’ll always remember and look back on fondly. Naturally, when Yamaha announced a successor to the A-S500, the A-S501, I jumped at the chance to check one out and asked for a review sample.

The A-S501 shares a similar design to its predecessor – it’s a large amp, with a thick aluminium faceplate and a set of large vertical controls dominating the middle of the front panel. However, the A-S501 aims to bring the previously all-analogue A-S500 into the modern digital age, incorporating a built-ing DAC in place of the previous iPod dock connection. The DAC employs the Texas Instruments PCM5101, and supports resolutions up to 24-bit, 192KHZ.

The amps analogue roots haven’t been forgotten, however – the A-S501 boasting 5 line inputs (including 2 recorder loops) and a moving magnet phono stage. The power output of 85W per channel (into 8 ohms) remains from the previous model, as does the impedance selector – which adjusts the amps power supply to provide more power for low-impedance speakers.

That power supply includes a custom power transformer and 2 custom-made 12000UF block capacitors. The A-S501 features separate power supplies for the analogue and digital sections.

2 Direct signal path speaker relays and an optimised circuit layout offers the shortest possible signal paths, while Yamaha’s pure direct mode allows you to bypass the tone, loudness and balance controls and the input buffer amp shortening signal paths even further.

The A-S501 benefits from Yamaha’s ToP-ART (Total Purity Audio Reproduction Technology) – a symmetrical input to output design, with both left and right amplifiers organised symmetrically resulting in a pure signal whilst minimising distortion and crosstalk between channels. In edition, the chassis incorporates ART (Anti-Resonance and tough) technology, including a solid base and supporting central bar to minimise the effect of vibration on the sensitive electronic components.

Packaging

The A-S501’s packaging is just as we’ve come to expect from Yamaha. The amp, wrapped in a foam-like cloth material, sits inside a strong box held in place by thin blocks of polystyrene. Along with the amp, you’ll find the remote, some batteries and some documentation. It’s simple, and effective.

First impressions

Weighing in at roughly 10.3KG, the A-S501 offers up a weighty, substantial feel as you lift it from its packaging. It feels solid, too – with no flexing as you move it around. That top cover, with its huge cooling vents is supported by the internal central bar, denoted by the top screw near the front panel. It keeps the cover firmly in place and reduces resonance – the enclosure emitting only dull thuds when tapped. The vents are also most effective – the A-S501 remaining cool to the touch even when pushed hard with difficult speakers.

The front is distinctly Yamaha. To the right, the large textured volume control dominates much of the end of the front panel, accompanied by a smaller but similarly designed rotary dial for source selection. LEDs surround the source selection dial, illuminating the currently selected source – while the pure direct switch sits discretely beneath the 2 controls.

That volume control is motorised, allowing you to operate it from the remote control. It’s also electronic – the volume a resistor-ladder type control with resistors switched in and out of circuit by the A-S501’s microcontroller as the analogue potentiometer is operated. This method, also used in Yamaha’s top of the range A-S3000, results in far greater accuracy at low volumes, better channel balance, and less crosstalk between the left and right channels.

In the middle, 4 large vertical dials offer controls for bass, treble, balance and variable loudness. Yamaha’s unique variable loudness technology reduces the mid range frequencies, and adjusts the bass and treble frequencies accordingly, compensating for the human ear’s loss of sensitivity at low frequencies. It’s useful for improving the sound quality when listening at low volumes in the background or at night.

To the left sit a power button, an IR receiver, a headphone jack and a speaker selector, allowing you to switch between the 2 pairs of output terminals. The A-S501 supports bi-wiring or the ability to run 2 pairs of speakers. If used in this configuration, each pair must be 8 ohms or higher. You can also disable the speakers entirely if you wish – and they’re automatically disabled when headphones are connected.

The record selector found on the previous A-S501 is no-longer present – and is a disappointing omission, as it was a feature i used often. A sticker covering the left-and-side of the front panel extols some of the A-S501s virtues – to me, this makes the amp look rather cheap and were this my amp, it would’ve been immediately removed.

Let’s talk for a moment about that power switch. It’s a hard power switch – shutting off the power supplies completely when the amp is powered off. However, the amp does offer a less than 0.5W standby mode, which you can toggle on and off from the remote. The A-S501 also offers an automatic standby feature which will power off the amplifier after a period of inactivity

yamaha are a company who continuously impress me with their attention to detail – and the A-S501 is no exception. The controls feel beautifully smooth, the tone, balance and loudness controls snapping into their flat positions with a sharp metallic click. The volume control is little sensitive at low volumes, but this is easily compensated for with the variable loudness control.

Switch to the back, and the most obvious feature is the permanently attached power cable. I’m not a fan of fixed power cables – as damage to the cable means you’ll need to open the amp up to replace it with an appropriate cable. It also makes installing and removing equipment from your rack more difficult than it needs to be – so a plug-in cable would’ve been much nicer to see here.

The aforementioned impedance selector switch accompanies the large speaker terminals, which can accept bare wire or banana plugs. Of course, no Yamaha would be complete without fiddly end caps pushed into the speaker terminals, which require removal if one wishes to use banana plugs.

In the middle, you’ll find inputs for the built-in DAC, along with a DC input for Yamaha accessories such as the YBA-11 bluetooth adapter. The DAC is limited to a single optical and a single coaxial input – which Yamaha intend to be used for a TV and a blu-ray player. There’s no USB for you computer, so you’ll need an external DAC for that. Personally, I feel that build-in DACs in integrated amps are rather useless – and at this price, you should be investing in an external DAC. However, these digital inputs are infinitely more useful than the proprietary iPod dock socket included with the previous A-S500 – and they allow you to hook up your TV, blu-ray player or even a cheap CD player/streamer for better sound.

There’s a switch to enable or disable the automatic standby feature, and finally a block of analogue inputs and outputs. These include 5 line level inputs, a moving magnet phono stage with ground, 2 record outputs and a single mono subwoofer output. The sub output includes a 100HZ low-pass filter, but for the best results you’ll want a sub with a crossover that allows you to match its frequency response to that of your speakers.

The phono stage is an opamp-based stage. Cartridge loading is fixed at 47K ohms, 220PF – so it will work well with the majority of moving magnet cartridges. While it’s not particularly sensitive, requiring the volume to be raised above that of most line-level sources, it’s quiet, distortion-free and sounds excellent.

The Remote

The remote supplied with the A-S501 is a typical Yamaha offering. In fact, it’s similar to that supplied with the CD-N301 – with a few alterations to the controls and the layout. The buttons are a little small, but despite this the remote is pleasant to use and works well.

The remote also offers a couple of features not present on the front panel of the A-S501 itself – including standby and mute controls, the latter reducing the volume by approximately 20DB when pressed. A second press causes the sound level to gently return to its previous position.

Sound

There’s no drama involved in setting up or using the A-S501. After connecting everything up and pressing the power switch, the amp will take a few seconds to stabilise and come out of protection. Then it’s a simple matter of selecting your input source and turning up the volume.

And, providing you’ve allowed the amp a few days to run in, you’ll be treated to a sound that’s every bit as powerful and authoritative as the original A-S500. However, there’s more of that sound – the A-S501 offering more punch, more power and an obvious headroom increase no doubt thanks to that upgraded power supply.

Even at low levels, the A-S501 manages to convey an impressive level of detail. Its low-level sound is soft and inviting, if a little lacking in bass – but that’s where the variable loudness comes into play. The variable loudness control brings back that low-end power, while allowing you to use more of the A-S501s volume scale.

Want to rock out? No problem – the A-S501 is more than happy to oblige. With pure direct mode engaged, bypassing the tone and loudness controls, the A-S501’s reserves of power can be unleashed. Given room to breathe, so to speak, the A-S501 displays an effortless ability to drive the speakers to ridiculous levels. It’s coherent, too – the amp never appears to struggle, even when pushed hard. While the A-S501 maintains control of the drivers, it’s perhaps not the tightest, most rhythmically adept listen – low end bass notes occasionally slip, and the leading edges of notes can have a tendency to blur into one another.

But what the A-S501 lacks in low end control, it makes up for in the mid range – its beautiful, slightly forward mid range is a treat to the ears, especially with the likes of Norah Jones’, John Mayer’s and Hayley Williams’ vocals.

Sound staging is excellent, the A-S501 managing to convey a decent 3-dimensional stereo image. It’s also very coherent – its ability to separate the layers of a complex mix was a trait of its predecessor that I’m pleased to see the A-S501 has inherited.

The A-S501s headphone performance is impressive. The sound stating does shrink somewhat compared to the speaker outputs, however that coherence is still there. It’s a joy to listen too, and keeps you hooked for hours on end.

And lastly to the built-in DAC. It’s a decent effort, very warm-sounding with high levels of detail. There are no fancy digital filters, despite them being offered by the PCM5101 chip. But that’s no bad thing – those filters often have such a subtle effect on the sound that finding the best filter is often nothing short of maddening. The A-S501’s DAC is about as good as you’d get for the price, and will put many stand-alone offerings to shame. It sounds a lot like the digital section found in the CD-N301 streamer – and that’s certainly no bad thing.

Summary

Another fantastic effort from Yamaha, the A-S501 is a worthy successor to the previous A-S500. While the A-S501 offers several advantages over its predecessor, including a built-in DAC, upgraded components and revised circuitry, it’s still the same amp we all know and love. It’s big, bold and powerful sound is instantly likeable, it’s flexible enough to integrate well into almost any system, and it’s built well enough to provide many, many years of musical enjoyment.

Were I to make any changes to this amplifier, they would be minor. A detachable power cable would be a nice touch, and I’d like to see the record output selector re-introduced – an especially useful feature given that the A-S501 offers 2 tape loops. However, with an excellent DAC and phono stage on board, and the A-S501 being an impressive analogue amplifier itself, there’s no cause for complaint at the price. Highly recommended.


About Ashley

I founded Audio Appraisal a few years ago and continue to regularly update it with fresh content. An avid vinyl collector and coffee addict, I can often be found at a workbench tinkering with a faulty electronic device, tweaking a turntable to extract the last bit of detail from those tiny grooves in the plastic stuff, or relaxing in front of the hi-fi with a good album. A musician, occasional producer and sound engineer, other hobbies include software programming, web development, long walks and occasional DIY. Follow @ashleycox2

Share Your Thoughts

313 thoughts on “Yamaha A-S501 Review

  • Gitendra E. Chitty

    Ashley, I’ve got another dilemma.

    As you know, I picked up the A-S501 last week and am using it with my Allison Acoustics Model 3 speakers, and loving the sound. However, I am using a 3.5mm to RCA from my Lenovo Yoga Book (Dolby Atmos) tablet as I do not have a CD or DVD player with an optical or coax output. So I’m bypassing the Yamaha PCM 5101 integrated DAC on the AMP.

    I want to be able to stream Spotify Premium or Tidal Premium music to the amp, so I need a BT receiver

    I’m left with 2 choices

    1. Buy the ifi iOne Nano Bluetooth streamer with ESS Sabre DAC connect it to the Yamaha 501 line-in. Total cost $200.

    2. Buy the Startech BT2A wireless receiver with its built in Wolfson DAC and feed it to the amp’s line-in or through the Toslink into the 501’s internal Ti Pcm5101 DAC. Totak cost $50.

    3. Upgrade (for $270) to the A-s801 amp, with its USB input, CD phono amp input, extra 15 watts per channel, and inbuilt ESS DAC. Then add the Startech for the streaming. Total cost $320.

    Price is less relevant than the audio quality, but I’m curious as to your recommendation.

    Any thoughts ?

    • Ashley Post author

      I would consider a streamer such as the MusicCast NP-S303 over either option, which has built-in support for both Tidal and Spotify premium. With a Bluetooth connection you won’t get optimal sound quality regardless of how much you spend or how good your DAC is. If you must stick with Bluetooth, I would buy the cheaper of the two streamers as the Wolfson DAC will be ‘good enough’ for a Bluetooth stream. That said the NP-S303 would handle all of your streaming needs and you would be able to enjoy the full quality of both Spotify premium and Tidal. It has Bluetooth too if you ever needed to use it.

      • Gitendra E. Chitty

        Unfortunately the issue with dedicated streamers is the IP blocking employed by Spotify etc. This setup is for my home in Sri Lanka where Spotify isn’t licensed . I have to use a VPN on the device that is streaming to Bluetooth in order to get any of these streaming music apps to work. So the s303 ends up being a bit wasted.

        Given the price difference, would you opt for the Startech + 801 or the iOne + 501?

        Any significant disadvantages to either?

        Also, will using the USB input to the 801 be preferable to BT streaming ?
        Thanks again

        • Ashley Post author

          Ah, that is an issue. I suppose you could setup your router to rout all traffic through a VPN if supported. That said in that case I’d probably go with the StarTech plus A-S801 (or find a BT streamer with a coax output) for casual listening, and use the 801’s USB input for when you want the best sound quality. The USB input is by far preferable to streaming via Bluetooth.

          • Gitendra E. Chitty

            Ended up going for the 801 upgrade. With its USB input, I’m currently streaming Spotify Premium on my MacBook Pro, and the amp’s front panel tells me it’s coming in at 24/192 rate. It sounds FANTASTIC. An audible improvement over the A-S501, and seems to get better bass and imaging out of my Allisons.

            As a bonus, I found out that using the Spotify Remote feature in the premium version of Spotify, I can control the Spotify app on the Mac via my Android phone or tablet. No more need for Bluetooth streaming adapters!

            Thanks for all your great advice. Much appreciated. I’m actually also looking forward to the experience after Yamaha’s recommended 100 hour burn on period (supposedly it makes a difference).

            Cheers.

            • Ashley Post author

              Excellent, glad you got it sorted! I normally say that run in periods are somewhat overhyped, but I have noticed Yamaha amps do tend to improve over the recommended time so you should see a nice improvement. You have a great system there, happy listening! 🙂

  • James Hensler

    Ashley, thank you very much for your very thorough and insightful review. I’m pretty much a beginner concerning finer audio in general. I will be using this amp only for music and I wanted to know your thoughts on pairing the Yamaha A-S501 (to replace my modest Yamaha RX-V377) with my Klipsch RP-160M speakers. I’ll also be connecting my Onkyo DX-C390 to the new A-S501. Does this sound like a good idea or would you recommend a different amp? Also, does the A-S501 come with the wire with two plugs at each end to connect the receiver to my CD player (or is it sold seperately/worth it to spend extra for said wire or cable)? I currently have Audioquest Rocket 44 speaker cables attached and don’t know if a higher-end (auxillary?) cable is recommended. Do you think speaker cables like mine provide a better listening experience than, as the critics say, “any lamp wire”? Lastly, do you think I’ll notice a considerably better sounding system with the A-S501 or whatever amp you recommend (using Sennheiser HD 598 headphones)? I apologize in advance for asking so many questions and thank you very, very much.

    • Gitendra

      James: I just purchased this amp after reading Ashley’s review (as well as the one on Crutchfield, and the one on What HiFi) and listening to it at my local Yamaha dealer. I heard it side-by-side with the 685V Yamaha A/V Home Theater Receiver, the latter of which puts out 100 watts per channel into 8 ohms (this puts out 85W per channel into 8 ohms), with the same music, and the same Infinity floorstanding speakers (no idea which models). I was blown away by the difference in sound quality and “oomph” of the 501 vs the 25% more expensive 685V. Yes, it lacks bluetooth and wireless and USB, but I’m guessing those take away from the dollars Yamaha spends on the actual power supply and amplification components (also the space inside the chassis!), and you can always add that functionality with a good wireless hub/DAC. I’m leaning towards the AudioEngine or Focal one, myself.

      I’m using my Allison Acoustics Model 3 speakers (4 foot tall, 3-way units) from the late 1970s as my only speakers on this unit, with Spotify premium streaming (320) via a Lenovo Dolby Atmos tablet and the 3.5mm audio jack-to-RCA adapter. More than enough power to drive these speakers to the point where it hurts the ears.

      In my experience, good 16 gauge speaker wire is fine, and you don’t really notice any difference from one brand to another (Monster was a customer of mine back in the day, and honestly I don’t see much difference in speaker wires or cables unless you go over about 10 feet in length).

      I suspect you’ll love this thing, particularly if you listen to Jazz, Classical, Rock. If you listen to Rap or Hip Hop or EDM that need really boomy, messy bass, then I suspect there are better options. But for vocals, mids, and tight bass, this setup works extremely well. I’ve not really heard much better for under a couple of thousand bucks.

      Good luck!

      • James Hensler

        I currently have an audio/video receiver but solely use it and whatever my new amp winds up being for music. I also plan on upgrading my CD changer to a Yamaha, as well. Thank you for your reply. I hope I hear from Ashley soon regarding the questions I asked. Virtually every store (especially high-end) and people purporting to be audiophiles – many employees selling finer audio components – knew precious little about their own products; it was unbelievable. Then, fortunately, I happen upon this site and read Ashley’s fantastic review of the amp I’d chosen after doing quite a bit of research on integrated amps. Thanks again, Gitendra. Hopefully I’ll have my questions answered by Ashley soon. I’d love to hear from any of you commenting and/or just reading this thread, too.

    • Ashley Post author

      James – Sorry for the delayed reply. In answer to your questions:

      The Yamaha will have more than enough power to drive your Klipsch speakers. Whether you will enjoy the sound pairing is unfortunately a matter of taste and isn’t something I can guarantee one way or the other. What I will say is that the A-S501 does have a sound signature as you will have read in reviews, whereas the next up in the line, the A-S701 is known to be particularly neutral in sonic character.

      The A-S501 doesn’t come with speaker cables or interconnects to connect your other components; no amp does, and fewer and fewer components do either these days. In general the interconnects supplied in the box are low quality ‘get you going’ type things and should be replaced. There is no need to spend a fortune on cable, a decent quality cable with solid connectors will be fine. The same goes for speaker cables. Heavier gauge cable offers lower resistance and is my preference, but again a decent cable is good enough. The law of diminishing returns kicks in very quickly indeed where cables are concerned.

      Headphone performance on the A-S501 is excellent, but as with most integrated amps at this price (and many beyond) it is nothing more than a feed from the power amp, with a circuit to significantly reduce the power. That said your HD598s are very easy to drive and the A-S501 would be more than up to the task. You may wish to consider a better headphone amp in the future; be it something from an audiophile brand, or a model from one of the many Chinese outfits such as SMSL. The A-S501 does have a line output to facilitate adding a headphone amp later.

  • Gitendra

    Ashley: What a great, unbiased, and clear review. As someone who was into hi-fi “back in the day” but who’s been out of the scene for a couple of decades, it’s good to find folks who aren’t partial to a particular manufacturer. Reading through this review and the comments thereafter have convinced me that this 501 may be the way to go as my first step back into the world of audio. I listened to this unit side-by-side with Yamaha’s 685 AV receiver, and even in Direct mode there’s no contest. Since my use will be strictly for stereo audio, and primarily for Jazz and Classical, I suspect this should do the trick. A couple of questions where you can perhaps give me some guidance:
    1. Will this amp pair well with my speakers? I’m planning to use my old Allison Acoustics “Allison III” floor standing corner speakers, which are not terribly efficient but have some of the cleanest, tightest bass and clear mids and highs I’ve experienced over the last 40 years. I’d like to stick with these for the moment, and am hoping the 501 will suit them
    2. Whilst I’m eventually planning to connect a good turntable, my initial use will be via 320 Spotifiy streaming and/or CD. Is there any point going with the Yamaha YBA-11 bluetooth adapter, or will any old BT adapter do?
    3. What should I look for in a CD transport? I don’t need anything more than a single CD unit. Do I need a built-in DAC, or will the 501’s DAC suffice?
    4. Is there any other amp in this price range worth exploring? I was thinking of the Marantz 6006 UK but that would be a sight-unseen purchase as there’s no local agent for it where I live (Sri Lanka) whereas the Yamaha dealer is about 1/4 mile away. I’ve been offered a brand new 501 for $425 (125 bucks less than Crutchfield).
    5. Is there any good reason to step up to the 801? Other than extra power, that is?

    Many thanks – any and all advice would be appreciated.

    • Ashley Post author

      Apologies for the delayed response and thank you for your kind comments on the review. It looks from comments above like you’ve already purchased the amp and are enjoying it with your speakers, so I guess that answers that question. really speaker pairing is down to personal taste anyway. Some thoughts on your other questions:

      Any old Bluetooth adapter will be as good as, or better than, the YBA-11 which is getting on a bit now. If you are planning on streaming as one of your primary sources however you may wish to look at the matching NP-S303 streamer. It offers Bluetooth, but also offers Spotify connect so you can stream in full 320K quality without the added loss in quality that comes with a Bluetooth connection. Given that you get AirPlay, internet radio and DLNA into the mix it is quite a bargain and would be the way I would go. However any Bluetooth receiver will do the job, especially if it supports AptX.

      The 501’s DAC is perfectly decent; it really depends what you want to spend. If you want to stick with a matching aesthetic, many years ago I owned a CD-S300 which was a really excellent player and is still available today for a price that is more than reasonable. I have a reader who owns a CD-S700 (the next up in the line) who has compared that player against many players costing many times its price and it has always compared favourably, and even come out on top. Both have internal DACs. There aren’t many CD transports around at those prices, most budget CD players are exactly that – players, with their own DACs which are mostly equivalent to, or slightly better than that of the A-S501. You could also consider the CD-NT670D which would give you your CD player and streamer all in 1.

      The Marantz is an excellent amp and well worth considering. Obviously this no-longer applies to you, but is something I’ll throw in there for others reading. Higher end amps in the Yamaha line tend to be more neutral in tonal character; the 701 is effectively a neutral 501, and the 801 adds a DSD-capable USB DAC with a few more changes.

  • Ethan V Tran

    Hi Ashley, Thanks for the in depth and unbiased review. Most reviews for audio equipment seem are so full of hot air that I find myself rolling my eyes involuntarily. However, your thought process and evaluations are very down to earth and relate-able, which I appreciate very much. I also find my views on audio equipment to mesh with yours, which is that you don’t need expensive equipment to get your own quality audio experience. You just need to find equipment that is right for you. So glad I found your site!:) So segueing into my questions. I am new to audiophile world of audio equipment and actually already ordered the Yamaha AS 501 to pair with my new Elac UB5 bookshelf speakers. I really wanted the AS 701, but that model is almost 400 dollars more, which I can allocate to a much needed dedicated CD player. So I have two questions that I know you can easily answer. 1) Will AS501 be able to drive my Elac speakers well enough? and 2) What CD player do you recommend that pairs perfectly with the AS 501? I know you previously had the Yamaha CD N301 and moved on to a newer CD player from that specific review. But what CD player do you use now with the AS501? Thank you!

    • Ashley Post author

      Hi Ethan, thanks for your kind comments on my reviews. Like most reviewers I don’t actually own the product in question (the A-S501 in this case), it was a review sample on short term loan. I can’t therefore give you a recommendation based on something I personally use regularly. That said, years ago I did own an A-S500 and paired it with a CD-S300 which was excellent and had the advantage of a matching aesthetic and remote. In the case of the A-S501 I would be tempted to start with the CD-S300 or the CD-S700 if budget allows. Both are terrific CD players and I’m confident that you will enjoy either if you like the Yamaha sound. The CD-N301 you mention is in fact something I did own for a while following the review, used mainly as a streaming transport to feed an external DAC. It worked well, but these days the MusicCast streaming platform in newer models is a huge improvement and I would therefore recommend something like the CD-NT670D or NP-S303 over the CD-N301. The A-S501 will be more than enough to drive your excellent Elac speakers.

      • Ethan

        Hi Ashly, Sorry. I have more questions. I realize after having the As-501 for a couple of weeks now the I really like listening to CD’s as it sounds so much more clearer and alive then streaming. I did note from your previous comments that the AS 701 has the CD direct feature. The AS 701 as of now costs about 200-400 dollars more. Is this feature really worth it? Especially for my budget/unorthodox setup? I am using an old PS3 fat version as a CD transport. I was able to enable PCM 24 bit (88.2khx-196.4khz) from the PS3 audio settings. The PS3 and FireTV (streaming prime music and Tidal) is connected to my TV via HDMI. Then the TV is connected to my AS 501 amp via Optical. So does it even make sense to have this feature given the signal has to flow through my TV? Lastly, is my assumption correct that the AS 501 DAC is in play because the digital signal ends at optical connection in the AS 501 amp before serving it up to my Elacs? Sorry for the newbie questions as I am new to this.:) Thanks!

        • Ashley Post author

          You are correct in that in your setup, you are using the DAC of the A-S501 via the optical input. This means that the CD direct feature of the 701 would be of no benefit to you. Basically all that feature does is bypass a couple of the circuits of the preamplifier stage of the amp for a shorter signal path between the CD input and the output. However it only applies to the CD input, and not to any of the other line level inputs or the DAC. Quite honestly though it’s a nice feature it’s not worth the price difference on its own. The Pure Direct function of your A-S501 gives a perfectly clean signal path, and as the circuits in these amps are well designed anyway it’s not a concern. Your money would be far better spent on a good CD player or streamer like the CD-S300 and / or NP-S303, both of which are designed to be aesthetic and sonic matches to your amp.

  • Paul

    Thanks. I was trying to decide between the 301 & 501. Looks like the 501 is worth the extra $. If you like vinyl and coffee you must read the Vinyl Detective series by Andrew Cartmel !!

  • Keith MacMichael

    Thank you for your thoughtful and informed reviews! I just wanted to share an experience I thought you and your readers might appreciate.
    As a professional player for the last 50 years I was of course attracted to fine audio in my mid twenties (some 40 plus years ago). So I found a wonderful audio shop in Hagerstown Md. called Hunt Audio and purchased my first nice system. That was a – Harmon Kardon Citation 12 power amp, Mac C28 Pre amp, Philips belt drive turntable with micro acoustics 2002 cart., Nak. 600 cassette deck and a beautiful pair of Klipsch Heresy speakers. But the best thing that came of it was my now 40 year friendship with the owner – John Hunt, and the many hours we spent over the years listening to great gear. The next change to the system was to go to a Revox B750 integrated amp and Revox CD player… expensive. I must say that to this day that amp is the most delicate, transparent sounding amp I have heard.
    But here is my point Ashley, after countless hours of serious AB listening to Revox, Mac, Tandberg, B&O etc. I ended up with an amp costing a fraction of the Revox, which 30 years ago was 1,000.00. After years of enjoyment the Revox was needing more and more service and the only repairman was in Nashville, so my friend John said I had to hear an amp by Integra – the DTM 5.3 for 400.00. Long story short we spent a couple of hours of serious listening and here’s the rub, except for a bit more low end out of the Integra, it matched the Revox in every way!
    Then just a few weeks ago after using a Sony dual tray CD player for years (the Revox CD player went bad), I picked up a used Marantz CD 5000 on Ebay for 80.00. The sound stage, delicacy and warmth is just amazing.
    So my ending observation to this story is this. You sir are helping people find incredible sounding stereo gear for a fraction of what it would have cost 30 or 40 years ago. And that is a great service to your readers.
    My only addition would be this, and it’s concerning speakers. There are a great many speakers out today with reviewers going on for ever more about their positives and negatives. I would only offer this – don’t just read reviews, listen to LIVE music. Because after listening to some of these very expensive speakers my conclusion is that regardless of what the reviewers say, it’s about how they sound to you. Listen to as many as possible because to my ears, many of these so-called audiophile speakers – DO NOT SOUND LIKE THE REAL PERFORMANCES. A great speaker should have you listening to the music, not the speaker. So we should trust our ears after listening of course to a lot of LIVE music, and then just enjoy the search! My choices for instance are not what many audiophiles like. For my smaller listening spaces I like an old set of Tannoy PBM 6.5’s and for larger spaces the Klipsch Heresy’s. Both put me in the middle of the music. And I find that as with all things – our imagination fills in the blanks. All the best my friend, and keep up the great work, Keith

    • Ashley Post author

      Thanks for sharing Keith and for your kind words on my reviews. I started Audio Appraisal because I was frustrated by bias in the hi-fi industry, and also the notion that you have to spend vast amounts of money to obtain a ‘good’ system. The reality is that good hi-fi is a balance between cost and quality engineering and that ultimately spending huge amounts of money on exotic components doesn’t necessarily buy you the best engineering. In my opinion the Japanese have always had the best balance of value for money, engineering prowess, reliability and performance, but their components are often overlooked due to better marketing and brand bias and reputation particularly in the UK. Ultimately it is the music that matters the most, and any hi-fi that can bring enjoyment of the music to the listener is a good system, regardless of its cost or brand reputation.

  • naum

    Hello, i really like your reviews. I want to buy Yamaha a-s701, and I think it’s pretty similar to a-s501, therefore I think you know answer on my question. I want to know is it possible to use external DAC with this amplifier in that way that i bypass Yamaha’s internal A-D-A conversion? And if answer is yes, which analog input should i use?
    Thanks in advance
    P.S. i want to use it with Chord mojo and usbridge…

    • Ashley Post author

      Thanks for your kind words on my reviews. Yes, you can use any DAC you like with the A-S701. Connect it to any of the line inputs, the ‘phono’ input is the only one you can’t use as it has extra amplification for a moving magnet cartridge. I think the A-S701 has a CD direct feature, so using the CD input will give you the best sound.

      • naum

        Thank you very much. I hope I’ll get sound improvements with better DAC, and that input signal bypass internal Yamaha’s DAC…

        • Ashley Post author

          The internal DAC is only connected to the digital inputs. The analogue inputs are strictly analogue inputs and therefore the internal DAC has no effect on them. So yes, using an external DAC into the Yamaha’s line level analogue inputs will bypass the internal DAC.

  • ankara evden eve nakliyat

    Between me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I’ve settled down to one line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.

  • jeff

    Hi, Interesting reading in article and comments. I’m looking at buying the a-s501 or r-n500 to play flac/mp3 files with. I’ve got a fiio x3 iii player with a built in dac. This is a 180 euro player. My question is, is the dac in this player likely better or worse than what’s in the two yamahas? It has line out and digital coaxial out (what’s the difference there, actually?).
    Is the dac in the a-s500 better than the one in the r-n500?
    Thanks for any help. I’m lost with this stuff. 😉

    • Ashley Post author

      In my personal opinion, the A-S501 is the better of the two amplifiers and there’s not much in it in terms of digital performance. The Fiio player uses the excellent CS4398 DAC chipset as used in a few very good CD players, and an output stage comprising quality op-amps. I think it would edge the DAC in both Yamaha’s. I would consider the A-S501 paired with your existing player, or perhaps consider the R-N602 or R-N803D which will give you all of the advantages of the R-N500 with better sound, better hardware and Yamaha’s MusicCast software, which is vastly superior to the older software and chipset of the R-N500. If all you intend to play are digital files from a player, the A-S501 will do nicely. If you want the advantages of the receiver (internet radio, direct digital file playback, AirPlay, Bluetooth etc), take a look at one of Yamaha’s other receiver models.

  • David Hill

    I am always pleased to see a Yamaha review as mentioned elsewhere dealers are more than a little reluctant to demo their products, linked to the fact that their profits are about selling Linn, Naim, Arcam etc where I believe there is a higher profit margin. I own a Yamaha NP-S303 Streamer and an AS1100 Amplifier which by and large I am pleased with. For some strange reason Yamaha have not put a DAC in this one of their more expensive amps and I am thinking of buying a Cambridge CXC Transport and a DAC as my old Arcam Alpha 9 is giving up the ghost. Cambridge Audio recommended the transport before realising there was no DAC in my Amp. It has been suggested to me I should buy a decent DAC and use any cheapy CD player with a digital output or indeed an old DVD player of which I have one. The alternative is to look at £300 to £500 CD players, I did own a Yamaha CD300 for a couple of years but thought the sound it produced was poor so I guess I would be looking at Denon, Pioneer, Onkyo, Marantz and the like. Any thoughts out there on the way I should go? My speakers are Q Acoustics Concept 20s on dedicated stands, I guess I could get better but I am very happy with the sound I get from them in my smallish study.

    • Ashley Post author

      I too wish Japanese equipment was more widely reviewed. Quite often they’re better engineered, more reliable and far better value for money despite what some will tell you. Sadly many of the brands don’t get anywhere near as much press as they should in the UK especially.

      To answer your question. The reason Yamaha don’t include a DAC in an amp at that price level is because when you reach that level of amp it is assumed you’ll want an external DAC anyway. Internal DACs are usually a compromise between cost and performance. They add materials cost to the amp which takes the budget away from parts of the amp where it could be better spent. If it were up to me no amp would include a DAC at any price but for the most part the inclusion of such is limited to the budget sector, or a few high end products where the budget allowed them to at least do a decent job. You have a truly excellent amp and a great streamer too.

      With regards CD transports. Using a DVD player will work though it wouldn’t be my preference, simply because the transports aren’t usually very good. THey’re often noisy, vibrate a lot (which isn’t good for CD reading) and just aren’t optimal. I would always recommend a cheap CD player over a DVD player. The difference between a dedicated transport and a cheap CD player is debatable. Ultimately the data coming out of the digital output should be identical when the maximum amount of data has been extracted from the disc. Given that CDs have existed for nearly 40 years it’s pretty safe to say we’ve reached a point where any competent budget player should be able to read one accurately. I run the digital output of an old (1989) Technics P350 into an 851N and it works fine and sounds great, exactly as the 851N does when playing back lossless digital rips in fact.

      The Cambridge CXC is an excellent transport, I Reviewed it when it came out with the rest of the CX components. It will get the best digital feed from your discs that you’re likely to get and would be worth a demo with a good DAC. The alternative would be to have a look at something like the Marantz CD-6006 UK edition which is exceptional and built like a tank as most Marantz kit is. It has a warmer more analogue-like tonal character so might suit better than the brighter CD-S300. Either that, or try a cheap CD player with a coax output into a decent DAC. They’re available for next to nothing especially if you shop the used market. A DAC with dual coax inputs would allow you to connect up your NP-S303 as well, though it has an internal DAC that you’d have to spend a bit to better.

      • David Hill

        Interesting Ashley I never gave that a thought about my Yamaha amp, I guess if it had a DAC I would have the Cambridge Transport now. However, fingers crossed, my very old Arcam Alpha 9 CD Player is behaving itself at present so unless it finally dies I will sit tight for now I think as I like the sound I am getting from it. Originally several years ago it would start slipping towards the end of a CD it originally started doing it and I had it fixed under warranty. When it was about five years old it started doing it again so it sat in the cupboard for many years. I know it could start at any moment but you never know I guess. It has another fault in that it reads the disc when I load it but within seconds loses the detail. I can get around that by pressing play before closing the cd drawer and it is fine!

        I belong to an AV forum and they all reckon my amp is excellent but their thoughts on the Streamer are very mixed. Nothing wrong with it they just reckon the job can be done at a much cheaper cost, one guy said I had purchased a box full of fresh air. I like the sound so I guess that is the most important thing. The Marantz 6006 UK edition was on my shortlist as I had read many good reviews, I nearly nabbed one of the last 8005s for £599 but they only had silver/gold and my stuff is black. Funnily enough the guy in Richer Sounds thought the 6006 UK Edition was overpriced told me to save £150 and buy the Onkyo 7030 as in his view it was almost as good and not £150 inferior! The DVD players that have been suggested to me are old Arcam models costing around £600 new, can get them for less than £100 now. Not sure if your comments re transports applies to pricier DVD players or not.

        I am getting a bit long in the tooth these days, I remember when Hi Fi was quite a simple subject!

        • Ashley Post author

          The Arcam players are quite popular on the used market and I believe parts are available for many of them. I’m sure it would be quite possible to get it working reliably with a bit of DIY. The issue of it losing the track memory when you load a disc for example could well be as simple as a dirty microswitch causing the player to think you’ve unloaded the disc, when in fact the drawer is closed. I’d say enjoy the sound until it breaks or looks as if it is going to.

          Take most of the comments on hi-fi fora with a pinch of salt. My experience with most of them is that they’re full of opinion and little else with very little solid advice based on practical experience and zero accountability for the advice given. Information picked up on the internet is often regurgitated whether correct or not, and you’ll often find the solutions recommended are based on the needs of the person giving the recommendation, not the person who asked the question. You need only to read the endless debates on expensive cables or cartridge alignment to realise how little of it is based on actual technical knowledge or engineering experience.

          For example, a lot of people would recommend you go down the cheap streaming route with a Raspberry Pi and a Pi DAC for a total cost of about £100. Not everybody wants the faff and there is nothing wrong with that. Not everybody wants a Chromecast, and not everyone wants a dedicated computer running some ludicrously expensive (and usually terrible) audiophile software.

          Your streamer doesn’t have much in it because it is basically a tiny computer, a power supply and a decent but basic DAC. However what you have bought is one of the best streaming platforms currently available packaged in a reliable, functional and nice looking product by a reputable company who will have your back if anything should ever go wrong. Rest assured you have a product that is thoroughly deserving of your money, if a small British manufacturer had produced that it would doubtless cost a lot more and wouldn’t be half as polished..

          Re the Marantz vs the Onkyo, my suggestion would be to demo both with familiar material and see which you personally like the most. I would have the Marantz because I do think it sounds better, I think it is better engineered and I am confident in the reliability and longevity of Marantz products. I had a 6004 setup for many years and it outlasted a lot of popular hi-fi kit, some of it more than 20 times the price. I now own components from the Marantz reference ranges and they have been trouble-free from day 1. And there was the time I received a smashed CD-63 in the post which was unrecognisable yet played perfectly once I’d made it relatively safe to plug in.

          With regards DVD players I was referring to cheaper players. However for £100 you could buy a very respectable used CD player which would probably outlast any DVD player available for the same price. With a DVD player you’re getting a lot of technology and circuitry that you’re not going to use and that ultimately detracts from the quality of the player. If you want a CD transport on the cheap old players from Sony, Marantz, Pioneer, Technics and others are available for next to nothing and will do fine if it has a coax or optical output. A Cambridge 851D can be found on the used market for about £450, but again there are tons of DACs around depending on what you want and your sound preference.

  • Mike

    Hi Ashley,
    Great and informative review!
    I want to buy a new amp and now I’m in doubt between the A-S501 and the NAD C 316 v2. The NAD has no DAC, but for the near future I will not be using that. Do you have experience with the NAD? Which of those two will sound the best with my Q Acoustics Concept 20?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Ashley Post author

      Thanks Mike for your kind words on the review. With regards your question, the Yamaha is the more powerful of the 2 amps. To me, the NAD seems tuned for a more musical tonal character; a kind of analogue warmth if you will. The Yamaha is more neutral. Either will drive your speakers, but which sounds ‘best’ depends on personal taste. If it were me I’d have the Yamaha for the extra power, and to me (a fan of rock music) it would be a more fun listen. I would encourage you have a demo with your speakers, but hope this is helpful.

      • Mike

        Thank you very much for your help. I really appreciate it. I’ll try to get a demo. Haven’t found a dealer yet who sells both brands.

  • Dali

    Hi Ashley,
    Great review!
    Would the A-S501 pair well with my Q Acoustics 3020?
    Or is the obvious PM6006 the better choice.
    Thanks in advance!

    • Ashley Post author

      Either amp should pair well. The Yamaha has more power and a bolder, brighter sound, the Marantz is software and more musical and in reality less power isn’t an issue. The Marantz has a large power supply and is plenty powerful.

    • Kamil

      I had QA 2020i paired with As500 – it is bright believe me as QA tends to add a couple of dB in the upper range
      Tried to tame it with cables – and finally switched to tannoy eclipse 2 – works fine now
      it’s not 3020 and as501 though ,but I’m guessing it will share similar characteristics

  • Frank

    Hi Ashley, very informative review. After reading quite a lot of different sources regarding my choice for an amp, this is one of the nicest reads. I’m currently torn between the following amps, the A-S501, A-S701 and the Marantz PM6006. It will be driving a set of Dali Zensor 3’s in a decent sized room 40m2 (I lost the battle with my better half for floorstanders:)).

    I was initially leaning towards the Marantz, but got a little worried about the power. I really liked the look of the current Yamaha’s but am a little put of by the potential brightness of the 501. I can now get the A-S701 for the same price as the PM6006, and was wondering what your recommendation would be? Thanks in advance!

    • Ashley Post author

      Thank you Frank for your kind words on the review. The PM-6006 and A-S701 are both excellent amps. I wouldn’t be too concerned about the Marantz’s ‘lack’ of power, wattage isn’t everything and in fact power supply headroom and the current capability of the amplifier are arguably more important. The Marantz amps have no problem going loud – not as loud as the 701 perhaps, but still more than enough volume to be uncomfortable in a room of that size. That said, the Marantz is a warmer, more musical sound, and the 701 a more neutral, faithful sound. I don’t think you could go wrong with either, my advice would be to have a demo and choose the amp based on its sound character, rather than its wattage specification.

      • Frank

        Thanks for your response Ashley. I went and auditioned them both today and found the difference in sound character relatively small, it’s tough to say I preferred one over the other….they were just a little different. I would say the Marantz sounded a little grander so I’m probably leaning towards the PM6006. They had the same feedback in the store regarding power, not an issue for my use. However, they did mention a couple of other things to consider. At low-levels, so for background music, the Marantz struggles to convey the sound as well and really needs to be played a little louder otherwise it looses a lot of it’s range or depth. The Yamaha apparently performs a little better here, but this is one of those things that’s really tough to judge from an audition. The other is that the Yamaha can be a little less fatiguing when listened to for extended periods of time. Any thoughts?

        • Ashley Post author

          I wouldn’t say that the Marantz would be fatiguing; quite the opposite, but then neither would the Yamaha. I would perhaps agree with them regarding the yamaha being better for low level listening, though I should stress that this is extremely low level – I.E whisper quiet. The variable loudness control adjusts the amp to compensate for the way the human ear hears low frequencies. To use it correctly, you adjust the volume to the highest level you want to listen and then turn the loudness knob to achieve the desired sound – a kind of average level if you will. It works well; personally I’d leave the amp in its ‘pure direct’ mode but it might be a feature that you’d use if you were listening at particularly low levels and wanted to clear up the full frequency range, particularly with standmount speakers. There really is no right or wrong with both amps, I don’t think you’d go wrong with either. As much as I am a fan of marantz equipment I would perhaps lean toward the yamaha in your situation, if only because it is a little more composed at lower levels

  • jdell

    Hello….Concerning the phono input capacitance on the Yamaha A-S501:
    You state that it is rated at 220pf. Is this a valid value? Have not been able
    to confirm even with Yamaha support.

    Thanks in adavnce….

  • Champ

    Hi. I have been thinking about new amp for my Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 speakers. Do you think that this 501 would be good match?

  • Pablo

    Hi Ashley,

    I have enjoyed your review. It is very informative and easy to read. Specially for a newbie like me. In those terms, I would like to rely on your advise for my first system. All my music is in my computer and I want to stream it via DNLA. I mainly listen to old Latin music, Rock, Pop, and Electronic. My living room is around 45m2. I have chosen the Monitor Audio Bronze 2 as my speakers. My doubt here is in the amplifier to pair it with. For my needs and budget these options right now: receivers with streaming (Yamaha R-N301 and Marantz MCR511) or amp with DAC (Yamaha A-S301), where I can use the DNLA of my TV and plug it via optical to stream music. Which one would you recommend? Should I extend my budget to an AS-501, PM6006 or RN602?

    Regards

    • Ashley Post author

      Thanks for your kind comments on the review. At this price range, small jumps in price (from an A-S301 to an A-S501 or PM-6006 for example) yield real differences. Regarding your choices. I would avoid the R-N301, it is an older model now and uses Yamaha’s old streaming platform. It has no support for the MusicCast system or app and uses previous generation software which is nowhere near as good. The R-N602 runs Yamaha’s latest software, supports MusicCast and the excellent MusicCast app, and would be a great choice.

      The A-S501 and PM-6006 are also great choices; my preference would be for the Marantz given the two models, but there’s not much in it. Of course use of such an amp means you’ll have to use your TV for streaming, so the R-N602 would probably be your best bet as an integrated solution.

  • Florin

    Dear Ashley,
    Is there any chance to listen while recording what is recorded on the tape from PHONO/CD source on a 3 head tape recorder with this amplifier?

    • Ashley Post author

      I’m afraid not as the A-S501 does not have a record out selector or a true tape monitor function. You need an amp with a true tape monitor function, I can’t think of any off the top of my head right now besides the Cambridge 851A which is quite a bit more expensive. The older A-S500 did have this functionality, perhaps looking for one of those on the used market would be your best option.

  • Adrian Cheong

    Hello.

    A very informative and nice articles written up there.

    U just wanna sought your opinion. I have recently purchased the yamaha As501 and i intend to paired it with Q Acoustics 3020 speakers. Would it be an issue with overheating and etc?
    Or should i say, is it a safe pairing?

    • Km

      I’ve the Yamaha A-S801, Dynaudio DM 2/6 soeakers, a Marantz Cd6006 player with QED XT40 speaker cables and also Chord C-line interconnects between the amplifier and the CD player. I can play for the whole day and my A-S801 will not even show a slightest sign of overheating. Just make sure that your amp is not enclosed in a confined closed rack or cabinet and every thing should be ok. These Yamaha A-S501/701/801 are very reliable and gives a very clean sound and no distortion. IMHO, your 3020 speakers should pair just fine with the Yamaha’s. These new Yamaha amps does not give bright sounding characteristics like its predessor. So enjoy your S-S501, it’s a very good amp.

    • Ashley Post author

      No well-designed amp should overheat running any speaker, providing the speaker is not an unusual load. The 3020s are not. The Yamaha amps barely get warm.

  • Viraf Dastoor

    Hello Ashley,
    Greetings from India.
    After months of indecision, I bought the AS 501on my recent visit to Dubai and have been thoroughly enjoying it with the Q acoustics 2050i. Find almost no need for the rel t zero now.
    Have hooked up the Marantz nr 1506 as pre Amp and use it for Bluetooth, internet radio and USB. Also heard the Marantz 6006 suggested by you but yamaha’s power delivery was just too awesome to ignore.
    Many thanks for your expert guidance. Will continue to follow and enjoy your write ups.
    Best regards,
    Viraf.

  • Ron Toigo

    My current amp has a clearly marked preamp connection. I don’t see one on the back of the Yamaha. Where do I connect the preamp?

    • Ashley Post author

      Could you please provide some details of your system? The Yamaha is an integrated amp and shouldn’t require that you connect a preamp, unless of course you’re referring to a Phono preamp in which case you can connect it to any of the line inputs (CD, line 1, line 2 etc). Please provide details of the components you’re trying to connect (including the model numbers) so I can better help you.

      • Ron Toigo

        the preamp is a parasound p5 and after what you just said, I guess my current amp is not an integrated one. So, I guess I just have to search for a simple power amp.

          • Ron Toigo

            I want to use the parasound so I need a pwer amp. Do you have any recommendations? I have been searching and can’t seem to find one.

              • Ron Toigo

                Niles power amp (si2125?). Thiel speakers (not sure which ones but they are excellent). And, I’d like to get an amp under $1000. Thanks for your help. In my searches, I can’t seem to determine where to input the preamp to the amps that the searches produce so I appreciate your help in this.

                • Ashley Post author

                  There is an updated version of your amp which may be suitable, you can find it Here. Or try this NAD or this model from Origin Acoustics. I’m afraid the selection in the US differs quite a bit to that here in the UK, so my best advice would be to contact Cruthfield, give them the details of your preamp and ask their advice if none of the above models suit. Alternatively, if you don’t mind putting it together yourself (very easy with no experience required), This is brilliant.

  • Usama

    can i connect an audio interface to the A-S501. would i be connecting it through line 1,2,3 ports? thanks.

  • ofori

    Hi,

    my trusty old Technics SU55a eventually gave up for good, so I’m looking at this and the Marantz PM 6006 as replacements. There have already been some very helpful comments about the differences in sound here, but I’ll audition them both anyway.

    There is still an I guess somewhat general question on my mind though. I’ve read here and elsewhere that amps with internal DACs aren’t ideal and you recommended cheap(ish) external USB DACs several times below. Would these really improve on the internal units ? The purpose would be replay of FLAC files from PC with optical S/PDIF or USB connection available for the most part.

    I have to admit I’m somewhat sceptical. Judging by the hardware used in both the Marantz and Yamaha any improvement would have to be upper consumer range or better and those usually come in a price range close to the Yam amp itself.

    Or maybe I’m just confused and completely misinterpreted what you wrote ?

    Thanks

    • jonh

      hi i am thinking of getting this but i do almost all of my listing though high end headphones will this be ok or should i go for a headphone amp

      • Ashley Post author

        The headphone output of the Yamaha is reasonable but a dedicated amp is in a different league. If you want the best from your headphones a dedicated amp is a must.

    • Ashley Post author

      I’m usually not a fan of built-in DACs. I’d rather they omitted the DAC and spent more on the amp. That said the built-in DAC will usually get the job done with satisfactory quality. You’re right that for a significant improvement you’d have to spend a reasonable amount of money. It’s worth noting that the Yamaha DAC doesn’t offer a USB input, neither does the Marantz as far as I remember. I usually recommend an external DAC in cases where the user needs a USB input or is looking for the best possible sound. However if your’e connecting via S/PDIF you should be fine with the DAC in either amp.

      • ofori

        Thanks for the clarification. Yea I can see how the lack of an USB in would be a problem for, say, someone using a laptop as source, as these usually don’t have S/PDIF outs.

      • Igal

        Hi.
        Im connecting my laptop to standard samsung led tv an use the optical tv out to connect to the DAC in my Yamaha A-S501.
        The result is just a bit better than using analog out of the behringer uca 202 usb dac and alot better then connecting to uca 202 optical out.
        What i mean is that the onboard dac of the Yamaha A-S501 is quite good and you can always use youre tv to get optical signal out and get a good sound 🙂

  • Joel Shapiro

    I like everything about this amp but the plastic dials. Can they be replaced with the metal dials from the upper-level Yamaha amplifiers (A-S1000 and up)?

    • Ashley Post author

      I don’t see why not. I believe the pot shafts are the same. They’re a standard size, so theoretically you could use any dial you wanted to. Places like CPC, Mouser and RS Components sell them, you’d have to contact Yamaha for the originals.

  • Tim

    Hi Ashley. Very much enjoying this thread. I am learning a lot. I do have a question, which I will get to in a minute. First off, I want to explain what equipment I am currently listening to my music on. I have a Yamaha RX-397 2-channel (50 wpc) receiver and an NAD C 515BEE CD player, running through a set of NHT Superone 2.1 speakers. I have just ordered a set of Definitive Technology SM 55 speakers, which should arrive in a day or two. I consider these speakers to be a significant upgrade over the NHTs and hope they sound good with the Yamaha/NAD. My question: In case the RX-397 doesn’t sound good, do you think the Yamaha A-S501 would be a good match with the Def Tech/NAD combo, or would a Marantz PM 6006 be better? As you know, there is a huge discrepancy in power output between the A-S501 and the PM6006. Music-wise, I listen to such fare as Jethro Tull, Steely Dan, Toto, Alan Parsons. Classic rock. Thanks for your reply.

    • Tim Taylor

      I should also note that I have an Emotiva Fusion Flex amplifier (50 wpc). It’s currently in a box. Any guess as to whether it might be a good match for the NAD/Def Techs? I’ll find out soon enough anyway but wanted to know your opinion. Thanks.

    • Ashley Post author

      I’m sure that either the A-S501 or the PM-6006 would be more than up to the task. If you like the Yamaha sound, the A-S501 is a great amp. The Marantz is warmer and as you rightly say less powerful, though 50W P/C is usually more than enough for most environments. I had a 6004 some years ago that was similarly rated but drove difficult speakers with ease. I’m afraid I’ve not heard the Emotiva, but it can’t hurt anything to try!

      • Tim Taylor

        Thank you Ashley. I appreciate your replying to my questions. I’ll let you know how things turn out once I receive my new speakers (and have had time to break them in). They are to arrive today.

        • Tim Taylor

          Just thought I would let you know that the Def Tech speakers were delivered today. I hooked them up to my Yamaha receiver and played them for a couple of hours, and while it’s too early for a definitive yea-nay on the receiver/speakers combo, I can say that 50 wpc easily drives the Def Techs. I had the volume dial at about 10:00 and they were plenty loud in my listening space. So if anyone ever asks about the Def Tech SM55s and how much power it takes to drive them, in my experience, 50 wpc is enough. Take care.

  • wattstar

    Hi Ashley. I’m a vinyl guy almost exclusively. I just purchased the S501 and a set of ELAC B5’s and the new Pro-Ject “The Classic” turntable for my office at work. I am curious about the built in DAC on the 501. It has Optical and Coaxial inputs, but I have nothing really with those outputs. What would I need to stream high quality digital files from my tablet or laptop? USB would have been nice. Any convertors that you know of?

    • Ashley Post author

      Depends what you want to spend, and what resolution you want to stream. If you’re not streaming high res, This will handle your laptop needs. For streaming from the tablet, Bluetooth is fine in many cases. Plenty of cheap DACs available such as This one. Alternatively, for the best sound go for a DAC that does it all such as This one.

  • Mike

    Hello Ashley,

    I own a Yamaha AS501 ampflier that I am happy with. Now I have to change my NAD 541i CD player.
    Would it be a good match AS501 + CD N301 Yamaha? I saw that the cd player has streaming capabilities that would be usefull.
    Thanks,

    Mike

      • Mike

        Unfortunatelly, the newer one exceeds my budget.
        Is n301 that bad? I saw you wrote a good review on that a couple of years ago.
        Cheers,

        Mike

        • Ashley Post author

          It’s certainly not bad, it’s a fine player in fact. The software is a little dated, there’s no built-in wifi or Bluetooth and I’m not sure if the software is being updated.

          • Mike

            I don’t like the way music sounds when streamed from smartphones / tablets, so the lack of bluetooth is no concern for me.
            I want to use it for playing cd’s, for the internet radios and if possible to play FLAC music from my laptop.
            Can I establish e good connection to my laptop in order to play FLAC music at a satisfying quality?
            I must add that my laptop does not have a optical output.

            Thanks a lot,

            Mike

            • Ashley Post author

              Yes, if you setup a DLNA media server on your laptop. Windows has one built in (though it’s enabled differently depending on the version you’re running), and there is software for the Mac if you’re on that platform. With a DLNA server running you can access your FLAC files directly from the CD-N301. That’s pretty much the only way, as the CD-N301 has no inputs for mass storage or USB digital to analogue conversion. However that should be perfectly acceptable.

    • Brian

      I bought an Onkyo Cd to go with my A-S501. But i need a picture of the rear of the amp because I can only get one speaker cable to work! If possible can you do that for me. Brian.

  • Dhanyesh

    Hi Ashley
    I got a dalizensor3 bookshelf am looking for an amp am just comparing yamaha as501 and yamaha rn 602.which should be a good choice

  • Kris

    Hi Ashley,
    I’m getting the A-S501 with a pair of floor standing Monitor Audio Bronze 5.
    I want to play some of my music straight off my laptop. As far as audio outputs go, my laptop is only equipped with the standard headphone jack output. The manager of my local Richer Sounds recommended a simple solution, using a ‘QED Profile J2P’ cable. I was glad to hear that such a cable exists, but at the same time I wondered whether that simple solution is going to be up to scratch when it comes to transferring the details of the sound to the A-S501.
    Are there going to be any losses in sound? If yes, is it negligible? I mean, if I’m not going to notice it when listening to music then it’s ok with me.
    Thanks,
    Kris

    • Ashley Post author

      That interconnect looks like a standard jack to phono lead. While it would work, it’s far from an optimal way to connect a computer to the A-S501. The headphone output of a typical laptop will induce noise into the system as it is designed to amplify the sound for headphones, not to provide the necessary line level output for a hi-fi amplifier. the DAC (digital to analogue converter) in a laptop isn’t particularly good either. I would purchase a Behringer interface such as This One and connect it using either a pair of RCA cables to one of the ‘line’ inputs of the A-S501, or using an optical cable to one of the A-S501’s digital inputs. Richer Sounds should be able to sell you a basic RCA or optical cable, no need to spend a fortune. This method will bypass the inferior sound hardware of your laptop and give you great performance. As to whether you should connect it with an RCA or optical cable, it’s really up to you. The optical cable will probably offer slightly better sound, as you’ll be using the (very good) DAC inside the Yamaha A-S501. However either option should be perfectly acceptable. Hope this helps!

    • Ashley Post author

      Haven’t heard the 801, though from what I hear it’s based more on the 701 with an added USB DAC function and a few other changes. That being the case, the 501 would be the brighter of the 2.

    • Ashley Post author

      It’s been a while since I heard either. From memory, the A-S501 offered a slightly brighter, more exciting sound whereas the R-N500 was neutral but much less involving.

  • Steven

    I am currently having a hard time picking an amp for my elac unifi ub5’s. I have read that they benefit from a high quality amp, but $500-600 dollars is about all I can spend, so I want to get the best bang for my buck. I typically listen a mix of jazz, electronica, folk, and blues. I have been considering many of the same amps discussed previously here, but wanted to know your take with more inefficient speakers. I am considering the Yamaha 501, the marantz 6005, onkyo 9010 or 9050, nad 3020D, or emotiva ta-100. I plan on using a google audio to do most of my streaming, so wireless connectivity is taken care of, but it would be nice to have a decent DAC. Being able to connect it to a TV/blu ray down the line would be icing on top. Any thoughts on how to get the best bang for my buck? I worry about having adequate headroom for listening to jazz and classical music.

    Thank you so much for your help

    • Ashley Post author

      I’d be looking at the A-S501 or Onkyo 9050 if you want headroom. The A-S501 offers a slightly larger power supply and slightly more power, the 9050 offers a better DAC. I don’t think there would be much in it between the 2 amps, if you can hear either I think it would be worth doing so to make a final decision.

      • James

        Hi Ashley, thsnks for this review.

        Any idea how the as501 compares to the rn602 and the as701? The specs all seem similar but surely there are some difference?

        • Ashley Post author

          The 701 is more neutral sounding than the 501, which is slightly brighter. As for the 602, though I’ve not spent a great deal of time with it I’d probably describe it more like a 501 with added streaming functionality.

        • Tim

          I have the rn602, has bright sound and has an adjustable loudness switch which adds warmth if you like. Yamaha multicast lets you stream over WiFi from your phone or any device or PC. I love it.

          • Igal

            I have the A-S501.
            Its good for the money and very clear and loud! This amp has a bit “cold” sound signature.
            Im not shure that I like it but again for this money you have to compromise. Softer but less precise sound or colder and more precised.
            The high freq. are not harsh at all.

          • Tim

            I have the rn602 as well and love it. I could have written that review myself, but would have included network radio and all wifi capabilities to include media server integration.

  • Joe

    Trying to decide between the Yamaha 501 and Marantz Pm6006 to drive a pair of Focal Aria 905. Any suggestions which amp would be best match for the Focal 905. Have heard good things about both amps.
    Thanks

    • Ashley Post author

      Both similar in terms of features, it really depends what kind of sound you like. Yamaha is brighter, more on the neutral side, Marantz is warmer and more musical. A demo is really the only way to decide however I don’t think you could go far wrong with either amp depending of course on the type of sound you’re after.

  • John

    I’m torn between this amp and going the vintage path. How does the 501 stack up against the early 80s separates? I’ve been waiting to pull the trigger on this one over an overhauled vintage Luxman M-02. Just wondering what your thoughts are?

    Thank

    • Ashley Post author

      Many vintage amps will compare favourably with their modern equivalents. However there is the issue of reliability. If the vintage amp has been overhauled by a qualified technician, and they have a detailed description of all the work carried out, then it may be worth it. However there are many DIY forums online now encouraging many enthusiasts to take a soldering iron to their own equipment. While I certainly don’t discourage the acquisition of knowledge, and always encourage digging in and having a go (that’s how I learned after all), I’ve seen some amps on the second hand market which claimed to have been ‘overhauled’ and were done so to an extremely poor and sometimes unsafe standard. Unless you can be sure of the source, or have at least some experience in electronics, I would go with the modern amp with a warranty.

  • Igal

    Hi again Ashley.
    I already have the A-S501 amp.
    Im considering to pair them with the Tannoy xt 6f speakers.
    How will it pair together on youre opinion?
    Thanks!

    • Ashley Post author

      Great pairing, depending on your sound tastes of course. The Yamaha was tested using Tannoys for this review, a pair of Precision 6.2s if I remember correctly.

  • Sarah

    HI – I am thinking of purchasing this bit of kit. Would you be so kind to offer me a bit of advice. I need to buy some speakers with it – I have been offered some old Celestian Ditton 44’s but I think… they are 4 ohm and your review recommends 8 ohm as a minimum. I want to listen to my old records, cd’s, spotify and also plug the TV into the optical. I have been looking in Richer Sounds for some new speakers also and I have no idea which. Budget on speakers up to £350 ish.

    I would be very pleased with some advise form you. Many thanks, Sarah

    • Ashley Post author

      The Ditton 44s are excellent speakers and the A-S501 will happily drive them. It is quite capable of driving a 4 ohm load, you just have to switch the power supply via the switch on the back. Depending at what price they were offered, they may be worth a look. In terms of new speakers, I usually recommend Tannoys as I feel they offer great value for money at their respective price points, and as I use them as reference speakers I’m very familiar with their sound. Looking at the Richer Sounds website it looks like their Tannoy selection is somewhat limited, however they do have the Eclipse 3s which are excellent (review coming very soon).

      Superfi have a wider range of Tannoys which you can find Here. The larger Mercury 7.4s would pair very well with an A-S501, and even better with a Marantz PM-6006 if you like a warmer, more musical sound. The Revolution XT Minis are right in budget too and are great if you don’t need room-shaking bass.

      You could also take a look at the Q Acoustics Concept 20 from Richer Sounds, which is right around your budget once you add a pair of stands and some cable. No need to spend a fortune on cables, any thick gauge speaker cable will do. I use Van Damme UP-FC-OFC 6MM, though the 4MM or even 2.5MM variety would be fine and costs a couple of pounds per metre, if that. Any reasonably thick gauge cable is fine. The same goes for interconnects and digital cables. Don’t be fooled into spending a fortune, a reasonably thick cable with solid plugs will be as good as any other.

      In terms of the amp, what source components will you be using? Do you already have the CD player and turntable? You mentioned that you’d like to stream Spotify. It’s worth noting that the A-S501 is incapable of streaming Spotify out of the box, unless you pair it with either a network streamer or a Bluetooth adapter.

      • Jaco

        Hi Ashley
        I want to buy my first integrated stereo amplifier with speakers to go with it. I am stuck between Onkyo a9010, marantz 6006, yamaha s501 and nad d3020. Which I want to pair with either monitor bronze2, q acoustics 2030 or mission mx3. What would your suggestion be. Thank you

          • Jaco Venter

            Hi Ashley

            Room size is 4m x 3m.
            Listen to all kinds of music, but really like sitting back and putting on the Eagles. So I would probably say the amp and speaker combo should be rich and clear when it comes to instruments and bass. But it should not let the vocals fade away.
            As source I will stil be using my Kenwood DPF R3030, which is a 5disc cd player but still in very good condition. I might later on buy a new disc player. Thank you for the help.

              • Jaco

                Hi Ashley

                Just to let you know, went out and tested all of the equipment and played various music over them. Ended up buying the A-S501 with a pair of Monitor Audio Bronze2 bookshelfs. I must say the combination is fantastic.
                Thanks for the help, although I ended up buying something else…

                • Ashley Post author

                  That is exactly why I encourage buyers to demo equipment before purchase. I’m glad you found the combination for you and hope it brings you many years of happy listening, that is a great system.

      • Sarah

        Thanks Ashley, i listen to a lot of vocal jazz and blues. I’m a singer and want to hear a true reflection of my recordings. I have a wide vocal range and often speakers can’t reproduce it properly. Room size is approx 4.5m square. The Dutton’s are being offered to me for £200. I’d like speakers that can reproduce vocals well. Richer Sounds recommended I get the NuForce BTR100 to Bluetooth the streaming. I haven’t bought any other separates to go with it yet (turntable, cd etc). Thanks again.

        • Ashley Post author

          That is a little on the high side for a pair of 44s, unless they’re in lovely condition and have been serviced. As speakers age, crossover components degrade which can affect the high frequencies in particular, and the drivers can in some cases degrade also. As good as they are with a bit of work, I’d probably give them a miss.

          In terms of speakers, I too am a musician and I’m a fan of Tannoys with dual-concentric drivers. They place the high frequency driver in the throat of the mid/bass driver, meaning that the sound comes from a single point. Their vocal reproduction is outstanding. The lowest range featuring these drivers is the Revolution XT range, of which the floor-standing XT6F is exceptional but they’re not cheap.

          In terms of amplifiers, the Yamaha A-S501 you were originally asking about is a brighter sounding amp. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does emphasise the high frequencies a little more which may not be the type of sound you’re looking for. Marantz amplifiers are warmer sounding and their vocal reproduction is outstanding, as is their ability to reproduce guitars and other acoustic instruments in particular. Then there are brands like Cambridge who offer a middle of the road option with a more neutral sound, designed to offer a flat frequency response.

          For streaming, I’d encourage you to listen to the Bluetooth adapter before you buy. Bluetooth is OK in quality terms but it’s certainly not for the discerning listener, and with a well trained ear you may find it lacking. There are some bluetooth receivers that I simply cannot listen to because their audible deficiencies stand out to such a degree. I think you’d be better off with a dedicated streamer.

          Which brings me on to my final point; budget. From what I understand you ultimately want a system with a turntable and CD player, plus the ability to stream and with a sound that remains true to the recording. DO you have an over all budget for the entire system?

          • Sarah

            Excellent Ashley – thanks for the quick reply. My overall budget is around £2k but will buy over the course of this year not in one go. If you recommend buying certain parts first that would be handy. Is their a Marrantz one you’d recommend which also has an optical so I can plug the TV in?

            • Ashley Post author

              The Marantz PM-6006 has an optical input. I’d be tempted to audition the Marantz 6006 amp and CD player along with some Tannoys, either the Mercury 7.4s or ideally something from the XT range. You may even be able to pick up a pair of Tannoy Precisions now for very little money as they’ve been discontinued but there are still some floating around, would be worth asking Richer Sounds. In terms of a turntable, Audio-Technica’s AT-LP5 is a great budget deck and will happily take an AT440MLB cartridge upgrade which will have you sorted for vinyl playback indefinitely, though the stock AT95 that it comes with is also very good and may be good enough. Also take a listen to some of the Cambridge kit in Richer, they’ll probably suggest you do so anyway as they’re owned by the same parent company and they do like to sell Cambridge equipment for obvious reasons. Nothing wrong with that as it’s very good. I’d recommend a Cambridge CXN for streaming; it may push the budget a bit but would be well worth it.

              Your alternative would be something like a Yamaha R-N602 which is an amplifier with streaming capabilities and digital inputs, to which you could pair a set of Tannoy XT6Fs, an AT turntable, and a cheap CD player to use as a CD transport and still be within budget. Of course if you’re spending that kind of money listening first is really the only way forward, but those above are my recommended models. The Marantz pm-6006 / CD-6006, Cambridge CXN, AT-LP5 and Tannoy XTs would be my choice, but it is a little over budget.

      • Steve

        Please tell me, which speakers will be better choice for Marantz PM6006, Monitor Audio Bronze 2 or Q Acoustics 3020? Tnanx

    • Ashley Post author

      They’re fairly similar. The Yamaha has more power and offers a fuller sound whereas the Onkyo is brighter. I don’t think there’s much in it, though I’d have the Yamaha.

  • Joel Shapiro

    Ashley, thanks for your wonderful and thorough review of the Yamaha AS-501. Would this amp mate well with a ProAc Tablette 100 speakers? Those speakers are 4 ohm rated, and I wanted to know if the Yamaha would have the power to drive it properly. I considered the new Marantz 6006, but all Marantz amps are more expensive in the States for some reason. Thank you.

  • Viraf Dastoor

    Hello Ashley,
    I am from Mumbai, India.
    What a pleasant surprise to chance upon your website while researching for a new integrated amp.
    Can you please help me decide between the AS 501 and CA CXA 60.
    I will be connecting either of these to the Q Acoustics 2050i using Nordost white lightning cables and the REL T zero using the high level inputs.
    I listen to all kinds of music and enjoy watching live concerts with a growing preference for acoustic music. clarity at medium to low volume and a warm open soundstage are priorities.
    Input will be from digital sources (TV, smartphone,Blu-ray player) and my 23 years old Technics SL PG440 CD player which any way has only analogue line outs.
    I am looking to replace my Yamaha HTR 3066 receiver with a proper integrated amp.
    Any other recommendations at a similar price point ?
    Look forward to your advise.
    Thanks.

    • Ashley Post author

      The A-S501 offers more power, and the 2 amps are actually very similar. You may find that the Yamaha is a little bright whereas the CXA is a warmer sounding amp. I think either would work well in your situation however. Have you also checked out the Marantz PM-6005 or the newer PM-6006? Both are worth considering. Are you able to have a listen before buying?

        • Viraf Dastoor

          Hello Ashley,
          I listened to a 6004 demo piece and was very impressed. Dealer assures the 6006 will be much better.
          However, the NR 1506 receiver with 5.2 and networking is available for only USD 30.00 more.
          The Yamaha RX V481 is also going for about the same price.
          Both have excellent reviews for 2.0 channel music.
          The Yamaha RN602 also seems to be a good option.
          Should I stick to the 6006/ Otherwise which of the above would pair well with the q acoustics 2050i.
          Yamaha does not sell the AS series in India so AS 501 is out and the ca CA CXA 60 is tweice the price of the 6006.
          Look forward to your advise.
          Thanks and regards.

          • Ashley Post author

            If you only need 2 channel audio, stick with a 2 channel amp. No AV receiver at a similarly price will be as good for 2 channel music, as a lot of the build cost goes into the extra circuitry required for their multi-channel capability.

  • Brian Dahlen

    Ashley! Great write up. I am currently looking to purchase this amp. Its beautiful. i know that for sure and it sounds like its a good analog receiver and would be a nice addition to my vinyl listening? I am currently utilizing a refurbished 2238B marantz. its fine. 30 Watts. However, I am getting some static when i adjust the knobs and i worry that its really just nearing its end life. I am contemplating getting it worked on again or just upgrading to a newer receiver and this one looks like a worthy replacement. However, Im always told that having one of these vintage silver faced marantz will always be the best one can do. Thoughts?

    • Ashley Post author

      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed. I have to admit I’m very fond of those old Marantz receivers, and Marantz equipment in general. Your static issue is probably caused by nothing more than dirty controls, which can be fixed by spraying some contact cleaner into the controls themselves. If properly refurbished, those receivers will go on for ever, they are extraordinarily reliable and they sound fantastic. The A-S501 is a very different sound to what you’re used to, so I’d recommend you get a demo first and see if it’s a sound you like.

      Despite what the vintage purists will tell you, there is some very good modern equipment being made today. Not all of it is cheap and Chinese. That said whether a piece of modern budget hi-fi is a match for your Marantz (properly restored of course) is another matter altogether. By now your Marantz would no doubt benefit from having its electrolytic capacitors replaced, as well as being thoroughly checked by a competent technician who can re-adjust the amplifier and re-align the tuner. You may find you’re very surprised and happy with the result.

      Of course, with modern technology come modern advantages, the remote control for example, as well as modern components. But while on paper the A-S501 is better than your Marantz in every way, such may not be true depending on your personal taste. Have a listen to an A-S501 if you can, as well as a modern Marantz and see what you think. Either way, what you have is an exceptional piece of hi-fi and at the very least it’s worth fixing and restoring, even if you then decide to exchange it for something modern and move it on.

      • Brian Dahlen

        Thank you so very much for your quick response! How knowledgeable are you on needles/stylus issues?? I recently upgraded to an Ortofon 2m Blue and i feel like im getting more static/sound drop than my previous 2mRed and im not sure if its a matter of breaking the stylus in or a bad needle all together! Thanks again 🙂

        • Ashley Post author

          The 2M blue stylus is a nude elliptical stylus, meaning it sits deeper in the groove than the elliptical of the 2M red. Are your records clean? investing in a vacuum cleaning machine will help tremendously.

          • Brian Dahlen

            Thought they were but maybe I need to look into that. Most are reasonably new records. Thanks again! Can we go out now?? I kid.

            • Ashley Post author

              New records should be cleaned also. They’re covered during manufacturing in a layer of mould release compound, which prevents them sticking to the stamper. However this compound only serves to attract dust and is a static magnet. As the stylus traces the record groove, the dirt is pushed further into the groove, resulting in the pops and clicks you hear on playback and also resulting in a dirty stylus. The Pro-Ject VC-S is the best value machine on the market currently, I reviewed it Here

  • Angela

    Hi Ashley,im new at this so thanks for your reveiw and all your sharing of information ,id appreciate your opinion on the pioneer bs 22 speakers with the as501 or as701.id be playing cds and records and then when i have more money id like the pioneer sp fs52 lr.☺ thankyou. Angela

    • Ashley Post author

      I’ve heard many great things about those Pioneer speakers. I’ve not heard a pair in person so unfortunately can’t comment on their sound, but specs wise the A-S501 is more than capable of driving them. The A-S501 is a brighter sounding amp, whereas the A-S701 is more neutral and more powerful. The 701 would be my choice, especially if you plan to upgrade the speakers later.

      • Angela

        Great thankyou again already,i like the sound of the yamaha a s701,being around the same price what would be your choice the yamaha a s701 or the marantz pm 6005 and if i go the marantz way is the pm 6005 worth the extra money compared to the pm5005. Kind regards angela

        • Ashley Post author

          The PM-6006 is out now and is the amp I’d probably choose, though it really depends on the sound you like. The Yamaha is more neutral, whereas the Marantz, to me, is more musical. The marantz is exactly half the power of the Yamaha, but it has a substantial power supply and will drive most speakers to high levels. I’d encourage you to demo both amps if at all possible.

          • Angela

            I appreciate all your imput,due to my circumstances its hard for me to have a demo,ive been driving youtube mad ☺i feel id b happy with the yamaha but i keep going back to the marantz. i had one about 30 years ago i loved it . this is a preasant for my 60th birthday so thankyou again for helping me to buy the best for my budget.ill let you know in about a months time. Best wishes angela

            • Ashley Post author

              The Marantz amps of today still have that ‘Marantz sound that they did 30 years ago, so if you liked the sound from your old Marantz you’d probably like the new one too.

                • Eddie

                  Hi Angela,

                  I own an A-S501, and I’ve demo’d the 701. The 701 is very heavy on the bass. The people at Yamaha say the 501 is UK tuned, whereas the 701 is not. So it gives plenty of detail and power, but if you don’t like too much bass, then it can be a bit tiring. I haven’t heard the 6006, so best thing is you travel down to a store and make a comparison.

    • Ashley Post author

      Specs wise, certainly. The A-S501 is more than capable of driving the 3050s. Whether you like the sound is a matter of personal taste. I think they’d be a nice match.

      • Igal

        Hi Ashley.
        I just recieved my A-S501 and I use it with my old crappy speakers fot now.
        This amp takes them to a whole different level! It is very strong and natural. I can’t pass 50% of the volum cause it gets crasy loud!:)
        It really got softer after 2 hours of listening (!) and the sound is very clear and powerfull.
        The bass is very clean and controlled.
        It replaced my old JVC HT reciever and this Yamaha is like 4 times better!:)
        Thank you for the review and youre help.
        Next step is replacing my old Peerless speakers..

  • Kris

    Hi,
    I really like what I’ve read above about the A-S501.
    I’m not too much “at home” in the world of audio systems, but I’m on the hunt for one that I can just connect to my laptop and play the music/films from that. Bluetooth is not an option.
    My laptop is currently connected to my TV via an HDMI cable, so you can imagine that it’s not great to listen to music!
    I’ve also read up on the R-N500; I did like its features and all, and perhaps it would be the perfect system for I want to use it, but the review much preferred the A-S501 when it comes to music. Which kind of put me off the R-N500.
    Can anyone recommend me an amp that will be suitable for my purposes, with the musical capabilities of the A-S501? I definitely want to go Yamaha, not interested in other makes.
    Thanks guys!

    • The Darkbird

      You should check the RX-Axx(x) range of Yamaha AV-receivers. I can’t comment on their sound quality compared to the A-S501, but they get a lot of favorable reviews, for example: the RX-A850 gets a 5-star rating on a well known hi-fi website.

      It’ll cost you more than a regular stereo amp though, which makes sense since AV-receivers have a lot more components.

      • Ashley Post author

        if you want stereo only, your best bet would either be a 501 with an external DAC or USB interface for the laptop, or an amp with an integrated USB DAC. AV receivers are great for multi-channel surround sound, but they compromise on sound quality. You could pair an A-S501 with a Behringer UCA202 for a great sounding system that’ll connect directly to your laptop.

  • The Darkbird

    I primarily bought this amp for powering my Elac Debut B6 speakers and Klipsch R-115SW sub, but I also use it with my headphone (Shure SRH1540 / Shure SE846). As an amp this Yamaha is great BUT, the headphone output is a bit too colored for me: sub bass is noticeably bumped, making the overall sound somewhat muddled. This was very obvious with my Shure SE846 IEMs (I noticed it after a few seconds), and to a more limited extent with my full cans. Also the soundstage of the headphone out is a bit limited.

    I compared it with my Oppo HA-2 portable headphone dac/amp which is more neutral, more detailed and has a wider soundstage. Now, don’t get me wrong, this Yamaha headphone output is still good, but being used to the Oppo HA-2 the difference was striking and I prefer the latter.

    As with most power amplifiers the headphone out is an afterthought. This is not the case with this Yamaha, but it’s not high end either. Sooo, personally I’ll connect a dedicated headphone amp to it (like a Schiit Magni 2 / Asgard 2).

    Sorry if I’m overly focused on the headphone output. Most people won’t care I’m sure, but for those who do: this was my 2 cents.

    • Ashley Post author

      For me the headphone output is a nice thing to have but sadly they are often, as you say, an afterthought and don’t come close to being able to compete with external units, at least not where lower end integrated amps, such as the A-S501 are concerned. The Marantz PM-6005 and 6006 are the exception, their headphone outputs are excellent. I’m happy that Yamaha include a headphone output even if it is a little lacking, because it can be convenient when sound quality isn’t a major concern (when you’re trying to setup the anti-skate on a turntable for example). But I’d certainly agree it could be better.

      • The Darkbird

        Hey Ashley, thanks for your comment.

        I have now connected a Modi Multibit DAC + Magni 2 Uber headphone amp (which also functions as pre-amp) to the Yamaha. As a result both the Yamaha and its headphone out sound much better now: gone is the sub-bass bump and slightly muffled sound. I use the Magni 2 headphone out instead of the Yamaha’s now of course, but I was surprised to find that pre-amping improved the Yamaha’s headphone out as well.

        I realize this is an extra 500$ in addition to the price of the Yamaha, defeating its budget price. But I found the improvement in sound interesting enough to share.

  • George

    Hi,
    I saw this page your reviews are excellent and you gone through each and every bit of A S501 amp
    I am in a bit of confusion last year I bought A S201 and paired with Wharfedale Diamond 230 but when it plays there is lack of bass ,is it worth considering A S501, in home av direct this amp is on sale for £195 free del

    • Ashley Post author

      Thanks, glad you like the reviews. The A-S501 should give you a definite improvement not only in bass performance but across the entire frequency spectrum. While i like the A-S201 for the budget amplifier that it is the A-S501 is in a different league.

      • KM hoo

        I tend to agree with you though I haven’t auditioned the A-S201 but on the A-S301 paired to their own Yamaha sovar hifi 3 directional speakers, I found that the sound is very lay back and lack details unless you up those BASS / TREBLE buttons to the Max ( + ) and only then will the music details comes out. What I am owning now is the Yamaha A-S801 ( with a ESS 32 bit DAC built into it ) and paired with a Dynaudio DM 2/6 speakers and then connected to my laptop using the USB connection at the A-S801 rear, it just sound fantastic when playing even MP3 sound. My A-S801 volume only need to be set at 1/4 of max turn and it’s already very loud and plenty of clarity. Speaker cable I used – QED XT40 cable.

  • Hank

    Hi,Ashley! Your amplifier reviews are great and very useful. It would be nice to see your review of Marantz PM8005,especially because you often recommend this model,and there is no lot of good reviews of it.Best regards!

  • V

    Hi, I have ordered the A-s501SL and am planing on pairing it with MMGs and connect a Rega Planar 2 (2016) to it. My question is if the Yamaha has enough to power the MMGs and is the Planar 2 the better choice of TT for the A-s501SL. Thank you!

    • Ashley Post author

      The 501 should have more than enough power, and the Planar 2 would be an excellent match though I’d avoid the standard Carbon cartridge, and change it for something better. Maybe an AT120E. The Planar 3 would be a far better turntable, especially in the arm department and would undoubtedly offer you better value for money in the long run.

  • vinh

    Hi Ahsley I have Yamaha receiver RS3040 currently it sound great but if I want to replace to this A-s501 does it sound much same worse or better? The reason I want to replace because I can sell my Rs3040 and got extra money to buy different equipment if not I stay the same. My Rs3040 come with evverything from wifi thru airplay that s also the plus. But I also Airexpress so wfi is no problem here.

    • Ashley Post author

      A stand-alone amp will nearly always sound better than a receiver as the receivers are built to a cost and have to factor in more components and more research and development into the cost. I haven’t heard your particular receiver so can’t tell you exactly, my advice would be to go and have a listen. I would estimate though that the A-S501 would be a step up, or at the very least in the same league.

  • Mike

    well, this is what I aim for. having a big flac format folder in my laptop and stream through AS501 and have hifi resolution. How can I achieve that with minimum costs?
    thanks
    Mike

    • Ashley Post author

      if you want to stream wirelessly, a streamer such as the CD-N301 would be the cheapest way. If a wired connection is OK, a cheap USB DAC will do the job providing it supports resolutions of up to 24-bit, 192KHZ for high-res FLAC support.

    • Ashley Post author

      It would do the job, but it’s not ideal if you’re planning to stream FLAC files. It’s more suited to people who want to stream a library of MP3s from their phone, for example.

  • Mike

    Hello Ashely,

    What do you think about the Yamaha YBA-11 connected to the AS-501 amp? Would it be good quality sound if played from laptop (FLAC files)?
    I’m trying to figure out whether should I purchase one or not.

    Kind regards,

    Mike

    • Ashley Post author

      You should really use a hard wired connection. If your laptop has a digital out connectn, run that into the yamaha’s DAC. If not, a cheap USB DAC will do a far better job than the YBA-11.

  • Tim Connor

    Anybody try the bluetooth adapter on this? How would you expect it to perform on digital inputs through bluetooth>

    • Ashley Post author

      Sadly I didn’t try the yamaha adapter. You will never achieve the same quality from a bluetooth connection as you from a hardwired connection. Personally I think an Arcam MiniBlink would be a better option as it’s one of the best (reasonably priced) bluetooth receivers out there. If you’re not keen on the Arcam’s aesthetics, there are plenty of cheap bluetooth adapters on the market which will do the job such as this one http://amzn.to/1VQNUId. This model is slightly better and has a Wolfson DAC: http://amzn.to/1TyiBfh

    • Timothy K Connor

      Hi Ashley. I hadn’t updated you lately, but I finally landed on the N-602 paired with Klipsch Model: R-28F tower speakers and a ten inch Klipsch woofer to add some bass punch. Streaming my iTunes sounds great over LAN or blue tooth, but probably would achieve better if I re-RIPPED my CDs. Any recommendations on best CD ripper and target format please?

      • Ashley Post author

        Great! nice system, glad you’re enjoying. If you’re an iTunes user already and like the way the iTunes library works, I’d rip them to ALAC directly within iTunes. You could also use a program such as DBPoweramp to rip to FLAC, though its automatic tagging abilities certainly aren’t as good as those found in iTunes. Personally I rip my CDs to 320KBPS MP3 using iTunes. In the import settings choose MP3, then in bitrate choose ‘Custom’. Set the sample rate and channels to auto and make sure VBR is switched off. Stereo mode should be set to normal, and the smart encoding adjustments and the filter frequencies below 10Hz should both be disabled. I personally struggle to hear a difference between those files and the original CDs, and save a huge amount of storage space in the process. If you want the absolute best possible quality and space isn’t an issue, rip them to ALAC.

  • Alex

    Hi Ashley, thanks for the detailed review. I wonder if you can help me with an issue. I own a home cinema system made from Dali zensors (7s,1s and Vokal), SVS subwoofer and Denon x4100w. However, as expected the stereo sound delivered by the Denon is not the best, a stereo amplifier being required. Now, the questions are:
    1. did you hear the combination yamaha 501 + Zensor 7?
    2. is it possible to connect somehow the front + subwoofer to the yamaha and the rest to denon, so that I can avoid switching speakers back and forth between the 2 devices? Somebody told me about a pass through or soemthing, to connect them (sry I am far from being very aware of the terms).
    3. if my music is coming from flac files from a laptop connected to the Denon, may I keep listening this way or I should connect the laptop straight to the Yamaha.
    Thank you in advance for the help.
    Best,
    Alex

    • Ashley Post author

      I’m afraid I haven’t heard the 501 with Zensors (it was used with my Tannoys during the review). It also doesn’t have a passthrough, so who’ll be difficult to integrated properly into a home theatre system. You need an amplifier with a fixed level or bypass input. You’d then connect your Denon to that input using its preamp output (assuming it has one). The stereo amp would then be used to run the front speakers and the sub, and the Denon would be used effectively as a preamp (for volume control etc) and an amplifier for the rear speakers.

      In terms of where you should connect your laptop, ideally you’d run it into the stereo amp for music listening as the preamp in it will undoubtedly be better than that of the Denon. That said to buy a reasonable stereo amp with a bypass input is going to set you back around twice the price of the Yamaha, so depending on your budget you may find you’re better off replacing the Denon with an AV receiver which offers better Stereo performance. Personally I think the Cambridge receivers are the best in sound quality terms, and would probably be looking at one of the new CXR range. The cheapest integrated amplifier I can think of which has a home theatre bypass input is the Arcam A19 priced at around £600.

  • MIKE

    Hello Ashley,

    I have to write you back as I talked to the producer (Triangle Electroacoustique in France) and this is their answer:
    “Good day to you
    All the range EX has an electronic protection to avoid too much power burn the speaker.
    The Altea EX is a 100W speaker that mean, the speaker will react to voltage upper than 20V during more than few seconds.
    For peak power it’s not a problem.
    You have 2 protections (named Polyswitch) on each cabinet, 1 on midrange/treble and 1 on Bass.
    They react decreasing the level of each part when this component becomes too hot (after 20V).

    What is important is to have a look to the minimum impedance of the speaker.
    That mean if the minimum is 4 ohms @ 120 Hz (for example), and you use a 120W/8ohms amplifier, the result is this :
    The amplifier at 120Hz will provide twice the power (240W) cause the impedance at this frequency is 2 times lower than the reference impedance (8 ohms) from the amplifier …

    That mean 2 things can appear:
    – The amplifier goes to protection.
    – The polyswitch will turn on.

    So this behaviour is totally normal.”

    Now, if you noticed, at the back of the AS501 amplifier there is a “impedance selector” which has 2 positions: LOW and HIGH”, mine is switched to HIGH and Triangle representative said it should be set to LOW for my speakers: Triangle Altea EX.

    Here is a description of the speakers’ specs:

    Triangle quotes a frequency range of 45Hz to 20kHz, with a sensitivity of 91dB and minimum impedance of 4.4 Ohms (nominal 8 Ohms). Power handling is 100 watts, and two pairs of binding posts are provided if you want to bi-wire the Altea.

    What is your oppinion?

    Thank you,

    Mike

    • Ashley Post author

      Their suggestion is logical, and with a minimum impedance of 4 ohms switching your A-S501 to the low impedance setting certainly won’t hurt anything. Unfortunately I have no experience of the protection system in those speakers, so all I can suggest is to give it a try and see if it solves the problem. Certainly with a 4 ohm minimum speaker the amp should be running in the low impedance setting.

      • MIKE

        I will try that as soon as I get home and maybe I will solve the problem.

        But still I don’t understand why it is happening at just one speaker.

        I’ll let you know about the results.

        Thanks a lot again.

        Mike

        • Mike

          Hello Ashley,

          Just a quick feedback. I switched the impedance selector to the LOW position and the speaker acts normal as far as I noticed until now (about 10-15 h of listening).

          I will keep you updated about this issue.

          Regards,

          Mike

  • Steve

    Have you tried any Wharfedale speakers with it, specifically the Diamond 220s? I want to build a home-theater with this amp, but I don’t know any good speakers. Many websites recommend the Wharfedale speakers, but I want to ask you about it. What do you think fits well with this amp?

    • Ashley Post author

      I’m afraid not. If you’re using this for home theatre, be aware that it doesn’t have a direct AV input, and the onboard DAC can’t decode multi-channel digital audio. If you’re looking for home theatre as opposed to 2 channel stereo, you’re better off with an AV receiver.

      • Steve

        I’m actually using this amp for a stereo turntable setup. I understand it cannot be used for a home theatre. Another question: Is it worth buying a used amp like this to save $200 or just buy a new one?

  • Mike

    Hi Ashley, I finally got my AS501 amp from yamaha like 2 weeks ago. Now it is under burning period. I’m keeping evidence of this and it reached like 45 hours of playing. Everything was fine only until today when I noticed something very strange going on. I have to mention that I haven’t gone over half way of the volume because of the burning period not finished (I assumed 100 h would be fair enough for a burning time). So, today I was playing some tracks with the volume set at 12 o’clock and I noticed that after aprox 3-4 minutes the sound goes down on the right channel in terms of mediums. I noticed that the medium woofer (the one between the tweeter and the bass wofer on a 2 and 1/2 way speaker) goes down and the sound becomes poor. I then set the volume to a minimum and back to 12 o’clock and the sound was normal again. After 3-4 minutes of playing, the problem appears again. Can you figure out what causes this? The amp is free of other equipment above, so the ventilation is ok. I must add that the amp gets hot, but I assume it’s normal. Please help.

    Thank you.

    Mike

    • Ashley Post author

      That definitely doesn’t sound normal. Try switching the speakers around (connect left to right and right to left) to make sure it’s not an issue with one of your speakers. If that doesn’t solve the problem I’d have the amp tested as it sounds like it may be something in the preamplifier circuit.

      Re burn in time, 100 hours is usually sufficient. That said you don’t need to worry about using the amp at high levels during burn in. The purpose of a burn in time is simply to allow the electrical components to settle to the point where they sound their best, but in reality there’s no better burn in that normal usage, and the properties of the components won’t change to a degree where they’ll simnifically alter the performance of the amp.

      • Mike

        Thank you very much for your fast reply. I will try that as soon as I get home. If the problem still persists, I will take the amp back and take another one. I’ll keep you updated.

        Thanks,

        Mike

        • Mike

          Update. It’s the speaker. I reversed the wires at the back of the amp and the same speaker went off. Any idea if I am facing a major problem? I have no warranty on the speakers…..so I have to fix it on my expenses.
          Mike

          • Ashley Post author

            Based on your description of the problem I’d start by removing the drivers and checking for loose connections, both at the driver and and the crossover. Also check between the crossover and terminals, though based on what you describe that’s unlikely to be where the problem lies. Failing that, you may have a faulty mid range driver. It sounds to me that there’s a loose connection, or one of the driver coils is affected by the vibration of the speaker which results in it going open circuit. A multimeter will be a great help.

            • Mike

              You are so helpful. Thank you for your message. I talked to a friend of mine and he told me that de midrange was likely overused by the other owner of the speakers. So I have to take the driver to a professional service.
              It’s unpleasant but this is the risk when you but used products. I just hope it won’t cost me much money as I just purchased the as 501 amp and I wasn’t prepared for a speaker repair :(. Unfortunately I have no qualification in electronics so I have to fix this with a proffesional.

              • Ashley Post author

                I’d somehow doubt the driver is at fault, more likely a connection between the driver and crossover or maybe one of the crossover components. It is of course possible that the speakers were overdriven and damaged, but in all likelihood were that the case the speakers would sound distorted. And usually the tweeters will blow before the mid range. So if it were a case of damage by the previous owner it would more than likely be very noticeable and it’s unlikely that it would be intermittent. Drivers can fail too without being overdriven, they are after all mechanical devices with moving parts and the quality of assembly varies these days. Best of luck with the repair.

                • Mike

                  When I bought these speakers, I searched for a good brand just because the poor quality of the new equipment made in China. So I bought these Triangle Altea Ex manually made in France. These speakers were made in 2009, so they maybe have been over used. They are in mint condition but you never know how other users treat the equipments. I am very carefull when it comes to things that create emotions. And listening to music with a hifi system surely gives you great emotions. But not all users think the same. I am a little bit dissapointed but I will fix the problem no doubt about it.

                  • Ashley Post author

                    Never discount Chinese equipment. The cheap products found in supermarkets and big box stores is a poor representation of the quality of Chinese manufacturing. High-end hi-fi manufactured in china is usually of comparable quality and far better value for money than anything we make in Britain. In fact I’ve had a higher failure rate with supposedly hand assembled British hi-fi than I have with mass-produced kit from China.

                    • Mike

                      Yes, I think the same, but in my budget these speakers were the only option. I will let you know about the end of this story. Hopefully a happy one :).
                      Cheers,

                      Mike

  • James Harvey

    Hi, I have had the yamaha S501 since late January this year. Since the first use it has consistently kept turning off randomly while in use. Does anyone know what the issue might be? Could I be wiring it up wrong or could there be a problem with the actual amp? Thanks for your help!

    • Ashley Post author

      There are a few things to check. Firstly, be sure that your speaker wires aren’t touching either at the amp or speaker end. Be sure that the amp has enough ventilation around it, and don’t stack other components on top. What speakers are you using, and how loud to you play your music? It could be that the amp is cutting out because it thinks the speaker leads are shorted (either because they’re touching or because of an internal fault with the speakers which is unlikely), because it’s getting too hot or because of an internal fault.

  • James Harvey

    Hi, I got the yamaha-S501 in late January of this year and since the first use it has been automatically turning off. Does anyone know what could be the issue? Could I wiring it up wrong or is there an issue with actual amp? Thanks for your help.

  • bruce

    & also i was wondering well i listen to all my music exported on to my ps3 & downloaded music videos so when it comes to 2 channel whats the best way to go analog or optical digital?

      • bruce

        Ohh yeah nice I’ve been using optical but as of now i have an av receiver & when listening to music from an HDMI I didn’t really notice a difference but for games n movies only went to optical cuz people tend to say thay hear a difference in the channels

        • Ashley Post author

          If you’re using an AV receiver, there’s no real advantage to using another digital connection type over HDMI. They’re all digital and all multi-channel.

  • Nikolas

    Hi Ashley,
    I have the a-s501 and I’m wondering if the KEFs R300 would be a good choise / match, or it is better to look for something cheaper…?
    Thank you!

    • Ashley Post author

      I haven’t heard them, though I don’t see why they wouldn’t be a good match. Sound is subjective of course, so the only way you’ll know for sure would be to audition them for yourself. The A-S501 is more than good enough for any speaker at their price range. THere’s no rule for matching speakers to an amp based on price, though it’s usually advisable to spend more on the speakers than the amp as they’ll have the greatest impact on the sound.

  • Daniel

    Hi – i recently purchased a Yamaha A-S501 and a pair of Cambridge Audio SX60 speaker – i am not sure if i have connected them properly, its sounds terrible especially when played loud.

    please help

    • Ashley Post author

      Can you explain how they are connected? You should have 1 lead running to each speaker with the black (-) terminal on the amp connected to the black terminal on the speaker, and the red (+) terminal on the amp connected to the red terminal on the speaker. Also what is the source component? Unless you’re using a turntable make sure you haven’t connected your source component to the ‘phono’ input, and if you’re using a computer or a device that has its own volume control try lowering that volume to be sure you’re not overdriving the amp. IF that doesn’t fix the problem, try to give me some idea of the rest of the system and what exactly you mean by “terrible” sound.

      • Daniel O'Connor

        Hi – thanks for getting back to quickly 🙂

        I am using Cambridge Audio Symphony cables to connect amp to speakers – the polarity seems correct.

        I am using a phono cable attached to my ipod as source component.

        The sound is distorted at higher volumes and the bass is far to heavy + there is a high pitch sound when played loud, almost a high pitched squeaking/rattling sound. 🙁

        • Ashley Post author

          That doesn’t sound right at all. I trust you’re not connecting your iPod cable to the ‘phono’ input on the amp, and instead to one of the line inputs? If so, it sounds like you have everything setup correctly. I’d advise returning to your dealer and having them check your components.

          • Daniel O'Connor

            I was connecting my ipod cable to the phono input !!!!

            I just spoke with Richer Sounds and they said the same thing.

            I hope I have not done any damage to the amp or speakers ?!?!?

            Thanks again for your quick response and for all your help.

            Great article by the way.

            Daniel

            • Ashley Post author

              You didn’t do it for a prolonged length of time I’m sure your kit is fine. The reason you can’t use the phono input is because the level of a phono cartridge is much lower than that of a line level source (such as your iPod) and also has equalisation to equalise the tiny signal that comes off a phono cartridge to RIAA standards. The phono input is for use with a turntable cartridge only, everything else is line level and thus should be connected to one of the line inputs.

  • joe shinnon

    Thinking about purchasing the Polk LSiM703 Bookshelf speakers.
    Deciding between the Yamaha AS501 and the Marantz PM6005.
    The Yamaha says 85 watts and the Marantz is 45 watts.
    Would either of these be okay to drive the Polk speakers?

    Does it make sense to Bi-Wire them as well?

    Thanks.

    • Ashley Post author

      With a sensitivity rating of 88DB driving those speakers will be within the capabilities of both amps. If you play your music loud or want a decent amount of headroom, opt for the Yamaha. If sound quality is the priority, I’d lean towards the Marantz. Don’t bother bi-wiring, it’s an expensive waste of time and often ruins the musical coherence of a speaker.

      • joe shinnon

        Thanks so much Ashley and appreciate you taking the time to reply. I have heard mixed things about placement of the Speakers with the wall. I was going to put them on top of my heavy duty bookshelf and angle them in with minimal space to the wall. Would be great to your thoughts on that placement.

        • Ashley Post author

          I’ve no direct experience with those particular speakers, that said dedicated stands are always a must for the best performance. Placing speakers against a wall often results in overpowering bass and a poor undefined stereo soundfield. The ideal is to achieve a triangle between your seated position and the speakers, with the high-frequency drivers roughly at ear hight. The triangle should be equilateral, with the distance between the speakers being equal to the distance between them and your ears when seated. That said positioning is a matter of experimentation, the above will be good enough to get you started.

  • Giancarlo

    Hi Ashley,

    Great review! You just helped me narrow down my search for a new amp. How do you think this will pair up with Monitor Audio Silver 6?

    Thanks!
    Gian

    • Ashley Post author

      Thanks! glad you found the review helpful. Sound is subjective of course, and my preferences will differ from yours. That said the Yamaha is certainly more than capable of driving the silver 6s, though in my experience Monitor Audio speakers can at times become a little bright so that’s something to keep in mind. Of course my advice would be to audition before you buy and take along a selection of albums that you know well to properly assess the system.

      • Giancarlo

        Thanks a lot for the comments. It really helps! Now, you mentioned that the Yamaha will make the MA’s sound a little bright. I know that the MA’s out of the box is already quite bright – would you be able to point me to a warmer sounding Amplifier? I would like a more balanced sound and it seems this is not as suitable with the MA’s. Appreciate the input!

        • Ashley Post author

          Marantz is usually the favourite at this price level, both the PM-6005 and PM-8005 would offer the sound you’re after. The PM-8005 is more expensive but gives you higher power and a bigger power supply which depending on how loudly you play might be advantageous. Have you considered going down the used route? plenty of nice bargains to be had.

          • Giancarlo

            Hi Ashley,

            Yes – I would definitely consider used as long as it is within 5-10 years. I was recommended to a new Cambridge CXA60 or a used Simaudio Celeste I-5080. I also saw your review with the CXA80. I heard the MA’s with the CXA80’s and it sounded fantastic – just above my price range though.

            • Ashley Post author

              The CXA amps are lovely. If the CXA60 is in your price range, go for it. The CXA60 and CXA80 are very similar, albeit with the difference in output power and the balanced input. If you could stretch to the 80 it’s worth it, but the 60 will serve you just fine.

  • John B.L

    First of all congratulations for the great review of this amplifier. I wanna buy this Yamaha as501 and pair it with the Cambridge Audio sx60 speakers. Would it be a good combination? Basically I’ll listen to electronic music such as dubstep, trance and house.

    • Ashley Post author

      Thanks, glad you like the review. I don’t see why that wouldn’t be a good combination, though I haven’t heard the SX60s. If you have the opportunity to audition before you buy (which I’d strongly recommend when making any hi-fi purchase), give Wharfedale a try.

  • Daniel

    Hi Ashley,
    Congratulations for you web, one of the best I’ve seen lately. Reviews are clear, accurate and full of details.
    I’m looking for an amp to be used mainly in streaming (wifi or if not AirPlay). I’m keen for a really good sound rather than power. I enclosed my searches into:
    1. A-S501 with Apple TV to use Air Play (which I already use with the ridiculous tv’s speakers). Future combination with CD-N301 (despite no wifi and hoping they will produce one with). Serious candidate after this review but, how would it work with the Apple TV?
    2. Yamaha R-N602 all in one step. Nice design, including wifi and the Yamaha multi room. I read your review where you were not very happy with the R-N500. Do you know if the R-N602 has an improvement in sound?
    3. Marantz PM6005 with NA6005. Same principle and questions as #1 but with wifi in future combination.
    I thought Monitor Audio BX2 could response quite well in every case.
    What are your suggestions? Many thanks in advance.
    D.

    • Ashley Post author

      Thanks Daniel, glad you like the site and the reviews. If it were me I’d go with the Marantz; I personally prefer the sound of the Marantz components and they’re very well made too. The Apple TV has an optical output, and would work with any of the amps you mention providing you only stream 2 channel PCM audio data.

      I haven’t heard the R-N602 yet; I did ask for a sample last year but that hasn’t come to fruition. The CD-N301 is a decent player, though the app leaves much to be desired and I believe the app is the same as (or at the very least shares the limitations of) that for the 602. I doubt Yamaha will be adding built-in wifi to any of their streamers in the near future; your best bet would be to obtain a cheap router and use it in bridged mode.

      • Daniel

        Thanks Ashley.
        My old man has a small Marantz from the 70s and I’m always impressed on the sound quality, much better than a powerful Onkyo from the 90s I had.
        Do you have in programm reviewing that PM6005?
        Thanks again.
        D.

  • Gazza (Scotland)

    The AS501 is easily the best amp I have ever owned in terms of value and sound quality.It has a great phono stage and bags of power and drive.the build quality is also superb.I am using it with a project turntable,onkyo 7030 cd player and tannoy v4 speakers.my ancient sony minidisc deck also sounds amazing thanks to the digital connections of the yamaha.the yamaha is excellent in every way and I am very happy with it.

  • Nikolas

    Hi Ashley,
    Grate reviews!

    I am going for YAMAHA Soavo 2 (ns-b 951) speakers.
    Is it a good choice for the A-S501?
    Do I have to go for the A-S701 ?

    Nikolas

    • Ashley Post author

      Thanks Nikolas, glad you like the reviews. Specs wise the A-S501 is a great match and more than capable of driving the NS-B951s. I can’t comment on their sound as I haven’t heard them myself, but I do know of another reader who uses this combination and is very pleased with the results.

      • MIKE

        Hello Ashley,

        I was very impressed that a woman has such a hobby, audiophile like.
        I carefully read your review on the Yamaha AS501 model and I have to admit, your way of writing is impeccable, you really did a great job analizing this product.
        Now, the other reason I am writing you is to ask for your oppinion on the following combo:

        1. Yamaha AS701 + Triangle Altea EX (speakers)
        2. Yamaha AS501 + Triangle Altea EX

        Is really such a big difference between the 2 amps in this combination?

        I now have the AS701 at home for testing and it sounds great, but for cost reasons I would go for its little brother AS501.

        Thanks for your answer,

        Mike

        • Ashley Post author

          I’m afraid I can’t comment as I’ve not heard the speakers in question. The only real difference between the 501 and 701 is that the 701 has a little bit more power and a little bit more headroom, and also has the CD direct input. If you don’t need the extra power or want the direct CD input then the 501 should be fine.

          BTW; I’m a guy, though I do know a few female audiophiles. 🙂

          • MIKE

            Hey, sorry for the confusion, my bad:).

            Now regarding my issue. Do you think that the 15 W difference is something you can hear in terms of sound power? The speakers have like 100 W into 8 ohms.

            Thanks,

            Mihai

            • Ashley Post author

              You won’t really notice the difference unless you play at high volumes. And even then, the 501 is a powerful amp. Wattage isn’t everything; current capability is arguably more important, and to that end both the Yamaha amps will be fine.

              • Mike

                This is what I thought too. I hope that I’ll be able to get the 501 home for testing and comparison. Thanks a lot for you fast reply.
                Mike

                • MIKE

                  Hello,
                  The guy I am negotiating with for a new amp also has the AS500 which is also 2x85W into 8 ohms. That would be enough for me. I think that the AS501 has more connecting ports. I don’t know if both amps have the Top ART construction.
                  Thanks,

                  Mike

                  • Ashley Post author

                    The 2 amps are similar in terms of connections, though the A-S501 replaces the (IMO useless) iPod dock port with a decent DAC. I believe both amps feature ToP-ART. If it were me I’d opt for the 501 as it does feature slightly improved circuitry, particularly in the power supply.

                    • MIKE

                      Yep, that was what I thought too. I wanted to make sure it’s worth to allocate an extra 65 Eur for the AS501. Anyways, the AS701 that I am testing now is awesome. I cannot go more than half the volume button. It is more than enough and the sound is powerfull and so real. It’s like being in a concert hall.

                      All the best!

                      Mike

    • Gary

      Great Job Ashley!
      Have you ever purchased a refurbished unit of any type. I am considering a refurbished A-S501.
      Thanks for your time.

      • Ashley Post author

        I think i had a refurbished tuner once, though it wasn’t a Yamaha and was about £20 so not of any significant cost. I realise that’s not much help; As long as you purchase from a reputable dealer, I’m sure you won’t have any issues with a refurbished unit. The A-S501 isn’t very old and the Yamaha amps are very reliable, so I suspect the ‘refurb’ was probably a customer’s unit that was traded in / returned, cleaned and rebooted ready for sale.

    • Ashley Post author

      Do you need the tuner? If not, I’d opt for the Yamaha or the Marantz PM-6005. Of course if you like the Cambridge sound, there’s also the 351A and 651A both of which can be had for a very good price now. The Cambridge SR-20 is undoubtedly a great receiver, but it’s designed to perform the function of both a tuner and an amplifier, and thus the build cost is divided between the 2 resulting in a performance compromise. The Topaz series is also at the very bottom of the Cambridge range (with the SR-20 being the top model in that series), whereas the A-S501 and the other amps I mention are all slightly higher up in the product line and therefore can be expected to offer better performance.

  • Ziefer

    Hi Ashley, thank you and I appreciate very much your reply that enlightened me about my query. But earlier I have been searching the statement you said “style over substance”. I now understand why Bose were excluded in most of the reviews .

  • Ziefer

    Hi Ashley, I am planning to replace my Sony STR-DH130 with an amp Yamaha AS-501 and I am listening thru bookshelf speaker Bose 301. I am just wondering if it will work well with my speakers. I’ve never heard matching Yamaha AS-501 with Bose Speakers. Some commented that Bose speakers have no high and were excluded among the reviews of good speakers. Why?

    • Ashley Post author

      I’m afraid I’ve never heard the 801s – though the A-S501 is a very neutral amp, and isn’t dissimilar in character to the Sony amps of that era so I would imagine it would sound fine. I think the reason Bose products don’t find favour with reviewers is because they’re known for making systems which are more ‘style over substance’ and thus many take the view that such a company shouldn’t be producing hi-fi speakers along-side those offerings.

  • John

    Thanks for the great review. I’m researching this unit to drive my hungry mid-1990’s Infinity Kappa 5.1 speakers. Currently I’m using a Harman Kardon AVR 630 in stereo mode, which is rated at 75w per channel I believe.

    Would I see a a great enough increase in power and quality of sound to rationalize the new purchase?

    I use it for vinyl and with AirPlay from my iMac using optical from an Airport Express.

    Thanks!

    John

    • Ashley Post author

      The A-S501 would give you a bit more power; though personally I’d be looking at something with higher current capability, such as the Yamaha A-S701 or the Marantz PM-8005.

      • John

        Thanks for the great and fast feedback! I’m looking at the 701, though it is a bit price restrictive for me right now. I’m comparing the previous model, the 700 (and getting a separate DAC) and a refurbished 701 which makes it about the price of a 501. Thanks again, great site and wonderful information you are sharing.

        • Ashley Post author

          In your situation I’d definitely be looking at the 700/701 series. That extra bit of power would be worth it. The 701 isn’t very old, so I suspect a refurbished unit would do you just fine. Thanks for your comments on the site, much appreciated 🙂

  • Steve

    Just bought one of these for a decent Black Friday price. It does need some time to settle down as it’s quite bright and grainy at the top on first hearing. After a few days the bass has improved and the treble is smoother. I feel it may improve further over the next few days. It’s a solid and attractive piece, especially in silver. It matches my recently purchased vintage Yamaha CT 1010 tuner, not just in looks. I would like to try the Dac with my Squeezebox Touch but I’m not sure it will better the Touch’s own internal Dac. The phono input appears decent and quiet and is equal to my external CA phono stage. I worry a little about the brightness but I have read that this settles down over time.All in all a good purchase I think.
    Steve

    • Marcin

      hi,
      thanks for sharing your experience with the amp.
      hows this brightness thing going on? has it settled or still burning in and improving?

      • Ashley Post author

        My review sample was a little bright at first, though it settled down after a few days. It does require a bit of careful system and cable matching though, bright speakers or cables can result in a bit of unnatural harshness at the top end.

      • steve

        Much more settled now. The pure direct is a good feature but with less well produced recording I turn this off and tweak the tone controls. The internal dac is good and I have connected my Squeezebox Touch to the optical in.

    • Ashley Post author

      You’ll have to spend a fair bit to better the internal DAC. You’d be looking at something like the Rega DC-R which is twice the price of the A-S501. You’ve got a great system there.

  • Andrea Trombetti

    Hi Ashley, thanx for your helpful review. I am thinking of it for replacing my 30 yrs old akai.
    I have got an aiwa double deck and I didn’t understand if the lack of the record output selector would cause me any problem. All’n’all cannot I use the input selector for choosing the source ?
    Thx again
    Andrea

    • Ashley Post author

      You can use the input selector to select the source. The only downside is you can’t listen to 1 input while recording a different input which the previous A-S500 could do.

  • peter winterton

    What a very helpful review!!
    With sadness I have to replace my Technics SU55A (purchased along with 6 other AA class separates in 1987).
    It appears that the A-S501 is a very good replacement in terms of connectivity match and power output is similar.
    My principle music listening is ‘classical’ large orchestral colours, chamber music and piano music and currently using 15 years old B&W CM610’s. I wonder if this Yamaha amp will do the job or if I should be looking at something more expensive to replace what has been a superb amp in the SU55A?

    Many thanks

    Peter

  • Eric

    Ashley,

    Thanks for your detailed review. I’ve had my A-S501 for about a month now and love it. I was wondering which, if any, outboard DACs you’d recommend to complement this amp. I’m listening through Polk’s TSx440’s.

    • Ashley Post author

      Personally, I’d stick with the built-in DAC, unless you were looking at something in the price range of the Rega DAC-R which would be a great match.

  • gertrude

    I would imagine any thing in the Monitor Audio Silver Range to an excellent speaker match. My A-S500 worked beautifully into RX1s.

  • Sherm

    Hey Ashley, thanks for an informative review! My AS501 is being delivered today so I’m stoked and happy to read all of the above. I’m going to be auditioning speakers this weekend and while I know everybody’s opinion on speakers vary, I still have to ask what kind you think pair well with this amp. Background: I’m setting up in a 10×12 room with a technics for vinyl primarily although I’m happy I also bought the BT adaptor so I can stream spotify. Anyway, any advice you can give is appreciated! At first I was thinking floor standers but now I’m rethinking toward bookshelfs (JBL 530’s or B&W 685’s leading the pack from an internet review perspective right now). I’m looking in the $500-800 range FYI (and anyone else reading this ;). THANKS!

    • Ashley Post author

      The 685s would be a great match. The nice thing about the Yamaha is that it’s very natural, but has tons of power when required. Your choice of speakers therefore depends on the type of sound you’re looking for. I’d be tempted to lean towards slightly warmer sounding speakers to make the system a little more musical, but ultimately it comes down to what you prefer.

      Audition Acoustic Energy also; I’d never had any experience with the brand previously, but have the AE301s in for review currently (review up next Friday) and they sound pretty magnificent, especially given their low price.