Yamamoto A-011 Single Ended 2A3 amplifier

Yamamoto Sound Craft Corp of Japan makes some of the finest single ended tube amplifiers in the world. The aesthetic design is immediately recognizable and the sound quality is second to none. Having just reluctantly sold my Yamamoto 45, largely because it lacked a built-in volume control, I was quite surprised just two weeks later to find a 2A3 version of the Yamamoto with an on-board volume control for sale locally. After a quick trip down to Richmond VA and a nice visit with a friendly audiophile, (and a demo of the owner’s beautiful PHY speakers) I was back home with the treasure.

A quick word about Yamamoto and build quality. Having owned Yamamoto before, I knew what to expect, but these amps really are beautiful works of industrial art. Everything on the amplifier is custom, from the tube sockets to the connectors. The wooden feet and the volume pot are solid ebony, the chassis is a cherry wood infused with a resin to create a super hard, but still beautiful base. Even the chokes and transformers are made in-house by Yamamoto Sound Craft. In my opinion these are factors that give these amps some real mojo, and separate them from just about everything else out there.

This is the only Yamamoto 2A3 amplifier that I’ve ever seen, so I was very curious to hear the difference between this and the 45 version. The 2A3 is a tube I have only limited experience with in the past, but in general, I’ve found that the sound of the 2A3 is very crisp and clear, slightly more ephemeral than the 45 and not nearly as thick and syrupy slow as the 300B. Previously, I’ve felt the 2A3 to be a slightly shyer sound and somewhat recessed in comparison to some of the other popular triodes. That impression has been turned on its head here. Yamamoto’s version of the 2A3 is hands down one of the richest and best sounding amplifiers I have ever owned, and I could tell in the first few seconds of output. The Yamamoto A-011 is open and effortless, all the while presenting a wide and highly detailed soundstage with deep and well-pronounced bass notes. There is a “wholeness” to the sound of this amplifier that only the old tubes seem to bring…the Western Electric 717a and the Type 80 are great choices here and they make a strong base from which the 2A3 can shine. This is a purist amp and it sounds very pure. To wax poetic a bit (more than usual), the 2A3 sound is like a clear fast running mountain stream, and in the Yamamoto A-011 that little brook is in full surge. I could drink a case of these and still be on my feet.

My Yamamoto A-011 was made for the domestic Japanese market, and as such here in the US it requires a step down transformer to present the amp with 100v. Mine came with a pretty nice little Sanyo transformer that works perfectly. I don't know if this contributes to the quality of the sound or not, but something magical is happening here. Coupled to the dynamic little Coral Flat 5 V2 drivers this amplifier has a grip and drive that is amazing, and a sense of being there live-ness. My wife also noticed the difference right away. The previous evening we had listened to Luiz Bonfa’s Solo in Rio 1959, a very simple in-the-field live recording, and playing a few tracks again through the Yamamoto she immediately noticed the improvement, commenting that the other amps didn't sound like that. I agree. I’m not ready to say that this is the “best”, whatever that might actually mean, but the Yamamoto 2A3 is certainly an extremely refined amplifier in just about every way imaginable. Like the A-08 45 amplifier, the A-011 2A3 gets my highest recommendation. Grab one if you can find one and hear what the oft-overlooked 2A3 can really do.

Update: Summer 2020. I recently splurged and picked up a pair of Triad branded mono plate 2A3 tubes still with their original boxes. These are the earliest of the 2A3 production and the most sought after 2A3 tubes ever made. WOW. As reported, the mono plate 2A3 are incredibly good sounding tubes; air, space and presence all go through the roof! These are in a completely different league from any other 2A3 tube I have heard so far.

Here is an interesting tube, the Majestic type 80 globe. This one has a test sticker from 1933, making this one of the last of the globes types. These Majestic 80 have a plate that is at least twice the size of every other type 80 globe out there. Thanks to a reader for the tip on these.

Before getting the single plates, the Sovtek 2A3 were the winner for me in this amp, pushing out the Sophia mesh plate, JJ’s massive 2A3-40 and a pair of 1940’s Tung-Sol smoked glass tubes.

Cardon's mesh plate 80 globe...a super rare tube. It sounds fantastic!

My trusty Arcturus globe 80 is my perennial favorite. This tube has been used in a lot of amplification in its time with me.

Mono plate 2A3 are the clear winner in this amp. In fact these Triad mono plate 2A3 may be the finest sounding output tubes I have ever heard.