A Little History
Recommend this product?
These speakers were used for the front channel sound in a new 7.1 set-up. The system as a whole seems fairly well balanced with four Yamaha NS-333s in the rear and an NS-C444 in the center. Super low end was handled by 2 Yamaha YST-SW315 subwoofers. All signals were handled by a Harman/Kardon AVR-635, which is a really neat little receiver thats a joy to look at. All cables were mid level Monster offerings, not bad, but far from the best. I will say however the flat Monster speaker cable is really easy to use and hides well. This is all mildly ironic because Yamaha has now jumped on the Monster bandwagon, using all Monster internal wiring as well. This is not incredibly unique, there a few other speakers makers doing it as well. The room is fairly large (effectively 21x16) so spacing wasnt a problem.
Features and Use
These are pretty speakers. Grilles on or off, they look good. They have a nice convex side structure is elegant and simple at the same time and have very well finished seems. The cones themselves have a nice color to them with similarly colored mounting garnishes. The mid and tweeter sit is what Yamaha is calling a waveguide horn. Uh, no. Waveguide maybe, but it is no horn. I understand its a marketing tool, but its a little silly in my opinion. Even so, the whole assembly looks good and has a high level (certainly for the price point) of fit and finish. Speaking of fit and finish, the little legs look great, but feel a little chincy. Granted it is a cantilevered design and there are four of them they still look like they want to break.
One of the things that really got my attention that I was not prepared for was that there was a distinct lack of spring clips. Instead I found fairly nice gold plated 5-way bi-wire posts in what appears to be a sturdy little cup. The speakers themselves are hefty, but not high-end kinda heavy, weighing in at about 50 pounds each. They are skinny at 10inches and not too deep at only 15 inches, but at almost 4 feet tall, they command attention. The grilles dont come down all the way and dont have a lot of bracing. They feature a nice curve at the bottom which brings the overall style full circle. These speakers look so nice you almost dont want to even put a magazine on them. The overall feel of these speakers was not what one would expect for $300, they really are quite nice.
To say that I was surprised by the sound these speakers spit out would be an understatement. Some time ago I reviewed a set of Yamahas (I wanna say ns6390, I forget) that for the money were quite good as well, but these are not just silly little bookshelfers, they aspire to be towers that are taken seriously and to be quite clear, one should, they will surprise most. It shouldnt be construed that I am saying these speakers weave some mellifluous audio nectar, I would no sooner compare these to low end Connoisseurs than I would to Martin Logans, but (again) for the price they have a mellow and somewhat subtle low end with direct, but not overbearing mids. I spose one might characterize them as being a little hollow (and being nice at that), but with even the most basic reinforcement there is no reason why these wouldnt excel in almost any home system. Its not all hugs and sunshine though, these speakers have a dark side, or more specifically a light side
When I say light, I mean bright. I did a lot of testing with movie material at first until I was able to put together a well rounded audio disc. At first, while I was still testing DVDs, I didnt really get the brightness, it wasnt intrusive, but I pulled back on the high end anyway via the receiver to try to put in check what I felt I was hearing. When I ended up putting in some TOOL, Meshuga, and some old Helmet factory CDs it became clear that these towers have a side most would prefer not to see. What I was hearing was most irritating when I played Ironhead and FBLA/Role Model off Helmets Meantime, but I also noticed it a little with some other harder music. One might say, ease up on the metal, but it was there for some Harry Connick Jr. that I had put in as well, most noticeably on the trumpets. If more mellow music is your thing what I am hearing may not be of as great a (or any) concern. At lower volumes and movies, it is something most systems should be able to overcome, but I could see bare walls and hard floors really exacerbating this effect.
The Brass Tacks
Here are the raw numbers. I list them for reference only, but being aware of what a speakers rating is can play a strong role in what you buy. Listening is the bottom line though, buying speakers without first at least hearing what FM nonsense they have on them at the local Tweeter (or Best Buy or whatever) at the bare minimum. These numbers are per the included spec sheet/instructions.
Nominal Power 100wpc
Peak Power - - - - 250wpc
Sensitivity - - - - - 89dB/2.83v/1m
Response - - - - - -30Hz-35kHz
Impedance - - - - -6ohm
These are admirable speakers for a mere $300 (though more like $340 delivered). They are by no means high end, but their performance makes them high end for this price point. This is not to say there were not quibbles, and I think this will be reflected in my overall rating regardless of how I may seem to gush here. Along with their fellow speakers in a traditional 5.1 set-up (though in this case it is more like 5.2), they are part of a well oiled team, again, for the price. Granted there is a capable amp running things and there are 2 LFE units, this system outperforms what one might expect for the combined price. Mind you, I refer to the price paid, not the MSRP. Had the cost reflected what Yamaha would have liked to have seen paid for all this, I would be less enthusiastic. So, find a retailer (dont forget Foleys and Dillards carry Yamaha, if only for a test listen) with a good price and make your own call, but if you want a good front end for very little cash, consider the Yamaha NS-777 towers.
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Amount Paid (US$): 338