More MusicCast, here in a real hi-fi unit which delivers real hi-fi streaming sound.
While the streamers in our round-up so far have all been small little boxes aiming to add these abilities with a hideaway unit of minimal aesthetic impact, here we have a proper hi-fi sized source, and we reckon a bargain at $699 for a versatile streamer together with AirPlay and Bluetooth. As with the smaller Yamaha WXAD-10 on page 44, it harnesses all the abilities of Yamaha’s MusicCast multiroom platform, which means easy paid access to Spotify Connect, Tidal and Deezer, plus network streaming at up to high-res 24-bit/192kHz.
Where this NP-S303 scores over the smaller unit is not only in terms of build quality and rack presence, but also in the provision of digital outputs and in the quality of its analogue circuits, which Yamaha has stocked here with high quality components and separated physically from the digital section to suppress potential noise.
Despite having the full hi-fi width available, Yamaha hasn’t used the rear-panel space (below) to offer additional physical inputs; the smaller HEOS Link in the previous review is far better equipped in that regard. The only connection here aside from Ethernet (Wi-Fi networking is also available, of course) is a USB-A slot on the front, to which can be attached a stick or drive of files which can then be navigated either via the HEOS app or via the front-panel display and the supplied remote control (the first of these units to offer a dedicated physical remote as well as app control). Needless to say the app is a little easier in this regard than reading things line-by-line on the front (there’s nowt quite so ‘20th century’ as watching scrolling text on an LCD display). But both ways work, and the file support is the same as for network streaming from a PC or NAS drive of shared files, with support for MP3, WMA and AAC files, plus Apple Lossless to 24-bit/96kHz, PCM, WAV and AIFF to 24-bit/192kHz, and DSD at 2.8 or 5.6MHz. And for anything you can’t achieve within the excellent MusicCast app, the combination of Bluetooth and AirPlay means that any app content from iOS or Android devices can easily be streamed to the system.
This unit performed to hi-fi levels given high-quality streaming files or the better streaming services: for example Tidal, though MQA support is not yet included. (With Qobuz arriving here, we await to see which platforms incorporate it.) So the NP-S303 plugs this world of music into any existing audio system, and can also receive from and play with any other MusicCast products in the home. This is a sleek but impressive unit that looks and sounds like proper hi-fi.