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Beautiful Yamaha CA-2010 Integrated Amplifier Repair & Restoration

Yamaha’s beautiful CA-2010 must be one of the best-looking integrated amplifiers of all time. Come with me as I repair and restore this classic amplifier in my last article for 2018.

The Yamaha CA-2010 integrated amplifier is just beautiful and Yamaha knows it. Most people know it too and in fact, this aesthetic design works so well that Yamaha recently introduced a whole range of high-end products that mimic these classic looks, almost to a tee!

Yamaha CA-2010
Wow, don’t you want one of these too..?

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 when you can have the original CA-2010 for much less than that. If you can find one of course…

Even more gut-wrenching for those who’ve purchased this new Yamaha equipment is that the older Yamaha CA-2010 has better specs than the $4000 AUD A-S2100 and maybe even the A-S3000 too. Forget fancy connectors, this is just bling, I’m talking about the real specs. I know which one I’d prefer.

Before we go further, for a detailed video overview of the work I did here, check out my CA-2010 Repair & Overhaul video.

Features & Layout

The Yamaha CA-2010 is a heavy, well-made amplifier. It comes in a lovely wooden case, with flush edges and a clean, minimalist aesthetic that looks stylish even 40 years on. Despite the room-friendly appearance, as soon as you lift the CA-2010, the classic 1970’s build-quality is obvious.

Hewn from 21+kg 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 array of features necessitates 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 modern gear with embedded processors, microscopic SMD parts, and micro-controllers containing unknown code!

The amplifier has two modes of operation – class A and class-A/B. In class-A mode, the amplifier supposedly delivers 30 Watts per channel. With 175 Watt power consumption at idle in class-A mode, that’s probably not far off. In class A/B mode she apparently delivers around 120 Watts per channel and I’m sure that’s about right.

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 is great in places like Japan where it’s cold and you can use the amplifier as a room-heater. Here in Australia though, the heatsinks quickly become too hot to touch in class-A with the bias current set correctly, breaking a classic rule of thermal design.

Yamaha CA-2010
All the heat is dissipated by these two back-to-back modules and heatsinks. The heatsinks are decently sized, but the idle current spec is too high for the size of the heatsinks. This unit would benefit from a fan.

In class-A/B mode, the unit draws a more relaxed 60 Watts and doesn’t get nearly as hot. This is how I would be using it if I owned one, or I would fit a very quiet fan underneath or behind the amplifier.

Specifications, courtesy of HiFi Engine

Power output: 120 watts per channel into 8Ω
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

Problems

The owner of this stunning Yamaha CA-2010 brought her to me because one channel was cutting 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 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.

Yamaha CA-2010
The Yamaha CA-2010, before I started work on her.

Yamaha CA-2010

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Gotta love illuminated power meters.
Yamaha CA-2010
The belly of the beast. Here we see the power supply and protection board (left), amplifier modules (middle), and the very nice Alps potentiometers and switches (bottom). Note how little wiring there is for a Japanese amplifier.
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Eight (8) gang Alps volume and balance potentiometer. Very expensive, very nice.
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Close up of some of the other controls. Naturally, I serviced all of these.

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Can you see the signs that someone has been here before..? They don’t appear to have done much of value. I don’t like how they re-soldered the amplifier signal connections and routed these power supply connectors.

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.

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I’ve missed a couple of pics here, but you will see more in my video. Amplifier modules to the left, function/phono board to the right. Note the board-mounted switches, selector rods and uni-joints.
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In this shot, you might notice the layer of grime, maybe even the large crack. I replaced all the aluminium electrolytic capacitors on this board and extensively repaired and re-worked it.
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I found a big crack around the screw hole, top left. A large force damaged this at some point.
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This is the crack before any preparatory work.
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Here it is after washing and cleaning away solder mask with a glass fibre pen. You’ll note the crack has propagated through I think 6 traces.
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Another angle. I glued the board by this point, using cyanoacrylate adhesive, so it is mechanically secure.
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This is as far as the crack progressed. Something bad obviously happened to this board to cause this amount of damage.
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The head of the screw I referred to at the top left of the board has sheared clean off. I removed this of course, unlike whoever looked at her previously.
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Here are the repaired traces. After baring fresh copper, I applied a high-grade Sn/Pb/Cu alloy solder. This repair, combined with the glued board is good as new.
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After these repairs, I re-worked many dry joints and replaced all the electrolytic caps.
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New parts on the clean, repaired function board. Some caps in this part of the circuit differed from those in the schematic. I evaluated the schematics and decided Yamaha had cheaped out with a couple of these parts during production. I replaced them with the originally specified parts.
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New caps…
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The repaired, refreshed board. The switches on this board were gummed up. I serviced them using my usual regimen of solvent + contact cleaner and treatment.

Power Supply/Protection Board

The heart of any amplifier is its power supply, so it’s always a good place to spend some time.

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This board comes out easily, despite everything being hard-wired.
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Here we see the board prior to restoration. Note, the largest electrolytic capacitors you can see here were perfect. I left them in place. Even new parts didn’t test as well, and I have some very good new parts… I replaced all others though and I serviced the protection relay, which was causing problems, bottom right.
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Very fluxey board, lots of dry joints to repair.
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Like these…
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This relay was playing a part in the intermittent signal issue, along with the cracked selector board and damaged breakout board on the back of the amplifier. I use a process for servicing relays like this and they are good as new afterwards. There is absolutely no need to replace larger ones like these in most cases.
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The power supply and protection board after repair and restoration. Several of the smaller capacitors on this board were dying.

Amplifier Modules

All the heavy lifting happens in the amplifier modules, so I always pay very close attention to them.

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The two modules, removed from the chassis and after washing. Yamaha was clever here, they used only four electrolytic capacitors per module. The layout is neat and three trimpots per module cover class-A bias, class-A/B bias and DC zero point.
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I split the modules, re-work dry joints, replace any parts needed, re-mount devices on new thermal interfaces, de-flux, reassemble and test.
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Output and driver devices on original thermal interfaces. The paste is dry, the mountings are loose and the mica washers are too thick.
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These Sanken bipolar output devices are quite fast at 10 & 15 MHz. This is much faster than many other modern parts.
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I separated each module, removed devices, and cleaned away all traces of the old thermal paste.
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Looks like I’d cleaned the board at this point and probably replaced the four small electrolytic capacitors.
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Cleaned and prepped heatsink.
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New premium silicone thermal pads (silpads) for TO-3 and TO-220 devices, plus new insulating washers for the TO-220 devices.
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I remade the thermal interfaces of these TO-220 transistors with fresh thermal paste. Note the film capacitors I used to replace the small electrolytic caps. These are much higher spec, longer life parts, with almost zero ESR, perfect for their role hanging off the power supply rails.
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One module down, one to go.
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The second overhauled amplifier module…
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…and from the other side. Again, I prefer this neater, more reliable silicone thermal solution. Having said that, fresh paste and thin mica is also a very good, though messier, solution.
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Restored power supply and amplifier modules back in the CA-2010. Note the re-soldered amplifier module signal connections.

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.

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This one is no exception. It had been smashed in, repaired, only one switch worked, and the RCA connectors were broken. Here, I am in the middle of epoxying the screw holes on the RCA connectors…
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What a shemozzle. It’s already bad, without the crappy repairs! I wired the preamp directly to the amplifier and bypassed all this crap.
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I repaired the connectors with epoxy so I could attach the board securely after I’d bypassed it. The bypass is in the wiring, bottom right. The signal now runs right by all the silly switches and connectors for a cleaner, more reliable signal path. And yes, it’s now DC-coupled all the time 🙂
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Phew! That took a few parts, but it was worth it.

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.

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Everything back in place. The selector shafts are trickier than they look to install, so that switches line up etc…
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Setting the class-A bias current. This amp gets HOT, even with the covers off. For the heat-sinking, 175 Watts is a lot, maybe too much, but that’s what Yamaha specify…
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We need 300mV per channel for the Class-A bias adjustment. This amp consumes 175 Watts in class-A, continuously!
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This is my Tektronix AA501 distortion analyser, analysing a signal fed into the phono preamp and output through the tape loop. We are looking at ‘A’ weighted distortion of 0.0021% after adjustment. Prior to adjustment, it was twice this figure, around 0.0040%. This is very low distortion, superb for a phono preamplifier being fed a large amplitude 20kHz input signal I have a super-low distortion audio signal generator for these sorts of tests, otherwise, you can’t null circuits down to these vanishingly levels.

Cleaning & Detailing

I find the cleaning jobs very therapeutic, especially when it comes to knobs, controls, and WOOD!

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As always, I remove all the knobs and controls.
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Then thoroughly clean the fascia…
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…and knobs, trust me, they’re in there!
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Time for the wooden case. Here it is before cleaning…

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Special wood soap applied…
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It lifts junk off the surface of the wood and nourishes it at the same time.
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Then I apply a premium Australian furniture-grade beeswax…
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After all that, the wood really pops. Note the scratches you saw before are gone.
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Wow, I didn’t want to give this back..!

Final Thoughts

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 1970s and ’80s. 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 such as 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 amplifier that people want, in another 40 years’ time…?

It’s an interesting question to ponder, really openly if possible. I’m not selling any of these, I can only pass on what I know about the engineering I see, the parts I replace, and the repairs I make to old and new equipment. I can tell you with certainty that, apart from some blingy new connectors, there isn’t much about new gear that improves on classics like the stunning CA-2010.

If you’d like me to look at your Yamaha CA series amplifier, you need only get in touch. I’d be more than happy to take care of your amplifier for you.

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If you get a chance to buy one of these classic amplifiers, don’t think about it for too long.
Yamaha CA-2010
Remember, to replace this with something new, you’ll need at least $4000 AUD, probably a lot more. Even then, this will probably still be better.
Yamaha CA-2010
I hope Yamaha’s stylist received a raise for this series of designs!

Liquid Mike

As a kid, I cherished my Tandy 200-in-1 electronics project lab, Dick Smith electronics kits, my Dad's hi-fi and my own first proper system. Later, I created Liquid Audio to help keep classic hi-fi gear alive and well. Our mission: to deliver TLC for classic Japanese, American and European hi-fi stereo equipment.

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. Chuck Honess

    Beautiful !!!!!

  2. Roger

    I own a CA 2010 that I bought from the original owner, who told me he bought it in 1979. He still had the box and manual. I would rate at 9.5/10 cosmetically but I think it is in need of recapping and tuning. Really beautifully piece of design. It is like fine wine seems to get better with age.

    1. Hi Roger, thanks for commenting and great story. Any piece of electronics of this age will need servicing and possibly some refurbishment, depending on the unit. You are lucky to own one of these beautiful amplifiers!

  3. ANTHONY WONG

    This is great. I have got a CA 2000 from Japan. It runs on 100v. I put on a step down for it. Everything looks similar to the CA 2010. Not sure whether there is any difference between the two.

    1. Hi Anthony, great work getting a CA-2000, just make sure you have a high-quality (ie not from eBay) step-down transformer of the voltage and power rating – in this case 500W or more would do it. These are lovely amps but thermally challenged and need maintenance.

  4. James Deeley

    This is a great write up. I own one as well. It functions properly now but I would like someone to give it an overhaul soon so I can enjoy it for another 40 years. Only wish you were in the States!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the write-up James and wish I was able to help with your 2010. Definitely have her properly serviced and I’m sure she will provide many more years of enjoyment for you.

  5. Alex

    Hi! Almost completed my Yamaha CA-2010 restoration. All caps have been changed (for good stuff, I used film in the power amp too!) and the power amp has been calibrated with precision. Only issue, I notice a difference in level between right and left channel, leading to a 10 watt difference at max. output.Testing shows the problem comes from the preamp and seems to appear after a few minutes on. I get a nice clean sinewave on the oscilloscope. Any idea?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Alex, yes something’s not right there, this indicates a problem for sure. I really would need the unit here for careful testing and diagnosis, there are many potential reasons for this. A scope only lets you eyeball a sine wave, certainly not nearly with enough resolution to detect subtle distortion. For that you need to use a distortion analyser. You also want to trace a fixed-level signal right the way through both channels to see where it deviates from expected.

  6. Bill Elmslie

    Great write up. Really enjoyed the detailed step by step process. Nice job!
    My 2010 has been restored in a similar way and my guy has express.many of the same sentiments reguarding this amp. In fact, he told me to that I would be a fool to ever sell this amp so it will paßed.down instead. Absolutely love this beauty!

    1. Liquid Mike

      Thanks Bill, really appreciate that and I’m pleased you own and enjoy one of these beauties!

  7. Clint

    Hi there. I’m really impressed with your work here, looks great, and what a beautiful receiver!

    I had to reply to your comment on someone wanting this over say a AS2100 in 40 years time. I own the AS2100 and as desirable as this reconditioned 2010 model is the AS2100 is in another league. I mean, look at the rear panel and all the connections. The internals too, there is nothing cheap about the AS2100, there’s a reason Yamaha charged $4k for them new. The biggest issue I have with vintage gear is the cheap spring loaded speaker terminals and budget looking RCA terminals. The rear speaker connections of the AS2100 are gold plated brass.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love vintage gear, I also own a Marantz 170DC power amp and 2226 receiver that I’ve refurnished and as a pair they look and sound amazing. Generally speaking I think vintage gear offers more bang for the buck than anything for 2 channel listening.

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Clint, thanks for your comment and really glad you are enjoying the site. I’m also pleased to hear you are enjoying your A-S2100. We agree on some things for sure, vintage hifi certainly gives far better bang for the buck, this is a no-brainer. Apart from the fancy rear panel connectors though, there is nothing inherently better about an A-S2100, other than some aspects of the build quality, connectors being one of these as you’ve correctly pointed out. Build quality is excellent, though different and not better in every way. Technically and sonically though, a well-sorted CA-2010 is a better amplifier. Listening tests and measurements bear this out. I have a somewhat unique perspective on this given what I do and the sheer amount of time I spend inside hi-fi gear, but what’s inside is really important and that’s where older gear often has the advantage. Not always, but often. Having said this, it’s really pleasing to see Yamaha in particular still making desirable, well-made hi-fi stereo equipment. Happy listening and thanks again for taking the time to comment!

  8. Ross Maltby

    Hi Mike,

    Another great video. I mentioned I have a Sansui AU-919. I also have the model below Yamaha CA-1010. It’s in great condition, but the wooden cover is a bit faded and could do with some TLC. What are the wood soap and wax products you used on this one?

    Thanks,

    Ross

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Ross, I use a 100% pure Australian beeswax by Disney, O’Cedar oil and an old Ajax oil soap for wood product which is no longer available, unfortunately!

      1. Ross Maltby

        Nice one, thanks! Shame about the oil soap – I’ll see if I can find an alternative locally. Cheers, Ross

  9. Richard Packham

    Hi,
    I am looking at buying a european CA1010, which could probably do with a full overhaul. What did the above repairs and overhaul cost? Or what would you reckon for an overhaul with the usual replacement parts?
    Thanks
    Richard

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Richard, thanks for your enquiry. Every unit/budget/scenario is different, so costs vary along those lines. This CA-2010 for example needed quite specific repairs that won’t be applicable to other amplifiers. A deep clean, full service and an overhaul if budget allows are highly recommended on any piece of this age and I would allocate anywhere from half to one day for this work, plus whatever parts are needed, dependent on your requirements, budget and the condition of the amplifier. Submit an enquiry via my contact form if you have additional questions, or give me a call of course if that’s easier!

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