Yamaha WX-030 Wireless Speaker Review by mark2410
Thanks to Yamaha UK for the sample.
TLDR? Try here http://www.head-fi.org/t/820290/yamaha-wx-030-wireless-speaker-review-by-mark2410#post_12865038
First Impressions: Getting it out of the outer box, the first thing that strikes me is that its own box is rather small, though its rather heavy. They have either added lead to it or it’s got some beefy magnets and heatsinks in it. Having already played about with the S601 I’ve encountered the set up and such already so I can’t exactly judge its ease as I know exactly what to do. Soo I decided that I would hand it to my parents for a couple of weeks, no instructions given other than was in the box. The feedback I was given was that it was super easy even if they were totally confused by the idea of connecting to the thing by Wi-Fi. Bluetooth they have encountered before and they get it, they seemed to think that this whole Wi-Fi thing was crazy. On being told they could have several and all control them all once seemed a little mind blowing. They expected such a thing to be horribly expensive, horrible complicated and it too a little while to convince them that they had done it. So while I’m not saying that even the most technophobic people could set it up, you basically must have a smart phone for one. For me this confirmed that it was easy to figure out.
Listening to the thing on first go and good god it wants to punch out a little bassline doesn’t it. Whoa Yamaha, chill. That is a goodly heap of upper end bass it wants to punch you with. Ohhh kay that may need to mellow a bit or that’s going to get irksome. Mids though are really quite nice, hmm this may need an EQ’ing.
Source: Phones via MusicCast and Itunes via Airplay.
Setup: So once you know you must use the MusicCast app it’s basically idiot proof. Very, very easy to set up and configure. Seriously you just do what the app tells you and its super simple, quick too. There really isn’t that much more I can say about it. I mean the only other thing is that you can either plug into it and Ethernet cable for data or use Wi-Fi, really though I’d expect almost all users to use Wi-Fi.
Inputs: Physically, you have just power and ethernet. Streaming wise you have Bluetooth, or using data and using data you get access to DLNA, Airplay and of course MusicCast. All worked perfectly every time, no random pausing or glitching that needed a reboot. The consistency with which it managed to work every single time was most pleasing, I mean that’s how it should be right but things in life aren’t always as billed. The only tiny little thing is I would have like to have seen 5GHz Wi-Fi. No biggie not to but sure adding an extra wire antenna would have been what, a penny or two at most?
Outputs: You may be thinking eh? Outputs? I know I was. Now for some reason they have enabled Bluetooth transmission out from these and they say for some Bluetooth headphones or a Bluetooth speaker. Okay the headphones I sorta, kinda get but Bluetooth speaker? Really?!?!?! Either way I guess the idea is the kids have one (or two) of these in their room and if they want they can use headphones with them I guess. Though I don’t know why they would just pair them directly to their phone…… so err yeah.
Controls: Depending on what you’re inputting you can control everything with the MusicCast app on your phone. It is both clear and easy to use. One thing of note is that it is very responsive, I always found the app ta be really snappy in its response times. I would have not minded the option of a little on/off volume up or down IR remote control but oh well. The controls as is are very simple and work well.
Aesthetics: Well colour wise it comes either black or this white with silvery bits and hmm, white. I think I’d maybe like black more. I dunno the white just seemed to be almost melt away into the background in its presence. It would just blend and un attention grabbing you visually began to mentally tune it out. It was just there and I would instantly stop noticing it. So a good a bad thing I don’t know but it certainly was inoffensive. I do like its shape however, I couldn’t put my finger on why but I do.
MusicCast. Yamaha’s proprietary home networking acoustic do hicky. Actually that is doing it a bit of a disservice. The system is in fact really impressive in its polish and versatility. It can basically do everything Sonos does but at a sliver of the price. Not to mention Yamaha have thrown it into a wider range of products but it is similar in functionality and in that it is a one company only thing. Granted I have much more confidence and respect for Yamahas audio chops than I do of that of Sonos. However the crux of the matter is Airplay. While Airplay isn’t as varied in functionality it gets the main bits and it has greater cross company compatibility. The system itself is very good, stable, reliably consistent and offers you a myriad of possibilities. One that I would have really liked to test is the ability to take two WX-030’s and turn them into a left/right stereo pair. I really, really wish they had sent me two to try that out.
Sound Quality: Good. For something this diminutive they have clearly set out to get the bass capable of thumping a bass line. My father was hugely impressed by its ability to really thump, my nephew too apparently so I think it’s safe to say a mainstream audience will be pleased with its performance. The detail levels on it I felt were a little middling but I place part of that down to a rather timid treble abundance. Now I’m happy with that as the smaller the speaker the more inclined it is to acting like a tweeter and hurling energy around up top. The 030 doesn’t do that at all, in fact its rather tame up top. That aids in making its detail retrieval not the most obvious.
Tonally the speaker is of a rather smooth, genteel tone. That traditional Yamaha sound that is ever so easy on the ear. For the most part that is the case. Then we come to the bass.
Lows: The drivers at work here are not big. The “Woofer” is apparently 9cm so that’s 3.5 inch. Instantly there is going to be an awareness that it cannot possibly produce a smooth linear descent. So what they have done is bunch up a big old hump of bass in the middling to upper bass ranges. Not entirely spilling in the mid/bass cusp but there is an elevation there still. The lows that are present are inclined to aim for a full bodied impact. Not too hard but hard enough and a good level of follow through. It is trying, it is trying hard and with two of them working in concert with each other…. That could be nice. As it stand it is what it is. A standalone wireless speaker that can give you an admirably solid output for what it is.
Mids: Arguably it’s in the mids where these do best. The have a faintly creamy thickness and I found very mid centric tracks to be particularly pleasing. I felt there here is where it begins to show its heritage a bit. It’s a quality audio product it’s not some Beat’s esq thumpy fart cannon who’s only priorities are bass and going stupid loud. There is a little dash of warmth to vocals and a politeness. Honestly I wish they had pushed the mids more forward and really let them shine though I think they feared doing so would have them substantially out shining the bass and thus has been curtailed. Orchestral works where you can focus on the mids and crank the volume are rather pleasing.
Highs: Surprisingly muted. You can EQ up the quantity if you wish and you might just want to. small speakers are inclined to be treble monsters so Yamaha have clearly dialled it down so that it doesn’t instantly sound like a lightweight, treble happy speaker. They wanted it to sound hearty and full bodied, which is does. However they have really tamed the treble that I actually thought about maybe EQ’ing it up a touch. Yeah me, wanting more treble from something. The quality is rather decent too so I’m really not sure quite why its dialled down so much but hey you can EQ relative abundance up or down so long as the underlying capability is there. Which it is.
Balance wise this a little bit inverted V there is a clear hump in the bass but then the mids and treble decline as does the deep bass. You get therefore a warm, rather thick sound signature. It’s hearty and full and clearly is intended to sound like its not coming from a small little mono speaker. I cannot help but feel saddened that Yamaha haven’t let its mids and treble run ahead and to be their best. They don’t want the bass getting left behind but I’d be happy for it to be.
Soundstaging: Where is no escaping that it’s a single speaker, no stereo separation here. (However you can by a second one and configure them to act as a stereo pair.) In terms of scale, these do sound more convincingly bigger than they are. This is more apparent too when you begin to crank the volume dial. While it might not fill the biggest rooms it’ll have no trouble filling most. Just don’t get too close or that lack of stereo separation becomes more readily apparent.
Volume and Power: yeah you can make this neighbour annoyingly loud. As port of this I started to turn it up, louder than I would choose to use but I couldn’t get it maxed. This dinky thing can get stupidly stupid loud. Frankly it goes waaaaaay too loud. Seriously Yamaha do you think anyone is ever going to play it that loud???? Jesus Christ you can make it loud. What’s so frustrating about this is that it’s clearly interned to be stupid loud as its actually at its best acoustically when you’re playing it rather loud. Sufficiently loud that it makes me a little uncomfortable. Seriously, I can feel my desk vibrating. To really let this thing go wild I feel like I’d have to be in a soundproofed room in a detached building. Honestly Yamaha, oh my god why so loud????
Dynamics: It is capable but its dynamics sadly feel a touch compressed. When you begin to dial up the volume it begins to come into its own stride and the dynamics really open up. However at more polite levels of volume it’s a little restrained. So I kept wanting to push it a little more, then felt it was getting too loud and would turn it back down. The little drivers can roar but they need power to be at their best.
Controls: The buttons on the top are pretty basic. Power, volume down / up and play/pause. These then feedback to whatever your source is. (For me most of the time Itunes over Airplay.) They are very straightforward.
Value: This is now going for £150 in the UK or for US$250 in Americaland. So it’s not an especially cheap speaker of this kind. It is undercutting its core competition as I see it, the Sonos 1 and the B&W Z2. They both beat the Sonos but this and the Z2, hmm they both sound good but with the Z2 you get the Jesus phone dock but you don’t get Musicast and all that it brings with it. Not to mention that you can then buy another of these later and create a stereo pair. It’s easily got vastly more flexibility. Acoustically I’m not so sure there is a huge amount in it, as they both perform capably. I would expect that anyone opting for the WX-030 would be pleased with its performance for its price but the fact is one of its key selling points and most desirable functionality only comes into its own if you buy several items and kit your whole home out in MusicCast stuff.
Conclusion: I like the little WX-030. I do, I still wish it had a more human type name but it’s an impressive little thing. Little in size anyway but it hase a goodly significant output. Actually if anything its volume proclivities are incline to go to stupid levels. Seriously Yamaha, is the max volume of this just to frighten people when they demo it in John Lewis? Hmm curiously why do John Lewis only sell it in a bundle with other MusicCast things? Is it to force the showing off of MusicCast? Anyway, that volume level is just horrific, surely no one’s ever going to use it that loud. Due in part to that I got the impression that this is at its most happy and indeed best when its playing at significant volume. A quiet little speaker for back ground music, err no.
With my volume reservations put aside you can have a lot of fun with this thing. Its keenly priced for all the functionality that it can provide. The MusicCast stuff is really flexible and works great. I mean the Bluetooth as an output is weird but hey. The rest of it offers a great deal, on its own however that is mostly potential. The a fore mentioned ability to make two of these stereo pair for example, the range of items too that they sell with MusicCast is far in excess of the handful Sonos have. You really could fill your home with compatible products and not feel over as though you have had to compromise in only choosing Yamaha. Plus you know, it sounds pretty decent.
So would I / should you buy one? Me, hmm maybe. The thing is the only room I’d want something like this, as is I don’t have an independent set up already is the bathroom but frankly in quality this is waaaaaay overkill. For the bathroom I’d rather some 50 quid thing that the humid environment can take its toll on and I won’t mind when it dies. This is a more quality item. Its maybe for a kitchen or a bedroom, or a series of bedrooms, a handful of these would be so great for house parties. Having the same music playing though out the whole house, from kitchen to living room, from the patio to the upstairs bedrooms. Super clever and easy to control. Sound wise I’d wish it let the mid and treble shine more over the bassy hump but I guess that’s what the masses want. Still it’s a rather capable little thing that can remain composed when reaching ear splitting levels. Very versatile and very entertaining.