A set of rinky, dinky amplifiers from Yamaha offer sufficient facilities for a tiny footprint chassis, including MusicCast. Paul Rigby reviews the WXC-50 pre-amplifier and the WXA-50 integrated amplifier
Both these amplifiers get to an almost identical chassis, giving the pair a definite ‘family’ resemblance which will allow both to easily match a full time income room environment. Both arrive with MusicCast Wi-Fi streaming as standard and have a 48bit digital volume control. Both can be mounted vertically to help expand minimise the entire footprint. In addition they support AirPlay and, where available, Spotify, Napster, Sirius XM, Juke and Pandora together with DSD 5.6MHz and FLAC/WAV/ AIFF 24bit/192kHz. Finally, they both span 215 x 51.5 x 245.9mm.
The first of both amp boxes, the WXC-50 pre-amplifier. Also you can switch off the Pre-amp mode and utilize the device as a straightforward network audio tracks player. This box weighs 1.44kg. The 70W WXA-50 weighs about 1.94kg. Browse the accompanying images to visit a rundown of controls, sockets et al. The aerial may be the home of the screw-in, multi-position, Wi-Fi aerial.
To play the USB stick of digital files, I made a decision to download and install the associated and in-house developed MusicCast iphone app on my iPhone 6S. USB file control was a whole lot friendlier via the iphone app than punching buttons on a chassis and longing for the very best. Download and software installation was easy however the final set-up was overly difficult. It took me around 20 minutes when it certainly must have taken me, what, three?
MusicCast isn’t a Bluetooth system but utilises a Wi-Fi connection. To set up it, you press the Connect button on leading of either chassis for five seconds before adjacent connection light flashes. You then open the iphone app itself and follow the onscreen prompts that involves bouncing between it and the phone’s Wi-Fi Settings screen. For the reason that Settings screen, you await the MusicCast substitute for appear among the choices within the available local Wi-Fi connections list. Well it did, eventually. Nothing was seen until my third try but I finally linked with out a problem once it came out.
Back to the iphone app but my trial had not been yet over. The software didn’t complete the install sequence another 3 x but I acquired there at the fourth attempt. Why these issues occurred can only just be conjecture. Was it right down to my phone? Was it Yamaha’s fault? Was it something regarding my Wi-Fi signal? Was it another thing? I could only say that no other, non-Yamaha, device had issues in my own listening room or somewhere else in the building at the moment.
Nevertheless, once linked and installed, the software worked flawlessly. It showed the song title, sleeve art (not for WAV rips though), CD-type music controls plus EQ controls. My only gripe is that I’d have like to have observed a report on the grade of the file type being played. For instance, when playing the jazz piece, St. Thomas from Sonny Rollins, that is a 24bit/96kHz file but these details was never revealed by the app. I wish I possibly could have observed that information on the iphone app screen. I don’t mind the approach to life facade that Yamaha is wanting to promote here. I could even live with the irritatingly Apple-like paternalistic ‘we’ve-decided-that-you-don’t-need-the-information-so-we-won’t-give-it-to-you’, non-techie method of the application nonetheless it could have been nice to have found the said figures buried somewhere, for many who really want it.
I commenced the sound tests playing a the CD version of Earth, Wind & Fire’s Let’s Groove. This group was a busy outfit on stage and of their arrangements. There is enough going on here and it requires quite an amplifier to sort everything out. Even behind the conglomeration of the principle voices and instruments, there are a lot of subtle and tiny effects that pop-up here and there.
Perhaps you have ever seen those word association tests that psychologists use to diagnose the state of mind of an individual? You say ‘good’, I say bad. You say ‘black’, I say ‘white’, you say ‘The Himalayas’, I say ‘Marilyn Monroe’. You understand the type of thing. Well, in the event that you said, ‘bass’, I’d say ‘Yamaha’. Such may be the company’s reputation and concentrated effort to effect a minimal frequency-based personality. If any knows how exactly to ‘do’ bass, Yamaha’s yer man.
Through the WXA-50, I was most impressed by that signature Yamaha bass. Impressed, not because there is a whole lot if it – there is – but as a result of the way the bass power was integrated within the soundstage. The number of focus positioned after the bass gave it a sharp, short, ‘bam!’ of an arrival. The punch was in then out in a jiffy, giving the bass a significant transient speed and response that provided drive to the complete track. The tightness of the bass was allied to its careful positioning in the soundstage. There is no hint of blooming or any risk of it infecting the midrange. This meant that secondary percussion, such as for example wooden block strikes, on the track My Love from the same group, where not merely recognisable but also integrated their own reverb tails. Any bass smearing at all could have veiled such delicacies.
Midrange was incisive, for the purchase price, digging out all those little sound files that I mentioned previously, allowing the ear to get them out without an excessive amount of trouble. Yes, there is hook spotlight shining on the upper mids during vocal crescendos but mainly at high volumes. It wasn’t a huge problem, though. Generally, I enjoyed the tremendous clarity that the midrange afforded and, for the purchase price, the detail that it presented.
Embracing Sonny Rollins and his track, St. Thomas running via the USB port from a USB stick at 24bit/96kHz and handled via the MusicCast app, I was impressed by the midrange insight that, for the purchase price, provided space and air for the complex percussive sequences upon this track. Drums were punchy but also characterful, tracking the complexity of different drums well while cymbals strikes were relatively fragile, even though slight spotlight giving the treble a tad of stridency at high volumes. Again, though, I saw this effect mostly at higher volumes and taking into consideration the price tag it had been not really a great problem.
Finally, I considered Bluetooth and Marvin Gaye’s Mercy Mercy Me played as a MP3. Yamaha has implemented MP3 streaming well and the processing produced a nice and, considering the low quality of the inherent file type, relatively sweet presentation that never grated or hurt the ears. Vocals were comparatively well rounded, preventing the thin and edgy sound from other, less well realised, hardware.
Next up was the preamp, the WXC-50. Because of this test, I considered ‘old technology’ and a couple of Class A power mono blocks. The tiny in stature but wholly meaty Valvet Classe-A Mono-amps A1r, to be precise. I’ve always enjoyed their open-ended and focused output plus they have already been used when shelf space has been lacking. As such, they pair up perfectly with the similarly low footprint WXC-50. Starting up is not hard with the A1r mono blocks sliding in to the Pre Out sockets guiding the Yamaha chassis.
The reason behind connecting the A1r blocks was showing that the Yamaha can hook up to older hardware or hardware without modern connective facilities. The very thought of using the A1rs with a USB source and within a streaming set-up was an intriguing one.
I commenced with a slightly more traditional source, CD and back again to Earth, Wind & Fire. The blend of the dynamic and high energy track, Let’s Groove, the bass rich Yamaha and the punchy A1r produced the type of low end that may punch through brick walls and continue going beyond Godzilla in a bad mood. That, of course, is another benefit for the Yamaha preamp, you can tailor its musical personality, according to what you hook up to it. Yes, that slightly strident edge to the software mids was evident at higher volumes and during crescendos but, once again, at normal volumes it had been no great concern.
In most cases, mids were insightful, detailed and with a slightly clinical edge that enabled the WXC-50 to dig deep in to the mix to extract even the most subtle and shy of effects that often resided within the complex arrangement of the song. Solid state fans will adore the sound from the Yamaha, that could easily turn into a dictator of a little, wayward country, such may be the way of measuring strength, power no compromise approach it must sound.
Embracing the USB port and Sonny Rollin’s higher resolution source via St. Thomas, the Yamaha successfully fed a comparatively open and spacious signal, for the purchase price, to the monoblocks. The effect combined a lively yet detailed output that was packed with texture and character, especially from the Rollins saxophone as the percussion produced a musical and dynamic presentation, filled with energy and motive power. Piano was just a little strident sometimes but that was of understandable at this price. The piano should be the most challenging of instruments to regulate for just about any budget component and the Yamaha made an excellent fist of the chaotic and disorderly frequencies from it.
Finally, taking good thing about MusicCast and streaming Marvin Gaye’s Mercy Mercy Me from iPhone 6S I was once more impressed as to the way the Yamaha delivered the reduced quality MP3 to the ear. That’s, in a comparatively mature, dignified and listenable manner. Tonal balance was very good for a MP3 while Gaye’s delivery was smooth and easy on the ear.
Both units offer an attractively small footprint that bodes well, obviously, should you be bereft of desk and shelf space. The tiny integrated amp offers sufficient connections to gratify most music fans. This little amp offers a major sound: powerful and detailed for the reduced price it demands. Excellent value.
The preamp, meanwhile offers a goodly collection of features that’s ideal to upgrade olde