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Yamaha MSP3

Powered Monitor Speaker
By Hugh Robjohns

Does this affordable powered speaker from Yamaha have what it takes to handle project studio mixing?

The MSP3 is the baby of Yamaha's MSP range — the largest model, the MSP10, was reviewed in SOS April 2000, and the middle MSP5 in SOS February 1999. The latest addition to the family is very similar in styling and construction to the MSP5, but is a powered speaker rather than an active one.

YAMAHA MSP3 powered monitor.It measures 236 x 144 x 155mm (hwd) and weighs just 4.5kg. The light weight is due in part to the moulded plastic cabinet onto which the metal rear panel is screwed. The internal volume is roughly 2.5 litres, with a small amount of acoustic damping material, mostly at the top. A pair of narrow ports exit the front baffle just below the tweeter.

The two drive units are manufactured by Yamaha (is there anything they don't make?) and are magnetically shielded. The 10cm woofer works alongside a 2.2cm metal-dome tweeter, the crossover point being set at a relatively high 4kHz. A perforated metal grille protects the woofer, while a phasing ring performs the same duty for the tweeter, which is set back in a dished wave guide designed to help control dispersion. The drivers are both 4Ω units powered by a single IC amplifier chip of 20 Watts — sufficient to deliver 98dBSPL at one metre.

At the foot of the front baffle are four small rotary controls. To the left, bass and treble tone knobs apply a sensibly restricted ±3dB boost or cut (centred on 100Hz and 10kHz respectively) with centre detents. The controls to the right adjust the level of the two rear-panel inputs, allowing two signals to be mixed, if so desired. A green LED below the woofer lights when the unit is powered.

The flat metal rear panel acts as both heat sink and chassis for the amplifier electronics and power supply, but only becomes vaguely warm to the touch after prolonged use. At the bottom of the panel is a rocker switch to turn the unit on, a captive mains lead, and three input sockets. A phono connector accepts unbalanced signals at -10dBV (Line 1), while an XLR wired in parallel with a TRS quarter-inch jack socket receives balanced signals at +4dBu (Line 2).

Listening Tests

The quoted frequency response is a slightly optimistic 65Hz to 22kHz, and the supplied chart illustrates a classic 90Hz 'reflex hump' before the bass response plummets at over 24dB/octave. The lower mid-range is a little recessed while the upper mid-frequencies are slightly emphasised, creating a forward, 'shouty' sound. The treble is well extended, if a touch aggressive, and the bass is fast and articulate as far as it goes, but without any weight. I would not be surprised to learn that Yamaha are planning to release a matching subwoofer — the MSP3s have all the hallmarks of ideal satellites.

In terms of resolution, these speakers are not capable of extracting subtle detail from complex mixes, but deliver 80 percent of what's there without fuss and are capable of playing loud enough to satisfy most listeners in close nearfield situations. Stereo imaging seemed wide, but a little confused and very two-dimensional, there being no depth to the sound stage at all.

The MSP3 is a robust, cost-effective speaker intended to serve a range of non-critical monitoring purposes. In a professional environment it would be ideal for handling talkback or outboard monitoring of PFL signals, or for using at either side of a computer monitor for confidence monitoring of a desktop editing system. These are the kind of speakers that never get thrown away — they are far too useful, robust, and competent. However, while the MSP3 will suffice for some as a monitor speaker in very low-budget project studio environments, more accurate and neutral speakers capable of greater resolution and bandwidth would make the task of mixing rather easier.

What's The Difference Between Active And Powered Monitors?

A speaker referred to as 'active' employs a line-level crossover to split the signal into frequency bands which feed separate amplifiers for each driver. The advantages of this setup are that the active crossovers can be more accurate than those in conventional passive speakers, and that each amplifier can be matched precisely to the respective loudspeaker, especially as regards damping. The disadvantage is the expense of the amplifiers and more elaborate crossover designs.

A 'powered' loudspeaker is a conventional passive speaker with a built-in amplifier. The advantage is that such a unit will be compact and self-contained, and the amplifier can be specifically matched to the speaker for better performance and reliability. However, it's not going to be as accurate as a true active arrangement.

Pros

  • Compact, self-contained and competent.
  • Very affordable.
  • Dual inputs with mixing and tone controls.

Cons

  • 'Shouty' sound quality.
  • Two-dimensional, vague sound stage.

Summary

A competent monitor for non-critical listening, ideal for use with computer workstations.

information

£278 per pair including VAT.

Yamaha-Kemble Brochure Line +44 (0)1908 369269.

uk.yamaha.com

Published March 2002