For many people, Yamaha is a name more associated with home cinema (to say nothing of the many varied and wonderful things the wider company makes) but they have a comprehensive range of stereo components too. The A-S1200 is towards the upper end of the range and is an integrated amplifier that, slightly unusually for amplifiers in 2022, is fitted exclusively with analogue inputs. There’s no digital connections of any kind so you’ll need source equipment of some description for it to work.
There’s no shortage of choice as to what you can connect though. Three line inputs are partnered with a phono stage that can support both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges, a tape loop and the option both to use the Yamaha as a preamplifier and a power amplifier. These connections access a highly efficient, distortion free class A/B amplifier that offers 90 watts into eight ohms and 150 into four. An unusual feature for this day and age is that there are A and B speaker outputs that can be selected independently of one another so that you can have two sets of speakers (maybe in different rooms if you can discreetly hide some long cables) that can play independently.
The manner in which the A-S1200 is constructed could be the type standard for the word ‘fastidious.’ Peer through the top panel vents and you’ll see a hefty toroidal power supply which forms the centrepiece of a symmetrical circuit that makes use of a system that Yamaha calls Mechanical Ground Concept. This involves securely bolting the power supply, heat sink and block capacitors to fixed points of the chassis that in turn are coupled to brass feet on the underside of the amp. Yamaha says that the principle makes the amp extremely rigid and helps the bass response to be more tuneful.
An entirely positive side effect of this is that the Yamaha feels enormously solid, even when you judge it by the standards of a £2000 amplifier. Hauling it out of the box is no small undertaking and absolutely everything on the A-S1200 feels meticulously and exactingly assembled. This is not a small amplifier and the gently retro aesthetic might not be to everyone’s taste (although, the plethora of controls on the front panel make for very easy operation) but it does manage to feel special to use. It’s convenient too. A remote handset offering control over all functionality is supplied and there’s an extremely good headphone amplifier too.
The Yamaha’s vast size and solid build give some pointers to the way it sounds too. This is not an amplifier that blows you away in the first five minutes of listening; in fact in those early stages, you might, depending on what is connected to it, find it sounds fractionally on the safe side. Listen a little longer though and the virtues of the A-S1200 start to make themselves felt. In one sense this is a very literal statement as the bass that the Yamaha can deliver is sensational. Without ever sounding bombastic or overblown, there is genuine depth and impact to everything that the A-S1200 does.
Further up the frequency response, the news is very good too. Yamaha’s vast experience in the field of making musical instruments results in an amplifier that sounds refined and believable. Voices are also consistently well handled too. The longer you listen to the A-S1200, the more it begins to charm you. There is a fundamental ‘rightness’ of tone, timbre and soundstage that makes for very alluring listening.
This is helped by an impressive ability to deliver even large scale material like an orchestra in full flow without ever sounding strained or congested. You can reasonably argue that the presentation of the Yamaha isn’t the most ballistic available at the price point and if you are after a truly high energy sound, this might not be the most suitable device going but the all round ability across multiple genres is very good and it does mean that the Yamaha can also tame slightly forward-sounding speakers too.
One area where the A-S1200 truly excels is the quality of the on board phono stage. With both moving magnet and moving coil phono stages, it manages to retain the positive qualities of the main amplifier stage while offering plenty of gain and no unwanted noise. The result is a supremely capable performer with analogue that can easily challenge some very capable external phono stages. The headphone socket is barely less accomplished too, keeping the same expansive and unflappable presentation as the speaker outputs. If you like what the A-S1200 does, it has the wherewithal to deliver these virtues across its vast functionality.
The A-S1200 unashamedly harks back to an earlier time with its preference for physical controls rather than menus and that pair of VU meters. The range of inputs and functionality it incorporates does make for a flexible device though. It means that, large as the Yamaha is, it does offer the scope to do with additional boxes that some superficially smaller and simpler rivals might require.
The A-S1200 is the very definition of an all rounder. Its extensive functionality, effortless ability to drive most speakers and refined effortless sound ensure that it is a very satisfying device to use and live with and that will appeal to many people.
St Paul & the Broken Bones The Alien Coast
The manner in which the Yamaha delivers this wildly varying collection of tempos, styles and instruments speaks to the absolute control it possesses in terms of tonality, soundstage and timing.
Talk Talk Spirit of Eden
An album where the gentlest of musical actions goes a long way, the Yamaha is able to find that emotional content in these sparse, pared back pieces and deliver them in a way that is consistent and compelling.
John Williams The Berlin Concert
It stands to reason there will be more than a few Yamaha instruments at work in the full size orchestra doing justice to some great cinematic scores. The A-S1200 makes them sound wholly believable
Stereonet was impressed with the substantial 90W per channel output of the A-S1200, saying ‘this makes it pretty gutsy and able to drive most loudspeakers to high levels, and agreeing with Yamaha’s own description of an ‘emotional, purely musical sound’ which does sound impressive. YouTube reviewer, Andrew Robinson keen as always to share his thoughts, also said that the Yamaha A-S1200 has vintage good looks so it seems that most sensible reviewers agree that this is great product, no wonder it scored 8out of 10 with theaudiophileman.com. This splendidly engineered amplifier has a tempting price tag as well!
If you have a digital source you’re happy with, the Yamaha S-1200 offers effortless all round capability coupled with sensational build and finish.