Intrigued by the sonic-specific features, Paul Rigby reviews the Yamaha BD-1060 Blu-ray player
It’s always intriguing to see a hi-fi-oriented company tackle a lifestyle product because you tend to nose around the design to see where the audiophile tweaks are. Cambridge and Oppo are two names that spring to mind and both offer feature rich models, in sonic terms, although both tend to offer devices that are relatively high in price. The latter offers machines priced at around £600 and the former at around £700 (give or take). Yamaha’s example is not exactly dirt cheap but does attempt to bring such specialist intentions into a more affordable bracket. While I priced this machine at a more ‘official’ £500, there are plenty of retailers on line who are selling it for £400. So, if you are interested in this machine, it pays to shop around.
The BD-A1060 is quite a sturdy beast when you give it the visual once-over, sporting an aluminium front fascia, a 0.6 mm base plus 0.6 mm thick steel plate and the bottom chassis being 0.8 mm with a 1.2 mm thick steel plate. The drive mechanism is mounted to the chassis by a 1.2 mm-thick steel plate. All in the attempt to minimize vibration.
On the subject of minimizing vibration, the internal power supply and audio circuit boards are separated by a magnetic shield while the winding wires of the transformer digital and analogue sections are independent and also have separate earths for lower impedance.
One of the most interesting aspects of the design is CD Mode that reduces disc revolution by 20%, thus improving data reading sensitivity and lowering vibration. It also turns off the HDMI video output and other circuits. Sonically, the machine also supports SACD discs plus file formats such as MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, FLAC, ALAC (both of the latter up to 24bit/192kHz) and DSD (up to DSD5.6 MHz).
For those of a video bent, you’ll be happy to learn that the BD-A1060 features a 4K upscaling function. So that any resolution video image can be upscaled to this format. Miracast is also supported. This is a wireless standard that lets you connect any Miracast compatible smartphone or tablet for mirroring videos and photos to the player. Spanning 435 x 86 x 262 mm, the Yamaha weighs in at 3.8kg.
The Yamaha has a few little quirks of its own, nothing to strike fear into the heart, you understand but, nevertheless, making yourself aware of them will help during its operation. Firstly, make sure that your discs are clean. This is an obvious bit of advice, I realise and one that should be noted whether you use this or any other player, be it Blu-ray, DVD or CD. That said, the Yamaha can be a little sheepish in letting you know that a dirty disc is an issue in the first place. In my case, the disc trundled in the drive without complaint, apparently ‘reading’ the information. No error was flagged, even after 10 minutes of trying to access a dirty disc. Hence, if a minute goes by and the disc is still accessing, you can bet that the disc is not as clean as it should be.
Secondly, you might want to keep a USB memory stick either in the front or rear of the chassis. When loading a disc, the machine also checks these sockets. If a USB drive is present then the disc loading is faster by about five seconds or so.
To begin, I played the Marc Bolan Blu-ray disc, Born to Boogie, a feature film including the talents of Ringo Starr and Elton John in which Bolan and T.Rex perform live on stage.
What I wanted from this part of the review was to review the Yamaha’s basic performance. This Bolan disc is not a hi-res vehicle so I wanted to see if the Yamaha could get the most from ‘vanilla’ sound. To aid in this endeavour, the Yamaha includes a Pure Direct option that you often find in its hi-fi equipment, a nice touch. When engaged, the sound is no longer routed past unnecessary electronics, lowering the chance of noise entering the sound field. Pumping the volume upwards, I engaged the Pure Direct 2 option which allows you to see the video but lowers the noise on the sonics (Pure Direct 1 also removes the video). In this mode, it was quite clear how much more sweeter the Bolan delivery was. His vocal was not as harsh or as hollow sounding, being rather more emotional and infused with much more nuance and subtlety. In short, vocals held more interest to the ear.
Similarly, I was impressed by the guitar performance which was less scratchy and harsh. With this mode on, guitars emerged from a calmer and clearer background which allowed more midrange detail to emerge.
Before I got to the specialist Blu-ray sound, I quickly addressed the CD performance (via the CD Mode function) and played Mats Eilersten’s new LP, Rubicon – a jazz piece from the ECM label that is slow, meticulous, detailed and oozes with slow intensity.
While lacking the open and airy midrange of a top flight CD player and the deep insight that such a beast can provide, the Yamaha was quite admirable in its CD performance. It decided to rely more on musicality rather than reach for a false level of detail by squeezing the upper mids into an ear piecing clinical approach. Which was a bit of a relief. Hence, piano was informative and, where the Yamaha over-reached, this instrument smeared and smoothed which is fine for a basic CD player. Bass, though, was notable for its solidity and power: a Yamaha trademark.
To test the Blu-ray audio, I inserted King Crimson’s album, Beat at 24bit/96kHz from their new box set, On (and off) the Road. Playing Neal and Jack and Me, the Yamaha, despite some constriction in the upper mids, was informative within the midrange, the rhythm guitars were lyrical and precise in their presentation. Despite a slight clinical approach to the music, I was impressed by the bass response which was tight, punchy and powerful. This clinical, rather aggressive aspect of the treble and upper mids was helped by initiating Pure Direct, especially in Mode 1 which removed the picture from the screen. A slightly strident aspect did remain, though.
Finally, I plugged in a USB stick and played the dynamic Skunk Anansie track, Hedonism as a ripped 16bit/44.1kHz WAV. Guitars betrayed a midrange that was distinctly cool in approach, being slightly forward within the upper midrange during crescendos. The soundstage was admirably wide and spacious though while vocals, despite being a little forward during high volumes, were clear and precise while volume offered tremendous impact and force.
The Yamaha offers a range of welcome features and addresses sound quality with the useful addition of the CD Mode and Pure Direct features. The company should be praised that it has addressed sound quality seriously and with some innovation to boot as the sonic output is both focused and precise which allows the ear to hear everything that is going on. In short, the Yammie digs deep into the mix to scour the music for every musical facet available.
YAMAHA BD-A1060 BLU_RAY PLAYER Price: £500 Web: uk.yamaha.com/en
Tel: 01908 366700
GOOD: focus, precision, feature count, pure direct option
BAD: slightly strident mids
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