Yamaha’s beautiful CA-2010 must be one of the best-looking integrated amplifiers of all time. Come with me in my last article of 2018, as I explore, repair and restore this classic beast.
The Yamaha CA-2010 integrated amplifier is just beautiful and Yamaha knows it. In fact, this aesthetic works so well that Yamaha recently introduced a whole range of high-end products that mimic these classic looks, almost to a tee! The new Yamaha A-S3000 for example looks very much like its older sibling, as do the A-S2100 and A-S1100.
Anyway, this is of little consequence because you’d be insane to drop the $9000 AUD needed to buy an A-S3000. Why would you do it, when you can have the original CA-2010 for much less than that – if you can find one of course. The older Yamaha CA-2010 has better specs than the $4000 AUD A-S2100 and maybe even the A-S3000 too. Better specs! I know which one I’d prefer.
The Yamaha CA-2010 is a heavy, very well-made amplifier and comes in a lovely wooden case, with flush edges. It’s a clean, minimalist aesthetic, and, despite the room-friendly appearance, as soon as you lift the CA-2010, the classic 1970’s build-quality is obvious.
Hewn from 21kg of wood, aluminium and steel, this amplifier clearly means business. It has a range of features typical of Japanese amplifiers from this era, including tape loops, tone controls, filters, MM / MC phono preamp, switchable class-A operation, power and record level metering, and more.
This of course means a proliferation of controls on the front panel, but they are hard-wired, board mounted, high-quality Alps parts. Everything in this amplifier is serviceable and almost everything is repairable, 40 years later. Try doing parts-level repairs on something modern with embedded processors, micro-controllers containing custom (unknown) code and with their labels removed!
The amplifier has two modes of operation – class A and class-A/B. In class-A, the amplifier supposedly delivers 30 Watts per channel. With with 175 Watt power consumption at idle in class-A mode, that’s probably not far off. In class A/B, she apparently delivers around 120 Watts per channel and I’m sure that’s accurate.
My only real issue with the CA-2010 is the thermal design. With no fan, the unit relies on two closely-mounted internal heatsinks, and convection cooling. Class-A mode is great in Japan where it’s cold and you can use the room-heating. Here in Australia though, the heatsinks quickly become too hot to touch in class-A, breaking a classic rule of thermal design.
In class-A/B mode, the unit draws a more relaxed 60 Watts or so and doesn’t get nearly as hot. This is how I would be using it if I owned one, or I would reduce the class-A idle current.
Power output: 120 watts per channel into 8Ω (more than Yamaha’s new amps) Frequency response: 5Hz to 50kHz Total harmonic distortion: 0.005% (better than Yamaha’s new amps) Damping factor: 45 Input sensitivity: 0.5mV (MC), 2mV (MM), 120mV (line) Signal to noise ratio: 71dB (MC), 82dB (MM), 100dB (line) Output: 120mV (line), 1V (Pre out) Dimensions: 461 x 360 x 170mm Weight: 21kg (heavy!)
The owner of this stunning Yamaha CA-2010 brought her to me because one channel was cutting in and out and the controls were unreliable. He’d sat on the unit for years, not using it and not knowing who he could take it to for repairs. I’m really pleased he found me.
The reasons for the faults became apparent as I worked, we’ll examine them in logical steps, below. Given her age and the heat generated in class-A mode, I advised my customer that an overhaul or restoration would be sensible for this unit if he planned to keep it. We agreed that I would do a major overhaul, basically a restoration, so let’s proceed.
Repair & Restoration
Well start with a look at the overall layout of the amplifier and then get down to a per-module overhaul of the unit.
The Function Selection / Phono Board
This is a good starting point. There were some real problems with this board too, I addressed them before doing anything else.
The Power Supply / Protection Board
The heart of any amplifier is its power supply, so it’s always a good place to spend some time.
The Amplifier Modules
All the heavy lifting happens in the amplifier modules, so I always pay very close attention to them.
The Breakout Board
These silly breakout boards are a weakness in just about every amplifier that has them. They are trouble because they carry the signal through crappy little slide switches, though extra joints and wires, often near mains wiring and they are fragile. The RCA connectors always seem to break and I just don’t like them.
Reassembly, Testing & Adjustment
The hard work comes together at this point. Time to set bias current in both amplifier modes, DC operating points, phono preamplifier distortion nulling and meter symmetry.
Cleaning, Polishing, Waxing
I find the cleaning jobs very therapeutic, especially when it comes to knobs, controls, and WOOD!
It really was a pleasure working on this Yamaha CA-2010 integrated amplifier and I am pleased to have restored her performance and repaired her faults. This raises an awkward realisation though, as we near 2020, because it reminds us of just how good Japanese hi-fi gear used to be in the 1970’s and 80’s. Sadly, this era is long gone.
Remember, this CA-2010 dates back as far as 1977 and still contains every one of her original semiconductors, switches, potentiometers and, until recently, capacitors. She works as well now as the day she was made, probably better after this overhaul.
Do you think an amplifier you buy today, like Yamaha’s new A-S2100 will still be working in 2058? Do you think it will be collectible, or will the Yamaha CA-2010 still be the one that people want, in another 40 years time…? I think I know the answer to that.
If you’d like me to look at your Yamaha CA series amplifier, you need only get in touch. I’d be happy to help!