Yamaha's newest powered speakers not only offer excellent sound and portability, but their optional Dante connectivity makes them a cinch to set up.
A new line in self-powered PA speakers always interests me, and as I already have several Yamaha speakers in my inventory I was very keen to get my hands on a pair of their most recent additions.
Yamaha already market two powered 10–inch models — the DBR10 and the DXR10 — and I own and regularly use a number of these little workhorses for all kinds of live work, both as mains and monitors. They don't produce a 10–inch model in their (previously) most expensive range, the DSR series, so the 'top dog' in the 10–inch format has hitherto been the DXR10 — currently at MkII, although mine are all the original type and any reference to them here should take account of this. I like 10–inch speakers (good ones, anyway), as they tend to have enough bottom-end clout to be used on their own for smaller events, and can also handle the middle and top end of larger systems when using subwoofers. A local sound company that I have worked with on outdoor gigs uses a high-end rig consisting of four 18–inch powered subs and just two 10–inch full–range cabinets, and they regularly put this up for outdoor carnival-type jobs.
The DZR range represents a ground-breaking step forward for portable powered units as, quite apart from their performance, the entire range is available, as an option, with Dante connectivity, in the form of RJ45–type Ethernet ports that not only carry control information but all the audio as well. Thus, in a nutshell, you can daisy-chain the entire PA system together without using a single audio cable between mixer and loudspeakers, provided you're using a compatible digital console. So there's the headline, but the other main features include: plywood cabinets, rotatable horn assembly, latest–generation FIR filtering with DSP crossover and 96kHz internal processing, and comprehensive access to DSP parameters via a clear LCD screen.
The DZR10 reviewed here is the smallest in the DZR range, with 12– and 15-inch two-way, full–range units available, as well as a three-way model with a 15–inch woofer and 8–inch mid-range driver, plus tweeter. There are no DZR-badged subwoofers, but the range includes and is designed to fully integrate with the DXSXLF units, available in 15– or 18–inch form. Like the DZR range, the DXSXLF subwoofers are also available with Dante compatibility, those models being distinguished in name by a 'D' suffix. Apart from the digital connectivity and control, the D models are exactly the same in terms of construction and audio performance as the non-Dante versions. I like the idea of Dante being a separate option as, although it may come to pass one day, certainly not everyone is going to need this option within their system, and with this range there's no need to pay for it unnecessarily. For this review, Yamaha provided a pair of the DZR10-D speakers, complete with covers, together with a single DXS15XLF‑D subwoofer.
Leaving aside the digital feature set for the moment, the first impression I gained when unpacking and handling the DZR speakers was that they were solid. They look great in a typical Yamaha way — slightly larger than my DXR10 boxes but still nice and compact, and with an attractive foam-faced front grille in black. Having decent metal front grilles is important for major physical protection of the drivers, and the foam layer provides additional protection against dust and moisture, but having the foam on the outside gives a classy look and in my experience tends to retain its looks more easily than painted steel, especially when speakers spend much time — as mine do — used as floor monitors. The foam actually feels pretty tough and I must admit to snagging one of the speakers on a flight case catch, but leaving no visible mark that I could see. The cabinet material is plywood and is finished in a black poly-coating. It feels like it would withstand a few knocks without getting untidy, and the large handles on the top and on one side have a good, metal-backed recess that has plenty of room to accommodate your average hand. I like the horizontal side handle, as I find this makes pole- or stand-mounting easier, although lifting a DZR10 up to stand height is definitely a two-handed operation as my initial observation of 'solid' translates into a manageable but noticeable 17.9kg (for the D model), compared to the DXR10, which is 4kg lighter.
Control for the DZR10 is via a large panel set into the back of the cabinet and dominated by a large LCD screen at the top, used for reading and setting all parameters in conjunction with a single adjacent data wheel. The basic input/output section is pretty much as you'd expect, with two input channels accessed through combi XLR/TRS connectors and an old–school analogue level control for each. Output XLRs are provided for direct or post-DSP linking, and (apart from the Dante panel on the D models) that's all you see. A pull-proof IEC power connector and nicely recessed on/off switch are at the bottom, and two ventilation grilles allow convection cooling, which I assume will lead to less or slower fan assistance — I certainly didn't hear any fan noise when the boxes were at idle.
The LCD and data wheel allow adjustment of the various DSP functions, and a 'turn and press' will get you to where you need to be. It took me a few minutes to get used to when I should turn the knob and when I should press to select, but no matter where you get to there is always the friendly back/home button that steps back to the previous screen or wakes the display up if it has gone to sleep. For a detailed explanation of all the available menus and exactly what can be set up it's best to go online and look at or download the full user manual. Suffice it to say that just about everything you could want to set up is accessible here, and the level of detail is impressive: for example, you don't just select preset EQ curves, you can build your own exactly as you need, and even the audio output routing can be controlled to your liking. One thing that is worth noting when making parameter adjustments that directly affect the sound is that changes made using the encoder knob are not applied until the knob is pressed to execute them. This is a great safety feature in that you have to deliberately choose to apply the changes, but it also means that you can't hear the adjustments as you tweak, so sometimes it's a case of trying various settings until perfection is achieved. At the point of perfection for any given application, the DZR speakers have the ability to save your settings to a USB stick connected directly to the panel. This is not only useful for saving settings for a particular venue or band, but also for setting up several speakers — just set up one, and then copy the setup on to the others in the rig.
Having selected a basic 'EQ off' preset I fired up the DZR10s in the studio and played some of my favourite tracks through them. My impression of the sound was just like when I unpacked them, the word 'solid' again coming to mind. The DZR10s had a very centred, focused sound with a strong mid–range quite unlike most speakers of this size I've used, and certainly quite different from my DXR and DBR boxes. I turned them up, and down, and played everything from AC/DC to Boccherini, and couldn't make up my mind if I liked them or not.
Resisting the temptation to hook up the subwoofer just yet, I decided to run a direct comparison against my DXR10s, so I set up one of each and ran a mono track through them. (I should make it clear again that my own DXR10s are not the current MkII version). These have been with me for some time now and I've always considered them to have a good sound for smaller gigs and as stage monitors. With the two speakers side by side, I was able to identify some of the differences, and I also brought in a couple of experienced sound colleagues to validate (or contradict) my impressions. At first, we all thought the DXR sounded a bit fuller, and a bit brighter; the DZR10 definitely sounded 'dark' in comparison, and this was true at various volume levels. The DXR10 was what we were expecting to hear, and the different voicing of the DZR took a little while to get used to. But after about 10 minutes we started playing something smooth and jazzy, and someone said "listen to the brushes", at which point we began to appreciate the level of increased detail in the DZR sound — the snare offbeats were really in sharp focus and I could imagine the individual wire hairs touching the snare head, rather than just hearing a general hit on the backbeat.
Having listened 'through the keyhole' we all began to hear more detail throughout the frequency range, and there's no doubt that the DZR speaker was delivering a level of resolution and crispness that brought vocals forward and revealed subtleties in the material that we definitely missed when switching back. One of the most impressive things was that this detail was not lost at higher levels, and the bass extension of this little cabinet is an impressive feature in its own right. I did run them up pretty high, and was very keen to get them out on a live event.
The low end was both deep and very powerful, with great even coverage.
I used the DZR10s for a couple of jobs, one open air and one in a 200-seater community hall. The latter was vocals and acoustic instruments only, so I didn't use subs, and I was very impressed by the detail and clarity — just like back at base — that made mixing vocals an easier job than I'd expected in this less-than-ideal venue.
The outdoor job (nearly cancelled but for a fortunate weather window) required subwoofer deployment, so I took along the single DXS15XLF to handle the low stuff. I'd have preferred a pair of subs, if only to mount the top speakers on, but one was all I had so I positioned it in front of the stage about two-thirds to the right, more or less in front of the bass player. Although all three Yamaha speakers were Dante models (and were driven from a Yamaha TF and Tio stagebox setup), I decided to use conventional cabling mainly because I didn't have time to make up enough digital cables to reach all the DZR units.
This gig was not normally something I'd use just a pair of full-range 10–inch speakers for, nor just a single sub, but this little rig performed way above expectation. It delivered a lot more clean output than a system of this physical size really should — that very forward and detailed vocal mid–range was a much commented–upon feature of the sound, and the low end was both deep and very powerful, with great, even coverage. This DXR sub really produced the goods. I enjoyed running the sound for this event a lot more than I'd anticipated, and I was left with the impression that the DZR/DXS system would have run quite a lot louder if I'd wanted, as it didn't show any signs of fatigue covering around 30 x 40 metres of grass!
One of the ground-breaking aspects of the DZR and DXS ranges is the option to have Dante connectivity. On the D–suffixed versions there is a Dante panel for incoming and onward digital connection, and additional menu options for setting individual cabinet ID so that the correct signal is delivered to any particular speaker from your digital console or any point in a Dante network. Those who already use these setups will know exactly what this is all about, but in a very simple nutshell it means that you can wire up the entire rig — mains and monitors — using decent-quality Ethernet cables (and switches if necessary) that carry control data and all the audio as well. You set up the speakers from the back–panel menu, selecting options such as 'ST L' (for front-of-house left) or 'Aux' or 'Sub' and route the appropriate output to them. On Yamaha TF consoles you can use the 'Quick Config' setting, and the devices appear on the console's routing screen alongside your digital stageboxes. I tried this out in the studio and once I had figured out how to set the speaker ID, everything just worked straight away, with three Cat5 patch cables connecting the TF mixer directly to the two DZR10‑Ds and the DXS15XLF sub. This has got to represent how things will be going in the future, and has obvious advantages both for installed systems and flexible portable setups. I have a few jobs coming up where I would now feel confident to use the live Dante setup, and I can see myself getting quite hooked on it!
With live sound work, it's obviously all about the sound itself, and the DZR and DXSXLF speakers contain much innovative and useful technology — for example, the rotatable horn on the full-range units, and the fact that the subs can be operated in cardioid mode when used in pairs. The lasting impression is that they really have raised the bar in terms of the powerful, clean, detailed and very focused across-the–spectrum output from portable boxes. I only got to try the smallest units in the range (I really want to hear the three-way units!) but I have been very impressed by their performance and would be more than happy to put them up for some challenging applications.
There would be so much more to say about the DZR speakers here if space allowed, but by far the best way is to get your own ears on some and see what you think.
- Very detailed sound with strong mid–range delivery.
- The DZR10's low–end extension is impressive for its size.
- Editable parameters within a comprehensive DSP.
- Solid build and quality finish.
- Optional Dante connectivity.
- Slightly less hyped voicing on the DZR10 may take a few minutes to get used to.
These are powerful, classy and compact speakers, and the Dante options make rigging them as part of a digital system a breeze.
DZR10 £1170, DZR10-D £1395, DXS15XLF £1630, DXS15XLF-D £1853. Prices include VAT.
Yamaha Music Europe +44 (0)344 811 1116
DZR10 $1149.99, DZR10-D $1299, DXS15XLF $1399.99, DXS15XLF‑D $1549.99.