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Yamaha A-S801 Integrated Amplifier Review

by November 01, 2015
  • Product Name: A-S801 Two-Channel Integrated Amplifier
  • Manufacturer: Yamaha
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: November 01, 2015 19:00
  • MSRP: $ 999
  • 100 W x 2-ch (20 Hz - 20 kHz at .019% THD+N, 8 ohms)
  • USB DAC function supports native DSD resolutions (2.8 MHz / 5.6 MHz) and PCM (384 kHz / 32-bit)
  • Digital signal indicator shows DSD and PCM playback formats and sampling frequencies
  • High efficiency ESS Technology 32-bit DAC (ES9010K2M)
  • Digital audio inputs for TV or Blu-ray Disc™ player
  • CD Direct Amplification and Pure Direct
  • High-strength chassis with double-bottom design for excellent dampening of vibrations
  • ToP-ART (Total Purity Audio Reproduction Technology) and high quality parts
  • I/O (input to output) direct symmetrical design
  • ART (Anti-Resonance and Tough) Base
  • Custom made power transformer / 12,000 µF block capacitors / extruded aluminum heat sinks
  • Gold-plated speaker terminals and RCA terminals
  • Continuously Variable Loudness Control
  • Dimensions: 17-1/8" x 6" x 15-1/4"
  • Weight: 26.7lbs


  • Excellent fidelity in ALL modes of operation
  • Honestly rated amp section
  • USB DAC function


  • No preamp outputs
  • Non-defeatable LPF on sub out


Yamaha A-S801 Introduction

The A-S801 is a throwback to vintage audio updated to the 21st century.

I've always had a special place in my audiophile heart for integrated amplifiers.  Perhaps it's because of a good experience I had in my high school days moving from a run of the mill Dolby ProLogic receiver to a serious two-channel integrated  amplifier to focus more on sound  quality than bells and whistles.  When Yamaha announced their new series of affordable integrated amplifiers, I knew I had to check one out.  I decided on the 100 watt/ch A-S801 not just because of its reasonable price (MSRP: $999), but also the fact it's the only integrated amp they make with a built in audiophile USB DAC.  Vintage updated to 21st century standards for streaming high-resolution audio - what a revelation! 

 Yamaha A-S801 Integrated Amplifier YouTube Video Review

First Impressions & Build Quality

From the moment I unboxed the Yamaha A-S801 integrated amp, I realized I was dealing with a serious product that would earn many points with audiophiles.  From its sturdy construction and thick brushed aluminum faceplate, anti-resonance double body chassis design, to its simplistic, yet elegant front panel knobs reminiscent of Yamaha integrated amps from a few decades ago, to its gold-plated speaker terminals and RCA connections, this baby means business.  I was excited to get this amp on my bench and into the listening lab to see if it performed up to my expectations.  I have to tell you I was more excited to review this two-channel integrated amp over a typical mediocre Dolby Atmos receiver cramming nine channels of amplification into a chassis the same size as this A-S801 with a smaller power supply and less weight, yet somehow "more" powerfully rated amplifier section.  

The Yamaha A-S801 is an honestly rated 100 watt/ch amplifier.

You're probably wondering what makes this integrated amp stand out compared to a typical AV receiver.  Well for one, the A-S801 gives up some bells and whistles and instead puts more meat into the pot, if you will.  No it doesn't have DSP modes to make your speakers sound like they are in a German Cathedral.  You can't bounce sound up at the ceiling to create an "immersive effect."  But, the A-S801 can drive a 4-ohm load with more ease and finesse than most comparably priced multi-channel AV receivers.  This is thanks to lots of heat dissipation provided by dual heatsinks (one for each channel), 4 output devices per channel to source more current, a large E-Core transformer to supply the necessary power and 2x12,000uF capacitor bank for reserves.  If you look at how Yamaha specs the power of this amplifier, it's done at 8 ohms, full bandwidth, both channels driven and at a very low distortion level of .019%.  Alas, we are looking at a real 100wpc amp the way amplifiers used to be spec'ed before the AV receiver power inflation wars at the local box stores took over to impress the uninitiated. 


Yamaha A-S801 Inside View with Top Panel Removed

The fact that the A-S801 has a solid amp section isn't the end of the story.  Yamaha included a digital section employing  an ESS Technology 32-bit ES9010K2M Sabre DAC capable of supporting native DSD resolutions (2.8 MHz / 5.6 MHz) and PCM (384 kHz / 32-bit) via a USB-B as well as coax and toslink digital inputs.  Yamaha took it one step further by employing its own clocking scheme to reduce jitter.  Analog purists will be happy to hear that the A-S801 includes a MM phono section for vinyl playback. 

In Use

Setting up the A-S801 is an exercise in simplicity I often cringe these days at the prospect of being drowned by the complexity of AV receivers.  There is something to the ‘less is more’ approach in this case.  Give me a meaty amp, great DAC and two high quality speakers (a sub is a bonus) and I can easily reach sonic nirvana much more easily and quickly than with all but the really good multi-channel playback systems.  After connecting the speakers and my sub, I then made the USB connection between the A-S801 and my desktop PC.  Installing the Yamaha Steinberg USB driver was a piece of cake.

driver.jpg JRiver

Yamaha Steinberg USB Driver (left pic); JRiver Screenshot (right pic)

Configuring the JRiver media center and getting it to properly playback my HD audio files on my HDD was an exercise in patience and perseverance worthy of its own article.


Yamaha A-S801 Backpanel View

The A-S801 has a detachable two-prong power cord that is convenient for installation purposes and for audiophiles that pray to their cables and want to use esoteric alternatives as expensive tone controls.   You see that impedance selector switch on the backpanel?  Don't touch it!  Leave it at its factory default ‘high’ setting regardless of the speakers you connect, or else you will be starving your speakers of power just to validate a UL heat dissipation test that is required to list 4-ohm capability on the silkscreen.  

Do NOT change the impedance switch from it's default setting.

The A-S801 utilizes high quality gold-plated RCA line level connections and 5-way speaker binding posts.  You can connect two pairs of speakers to the A-S801 and they are wired in parallel to avoid the sonic degradation that happens when you connect two pairs of speakers in series. Just be warned if you do connect two pairs of speakers and use them at the same time to make sure they are 8-ohm nominal impedance, since the amplifier will see the parallel equivalent load of 4 ohms in this scenario. 

The subwoofer output does NOT have independent volume control and has a fixed 2nd order Low Pass Filter (LPF) response just shy of 100Hz.  In my setup, I dialed the internal crossover of my sub down to about 60Hz and was able to achieve a great blend with my speakers, which were running full range.  As long as you select a crossover frequency about 20Hz away from the built-in Yamaha one, you won't run into the deleterious effects of uneven frequency response near the crossover point that can happen in the pass band when cascading two filters at the same crossover frequency.

The A-S801 sports USB-B, optical and coax digital inputs.  I tested both with excellent results and was able to play back high-resolution 192kHz/24 bit audio on both without truncation.

There are no preamp outputs on this unit. So if later you want to repurpose the A-S801 as a preamp only and add more powerful external amplification, you're out of luck. 


Yamaha A-S801 Frontpanel View

The front panel of the A-S801 isn't lit up like a Christmas tree like today's modern AV receiver. Instead it's simplistic but functional.  You've got an amber LED for power, input selection and DAC sampling rate.  Oddly there is no LED indicator on the volume control, which is an unfortunate omission.  It's difficult to see the indent on the volume control since it's the same color as the actual physical knob.  Putting an LED here would have served better functionally and aesthetically in my opinion.

Yamaha A-S801 RemoteThe A-S801 comes with a remote control (RAS15) so couch potatoes don't have to get up any time they want to change volume or source selection.  The remote is pretty ordinary with a bunch of small clustered buttons unreadable in all but well light rooms since there is no backlighting and they used dark text on a shiny gray surface.  Still, it gets the job done and it keeps you planted in the money seat to enjoy your music.

CD Direct Amp bypasses the tone and balance controls and gives you a direct path from the CD input to the power amp while pure direct essentially does the same thing for all inputs with the mutual goal of reducing noise and maximizing performance.  The variable loudness contour doesn't behave like one would normally expect.   Instead of boosting the low frequencies at a fixed amount, it actually turns down the mids so you can hear the bass and treble more distinctly at low listening levels.  It's volume control dependent so you always get the correct amount of loudness compensation for that particular volume setting.  I rarely used this feature since I had a powered subwoofer installed to extend the bass response of my system which helps to linearize the bass even at lower listening levels.

I didn't spin any vinyl or test the phono input but the specs look pretty good and I'm certain the A-S801 will do your record collection justice.  I did however conduct listening tests using the headphone input on various high quality headphones including my Oppo PM-1 over-ear headphones and RBH EP3 IEM's.  Overall the A-S801 has a very good headphone preamp so I recommend utilizing it if you've got some good cans.

The A-S801 performed flawlessly in all of my tests.  The only minor issue I found was that some of my high res audio sources from JRiver were played back in higher than 96kHz sampling rate which was NOT compatible with Skype or YouTube when I would simultaneously use those functions on my computer.  I had to manually go into the Yamaha Steinberg USB and select 96kHz since the A-S801 didn't automatically switch to a lower sampling rate on lower resolution sources.  The other workaround was to go into JRiver and downsample to 96kHz for all music with higher sampling rates.  This won't cause any audible degradation so I suggest doing this to avoid these operational hiccups I experienced.

Yamaha A-S801 Integrated Amplifier Sound Quality Tests

The bulk of my listening tests with the Yamaha A-S801 were conducted in my office system consisting of a customized pair of RBH Sound  41-SE/B speakers which have 4" phase plug aluminum midbass woofers and the ScanSpeak 9500 tweeter.  The Velodyne MiniVee sub was thrown in to provide the bottom end and the speaker cables were the Kimber 8PR.  I also connected the A-S801 to a pair of NHT Absolute Towers running full range in the Audioholics Showcase room system to see how it performed in a larger space.  The source was USB-B connection between my desktop computer utilizing JRiver software to stream my high res FLAC, and SACD ISO files off my HDD.  Toslink input was also testing using my Oppo BDP-95 Blu-ray player.

24Bit FLAC: Bruce Cockburn - Stealing Fire

The A-S801 was an immediate sonic improvement over the EMP VT-40.2 tube amp I've been using to power my speakers.  It wasn't just the fact that it could play louder and cleaner, but everything just sounded more meaty and focused.  Bruce Cockburn's vocals were crystal clear and the stereo separation in "Making Contact" seemed wider and more pronounced than I previously recalled.

cockburnstealingpeggy.jpg       Michael_Jackson-Thriller.jpg

96/24 FLAC: Michael Jackson - Thriller

The Yamaha A-S801 provided pure sonic bliss to my music collection.

I never realized what an incredibly excellently mastered record MJ’s Thriller was until I got it on 180G vinyl and 24 bit FLAC.  For pop music, this is surely a reference piece.  The A-S801 showed off its ability to pump out the juice in Track #2 "Baby Be Mine."  I turned the sub off just to hear how much prodigious bass this amp was able to extract from my speakers.  I also ran this test on the NHT towers in my theater room and was able to achieve SPLs well beyond comfort. MJ's vocals remained completely composed with no sense of harshness.  "Lady in my Life" is perhaps one of my all-time favorite MJ songs.  I was in pure sonic bliss listening to this song reveling in how well my office system sounded with clean Yamaha power.  Color me impressed.

96/24 PCM: Steve Wilson - Hand Cannot Erase

If you haven't heard of Steve Wilson and his fabulous work with Porcupine Tree, I suggest opening up YouTube and getting busy while reading this review.  HCE is his latest solo effort, which arguably is his best to date both from a musical and musicianship perspective.  Normally I listen to the 5.1 DTS-HD track on my reference system but I also enjoy the high-res two-channel mix too.  Title track "Hand Cannot Erase" is probably the closest example of a pop song Steve Wilson has made since his days with Blackfield.  The drums hit hard thanks to the brilliant stick work of Marco Minnemann while Steve showcased perhaps his best vocal work to date.  "Home Invasion/Regret#9" is 11+ minutes of a pure prog rock joygasm.  My system really came alive with the A-S801 powering my speakers.  Drums were had great snap and definition and there was plenty of juice in reserves to crank it up to 11 if that sort of thing is your bag.

Steve-Wilson-HCE.jpg       2L-front.jpg

96kHz/24 FLAC: 2L the Nordic Sound

The ambience in "Gregorian Chant: Crux Fidelis" puts you right into Pilgrimage Church Vierzehnheiligen in Germany.  The ambience reproduced in this recording that convinces the listener that the soundstage extends well beyond the plane of the loudspeakers is truly remarkable and is a testament to the quality of the DAC performance in the Yamaha A-S801.  You don't have to be in Iceland to appreciate the realism and dynamic vocal performance in "Sigurd Ilandsmoen - Requiem Lacrymosa," which sent chills down my spine.  I don't do much listening to orchestral or opera music but the A-S801 is having me reevaluate my musical tastes to further broaden my palette. 

Yamaha A-S801 Integrated Amplifier Measurements and Analysis

All measurements were conducted using our Audio Precision APx585 8 Channel HDMI Audio Analyzer following our rigid Amplifier Measurement Test Protocol

Frequency Response

All measurements of the A-S801 were done in pure-direct mode bypassing the tone and balance controls unless otherwise noted.

A-S801 Freq(192kHz, 24bit).jpg

Yamaha A-S801 Analog Frequency Response Direct Mode

Whether I measured the A-S801 via analog input or with a 192kHz/24bit test signal on the COAX digital input, I found ruler flat frequency response from 10Hz to 80kHz  - .6db.  Via the analog inputs, I measured +-.043dB Ch-Ch Deviation and a vanishingly small +-.008dB when using the digital inputs.  This is excellent.

Bass Management

The A-S801 bass management in pretty primitive but I found it very useful that Yamaha included a filtered subwoofer output. 


Yamaha A-S801 Frequency Response with Bass Management Engaged

The -3dB point of the HPF seemed to be about 95Hz with a 12dB/oct rolloff.  Yamaha specs this at 100Hz.  Personally I would have preferred it set to 80Hz or not filtered at all since most folks using a sub will simply engage their subwoofer’s internal crossover anyways.  As previously mentioned, I recommend either bypassing your subwoofer crossover filter offsetting it +-20Hz than this filter to mimimize interactions between the two.

Signal to Noise Ratio

A-S801SNR(1 watt).jpg

Yamaha A-S801 Signal to Noise Ratio @ 1watt (CCIR filter engaged)

With a 200mVrms input, I measured > 89dB at 1 watt output and >93dB with A-wt filter engaged.  This is a great result and demonstrates why I felt the noise floor on this product was completely inaudible.

A-S801 SNR 200mVrms (CD Direct).jpg

Yamaha A-S801 Signal to Noise Ratio 200mVrms output (CD Direct, A-wt)

Yamaha specs the A-S801 to deliver 99dB (A-wt) or better SNR via the CD analog direct path driven by 200mVrms.  I was able to verify this claim as you can see in the above graph. The CD Direct engaged did improve the SNR by about .5dB.  It's not much of a difference and likely not audible given how quite the product is in any mode, but hey it's something that is verified with measurements.

The DAC performance isn't quite as pristine as the analog section but it's still good nonetheless.  At full digital scale (0dBFs, 2Vrms out), SNR was >100dB A-wt.  This translates down to 83dB at -20dBFS or 200mVrms output. 

Distortion Performance

A-S801 FFT (0dBFS).jpg

Yamaha A-S801 FFT Distortion Analysis (0dBFs)

I ran the USB-B digital interface at digital full scale (0dBFs) which yielded 2Vrms from the analog outputs to see how the ESS Sabre DAC section performed.  You can see the residuals above the 1kHz fundamental along with quantization noise were in the -103dB or lower range.  While this result isn't SOTA in terms of the best of the best DAC performance, it's still respectable and within the performance limits of the ES9010K2M spec sheet for DNR and THD+N as follows:  DNR=116dB, THD+N=-106dB@1kHz, -60dB.

A-S801 Freq-vs-Dist (0dBFS,AES17).jpg

Yamaha A-S801 Distortion vs Frequency (0dBFs, AES17 filter engaged)

Again I verified the distortion limits of the ES9010K2M DAC per their data sheet as being under .005% THD+N for the entire audio band.  Yamaha appeared to implement this DAC to reach within its theoretical limits of performance.


Yamaha A-S801 FFT Distortion Analysis (1 watt)

The amplifier section of the A-S801 behaved quite well as you can see in FFT distortion analysis at 1 watt.  The distortion byproducts were > -100dB below the fundamental.  Even when driving the amp section to its 100 watt rating, I measured the distortion byproducts > -90dB below the fundamental.  This is very solid performance.

Channel to Channel Crosstalk Performance

A-S801 Xtalk.jpg

Yamaha A-S801 Crosstalk Tests (One Channel Undriven)


The crosstalk sweep tests I ran on the A-S801 produced very good results. At 1kHz the channel-to-channel isolation was about -90dB and –60dB at 20kHz. I consider anything less than -40dB @ 10kHz acceptable and the A-S801 beat that with 25dB to spare.  Incidentally, measured stereo separation of the A-S801 was about 20dB better at 1kHz and 15dB better at 10kHz than specified by Yamaha.

Power Amplifier Measurements

The A-S801 was tested on a dedicated 120V / 20A line.  Unless otherwise stated, all power measurements were done with the default 8-ohm impedance setting.

We tested power using three methods all of which were taken at < 0.1% THD + N:

  • Continuous Full Power Bandwidth (CFP-BW) from 20Hz to 20kHz into 8 and 4-ohm loads
  • 1kHz Power Sweep vs. Distortion (1kHz Psweep)—popularized by the print magazines, this is an instantaneous power vs. distortion test at 1kHz. The problem with this test is it often masks slew-related and or frequency response problems some amplifiers exhibit at the frequency extremes, and thus inflates the measured power results. It does provide an instant gratification number for consumers to argue over on the forums, so we are now incorporating this test to please the masses.
  • Dynamic PWR - 1kHz CEA-2006 Burst Method testing. This is a dynamic power measurement adopted from the car industry similar to IHF method, only a bit more difficult for an amplifier and more representative of real musical content.

Keep in mind most review publications don't do continuous power measurements and they usually publish power measurements into clipping at 1% THD+N. Our measurements are very conservative since we use a dedicated 20A line with no Variac to regulate line voltage.  We constantly monitor the line to ensure it never drops more than 2Vrms from nominal, which in our case was 120Vrms. 

 For more info on amplifier measurements, see:  The All Channels Driven (ACD) Test


Yamaha A-S801 Full Power Bandwidth Continuous Sweep (185wpc, 4 ohms)

The A-S801 produced respectable output on the continuous sweep tests.  For 8 ohms, two channels driven, output was around 105 watts/channel and 185 watts/channel for 4 ohms under 0.01% THD+N (well below clipping).  



Yamaha A-S801 1kHz Power Sweep Test
Top Pic: 8 ohm load, 2CH;  Bottom Pic:  4 ohm load, 2CH

The Yamaha A-S801 belted out some great power numbers with 125wpc at 1% THD+N and 118wpc at  0.1% THD+N with both channels driven into 8 ohms.  Into 4 ohm load, the A-S801 mustered 188wpc at 0.1% THD+N and about 200wpc at 1% THD+N with both channels driven.

There is a dreaded impedance switch on the back of the A-S801 that reduces the output power of this unit for certification purposes only. We recommend leaving it at the default 8 ohm setting and NEVER changing it. 

For more information see:  A/V Receiver Impedance Selector Switch


Yamaha A-S801 Dynamic Power Test (1kHz, 4 ohm load, 1CH driven)

The CEA-2006 burst tests simulate musical program material to illustrate dynamic capabilities of the amplifier.  The A-S801 produced 260wpc into 4 ohms with both channels driven and almost 300 watts with one channel drive.  At 8 ohms, I measured 165 watts which would give this amp > 2dB of headroom based on its 100 watt rating!  There's something to be said about good 'ol fashion Class AB amp design with plenty of heatsinking.

# of CH Test Type Power Load THD + N
2 CFP-BW 105 watts 8 ohms .01%
2 CFP-BW 185 watts 4 ohms .1%
1 1kHz Psweep 139 watts 8 ohms 0.1%
1 1kHz Psweep 148 watts 8 ohms 1%
2 1kHz Psweep 118 watts 8 ohms 0.1%
2 1kHz Psweep 125 watts 8 ohms 1%
1 1kHz Psweep 228 watts 4 ohms 0.1%
1 1kHz Psweep 241 watts 4 ohms 1%
2 1kHz Psweep 188 watts 4 ohms 0.1%
2 1kHz Psweep 199 watts 4 ohms 1%
2 Dynamic PWR 156 watts 8 ohms 1%
2 Dynamic PWR 260 watts 4 ohms 1%
1 Dynamic PWR 165 watts 8 ohms 1%
1 Dynamic PWR 295 watts 4 ohms 1%

    Yamaha A-S801 Power Measurement Table

Our test results validate Yamaha’s power specification for both channels driven and proved that it had plenty of reserves for dynamic power demands.  It also demonstrated excellent stability with 4 ohm loads so don't be afraid to pair it with lower impedance speakers.

Yamaha A-S801 Integrated Amplifier Conclusion

The Yamaha A-S801 integrated amplifieA-S801-front.jpgr was a delightful product to review.  Given the latest resurgence in two-channel audio, it was great to see Yamaha take a classic designed product and bring it up to date to meet the modern audiophiles needs of streaming high resolution digital audio.  The A-S801 has a nice meaty amp section that is honestly rated and sounds great driving a wide diversity of speakers even at high sustained output levels.  It runs cool to the touch, even when being left on all day long which was often the case when used as part of my PC desktop system.  Whether you're playing analog or digital audio, you can rest assured the A-S801 will bring your system to new sonic heights. 

 Yamaha A-S801 Integrated Amplifier YouTube Video Review

Yamaha A-S801 Integrated Amplifier Review

MSRP: $999

Yamaha Official Product Page

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Frequency Response LinearityStarStarStarStarStar
Measured Power (8-ohms)StarStarStarStar
Measured Power (4-ohms)StarStarStarStar
Multi-channel Audio PerformanceStarStarStarStarStar
Two-channel Audio PerformanceStarStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStarStar
Video ProcessingStarStarStarStarStar
Remote ControlStarStarStar
About the author:
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Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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