Review: Yamaha S1500 universal disc player CD Player

Category: Digital

I was attracted to this reasonably priced "universal" player on static display in the Yamaha room at the Stereophile show in NYC in May 2004. Impressed I was with its rather good build standard. It had an all metal cabinet with a real aluminum front panel. The rear apron sported a detachable power cord and all gold pins. Clearly, Yamaha was looking for the audiophile crowd with this one.

The unit was promised to be available in June but didn't appear until September 2004. My retailer told me I had one of the first built units.

I wish I could tell you that this is the answer to your affordable hi-rez dreams. It isn't. But it could be -- if the thing only worked right!

First up, allow me to extoll the absolutely terrific picture quality this player posseses. I expected a slightly improved image over my five year old Panasonic. What I got was immensely better color accuracy, edge sharpness, and shadow detail. What I didn't get was ergonomics. To fast forward you must press down on the chapter advance button for two seconds. Although Yamaha says in the owner's manual you can access slow motion by pressing on the directional arrow buttons, it did not work with my unit. The only way to go slo-mo is to go through the on-screen display mode. Not acceptable! Clearly, there is something amiss with my unit.

Now, on to the sound.
Another selling point is cd upsampling. I could detect no difference playing redbook cds with or without upsampling. There may be an improvement but I just did not listen at length. Perhaps long term comparitive tests would show a benefit. Still, a good feature to have.

Overall, cd sound is nice. Bass has good weight, treble is clean and extended, midrange is smooth and clear. It's quite OK but, in no way, does it beat my Denon DCD-1650AR cd player. In comparison, the Denon outperforms it handily in soundstaging, depth of field, with lots more air.

OK, on to hi-rez.
The unit I'm distressed to say does not work properly. On DVD-A, the S1500 makes huge popping sounds when normally advancing from track to track.. Any pause, stop, track advance will put some serious noise into your woofers. On SACD, there is no popping from track to track but it'll happen when you pause, track advance, or stop. Bummer!Sound quality in hi-rez formats is quite good but I think I still prefer my Denon. Playing the Rolling Stones hybrid sacds appealed more to me in Denon redbook than in S1500 hi-rez. Overall, I'm not convinced that DVD-A and SACD are better than a newly remastered "redbook" cd in a topnotch cd player. A minor irritant is automatic commencement of playback. As soon as a disc is read, it begins playback. I hate that!
So, soon to Yamaha this will go back. If they can get the glitches out, the S1500 offers superb video performance, credible (good enough for many) cd sound, and good hi-rez for a very reasonable price. My advice is to check it out. If you buy, check to see if these glitches plague your unit. Yamaha needs to ramp up their quality control, or get a Mk.II on the market pronto.
So, friends, I'll post a follow-up when Yamaha fixes it.

Associated gear
Denon DCD-1650AR cd player
Audible Illusions L1 linestage
Music Reference RM9 amp
Acoustat 1+1 speakers
Onyko T-9090 MkII tuner

Similar products
Old Panasonic A120U dvd player.
Sounds like a defective unit to me. I would get get another unit from the dealer and see if it cures the problems.

Good luck,
You do not have a unit with glitches, you have a defective player. Considering the huge number of units a company the size of Yamaha produces, it doesn't suprise me that a few fail. What matters is how they and your dealer respond to your problem. I appreciate you taking the time to post such a lengthy review, but it is meaningless given the fact that your player is malfuctioning. With the problems you reported it is not unreasonable to think that even though they don't have a symptom as pronounced as the popping you report, that other parameters of the unit may be affected by whatever is causing these problems. I suggest getting it repaired or replaced with a properly functioning unit and reporting back. It is unfair to Yamaha to review a clearly defective component.
You know, I just stumbled across this exact same review over in - and we do mean the exact same text, don't we? I also have to agree w/ Herman & Prpixel that it would seem that the individual unit you purchased is defective (even from your own text you point out that some obvious stuff does not work as documented in the manual). Now I'd be the absolute last person to say that any manufacturer gets it right 100% of the time, but in my semi-limited experience with Yamaha gear so far they seem to do as well as or even better than most others on this.

It seems a little harsh to review a defective unit this way. It's accurate to point out that you got a defective sample, but to review this model in a number of venues based on such a likely defective unit does seem unfair to me, too. Was there a display unit available that you could have used to compare your findings to and to see if you had a singular bad sample or if these problems are more common to the DVD-S1500? If these are universal problems w/ S1500s then you've provided a valuable service and we all thank you. If you were unlucky to get a bad sample then in fairness (and if possible) a balanced follow-up should follow (again, if & when possible). I look forward to your further reporting on the 1500.
Yes, the same review is over at Hopefully, I'll get it over to soon. Anything wrong with that?

I did state in the review the problems with the unit and that I believe it is defective. Doesn't the consumer have a right to know that a particuliar company or item has potential quality control issues before they plunk down their hard earned cash ? I believe Stereophile mentions defective items received for review.

I did state that the unit is going back to Yamaha and that a follow-up will be posted.

I did state that I want to keep this machine; that my feelings for it are not all negative, and I recommended that others check it out.

Look, it's a buyers market. No one's perfect. Yamaha is a company that has a good track record. But, you, the consumer have a right to know.
Every manufacturer misses the occasional defective unit. You should not have reviewed a defective unit. However, in yur review of a good unit, you should have mentioned that the first sample was defective. In addition, recommending a defective unit brings into question your credibility as a reviewer.
I am not a reviewer; I am a consumer. What I am doing is telling my fellow consumers my experience.

You see, I can't call the manufacturer to tell them of my problem and ask for another free sample, like Stereophile reviewers.

Luckily we have the internet to share our findings and help each other.
I was about to call Yamaha and make arrangements to send the S1500 back when I decided to do a by-pass test. I ran the S1500 directly into my power amp and, lo and behold, no more popping sounds!

Clearly, the problem is not the Yamaha, but it is my pre-amp. I plugged my Denon cd player into the same pre-amp input and it made those popping sounds. Interestingly, the Yamaha is in the tape input (where the Denon used to be) and there is no popping. My guess is that the input selector switch and its signal path is suspect.

So, fellow Audiogoners, I am red-faced with shame and embarrassment. I should have exhausted all possibilities before posting a negative review.

I hereby apologise to the Yamaha Corp. and to all Audiogoners. I am finished with amateur reviewing. Let the professionals do it.

I've had this same review deleted from I request that the site managers do the same here.

I'm actually enjoying the S1500 now. It deserves your attention if you're shopping in this price range.

Sorry, I screwed up, big time!
In the current issue of "Sound&Vision" (Dec.2004) reviewer David Ranada reviews the S1500. In his write-up he discloses that the S1500's multi-channel (not stereo) outputs must be used for hi-rez (DVD-A and SACD) and the OS display must be selected to "stereo".

Nowhere in this unit's owners manual is this mentioned. I had my S1500 set-up with the stereo outputs to my pre-amp. So, according to Ranada, I wasn't listening to the hi-rez layer on my discs! My thanks to David for making this clear.

So, I immediately moved the interconnects and checked the OS display for stereo operation. What I got WAS better sound on SACD and DVD-A. I can't say it was an enormous difference but clearly it was better. As to whether this player betters my trusty ol' Denon "redbook" player I am not yet able to say. I'll get back to you soon.

Anyway, for those who own an S1500 or are considering it, here is some important info.

I thank Mr. Ranada for his most useful review!
I have owned the Yamaha S1500 for about 4 months now and find it to be a very satisfying machine, both as a DVD player and particularly as a straight audio CD and MP3 player.It has better picture quality than my old Toshiba and its audio capabilities are far superior.
I actually selected this model for its very impressive sound quality and tend to use it mainly for audio purposes with my Pioneer A400X amp and Sonus Faber bookshelf speakers. It was cheaper in the long run to buy a new player with both excellent audio and visual qualities.
The only fault that I can find with the S1500 is that it takes about 20 seconds to recognise the disc and actually begin playing, but really this isn't a major hassle.
I am really enjoying the Yamaha S1500. I would certainly recommend it.

Here I am again with my very last word on this player. For the past two months I've played scores of "redbook" cds', lots of dvd videos, and a few sacds' and dvd-as'.

To reiterate, terrific video quality that's immediately noticable over any older dvd player. I use the s-video output into my 9 year old 32" Panasonic. Yes, I know, it's an ancient video monitor. My guess is that the S1500 would give an even better picture with a progressive scan TV using the component output.

Now, here it becomes complicated. SACD and DVD-A sound good but not better than a recently remastered "redbook" cd on my old Denon 1650AR player. I use the SACD "Direct" setting. In fact, the Denon sounds better. Period! After an extended period of comparison, I found "redbook" sounded better with upsampling set to "off". Less etch, less tizz, sounds a little more analog. You may lose a tiny bit of extreme HF detail, though.

It really depends on what level of performance you expect. As I said, for many this Yamaha will do the trick.

I tried everything to squeeze the last bit of performance out of this thing. Quality interconnects, sorbothane feet, aftermarket digital AC powercord, power conditioner.

For $350 you get alot. The S1500 deserves your attention. It depends on what step of the audio ladder you're on. I hope my comments of the last four months will be of help.
A few months after that last post, the S1500 began to develop some video mistracking problems. Sometimes it would skip tracks or freeze up. In June the unit went totally down; distorted picture, complete loss of sound through the analog outputs. So back to Yamaha under warranty it went.

Well, what came back was what the S1500 should have been the first time around! Apparently, the poster who said my unit was defective was right.

Sound quality, no matter what media, is simply outstanding! "Redbook" cd sounds every bit as good as my trusty old Denon DCD-1650AR, perhaps better. Sound is up-front, big, gutsy, very clear and detailed. Wow!

SACD takes it up to an even higher standard. Tremendous bass solidity and image density. Now I can easily hear the difference between "redbook" and SACD.

DVD-A and Claasic Records" DADs sound wonderfully clean with extended treble that seems to reach to infinity.

As I stated earlier, video quality is excellent. The mistracking, the freezing, and general fussiness is gone.

I know I did Yamaha a disservice in mouthing off when I should have gotten another sample before posting comments.

Let me summarise: truly exceptional sound especially considering the price (under$400).

Disregard all my earlier rants. The S1500 is an excellent DVD/CD/SACD and DVD-A player. Check it out!
I just read the S&V "review" you mentioned here:

...and didn't get the same meaning from it that you did.

Is this the part you're talking about? "Dolby Pro Logic II processing is automatically engaged if you play CDs through the multichannel analog output (the one you have to use for DVD-A or SACD playback). To get plain stereo, you have to go into the setup menu and switch to stereo playback."

That's a really ambiguous statement (which isn't uncommon for S&V magazine), but I think it's just a sideways referral to the fact that you have to use the analog out ports (vs digital out) for sacd and dvda, and he just doesn't bother differentiating between the 5.1 ports and the 2 channel stereo downmix ports. I see no reason to interpret this as "you don't get hi-res output from the 2 channel analog stereo downmix ports". Which isn't to say that the Front L&R channel ports might not actually sound better than the stereo downmix ports... I just don't think that's what Ranada meant.

Or is there something more in the full print version of the article? (vs the web version I pointed to above)
The web review for the S1500 is the same as the print version (Dec.2004).

I think what Ranada was referring to is strictly a multi-channel comment. I wrongly thought after reading his review that you must use the front L and R outputs (summed to 2ch. stereo through the menu) to get the hi-rez of DVD-A and SACD. Obviously, you can use the 2 ch. stereo output to achieve hi-rez stereo playback.

I'm using the front L and R (summed to 2 ch. stereo through the menu) into my pre-amp. My system is strictly two channel. I use the 2ch. output of the S1500 directly into my TV when I want to watch TV without the system being powered.

You're right about Ranada and "Sound & Vision" often being ambiguous. I attribute this to the fact that the magazine's editorial position is to "dumb down" so a larger audience can be reached.

After living with a properly operating S1500 for three months; I can now tell you that it is worth its asking price. Video quality is superb! DVD-A/SACD stereo playback proves that these formats are truly an improvment over plain old redbook.

Finally, the S1500 has a slightly "up-front" audio perspective. It is punchy and dramatic.
I've owned the yamaha s1500 for almost a year now - well, I've owned two since the first was returned under warranty. The transport was unbeleivably noisy on some discs - 1 of 10 discs would sound like a rusty weedwacker. Took it back to the store and all the other yamahas did the same thing on my discs (discs which played fine on plenty of other machines). Eventually they said that they got a bad batch of motors. took 3 months to get it replaced but all is good now. also the chassis gets alarmingly hot for my tastes - anyone else notice that?

I'm thinking of adding an inexpensive DAC - Ack! or DAC-AH - anyone think will improve things. sounds good now - I want better... How does a 2 channel DAC know to unmultiplex 5,1 DVD sound anyway?