Yamaha is one of the long-standing greats of the audio world, producing some of the most sought-after components made while also keeping a good selection of gear priced for the man of average means. The model C-45 stereo preamplifier is representative of this high-quality but affordable philosophy of design.
The Yamaha C-45 is built around the KISS school of design. High-quality discrete components are used throughout the unit with premium capacitors used in the audio path and main power supply. The power supply is very well filtered and regulated. Dual FETs are used in the phono EQ section as well.
The tone controls (defeatable) are centered at 20Hz, 1kHz, and 20kHz, with turnovers at 350Hz and 3.5kHz for the bass and treble, respectively. The C-45 also features Yamaha’s trademark Variable Loudness control which provides up to 40dB of muting along with a proper loudness response for those various levels.
High-level inputs include 2 tape monitor loops, tuner, CD, and video. The single phono input can be switched for either moving-magnet or moving coil type pickups. All input and output jacks are gold plated for better corrosion resistance.
The sound of the Yamaha C-45, when feeding a good power amplifier (such as my Kenwood L-07M) is remarkably unremarkable. With the tone controls defeated and the loudness disengaged, it does what any good preamp should do: call no attention to itself at all. Extremely fluid but still solid and deliberate. Imaging is very good; not as good as some of the best preamps (or integrated amps), but it would be difficult to notice without being able to A/B with another pre. The C-45 is also very quiet, with nary a hum or hiss to distract you, even with the volume quite high. The built-in headphone amp is noteworthy, driving my Koss Pro4-AA ‘phones to deafening levels with power to spare.
I compared the C-45 to a near contemporary Mitsubishi DA-P10 preamp. The DA-P10 is an even simpler design, and is dual-mono all the way through.
The DA-P10 does have better imaging capabilities, but it does not have the same feeling of dynamics, nor is it as quiet.
The Yamaha seems to have better control over the connected amplifier, and has better attack and speed. My couple of complaints with the C-45 stem from the rather so-so quality pots used, particularly the volume control. However, given the quality of the rest of the unit and its price point, it can be forgiven.
Part of the legend of Yamaha is their uncanny ability to produce amplifiers (pre, integrated, or power) that stay true to the engineering ideal of being a straight wire with gain. The C-45 preamp upholds that tradition and is as fine a preamp as you could ask for.