Yamaha's newest powered monitors deliver a solid and detailed performance, even at high playback levels.
Yamaha's NS10s have been a mainstay of nearfield monitoring, but in the 21st century powered monitoring seems to be the preferred approach in many professional and project studios. To meet this demand, Yamaha have come up with the MSP10s, which are two-way powered monitors designed to appeal to those users who might otherwise choose something by the likes of Genelec, Mackie, Dynaudio or one of the other leading brands. Indeed, the MSP10s have a Mackie/Genelec look about them due to the use of a tweeter waveguide, while the 265 x 420 x 329mm enclosure makes them of a similar physical size to the Mackie HR824s. Each cabinet weighs an impressive 20kg.
The enclosure itself is very nicely finished in satin black and appears to made from thick, well-damped MDF. It is conventionally ported at the front using a pair of identical ports, and the amplifier/crossover pack is sited in a separate ventilated steel enclosure fixed to the rear of the cabinet. Low and mid-range frequencies are handled by a 20cm (eight-inch) magnetically shielded driver fitted with a synthetic cone in a soft roll-rubber surround and, though few driver details are provided it seems likely that the voice coil is between 1.5 and two inches in diameter. It has a 4Ω nominal impedance.
The tweeter is an 8Ω, 25mm (one-inch) titanium-domed device with a phase plug suspended in front of it and this is again magnetically shielded so that the monitors may be used close to TV monitors or old-fashioned CRT computer monitors. The tweeter sits in the centre of a contoured dish waveguide designed to optimise the directional characteristics of the tweeter and to make its dispersion pattern match that of the low/mid-range unit around the crossover point, which in this case is 2kHz. A small power LED is mounted on the waveguide which normally lights up green, but turns red if the amplifier is driven into clipping. There is no mention of speaker protection circuitry — a common feature in other active monitors — but simply a warning that listening to a distorted output for a long time 'will cause the speaker to heat up and may lead to a fire hazard'!
There's plenty of power on hand to drive these devices, with 120W set aside for the bass/mid-range driver and 60W for the tweeter. At these powers, the distortion is better than 0.02 percent, with hum and noise at better than -67dBu (volume on minimum) and a signal-to-noise ratio of 98dB or better. The crossover has a very steep 30dB/octave slope, which prevents the tweeter from being fed a significant amount of energy below its rated frequency range and also reduces the amount of potentially disruptive overlap between the drivers at the crossover point. A frequency response of 40Hz to 40kHz is quoted, though this is measured at the -10dB points rather than the normal -3dB points. Looking at the frequency graph, this probably equates to a lower limit of just over 50Hz when measured conventionally.
All the controls, even the power switch, are located on the rear panel of the amplifier enclosure, where the audio input is a balanced XLR connector. The mains leads are captive rather than IEC sockets (hard wiring can provide a better-quality connection) and, in addition to a rotary sensitivity control, there are three slider switches for low end, high end and low cut. These are very necessary, as the bass end of a speaker is dramatically affected by the size and type of room and the position of the speaker within that room, so a choice of flat, -1.5dB or -3dB at 50Hz is provided. The high-end adjustment (+1.5dB, flat or -1.5dB at 10kHz) is more of a user preference. On the other hand, the low-cut switch changes the bass roll-off to 80Hz, presumably so that users can emulate the low end response of an NS10.
I always like to try to second guess how a speaker is going to sound based on its construction and design. From my previous experience, titanium-dome tweeters, unless damped with a special coating, tend to a have a bright, slightly aggressive quality about them. Furthermore, bass/mid-range drivers with this type of synthetic cone construction can produce a slightly hyped bass centred at the resonant frequency you hear when tapping the cone gently. More highly damped cone materials tend to produce less of a pitched sound when tapped, as do heavily damped cabinets. So, what I am expecting is a slightly larger than life sound with plenty of detail but at the risk of being slightly forward sounding. Right -- now to plug in and see how far off the mark I am! The tests were done with all the frequency switches in their flat positions.
A couple of hours later... well, these speakers claim a maximum SPL of 110dB at one metre, and after playing a track of V-Drums through them without first checking the volume settings, I believe them! I don't know if you've ever been on that Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland where poison darts are simulated using blasts of air, but sitting in front of the bass ports can be a bit like that. I must have been one and a half metres from the monitors and yet my hair parted like the Red Sea when the kick drum hit! The blast from the bass ports had to be felt to be believed. Even so, the sound was clean and solid and at no time did the peak LEDs hold up the red flag.
Tonally, the speakers did go some way towards matching my preconceptions, but the 'titanium splashiness' was rather less than I had expected, though my Mackie HR824s (which use aluminium rather than titanium domes) still sounded noticeably smoother in direct comparison. Other than the slightly forward high end, the general character was surprisingly similar to that of my Mackies, and not a million miles away from the mid-size active Genelecs. The low end had plenty of depth to help kick drums and basses project nicely, but the designers have resisted the temptation to under-damp the cabinet, resulting in a nicely even bass end with no obvious hot spots.
Although I prefer the sound of my Mackies (and that could just be a personal thing), I could comfortably work with these Yamaha speakers, and they're ideal in situations where spells of loud monitoring are required. They are detailed enough to let you hear any mix problems and they have enough low end extension to make the accurate evaluation of kick drums and basses possible. The stereo imaging is solid, even if the speakers are used on their sides (which is never recommended with this type of speaker, as it narrows the sweet spot significantly), and the sound remains consistent at lower listening levels. If you need something that can function as a full-range speaker in a room better suited to nearfields, the MSP10s should do a good job, especially if you need to check your mixes at high levels from time to time.