Yamaha CA-2000 (CA-2010) Review


I’ve bought this amp off ebay couple of years ago and I’ve been using it since than pretty much every day. This is CA-2000 and it’s a Japanese model, North American and European models are named CA-2010. There are couple of differences beside stickers, plugs and voltage which are the obvious ones. Power consumption for Japanese model is 300W, for North American it’s 450W and the rest of the world gets 900W. I also found a fourth model, it states on the sticker the amp is for 120V but the power consumption is only 400W, compared to 450W for the North American market. So, I’m not sure what market is this model for. Japanese and North American models have got courtesy AC outlets but they are missing on the world model. She’s got voltage selector instead, which is kinda cool, because you can use it anywhere in the world and don’t need any step down transformer as I do. It’s a terrible idea to use these outlets on old amplifiers anyway, try to avoid using them.

I’ve bought her from a Finnish bloke, who was selling the amp with the step down transformer, which was great, because I didn’t have to get one myself. The transformer’s got the standard European plug, so I also needed an adapter for the UK socket.

This thing, besides being an amplifier, is a piece of art. She came out in 1976, it was a time when Yamaha was still a company that cared for their products. It was Yamaha’s high-end product and I wonder if it can be considered high-end even today. It came out a year after CA-1000 Mark 3, which was a bestseller in Japan as well as this newer CA-2000 was. These two amps look almost identical except for the tone controls scripting. CA-1000’s got some nonsensical numbers, but CA-2000’s got actual dB increments. CA-1000 MK3 was completely redesigned compared to her older sisters, outside and inside. CA-2000 inherited the looks and most of the parts of MK3. She gained two kilos, which is about 4.5 lbs, partly due to two caps. 22 000µF versus 18 000µF, larger heat sinks and power supply. CA-2000 was a little bit more powerful 120W vs 100W per channel to 8 ohms.

I’ve noticed one interesting thing while taking off the wooden cover. Today’s manufacturers brag about making everything by hand, which is questionable every time they use this phrase. However, when I looked inside this amp, it’s very clear, that every solder connection was made by hand and even inside the wooden cover are pencil markings, left by somebody who measured where some parts should be.

She looks absolutely astonishing. Every part, every button, every knob is pretty much exquisite work. Not only she looks splendid, build quality is superb, every knob turns smoothly and every switch clicks like it’s new. All that, encased in a beautiful wooden chassis, which hasn’t aged much after more than 40 years. Japanese hi-fi gear used to be top of the line, can you imagine today’s electronics lasting more than two years?

My particular piece is not perfect, she’s got some dents and scratches, but I reckon she still looks amazing after 40 years. Imagine a power switch, nothing special there, except it feels really good just switching the bloody thing on and waiting for a relay to kick in. Headphones output is quite useless, who would use an amplifier with headphones? VU meters look gorgeous and the amp itself looks so much better with them. The response is instantaneous during playback and they are very easy to read. VU meters are usually useless except for being gorgeous, they become quite useful though, when you press “REC OUT” button. In that position, meters read output levels going through REC OUT terminals.

This amp can work in Class A or Class B mode. If you want to make maximum out of her or your heating is broken, just flip Class A switch, you’ll get slightly better sound and also beautiful heating device, it’s very good for winter evenings. Class A uses much more power, and it can get quite hot, but you’ll get lower distortion and clearer tonal quality in exchange. Can you actually hear the difference? I doubt most people can. You also loose a little bit of output power, you’ll get 30 instead of 120 watts per channel, so it may need more efficient speakers than in Class B. Sure, she can get quite hot, but I’ve never felt she’s gonna overheat in Class A. Unless you somehow block the vents on the chassis. If I’d wanted to use Class A all the time, I’d add some nice silent fan. Maybe it’s a good idea even for a Class B. But since Class A puts a lot of stress on all the components and the difference in quality is less than questionable, I never use that myself.

Subsonic and high filter  are in other words, low pass and high pass filters. Which means it gets rid of very high or very low frequencies which can interfere in your listening experience. Subsonic filter cuts out frequencies below 15 Hz, primarily to get rid of loudspeakers’ woofer rumble, while playing vinyl records. It actually doesn’t drop any frequency bellow 15 Hz, it only lowers the volume. It’s pretty much useful only for full range speakers anyway, and you won’t need it during normal music listening. However, manual says, it’s safe to keep it on permanently, it shouldn’t have any effect on sound quality and from what I’ve tried, it really is safe. High filter, on the other hand, does the opposite, filters out frequencies higher than 10 kHz and lowers the volume of these frequencies to get rid of vinyl crackling and popping noises.

Everybody is familiar with tone control section. Bass controls bass, treble controls treble and it works rather well. For bass control you’ve got two turnover frequencies to choose from, 125 Hz and 500 Hz. For treble it’s 2.5 kHz and 8 kHz. Tone defeat is basically an off position, nothing else. Personally, I never use tone control, I fancy my music without any modifications. But I must admit these controls are quite usable, it doesn’t sound half bad.

Audio muting switch does exactly what it says it does, it’s muting audio. Either completely disconnecting all inputs from the main amplifier or lowering the volume by 20 dB.  Disconnecting inputs is good for connecting new devices, if you wanna do it safely. -20 dB is used when you’re dropping a tonearm onto a record or you want to operate other switches. Pre out is certainly useful, I always use it when changing cables or connecting new devices without turning the entire amp off, however, -20 dB is kind of useless.

I can’t help myself, I simply love her volume knob with the balance control placed around it. It looks great and also works great…for now. The knob turns amazingly smoothly, it feels awesome just to touch it. I know it’s just a stupid volume knob, but I admire how it works after so many years, the craftsmanship is simply stunning. Today’s volume knobs look terrible today.

Mode switch is not used very often, you just set it to normal and that’s usually it for the rest of your life. Rev is of course reverse, which reverses left and right channel.

Phono switch is very important switch for turntable users. For those using moving coil cart, the obvious position is MC. Be careful though, if you use MC setting with MM cartridge, it will overload the amp and the distortion will be unbearable. For MM carts you should use one of the settings it offers. 47 kohms is the default, but you should play around with that and find out what’s the best setting for your turntable. I set it to 100 kohms for my turntable, and it sounds much better.

REC OUT selector switch is quite interesting. If you don’t want to record anything, just listen to music or whatever, turn the switch off, it will disconnect all output recording terminals. That’s not the interesting part of course. What’s interesting is, that this selector can be used, for recording something while listening to something else. For instance, to record from a tuner to a tape, while listening to a different tape or a vinyl record. Well, it doesn’t sound so special while listening to myself talking about it, but back in the day when this amplifier came out, it was a unique feature. And this is where you can actually use VU meters. You can press the “REC OUT” button and check recording levels while listening to something else.

Input selector is pretty much self-explanatory. Turn the switch to the input position you want to listen to and that’s it. She hasn’t got too many inputs and outputs as some other amplifiers might have, but it’s enough for my needs. A turntable, computer, tape deck and reel to reel deck. She’s got two phono inputs, tuner, auxiliary, two tape inputs and main in.

Even though the amp’s got two phono inputs, phono 2 can be used only with MM carts and only with 47 kohm impedance. Phono 1 input, on the other hand, can be used with either MM or MC carts and you can choose between three impedance values for MM carts.

Auxiliary and tuner inputs have the same specs, so it doesn’t matter which one you use. I tried connecting my DAC to both and it worked flawlessly.

These terminals are for connecting a tape deck or a reel to reel deck. Right next to them are terminals for tape recordings.

If you want to use your CA-2000 solely as a pre-amp, you can do it by connecting power amp to pre out terminals. CA-2000’s pre-amp is essentially Yamaha’s C-2, broken down and packed into her chassis. I wanted to test everything properly for this review, so I disconnected pre-amp with the coupler switch and connected my DAC directly to the main in terminals, which are basically power amp terminals. The coupler switch disconnects pre-amp from power amp section, so you can use different pre-amp or connect your audio source straight to the power amp section, which is my DAC this case. Be careful while doing this though, the volume controls are not available anymore, because they are part of the disconnected pre-amp. You need to control volume directly from your audio source and if the audio source’s volume is maxed out, you may easily overload and damage your loudspeakers. Signal to noise ratio is rated a bit differently for each input. MC phono stage is rated at 85 dB, while MM phono stage is 96 dB. Auxiliary and tuner have exactly the same specs, they are rated at 100 dB and lastly main in is rated at 118 dB. When I connected my DAC to main in terminals, instead of auxiliary, I believe it sounded a little bit more detailed. But I may be mistaken, the difference was subtle, really. I keep using auxiliary input it’s much more convenient.

I am pretty sure I don’t need to explain what speaker terminals are and what they are for.

The problem with amps is, I can’t let you hear what I’m hearing, it would sound terrible through the mic and you wouldn’t have any idea how sounds anyway. But I can somehow describe my subjective experience with the amp. Don’t worry I’m not gonna spew some random audiophile rubbish, but rather simplify my findings, somehow backed up by measurements.

It’s definitely one of the best sounding amps I’ve ever heard, it has lots of detail, the sound is absolutely clear and very pleasing, at least to my ears. If she’s used for listening to music at home, her 120W is enough to drive pretty much any loudspeakers and she drives them well. I haven’t noticed any difference in sound quality between low and high volumes.

Class A is pretty much useless, I couldn’t hear any difference. Maybe in very high frequencies, I could hear tiny bit of a difference in details but that doesn’t justify the heat, the power consumption and decreased life expectancy.

I’d like to pit it against some newer amps like Hypex for instance, which has become kind of benchmark lately. I’m happy with this one for now, she works amazing and on top of that, she looks gorgeous. Since Yamaha exhibited this amplifier on their website as some kind of milestone in their history, they must really take pride in this amp and rightly so. She really is an outstanding piece of hardware and I simply can’t find any reason to bash her. I’m not saying that she’s the best amp in the world, but I love how she looks and more importantly how she sounds. I’d have to test all the amplifiers in the world to be able to declare that some amp is the best. But I can say for sure that this is one of the best I’ve ever listened to and getting one is nothing less than a delight.

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