Connected Audio PROFILE: YAMAHA

September 2019

We are family L 28

Simon Feben-Harknett introduces the latest members of Yamaha’s growing family of MusicCast connected speakers.

ast year, Yamaha launched a number of new

products in its MusicCast collection , including the MusicCast 20 and MusicCast 50 streaming speakers. Small in size but big in sound, the 20 features four speakers – one tweeter, one mid/bass driver and two passive radiators. The 50 adopts a stereo configuration within a single cabinet and allows for a deep and full sonic presentation.

Both speakers can add to the customer’s home network to play music all around; they support voice control via an Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home Mini and they can be used as wireless surround speakers with compatible soundbars and AVRs; stereo setup with a subwoofer can also be configured to make the sound even bigger. In addition, there’s the MusicCast VINYL 500, the world’s first network streaming turntable. A bespoke MusicCast streamer on board supports streaming services, internet radio, Bluetooth and Airplay. Says Simon Feben-Harknett, AV Product Specialist at Yamaha: “It’s something we’re very proud of and we’re leading the way; there are many turntables that can stream out via Bluetooth, but the 500 actually sits on the customer’s Wi-Fi network linking to other rooms, which provides higher quality audio.” Finally, the MusicCast BAR 40, with Yamaha’s own DSP sound modes or DTS Virtual: X, is equipped with a Dolby Vision compliant HDMI

MusicCast BAR 40 Right: MusicCast 50

input that means that UHD sources are supported. He continues: “We’re finding that soundbar demand is a lot higher today and we’re seeing a shift from particularly lower price point surround sound amps and interest is transferring to soundbars. “Consumers want a simpler setup; they may not have the space for AV surround amps. For example, a soundbar can fit nicely on top of a TV unit no problem. So even though sound quality is a high priority, a lot of this is about convenience.”

The growth of voice When talking about the growing use of voice assistants, Mr Feben-Harknett believes this adds another level of convenience to today’s speakers. “Our inclusion of Amazon Alexa and Google Home within MusicCast is really just the beginning; there’s space and room for us to grow and to make this service even slicker. There are mixed feelings from customers about voice control – some love it, some find it invasive – but there’s no doubt that this will grow immensely within the next few years.” As more and more devices today become wireless or voice compatible, whole-home solutions are also increasing in popularity and Mr Feben-Harknett maintains that Yamaha MusicCast was the original

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multi-room system that hit the market before any other competitor products were introduced. He says that any product that makes it easier to listen to music automatically boosts interest. “If you take a hi-fi customer and a streaming speaker customer, although they both enjoy music, they often value different things,” he adds. “With the MusicCast 20 and 50 speakers, customers can listen to a far wider range of music genres from varying sources, versus a hi-fi system; these little speakers want to make you enjoy music and they don’t take themselves quite as seriously. But with that, you can play whatever you want and it just sounds right.”

Streaming ahead “Streaming speakers and connected audio is making it easier for the customer to listen to music, and any device that supports streaming services in particular is boosting popularity as well. “One thing that we’re keen to shout about is our number of multi-room connected audio products; we have over 45 MusicCast devices. From speakers and soundbars to surround sound amps and hi- fi receivers, they all link and work together. The choice that we can offer is huge.” Looking ahead, Mr Feben-Harknett confirmed

Yamaha’s MusicCast 20 Right: The MusicCast Vinyl 500

that Yamaha will be building on the MusicCast family with “a number of products in the pipeline”. “We’re also changing the way we communicate with and inform our retailers and customers,” he says. “Part of my job is training and we’re currently looking at digitising our training so it’s more easily accessible to a far greater number of dealers. From a training aspect, we are trying to develop this and make it easier for our dealer base to aid the understanding of our products.”

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