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Three years ago we’d a glance at Yamaha’s MusicCast network multi-room music system. It’s time to come back to it, this time around concentrating on two products that were created quite definitely around it. Stephen Dawson reports.
Generally in most ways the Yamaha WXA-50 and WXC-50 are identical. Where they differ is that the former can be an amplifier, whereas the latter is merely a pre-amplifier. You’ll have to use active speakers with the WXC-50, or a power amplifier.
What they offer is an individual stereo analogue input, an individual optical digital audio tracks input and also a USB input for placed media, and both network and Bluetooth. The amplifier has two pairs of binding posts allowing you to connect speakers. It includes a rated output of 55W per channel into 8Ω, both channels driven, over the full audio tracks bandwidth at negligible degrees of distortion. Interestingly, it’s also rated at 105W per channel into 4Ω beneath the same conditions. That’s practically the perfect doubling of output for halving of impedance, which is absolutely a quite rare feat. When you wouldn’t typically pair an amplifier as of this price with truly exotic speakers, it will not impose a substantial limitation on loudspeaker choice.
The pre-amp comes with an additional couple of RCA sockets for output to an amplifier or active speakers. Or you can output digital music via optical or coaxial. In addition, it comes with an output mode switch. One setting keeps the output beneath the control of leading panel volume, as the other sets the output to a set maximum. You utilize that mode if you’re plugging it into another amplifier and be prepared to use that amplifier to regulate proceedings.
The Bluetooth is rather basic, supporting only the typical SBC codec. But it’s beneficial to have. It’s the network functionality that’s the key game with these units.
They are single-band (2.4GHz) units, supporting the 802.11 b, g and n versions. Nowadays it’d probably be better have 5GHz support aswell, given how crowded the airwaves are.
They support top quality audio, including FLAC up to 192kHz sampling, Apple Lossless up to 96kHz sampling, MP3, WMA and AAC, plus Direct Stream Digital in both standard (DSD64) and double speed (DSD128) versions. Apple Airplay may be used. And internet sources such as for example Tidal, Deezer, Spotify and internet radio can even be used.
Both have a credit-card sized IR remote. The same codes are being used for both (plus some are shared, I came across, with a Yamaha home theatre receiver).
Central to using this technique may be the Yamaha MusicCast Controller app. This sets everything up, manages the music flows and enables you to do things such as group various MusicCast speakers and devices into groups.
Remember, it’s not simply both of these devices. Network capable Yamaha sound bars, home theatre receivers and stereo amplifiers also use MusicCast, as do some micro systems and special purpose Yamaha MusicCast speakers. It is extremely versatile.
So the first rung on the ladder is to set up the app. I had it on both an Android phone and an iPhone. I installed the amp with wired Ethernet first and used the Android app. This is very simple to setup. You turn up the iphone app and follow the instructions. Basically, you press and contain the ‘Connect’ button for five seconds. The iphone app notices that these devices is on the network and provides you an opportunity to give it a name. Typically you’d opt for the name of the area it’s in, nevertheless, you can enter any name you prefer. Then you can certainly associate an image with it, including a image you can take at that time together with your phone’s camera if you need.
So I repeated the procedure with the iPhone and the pre-amp, this time around without the Ethernet connection. It went just about precisely the same manner. I was somewhat surprising because normally with this sort of thing the software takes control of the telephone, gets its WiFi function to watch out for a WiFi access point newly established by the brand new amp, and asks if it could communicate your WiFi password to the amp. This didn’t enquire about that. I think I might well have previously given permission because of this at some point before.
Even let’s assume that a first-time WiFi-only installation may need selecting a WiFi access point and the entry of a password, that’d only put in a short while to the procedure. The important point is that it worked well.
Once connected, the programs gave just a little on-screen tutorial on the use. Firmware updates and such are also done through the apps. You get an computerized notification, nevertheless, you aren’t forced to simply accept them. Both review units requested firmware updates and I permitted it. They took about ten minutes each, mostly in enough time taken to download the required files over a non-NBN web connection.
The MusicCast Controller software was highly effective. Since it happens, I also had a Yamaha Aventage RX-A3070 home theatre receiver linked up and joined that in to the MusicCast system therefore i had three ‘speakers’ available. I tossed all types of music at the machine, feeding different streams to the three different devices, and all worked smoothly. I’d have Spotify playing through the pre-amp, and music from my network attached storage playing through the amp, then one very different from the network playing through the Aventage.
Switching the control software between your devices was easy, as was selecting the music. The only wrinkle was, as always with Spotify, that the Yamaha software can’t directly control Spotify. Instead all it could do is take you to the Spotify app.
Within the Yamaha software you can choose the various inputs on either device, so that it in place offers full operational control over the machine.
Also you can use a browser on a computer or device on a single network to regulate either unit. Just double go through the unit’s name in the network selection in Windows Explorer on a computer (or do the same on a Mac) as well as your browser will show a neat interface. Behind leading page are two settings sections which permit the usual selection of adjustments, plus specific things like saving settings to the computer for later restoration, and trimming the input levels (±6dB for each and every input) in order that they match in level.
In other words, everything which you can use the onscreen menu for with a Yamaha home theatre receiver can be achieved via the net interface with these units.
The WXC-50 pre-amp worked in accurately the same manner as the WXA-50 amp, but I spent almost all of my time hearing the latter. I used it with several thousand dollars worth of KEF speakers of an excellent likely greater than would typically be utilized with an amp of the price, and the results were constantly impressive.
There was a genuine high fidelity presentation of the music, with a fantastic stage depth and decent control of the bass drivers. I thought that possibly the amp used some sort of digital amplifier, given the compact size and healthy power output rating, nonetheless it turned out to perform quite hot therefore i assume the technology is more conventional. I’d advise reasonable ventilation around it.
A very important factor I wasn’t quite certain of was the procedure of the ‘player’ versus ‘pre-amp’ output mode for the WXC-50. If in the ‘pre-amp’ mode, would both digital outputs also be at the mercy of the unit’s own volume control? I plugged the optical output right into a home theatre receiver, sent some music to the WXC-50 and fiddled using its volume control. And, affirmed, the level changed. Therefore the processing engine within this unit clear can resample the digital signal to a new level as required.
When there is a weakness in the machine, it’s that there’s no integration into among the voice activated systems currently sweeping the field, such as for example Amazon Alexa or Google Home. Otherwise, the Yamaha MusicCast system works reliably and effectively and includes a full selection of products within it. The Yamaha WXC-50 and WXA