PLEASE NOTE: This article has been archived. It first appeared on ProRec.com in October 2000, contributed by then Senior Editor Garry Simmons. We will not be making any updates to the article. Please visit the home page for our latest content. Thank you!
Yamaha has long been associated with studio monitors. Love ’em or hate ’em, the ubiquitous Yamaha NS10s grace the meter bridge of many a studio, great and small. With the introduction of the all-new MSP10 powered monitor and the SW10 powered subwoofer, Yamaha staking a claim in the ever-popular (and increasingly crowded) powered near-field market. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pair of MSP10s as well as the new SW10 subwoofer.
The MSP10s are two-way powered monitors. The 8″ woofer is driven by a 120-watt amplifier. The 1″ titanium tweeter is driven by a 65-watt amplifier. The bass reflex cabinet measures roughly 10.5×16.5×13 and weighs in at a hefty 44 pounds. The MSP10 lists for $749. The MSP10M features a sexy maple finish and lists for $799.
The rear of the MSP10 contains the power switch, the XLR input jack, a sensitivity knob, an 80Hz low cut filter and a pair of switches to tailor the high and low frequencies. Oddly, the labels on the frequency switches don’t match the dB reductions they provide. The Low switch provides a –1.5 dB change at 50Hz in the “-1” position and a –3.0dB reduction at 50Hz in the “-2” position. The High switch provides a 1.5dB boost or cut at 10KHz in the +1 and –1 positions respectively. The AC power cord is hard-wired to the speaker.
The frequency response specs for the MSP10s indicate that they start to roll off at 60 Hz and are about 10dB down at 40Hz. The frequency response looks reasonably flat out to 20K. Although not as flat beyond 20kHz, the frequency response goes out to 40kHz. I don’t have any fancy test gear aside from the two things on either side of my head, but my ears tell me the same thing the published specs do.
The SW10 is a powered subwoofer featuring a 10″ woofer powered by a 180W amplifier. The cabinet is a bass reflex design with a single port measuring roughly 13″x18″x19″. The SW10 weighs in at 57 pounds and lists for $849. The SW10 comes in black only (no sign of a Maple version).
The rear of the SW10 has a control panel featuring three XLR inputs, three XLR outputs (pass through), a phase reverse switch, a crossover frequency knob, and a volume knob. The power switch and hard-wired power cord are also located on the back.
Setting up the MSP10s was pretty much a no-brainer. Since the MSP10s only have an XLR input, I had to change the cabling between my mixer and the monitors (from RTS to XLR). The lack of an unbalanced, ¼” input isn’t going to bother most people, but it’s worth noting for the home studio guys that run a wild mix of balanced and unbalanced gear.
After listening to the MSP10s by themselves for a while, I decided to hook up the SW10 subwoofer. I ran the stereo output of my mixer to two of the SW10 inputs, then ran the corresponding SW10 outputs to the MSP10 inputs. Since the SW10 outputs are wired to the inputs, the MSP10s are still getting a full-range signal (i.e. the SW10 crossover isn’t removing any lows from the signal feeding the MSP10s).
Tweaking the SW10 controls took a bit of listening time. My goal was to get the SW10 to seamlessly fill in the bottom where the MSP10s naturally rolled off. That way, I could listen with, or without, the subwoofer by simply turning it on or off. I ended up with the crossover set midway between the 80Hz and 40Hz marks. I’m guessing that was around 65Hz. I played with the subwoofer volume and eventually settled on the midpoint (there’s a detent there), although it spent quite a bit of time just under that midpoint as well.
The first thing I listened to was a solo album I recently finished for an old bandmate. I knew these mixes inside and out (warts and all). My first impression of the MSP10s (by themselves) was that they were a little brighter than my Mackie 824s and didn’t go quite as deep. The vocals sat in the mix differently and the rockers didn’t kick quite as hard on the bottom end.
All monitors have a “personality”. You always have to adjust your ears a bit to how any given pair of monitors sounds in your control room. After many hours of use (and A/B’ing with the 824s), I’m of the opinion that the Yamaha’s have a crisp, detailed sound and the Mackies, by comparison, are somewhat warmer/softer. I still think the 824s get down to 40Hz with more authority, but am not sure they are as flat on the way down. Of course, small room acoustics and monitor placement play a big role in how things sound below 100 Hz, so your mileage may vary.
The MSP10s are very easy to listen to. I had no problems with ear fatigue after hours of steady use. I tend to monitor at moderate volumes, but the MSP10s are very capable of moving some air when cranked up.
I’m not going claim a preference between the Mackies and the Yamahas. They both sound very good, but have somewhat different personalities. Some source material brings out the differences more other material. I would be perfectly happy using the MSP10s in lieu of the 824s, but am not inclined to spend money to switch. If you are in the market to move up to powered monitors in the $1500/pair range, you should definitely make a trip to your Yamaha Pro Audio dealer and check the MSP10s out.
Things got more interesting once I added the SW10 subwoofer to the rig. I like bass. Not flabby, loose bass, but tight, deep bass. I want to hear and feel the low E on a bass (or low B on my 5-string bass). I want to feel the thump of the kick. Once I got the SW10 dialed in with the MSP10s, I was a VERY happy camper. The MSP10s sounded like a much larger system. The sub wasn’t loud enough to make you notice it separately. It just seamlessly extended the bottom end of the MSP10s. Exactly what I was looking for… It was a sad day when I had to pack the system up to send back to Yamaha.
There really isn’t much to complain about. I would have preferred removable power cords and the flexibility of having ¼” inputs. I like the front-mounted power switch and the downward facing connectors on the Mackies and wish Yamaha had taken a similar approach. These are really minor issues, but even the little stuff matters sometimes.
Bottom Line: The MSP10s are very worthy a contender for your powered-monitor dollar. Crisp, detailed sound. Easy to listen to. Affordable. What’s not to like? Add the SW10 sub to the MSP10s and you’ve got a great sounding, full-range monitoring system.