I don't typically review stereo components on this blog, preferring to concentrate on the music. But as I've had problems with this particular piece of equipment since day one, and seeing that it continues to be a current product offering from Yamaha, I thought I'd share my experiences with it. After all, the CD/SACD player is the primary source on which my music reviews originate. (I also use a wonderful universal disc player from Cambridge Audio for DVD-A, Blu-Ray Audio and multi-channel SACD.)
This Yamaha SACD player has been around for many years and it has been widely criticized for being plagued with problems since it was first offered. The problem: the DAC (Digital Analog Decoder) in it "skips". It cuts in and out during playback, often times with a sizzle - until it gets good and hot. Then it seems to settle down and stops skipping (for the most part). But you have to coddle this player to get it to play. And for 3 grand, this is absolutely absurd.
My routine has become well-established. I turn it on first thing, let it warm up awhile, then load a disc and let it play for about half an hour with the amp muted. Then, and only then, will it reliably play a disc without skipping, cutting in and out, or making tweeter-frying sizzles, and I can finally begin listening.
Operationally it is very slow to load, read the disc, and make itself ready for action. And it's very finicky about the disc you want it to play. I have encountered several that it refuses to read - discs that have worked with zero problems in every other player I've ever had, all of them significantly less expensive than this Yamaha. Also, it has an unusual tray table which requires a very careful placement of the disc before closing the drawer. There are 4 little rubber bumpers around the circumference of the disc area, in which one must carefully, deliberately and very accurately place the CD. Carelessness in this process results in the drawer failing to close.
So after all this - warming it up for a good hour, carefully placing the CD in the tray just right, waiting for the player to read the disc and finally availing itself for the play command, I can at last listen to music. And I'm usually rather annoyed with it all at this point. But once the music begins, I settle in.
Taken as a whole, it's a totally decent-sounding disc player. It sounds better than the run-of-the-mill players in the $1,000 range. Does it sound like a $3,000 disc player? Nope. But it's better than average.
Getting into specifics, this Yamaha doesn't have much of a character. It's not bright or dark, rich or thin. In a word, it sounds "Polite". "Boring" is probably a more accurate word, but that seems a bit brutal. "Neutral", "honest" and "lovely" are much kinder descriptors. But it is very laid back. My biggest complaint (other than the skipping), is that it's simply too relaxed, and thus tends to lack dynamic power and impact. It never fully opens up to provide the majesty and scope necessary for the realistic portrayal of large-scale orchestral music or opera. Nor does it fully convey the enormity of a full concert grand piano in a large hall, rendering it rather more like a baby grand. It doesn't actually miniaturize things; it simply doesn't reproduce the expanse of large sounds in large halls as it should. It is just the opposite of thrilling or exciting. Instead, everything tends to be confined and rather intimate in scale. Again - polite. (Or boring.) That being said, it is very sweet on top, with silky smooth violins, refined brass, and bass which is potent but never boomy. There is also a beauty in tonality as well, with warm, sumptuous orchestral colors. Thus, it excels on small-scale Classical chamber music, acoustic jazz and choral groups.
Unfortunately, it's not the most detailed player, either. It never startles with the sound of the performer being in the room with you. For example, it doesn't fully reveal the little clicks of the keys, or the finger on the string during pizzicato, the intake of breath from the players, or the "wet lips" of a vocalist. Those sounds are there, but you really have to listen hard to hear them. It provides a wonderful recreation of what's on a recording, but it doesn't make you believe it's the real thing. It just does what it does, and no more.
All of these characteristics are actually emphasized during SACD playback. Unlike any other SACD player I've encountered, this one actually sounds better on good old fashioned CDs. The touch of extra brightness and raw energy of most CDs boost this player's sound up a notch. However, the extra refinement of SACD simply takes it too far in the wrong direction, overly laid-back and smooth. (It's worth noting this is a stereo-only SACD player and therefore can not play the multi-channel layer.)
For the record, I have experimented with numerous high-end power cords, interconnects (both RCA and XLR), and power conditioners - to no avail. It's simply impossible to coax more performance from this player. I actually have achieved better sound using its digital-out jack, via the awesome Straight Wire InfoLink digital cable (coax/RCA), into my Krell Vanguard integrated amp. The DAC in the Krell produces sound which is much more "present" (but not "forward" - it's just more there). It is more dynamic, detailed and better focused. And thus, more realistic and involving. Now, a full symphony orchestra positively fills the hall in which it plays. And a concert grand Steinway sounds like the massive instrument it is, with a more powerful presence and a more realistic, full-bodied left-hand range. However, I, of course, lose the ability to play SACDs in this configuration, as DSD digital data cannot be passed via the digital output. I must set the player's default to read the CD layer only. And, in all honesty, I do occasionally miss the loveliness of the Yamaha player - on some music - which the Krell can't quite match. The Krell is good, but no one would ever likely describe its sound as lovely.
If this Yamaha player were offered at half its current asking price, and if Yamaha would actually fix the problem with the DAC, I could highly recommend this player. But at full price, and given its aging shelf life (this unit has been around many years) and with a known, recurring and uncorrected malfunctioning DAC, I'd stay away from this Yamaha player and buy just about anything else.
Unfortunately, SACD players are becoming a rarity. There are a few in the $1,000 range (offering average sound, I'm afraid), and Marantz likes to dominate the range just above this (with only incrementally improved sound over those lesser players). And then there are the astronomically priced units from the likes of Mark Levinson, Luxman and Esoteric. So, this Yamaha occupies a sweet spot, price-wise, at $3,000. And thus, it is not easy to replace with something better unless you have the resources to fork over the big bucks. So I stick with it and hope something else comes along before SACD disappears altogether.
3/30/2021 04:24:41 pm
Thanks so much for your honest review of this piece of equipment. I have a Yamaha A-S2100 that I enjoy very much and I was toying with the idea of picking up a used CD-S2100 to match. I've now been dissuaded!
1/10/2022 04:08:04 pm
I have had this player for approx 3yrs and never experienced any of these issues (positioning the CD/SACD on the tray is more difficult than most however). It's possible that this unit has some alignment or firmware issues as I've had this experience many times with "new" gear (Back in my retail days with Hi-Fi)
1/26/2022 05:24:24 am
The review is based on a singular product. It is not any more plagued by any of the issues thus stated. The reviewer knows nothing about what is actually causing the problems and if he had any sense, he would have sent the player in under warranty.
3/15/2022 05:43:58 am
Zane is 100% correct. I've had this Yamaha for four years and not a single hiccup. Then the absurdity that he can hear the difference between it and another player is also absurd. I'd be happy to go to the reviewers location and conduct a blind listening test. He won't be able to tell the difference between one player or the other. I bought my Yamaha for it's solid build and good looks, not because it sounds any different than my OPPO.
5/3/2022 12:57:34 am
I had the same issue regarding the skipping during reading sacd's.
7/11/2022 10:15:24 am
I got one of theses CD/SACD players from Ebay, as new condition for less than £800. CD's play perfectly, as do sources plugged into the dac inputs. The SACD performance can be iffy, some discs playing perfectly then inexplicably stopping then starting again.
7/29/2022 05:55:53 am
A couple of things I'd like to point out about this player, having owned it for a couple of months now.
7/29/2022 05:30:40 pm
Thanks for sharing this. I had left my DPLL setting as default and I did notice that cymbal crash and decay was slightly rolled off on the CD Player when compared to an equivalent vinyl pressing. However, after adjusting the DPLL setting to LOWEST (as you indicated) you are right, the player does come to life in detail AND the cymbal crash and decay is spot-on with the vinyl pressing. Glad you shared this...it really does make an improvement over what was already a fantastic player!!!
9/28/2022 09:57:01 am
Just for the record, I own this unit and have experienced none of the issues the reviewer had, and am completely delighted with it. Paired with my Yamaha AS-3200 I can't imagine anything sounding any better. The review seems to be overly negative, as though the reviewer had an agenda going into it. It is beyond silly to complain about placing the CD in the tray or the loading time. These are non-issues. After reading the review I decided to experiment with the DPLL to see if I could replicate the skipping issue. On the "Lowest" setting, I did indeed have some intermittent skipping. On "Med-Low," which is where it has always been, I have never had any skipping issues at all. Ever. Sure, it is possible for someone to get a defective unit, but mine was manufactured in 2015 and it still looks and plays like a brand new unit. 100% satisfied.
4/20/2021 12:16:53 am
A passionate, heart-felt (and honest) review.
5/30/2021 05:31:47 pm
Ridiculous! Everything you said goes against what I and many others here. I have a fifteen plus grand turntable rig and when I played the MOFI sacd of Slatkin St. louis Sym of Prokofiev' "Ivan The Terrible", Mahlers 2nd and 8thsym Abbado, Berlin orch stunned me with the clarity, stage size seemed to spread out wider than my speaker placement, made me reconsider the digital format. I also auditioned this against a much more expensive Esoteric SACD player just to get a handle on the sound of the Yamaha through Esoteric Audio gear. You might want to check to see if the clock in the player was not set correctly. I played around with it and the skipping fuzzy sounds that you experienced and I heard those same things.
5/30/2021 07:17:22 pm
Nich: What's up with your rant ?
6/5/2021 08:29:03 pm
The Digital Phased Lock Loop bandwidth should be adjusted higher to get rid of the skipping. It can be adjusted in seven steps on this player. Refer to page 15 of the owner's manual. Most players don't allow this to be changed.
6/6/2021 03:24:07 am
Steve: If that's true (the adjustment) it's a shame it's not a well-known (or advertised) 'Fix' for this otherwise seemingly well-built player.
1/10/2022 04:22:02 pm
Sorry to bust on you comment however the majority of CD/SACD players have QC issues with regards to adjustments or firmware (simple human error and the Monday hangover). Note: Not so much when you get above $10K USD
6/20/2021 08:12:54 pm
my CD-S2100 works flawlessly, has not skipped once with SACD or CD playback, and is absolutely stunning… after the break-in… everyone that owns own can confirm that it transforms after 60 or so hours- whether you believe it or not, you’ll hear it
6/20/2021 08:20:16 pm
Hi Mark: Your reply/break-in is a VERY important consideration.
10/17/2021 03:39:47 pm
Interesting review. I own one of these machines - the skipping I have never encountered - it runs perfectly fine. To be honest, this sounds like an over due warranty issue to me... But if your unit has this particular problem, I think that it is perhaps not a good specimen for a review - other than for potential factory quality control issues you mention of course.
1/12/2022 04:33:28 pm
Your comments referring to input and outputs and HDMI have nothing to do with this unit as it was designed.
10/29/2021 09:42:25 pm
my cd s2100 is hardly run in but very happy with the playing performance,so no issues there & not long purchased it. But my main concern is trying to run an optical cable from this device to my smart T.V. As the sound is intermittent and hiccupy if thats the correct term. Ive ran a digital analogue converter back through the system & works fine so its nothing from the t.v end. My problem here is the sound quality on analogue isnt the best sound so want the best from the Yamaha system . does anyone know how to remedy the disturbance with the optical. And yes i have tried changing new leads but same result.
David Monti Sr
11/22/2021 12:45:18 pm
I've never had issues of skipping with my CDS2100 and the performance has been, for the most part, very good. I did have issues of compatibility issues between the unit's DAC software and my MacBook which required me to reach out to Yamaha support. Yamaha support was useless, unhelpful and throughly indifferent. Never have gotten the issues resolved which is now irrelevant. I use an external Benchmark DAC3 rather than rely on the Yamaha. However, this being said, as a "reasonably" priced SACD player, it is quite well-made and performs as characterized in the review.
4/18/2023 12:10:38 pm
While I do not espouse any particular Audio Manufacturer, I do own a McIntosh MCD-600 SACD/CD Player and I have had absolutely, positively no problems or ideocracies with positioning the Disc or having to adjust any particular parameter of the included DAC. The MCD-600 is a bit more expensive than The Yamaha but, I suspect, money better spent?
12/24/2021 04:48:49 am
I have this unit for just over 3 years. I have also been having problems with the skipping since day one. I should have returned it. Not only does it skip playing Cds, but also when I stream from my Bluesound Node through the DAC using a digital coax. I have recently contacted Yamaha to see if they will rectify the problem, since I have heard of many people on various audiphile forums have experienced the same issue. I also feel the loading is slow and the tray is tricky, but have no complaints about SQ. I'm awaiting Yamahas response, I'll be happy if they just repair the problem. I'm aware of the adjustments suggested in the manual, and have tried every setting to no avail.
1/2/2022 02:40:24 pm
Im planning to buy this player and wondering if the newer stocks still using the same DAC chip as when it was first release. And if the newer stocks have same issues with some owners here experiencing. Thanks!
1/2/2022 05:09:13 pm
It's a great player, I waited too long to get Yamaha to fix the problem. I have no idea about the new version. If you buy it, and it skips, return it under warranty asap.
1/12/2022 04:41:25 pm
The only reason why you would need to upgrade the ESS DAC is if you are using the TOS or SPDIF inputs to play hi-res files or disks.
1/2/2022 08:05:32 pm
Hopefully people who just bought their cd-s2100 recently will chimed in with their experienced. To me $3k is a lot of money if the unit will have some issues.
10/19/2022 01:59:58 am
I purchased my player this year and think it is outstanding. The sound for the money is exceptional and I am comparing it to some more expensive and known names in the business that I have owned. The DAC is as good as I will ever need, its not the best I have owned but it plays in the same sandbox as the others.
1/7/2022 09:39:48 am
Wow, this is very disheartening to hear. I've had my CD-S2100 for well over 2 years now and it has been flawless. I've not had to adjust anything out of the box. I had a Marantz SA-15S2 that, to my ears, did SACD very well, but it sounded like dirt with redbook CD's. The Yamaha plays the Redbook CD's every bit as good as the SACD's.
1/9/2022 05:39:58 pm
i have owned the yamaha cd-s2100 for a few years and have been entirely satisfied with it. i have used the player almost daily for quite some time -- redbook, sacd, internal dac via usb -- and have never experienced any issues with it relating to playback. your experience makes me think that you had a faulty player (or one that became faulty). i actually consider the unit to be very fairly priced given its options (fully balanced, plays sacd, stand alone dac) and performance.
1/12/2022 04:10:23 pm
still no significant negative performance issues with my CD-S2100 after two years (it has not skipped once, with a good disc, and I've never had to mess with the clock adjustment)... yes, care is needed when positioning the disc in the drawer, it is somewhat slow loading ("reading") the disc, and occasionally I need to be patient with the skip track function, but I often think it's just poor positioning of my remote. This player rewards taking a breath and slowing down. In fact, I had the same experience as Nicholas - it made me reconsider digital sources altogether. I've never owned a CD player with anything close to the build quality, and consistency of performance, of this Yamaha. One thing to consider is that Yamaha does not do the best job of packing the 2100 series components - they come packed only in a single box with standard consumer-grade styrofoam inserts... I wonder if the faulty units were dropped or mis-handled during shipping.
4/26/2022 03:02:19 pm
I too have had problems with this player since just about day one. The problem is intermittent so I can’t replicate it when I want to show someone what happens. I put in a disc. The screen says loading. It never stops saying loading and after a min or so, the tray pops open. It has nothing to do with the disc. When eventually the problem corrects itself, the same disc will play. There is no pattern for when the problem will happen or how to make it stop. Unplugging the player for a short time doesn’t work. It’s so frustrating but I’m at the point where I’m going to bring it in. Hopefully the video I’ve taken of this problem will convince them that there is something wrong. I know when I bring it in, it will work fine and they will think I’m the problem.
4/27/2022 03:49:21 pm
4/27/2022 08:04:27 pm
I wish I waited a couple of days before I made my first post on this player. I spent a few hours with it last night. The problem is not random. The problem is that some discs cannot be read. None of the discs have a single scratch on them. Thankfully I am still under warranty. The amazing thing is, this problem started just a few days after I bought the player, brand new.
11/5/2022 05:27:04 pm
The sound of the s2100 is excellent - but my issue is with the logic/ergonomics of the controls.
5/7/2023 12:34:38 pm
Leave a Reply.