A new cen­tury

Sound+Image - - Yamaha -

Space pre­cludes cover­age of ev­ery key prod­uct and in­no­va­tion in the lat­ter years of the 20th cen­tury, but Yamaha no­tably led in sur­round-sound pro­cess­ing and re­ceivers from the ear­li­est days. By the turn of the new cen­tury its AV re­ceivers were al­ready leg­endary, and the sound­bar for­mat soon came un­der the com­pany’s gaze. In those early days when sound­bars were try­ing to de­liver sur­round ef­fects with­out the sur­round speak­ers, Yamaha es­tab­lished the idea of Dig­i­tal Sound Pro­jec­tion and the ‘In­tel­libeam’ to bounce fo­cused beams of sound off ad­ja­cent walls and cor­ners to gen­er­ate a more gen­uine sur­round than the more com­mon method of in­tro­duc­ing phase dis­tor­tion to trick the ears.

By 2005 it had de­vel­oped the con­cept into the YSP-1 bar which con­tained 42 driv­ers in­di­vid­u­ally op­ti­mised un­der soft­ware con­trol, us­ing mi­cro­phone mea­sure­ment and feed­back to achieve the best pos­si­ble sound for any room shape. The YSP-1 is recog­nised in our Ul­ti­mate 30 for its suc­cess in an area which made au­dio­philes raise their eye­brows at such ex­treme de­par­ture from the sim­ple pu­rity of the old days of stereo.

But Yamaha wasn’t about to give up its stereo her­itage, ei­ther. In 2006 a new series of stereo speak­ers ar­rived in the Soavo series, the name a port­man­teau blend­ing the Ital­ian soave mean­ing soft, and voce mean­ing voice — the in­ten­tion be­ing to de­liver that

same Nat­u­ral Sound that the early de­sign­ers had been seek­ing. With their lines con­cep­tu­alised by the ar­ti­san­ship of renowned in­dus­trial de­signer Toshiyuki Kita, and cabi­net fin­ishes that lever­aged the com­pany’s mu­si­cal in­stru­ment divi­sion’s ex­per­tise (if you want a real piano gloss, ask a piano maker), Yamaha in­cluded its lat­est driver tech­nolo­gies, with ex­clu­sive Ad­vanced PMD di­aphragm woofers and midrange, and an alu­minium-dome tweeter with a DC-Di­aphragm that in­te­grated the di­aphragm and voice coil. To­gether with a re­turn to clas­sic hi-fi sep­a­rates that harked back to the orig­i­nal 1000 and 2000 lines of the 1970s, Yamaha started re­build­ing its stereo au­di­ence.

At the same time, it was hit­ting new re­ceiver heights. The RX-Z11 in 2007 was a

Sound+Im­age cover star — “Yamaha’s Su­per-Re­ceiver”, we gushed (see be­low), “with power, pas­sion and PC in­ter­fac­ing”. It was, in a way, the her­ald of the Aven­t­age series of AV re­ceivers which were to be­gin their as­sault on the re­ceiver mar­ket from the fol­low­ing year, go­ing on to win ev­ery top Sound+Im­age AV re­ceiver award since their ar­rival.

Yamaha was also quick to re­alise the po­ten­tial of the new world of file-based play­back, from com­puter but also from the iPod and the iPhone. In 2010 it ex­hib­ited in the “iZone” of IFA in Ber­lin, re­veal­ing a lit­tle clas­sic in the com­pact TSX-70, avail­able to en­joy in three dif­fer­ent colours, com­plete with gen­tly ramp­ing ‘In­tel­lialarm’ to wake you softly in the morn­ing.

By then many com­pa­nies were eye­ing the Sonos wire­less mul­ti­room plat­form as an in­di­ca­tor of the fu­ture, but Yamaha had its own take on the idea, launch­ing the Mu­sicCAST plat­form as early as 2003. This lived qui­etly through two gen­er­a­tions be­fore the com­pany made care­ful plans for its third ver­sion of the tech­nol­ogy, plan­ning to in­cor­po­rate it not just into a small ecosys­tem of speak­ers, but into as many of Yamaha’s home prod­ucts as pos­si­ble.

And so it has been, with Mu­sicCast re-de­but­ing in a wide col­lec­tion of prod­ucts from Au­gust 2015, since when it has kept grow­ing. The sys­tem it­self went on to win our Sound+Im­age Mul­ti­room Sys­tem of the Year for both 2016 and 2017, along with var­i­ous prod­uct awards, no­tably to the ex­cel­lent NX-N500 wire­less ac­tive speak­ers.

There is one ob­vi­ous prod­uct on which to close Yamaha’s his­tory so far — the NS-5000 speak­ers (pic­tured left). Still car­ry­ing that ‘NS’ model pre­fix, they an­swered the Yamaha au­dio divi­sion’s long-held wish to re­visit the el­e­ments that made the NS-1000 and its pro ver­sion such a suc­cess. The new NS-5000 does not fea­ture beryl­lium, but Yamaha claims to have matched, pos­si­bly gone be­yond this awk­ward el­e­ment in “adopt­ing a new de­vel­op­ment di­aphragm with a speed of sound com­pa­ra­ble to beryl­lium in all units” — the Ja­panese-de­vel­oped ar­ti­fi­cial fi­bre called ‘Zy­lon’. The tech­nol­ogy, im­ple­men­ta­tion and fin­ish are all im­pec­ca­ble, but as vis­i­tors to the last two Aus­tralian Hi-Fi & Au­dio Shows may have heard, all such con­sid­er­a­tions melt away un­der the pow­er­ful yet re­fined per­for­mance of the NS-5000s — the new archetype of that long-held Yamaha goal of ‘Nat­u­ral Sound’.

ABOVE: Yamaha’s early lead­er­ship in sur­round sound led to a series of award-win­ning re­ceivers, cul­mi­nat­ing in the Aven­t­age Series.

LEFT: The Soavo series of speak­ers, re­leased in 2006, con­tin­ued the com­pany’s achieve­ments in de­liv­er­ing ‘Nat­u­ral Sound’.

RIGHT: Mu­sicCast as we now know it launched in 2013, though Yamaha had a pre­vi­ous Mu­sicCAST plat­form on the mar­ket a decade ear­lier.

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