On the bench: Yamamoto A-08S stereo amplifier

Sometimes, you just have to do it. Whatever “it” is. So long as no one and nothing gets hurt, a little fiscal indiscretion is a forgivable thing. This is what I tell myself when I look over my collection of toys. [Sigh]. I have zero will power, it seems.

My latest acquisition came courtesy of Dan Muzquiz at Blackbird Audio. Dan’s an awesome guy and a helluva dealer, and one of the few who takes in old or used gear on consignment. So, when he mentioned that he had this trade-in Yamamoto A-08S amplifier … yeah. I’m weak!

And it’s now here! Hee hee!

On a good day, running downhill, with a tailwind, this 45-based amp will still not hit 2 watts per channel. Close, but not quite. No, this little sucker is pretty much the poster child for the “flea-powered amp” category. To get this amp to light up your room, you’re going to need something with all the gain already built-in — think “high sensitivity”, where by “high”, I mean 100 dB or more.

Lucky me, I had a pair of Volti Vittoras here, which is probably why I was so happy to pull the trigger. Sadly, those loudspeakers have now left the building and Elvis is still here. Which means I have no idea what to do with it in the meantime. With luck, we’ll see another high-sensitivity design come through — Zu Audio‘s Sean Casey has been promising me a pair of Definition Mk IV loudspeakers, so perhaps that’ll sort me out. Until then, the amp sits pretty on a shelf. And a pretty amp she is, too.

I should note a couple of things about the sound of the amp.

One, it’s more 300b than a 300b. That is, I had a pair of BorderPatrol amplifiers here and I was able to do a direct comparison. Both the $8,995 SE300B and the $17,000 P20 EXD were less saturated in the midrange — and given how saturated those amps are, that’s really saying something. Now, both BP amps beat the living snot out of the Yammy on both treble and bass response (with the P20 setting the standard for how bass on a tube amp is done), and added a dramatic helping of 3-D imaging and detail retrieval, so I suppose you could say that you get what you pay for.

As luck would have it, I have another 45-based amp here, an Electra Fidelity 45-Cu integrated. This amp has a sophisticated passive volume control and a solid-state power supply/rectification where the Yamamoto is a straight-up amp, albeit one with a tube rectifier. Using the $495 Luminous Audio Axiom II “Walker Mod” as my “sophisticated passive volume control” along with some WyWires Gold interconnects, I was able to do more of a direct comparison to the EF 45-Cu.

In short, the two amps are more alike than not — duh. All in all, I found the A-08S/Axiom pair to be easily more transparent, with a fuller and deeper sound. The Electra-Fidelity was a bit quieter, and the sound was a bit softer and smoother than the Japanese amp. Both, happily, played shockingly loud on the Vittoras. Ahem.

The $2,495 Electra Fidelity amp is heading back soon, and I’ll miss it. In the meantime, I’ll be sitting around with the nearly twice as expensive Yamamoto, waiting for another loudspeaker to wander in.

Suggestions are welcome (nudge-nudge, wink-wink, say no more!).