THE FULL 5000
They’re “disrupting the Hi-Fi space”, says Yamaha of its new 5000 Series components, which were on show and on demonstration at IFA 2018 in Berlin, along with two other new turntables, which include the radically wireless multiroom MusicCastequipped ‘Vinyl 500’. And while it’s the return to vinyl that has grabbed the headlines, the flagship pre-power amplifier combination also deserve their share of attention.
BACK TO VINYL
The GT-5000 takes inspiration from the GT Series of yesteryear (where GT stood for ‘Gigantic and Tremendous’!) but there are marked differences, notably in direct drive being replaced by a custom belt-drive system. The mass remains, however, with a 5kg aluminium platter contributing to an overall weight of 26.5kg, all in the aim of dampening vibrations to deliver improved performance.
A short, straight 22cm (8.7-inch) arm is designed to deliver superior rigidity as well as a balance of weight and mechanics which result in improved traceability. A rigid mechanism with simple construction means there is no requirement for an antiskate weight.
And no flying phono leads here — a balanced output makes it possible to achieve an end-to-end balanced signal chain from cartridge to speaker with the C-5000 pre-amplifier and M-5000 power amplifier also featuring fully balanced signal paths. The only bad news is that you can’t get one for Christmas — it’s expected to arrive in “the early months of next year”, likely April 2019. But it will be preceded in the market by the $599 TT-S303, a relatively conventional belt-drive deck with a built-in phono stage to offer the choice of line-level or phono-level outputs. Then at $899 there’s the MusicCast ‘Vinyl 500’ (or TT-N503) pictured below, which includes Yamaha’s multiroom MusicCast platform. That allows the turntable to send its output over your Wi-Fi network or via Bluetooth to a wireless speaker, and further makes the turntable a streaming source, controllable via the MusicCast app — so a turntable that can play from Spotify and Tidal. Ain’t life grand?
“After we developed the A-S3000 integrated amplifier, we felt maybe it was possible for us to deliver a higher driveability for low frequency instruments, so we started to try some ideas for separate amplifiers as our next target for a higher level,” we were told by Mr Susumu Kumuzawa (see right) at IFA. Mr Kumuzawa headed up the 5000-series development, continuing from the successful 3000 series, and again you can see the longstanding Yamaha hi-fi ‘look’ — the lever switches refined for enhanced operation, the volume knob both rigid and precise, employing ballbearings and precision-cut aluminium to achieve its touch. The circuitry similarly takes the ‘3000’ series approach to a new level, the C-5000 featuring fully balanced and discrete circuit transmission across all stages of the patented floating design, adopted across the phono EQ, input amp and line amp stages — removing the influence of ground noise from the signal.
Each channel is physically mirrored and identical, with fully balanced and discrete circuit transmission across all stages of the signal path when using Tone Defeat. A toroidal transformer is dedicated to each of the stereo channels, the transformers enclosed in a copper-plated case to suppress magnetic flux and vibration. The ground loop is minimised when other components are connected.
The M-5000 power amplifier is another visual delight with those large, high-precision meters on the front panel (7mm thick and made from Asahi glass). The amp delivers 2 × 100W into 8 ohms (20Hz-20kHz, 0.07% THD) and 2 × 200W into 4 ohms (same specs) and uses MOSFETs, improving driveability for low impedance speakers, says Yamaha, while a massive toroidal transformer is utilised with a 3mm-thick pure brass base.
Again a perfectly symmetrical layout is used to isolate the left and right channels both physically and electrically, within what Yamaha calls a “deliberately simple design”, serving to reduce the signal path as much as possible to minimise energy loss and achieve lower impedance.
As opposed to conventional power amplifier designs whereby power is supplied via a power transistor and the negative polarity is connected to ground, the two power supplies of the M-5000 is connected directly to each positive and negative side of the output stage. Completely floating the entire power amp circuit from the ground in this way removes any undesirable impact of small voltage fluctuations or ground noise.
The M-5000 has also been designed from the ground up to maximise rigidity, while thick wires and the use of screws and brass terminals directly on the block capacitors (as opposed to solder) promote a strong, low impedance connection. Both pre- and power amps have custom heavy-duty brass feet, able to function either as fully supported spikes or with a scratch-guard base for use on delicate surfaces.
Mr Kumuzawa tells us more in our interview here; for full specifications on all the new models, visit au.yamaha.com At IFA in Berlin we talked with Yamaha’s Head of Hi-Fi Development, Susumu Kumuzawa, about the development of the 5000 Series.
S+I: Were you always a fan of vinyl? SUSUMU KUMUZAWA: Yes, I love it. When I was at high school I always listened to vinyl. Especially I love blues, and jazz, and soul music.
S+I: So the GT-5000 — what is the same as previous ‘Gigantic & Tremendous’ turntables, and what is different?
SK: Our new GT is different from the GT2000 [released in 1982]. So while we inherit this Gigantic Tremendous concept — heavy wooden cabinet and a heavy platter — we have changed direct drive to belt drive, and also changed the tonearm from S-shape to a short straight arm.
S+I: Why not direct drive?
SK: Please remember a key point, the sound concept — as from this year we’re using a new concept to cover all our AV products, and that is ‘True Sound’...
S+I: ‘True Sound’ is different to Yamaha’s longstanding ‘Natural Sound’ tag?
SK: Ah, yes — so we have used ‘Natural Sound’, and we will continue to use Natural Sound for hi-fi. Natural Sound means maybe a character of sound, but True Sound has a more conceptual meaning, and includes the actual experience with music — so making waves, waves in your heart. Our concept is how to experience dynamics and how we smooth the energy of the music. From that point of view we select belt drive. Why? Direct drive has a cogging device [cogging, also known as torque ripple, describes the small boosts of speed as magnets move past the coil], and other brands use feedback technology, they have cogging and feedback in the control. Usually using feedback technology in an audio system, the sound is not so open, and I guess because there is no feedback technology in the natural world, maybe humans feel something is wrong. From the technological point of view, there’s a very high frequency fluctuation. But belt drive doesn’t have feedback technology. And our belt drive is driven by an AC synchronous motor so the driver is sequenced by a very clean sine wave generated by CPU, and the belt is damping the cogging noise. So changing to belt drive fits our concept.
YAMAHA AT IFA 2018
◀ The meters of the M-5000 power amp glow between the sturdy cases of the pre-power pairing in the new 5000 series. ▼ Our Editor talks with Yamaha’s Susumu Kumuzawa during IFA 2018 in Berlin.