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For the price-conscious

The YBA YA201 integrated amp and YC201 CD player deliver a serious taste of the high-end

Yves-Bernard Andre is the man behind the beautifully styled electronics under review here, part of a new series from YBA—the YBA Design series—priced much lower than the company's usual high-end components. Launched in 1986, YBA has focused its activities on high-end designs. Though Yves Bernard used to take a hands-on approach to design, he has surrounded himself with very talented engineers who, for the past four years or so were responsible for much of the company's new developments. The pair of components in this review were developed to allow consumers to “catch a glimpse” of high performance audio without the high price tag. 

The components under review radiate elegance. As we shall see later, this applies both to appearance and performance. Let's begin with the amplifier's face plate. A small rectangular window allows users to see its various functions and an array of nine buttons provide access to all functions. The window is illuminated with a soft blue light that displays the status of each function and the unit's operational condition. The matching face plate of the YC201 CD player reveals the same kind of display and push-button arrangement. A single remote controls all functions of both pieces of equipment. 

YBA components are exceptionally solid and both designs under review sport YBA's “aluminum space frame” chassis made of space-grade aluminum chosen for its anti-magnetic and anti-vibration properties. You can stack two or three of the YBA Design series products without adversely affecting the sound quality. The simple chassis design along with the arrangement of three feet on each component, results in improved rigidity.
This pair of components can be considered life-style items, comparable to equipment made by Bang & Olufson or Bose. However, they can also be regarded as beautiful in terms of their performance.

The Sound
As noted in the last issue, we used the YA201 amplifier and YC201 CD player to drive (and evaluate) the JMLab Electra 1027Be loudspeakers. Those who read that review already know that the YBA components proved to be an excellent match in that system configuration. We noted that this particular system managed such a graceful flow of music that one is almost forced to listen. Part of what captivates listeners is the YBA “signature sound” which, we believe, was established many years ago and reflects the company's objective to realistically recreate music. YBA has succeeded establishing its almost unmistakable signature sound, which I would characterize as effortless, natural and without excessive stress. 

The amplifier's general sonic character is clean and transparent. Interestingly, the lack of colouration will not suit everyone, but should be considered desirable as it provides unadulterated musical information. Avoiding forced sound, or emphasized dynamics, the YA201 amplifier is refined and literally “shines” when reproducing musical subtleties and revealing inner detail that is comparable to mega-buck separates.

The YC201 CD player's sound characteristics are very similar to those of the amplifier. Bass is very controlled, not really reaching deep into the bottom octave, yet allowing the user to “feel” bass resolution at about 25Hz. Midbass is smooth, well balanced with lower and higher frequencies and, again, provides a touch of refinement that reaches all the way to the upper midrange segment. High frequencies can sound a little hard with improperly produced CDs (and there are a lot of them), but they do finish completely and smoothly with CDs produced by companies such as Concord and Telarc, as examples.

While the YC201 is a basic Red Book player, I believe that its performance deserves more than casual attention. It is musical, it offers imaging that is superior to most players in this price range, and it allows a rather unambiguous look into a well-elevated, well-defined sound stage. 

We listened to a couple of choral works recorded by the Fidelio folks in Montreal (all their CDs are superbly produced) and were surprised and delighted by the player's ability to separate and focus on each voice in its own space—a wonderful performance. 

The YC201 also provides “inner detail” akin to some of the very expensive players we have auditioned. Add this player's ability to provide superb articulation and transparency throughout the entire frequency range, and what you get is a superb unit at an entry-level price.

The sophisticated sonic characteristics of the Electra speakers allowed us to hear what the YBA components have to offer. The all-round sound of these two units can be described as refined with a wonderfully musical “voice,” notwithstanding the rather low price tag. These components play back music eloquently enough to compel attentive listening, which is evidence that, ultimately, music rules and the system is but the vehicle which allows us to hear it.

Synopsis & Commentary
It isn't easy to describe sonic characteristics, but it is especially frustrating when there isn't an audio term with which to convey what we hear. The word “elegant” kept popping up when members of the listening panel discussed this review and that's actually the correct word to describe the YBA sound. The sound of these components will be appreciated by all experienced listeners with discriminating tastes and an overall understanding of reproduced sound. I view these two moderately priced YBA components as bargain-basement audio with a pedigree. While they are aimed at those consumers who have not yet entered the realm of high-end audio, they are certainly worthy of the term “high-performance” in their respective price category. I regard these components as credible, perhaps even ideal, examples with which to achieve great sound—an instructive introduction to high-end. 

Priced at nearly $10K a pair, the loudspeakers used for this evaluation make for an unusual partnership, but their use did reveal the sonic sophistication of the YBA components. As stated in last issue's JMLabs review, the all-around sound of the system with the components under review “provided us with the exquisite feel of a live performance.” The sonic smoothness and grace attributed to the YBA/JMLab combination was supported by careful cable choice (we used Valhallas), setting up the loudspeakers away from walls and insuring good AC power (we used the ExactPower conditioner, reviewed in Vol. 16, No. 3). It is important to understand that, whether you use medium priced components or not, you will hear the weakest link in the system, which is why I treated this set-up as I do when I assemble mega-buck components. Having said this, I'd like to advise readers to regard the YBA components as very serious audio units, despite their price. They are quality components that deserve consideration from all aspiring audiophiles and all perennial music lovers.

YBA YA201 Integrated & YC201 CD Player YBA

$1,699 (amp)
$1,699 (CD player)
4 (h) 15 (w) 15 (d) (each unit) 33 lbs (amp)
22 lbs (CD player)

The YA201 amplifier provides 100 watts per channel into an 8 ohm load of amazing audio and 8 ohms via amplification technology based upon triple bipolar transistors working in a triple push mode. An oversized power supply suggests speed and high current. The YA201 has six pairs of line-level inputs, plus a bi-directional RS232 port, a 12-volt trigger for remote power on/off and two triggers to control other YBA components.

The YC201 CD player is a design based on the Red Book format. It has a 24-bit, 192 kHz format DAC with high-resolution upsampling. It also boasts ultra low jitter utilizing YBA's clocking circuitry—a design also used in other YBA players. Unfortunately, additional details aren't available at this time, but what ultimately matters is the sound quality of this pair of components.

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