Stereophile

Yamaha A-S3200

Yamaha: The name evokes memories of my youth when those muchcoveted receivers were out of financial reach, leading me to rely upon entry-level Kenwoods and Pioneers and others that sounded worse. Everyone who ever had a cheap receiver blow up—that’s what caused me to move from Kenwood to Pioneer—or heard an old Akai that made LPs sound like 128kbps MP3s, please raise your hands.

Yamaha was in a different league.1 Hence, when Jim Austin proposed that I review the brand-new, top-of-theline Yamaha A-S3200 integrated amplifier ($7499.95), I was eager to discover just how far the company’s designs had progressed since I was in my 30s.

When I first saw the A-S3200’s retro, double-meter look and discovered that it has bass and treble tone controls and a front-panel headphone jack, l experienced a moment of time-travel déjà vu. I returned to the 21st century upon examining the multilanguage owner’s manual and noting that it was free of the kind of Japanese-to-English mistranslations that made some of Yamaha’s early manuals so much fun to read. If only some high-end companies with far more expensive products would take the same care with their product manuals. (A good start, in a few cases, would be to write one.)

My eagerness to review the A-S3200 increased when 35-year Yamaha employee Phil Shea, currently Yamaha USA’s marketing content development manager, told me that the A-S3200’s amplifier section is very similar to that of the flagship M-5000 stereo amplifier ($9995.95). “The M-5000 is our no-holds-barred amplifier that, together with the C-5000 preamp ($9995.95), took Chief Sound Designer Susumu Kumazawa 14 years to develop,” Shea told me by phone. “He and his team were also in charge of engineering an earlier predecessor. After a reviewer told him that the amp spec’d out perfectly but didn’t move him—the stereotypical criticism of Japanese products is that their sound is accurate but not musical—he started from the ground up to

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