‘Frame’ ISX-80


Yamaha’s ‘Frame’ is well-named visually if not practicall­y — the only thing ‘framed’ here is the odd central display dominated by the weird vertical time read-out. You can, however, like a frame, hang it on the wall, as it’s only 6.5cm deep, while it’s 30cm square (almost exactly the height of of your Sound+Image magazine), with a very nice cloth grille around the central display and concealed twin 3cm soft-dome tweeters and a pair of 8cm woofers. So proper stereo from the ISX-80, if minimally separated.

Since it’s a wireless unit, you don’t need to run signal connection­s, though it will, of course, need a mains socket for its removable power cable. That connects to the left side, where there is also an auxiliary minijack input, and if you plan to use its FM abilities, you’ll need to connect an antenna (a string-type is supplied) to its right side.

To use it on a tabletop, as did we, you attach a single steel tube to the back in the manner of some real picture frames — it’s a highly effective and elegant support solution. It seems quite large on a bedside table, but it can go behind stuff — you won’t need to touch it much given the larger than usual small remote (with good button layout), and of course those huge LED time segments.

We can certainly recommend its performanc­e. It’s no hi-fi — it has little of the sonic purity and magic dealt by the N500s. The treble and midrange are a little softened, bass a bit slow (clarified a little by using the app’s three-band EQ to dial down the bass about 20%), and spoken word was just slightly boxy and thinned. But it’s entirely pleasant, it opens up a size beyond the relative compact sound of the WX-030, and music rolls forth with warmth and clarity, and plenty of level for even a large bedroom.

As with all MusicCast devices, the MusicCast app allows the IX-080 to enjoy wireless access to streaming sources and networked music shares. You can also share the analogue minijack input with other MusicCast devices, and also the FM radio, useful given most MusicCast units don’t include FM.

It also has both alarms and sleep functions — interestin­gly you can set the sleep going from the app but for the alarms you seem to have to do it the old-fashioned way, using the buttons on the top (which could be tricky if you’ve wallmounte­d it at mirror height) or the remote (for which you’ll need the manual to work out which buttons are used to set the alarm type, source and volume).

As with the N500 speakers you can use the six presets on the remote (and more in the app) to store favourite network shares, Pandora or internet radio stations, and here FM as well, which can, as with everything else, be slaved off to additional MusicCast players, a through-home FM source.

So sonically yes, you could get larger wider brighter sound at this price. But not in this form — hung on the wall out of the way, with Bluetooth, AirPlay, and all the sources available to every MusicCast player on your network.

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