One of the best-sounding 2-channel rooms at TAVES 2015 featured a combination of components that I did not expect: A Yamaha A-S3000 integrated amplifier ($7000 USD) plus a CD-S3000 CD Player/DAC ($7000 USD) connected to Bowers and Wilkins recently launched 803 D3 speakers ($17,000 USD).
Within a minute of listening to the Yamaha system running the 803 D3s, I realized the sound quality I experienced at the New York debut of the 803 D3s was no fluke—they are supremely good speakers. Furthermore, Yamaha's flagship integrated amp had no problem driving the B&Ws to very satisfying volume levels, while the CD-S3000 served as a DAC for the MacBook that served up the tunes.
I loved this Yamaha plus B&W system, it performed above its price point.
The Yamaha A-S3000 is a highly refined 2-channel integrated amp that pumps out 100 watts per channel (RMS) into an 8-ohm load or 150 watts per channel (RMS) into a 4-ohm load. Production is limited to eight units per day, and Yamaha is proud of the attention to detail involved in the construction of its flagship, including solder-free internal connections, a MOSFET input stage, and a symmetrical design for its stereo circuitry. The 803 D3 speaker is a three-way, 8-ohm design with a 1" diamond dome tweeter, a 5" Continuum cone midrange, and twin 7" Aerofoil cone woofers. Frequency response is listed as 19 Hz to 28 kHz +/-3dB with 90 dB sensitivity, and the maximum recommended amplifier power is 500 watts.
The demo went very well. I heard some of the absolute best quality bass of the whole show coming from this system. Indeed, the combination was quite possibly the price-performance leader among the high-end rigs I demoed. To my ears, it outclassed some systems that cost up to ten times as much.
I heard LCD Soundsystem's "New York, I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down" sounding quite great; the track's gimmick-free and intimate rock-and-roll production reminded me of being in a small club listening to live music.
Daft Punk's "Motherboard" from the album Random Access Memories proved the system had what it took to rank among the top systems at the show at any price. When it comes to demos and judging a system's capability, "Motherboard" has it all: Perfectionist production values, a gloriously engulfing soundstage, delicacy, power, and depth. I'm playing the track right now, through a system that includes a pair of JL Audio e112s handling bass, and if my memory is serving me well the B&W 803 D3s powered by the Yamaha A-S3000 delivered just as much depth and clarity down low. It literally sounded beautiful.
Patricia Barber is a jazz singer I actually enjoy listening to, and hearing her perform "Ode to Billy Joe" from her album Café Blue offered a peek at how the system handled a minimal acoustical recording. Guess what! It nailed her voice, and the bass, and the finger snapping. The speakers were invisible, replaced by the virtual presence of Patricia. Pure perfection!