REVIEW: Yamaha NS-NSW100 MusicCast – No more wires

A subwoofer untethered by wires has been a long-standing dream. Yamaha’s NS-NSW100 MusicCast offers just that, albeit only in the company of compatible MusicCast devices. And it works a treat.

By Deon Schoeman

Subwoofers play a pivotal role in home theatre systems, delivering the low-frequency sounds usually associated with effects: explosions, fly-pasts, cannon fire, etc. It’s what adds foundation, authority and an almost tactile realism to movie soundtracks.

Subwoofers can also bring low-frequency weight to stereo systems with smaller, limited-bandwidth speakers. Theoretically, low frequencies are not perceived as directional, so a single sub can be added without messing up stereo imaging.

The problem is that subwoofers can be difficult to place. Many of them are quite large, and not that easy to conceal. But their interaction with the room also has to be kept in mind when positioning a sub: poor placement can lead to too much bass or blurred imaging.

AT FACE VALUE

The Yamaha NS-NSW100 MusicCast is not the most versatile of subwoofers as far as configurability is concerned. It’s also meant to be used in conjunction with compatible MusicCast devices to show off its best. But it is wireless – and that’s a huge pluspoint.

Because it’s wireless, it can be positioned much more freely – as long as there is an AC plug point close by. And you don’t need a long and unwieldy cable run to hook it up to your AV receiver.

Being part of the MusicCast family also means it can be used with the kind of devices usually hard to pair up with subs – Yamaha’s small but talented MusicCast wireless speakers come to mind – and it will work a treat with compatible soundbars, too.

That’s in addition to Yamaha’s burgeoning range of MusicCast-compatible AV receivers. And the real beauty is that the sub is automatically set up to operate with the specific device it’s been paired with: so, no fiddling with crossover points and volume.

Yes, you can hook up this Yamaha to a non-MusicCast soundbar or receiver, of course. But since it doesn’t offer a manual high-pass filter adjustment, getting the sub to integrate effectively won’t be easy.

My advice would be to go for a more conventional sub offering those controls if you’re not going to use the NS-NSW100 in a MusicCast ecosystem.

UNDER THE COVERS

The sub is relatively compact, and nicely finished in a gloss black lacquer. A non-removable grille hides the 200mm bass driver at the core of the unit, as well as the so-called twisted flare bass port.

The port has been specifically designed to reduce turbulence by diffusing the air as it exits, which in reduces overall noise and distortion, while promoting faster, tauter bass response.

Also assisting in the lower bass department is Yamaha’s Active Servo Technology (YST), designed to benefit low-frequency punch and accuracy. The on-board power amp delivers a healthy 130 watts.

At the rear, switchgear is limited to an on/off switch and a button to initiate the connection of the Yamaha to a MusicCast network wirelessly. You can also hook it up via Ethernet, but of course that involves another wire … Both methods work equally well in performance terms.

There’s also a selector switch to choose between a network-based or analogue connection, with the latter facilitated via a 3,5 mm minijack input. An RJ45 Ethernet socket and a fixed power cable complete the picture.

The top panel features a manual volume level control, for use when the sub is hooked up via an analogue connection.

SETTING UP

I used the sub in a lifestyle audio role, operating in conjunction with a pair of Yamaha WX-021 MusicCast speakers running in stereo mode, as well as paired with our reference Yamaha RX-A3080 AV receiver.

Depending on what component it’s been paired with, the NS-NSW100 automatically sets the crossover point, while level adjustment is integrated with the paired system or device, making for a seamless and perfectly matched combination.

Once the sub is hooked up to a network – and it has to be the same network as the one the MusicCast device it will paired with is connected to – the pairing itself is handled via Yamaha’s slick and intuitive MusicCast app.

In the AVSA listening room, the best spot for a sub is in the front right corner, which also happens to be very close to the gigabyte switch providing Internet connectivity. But considering that wireless operation is really the Yamaha’s standout feature, I linked it to our network via 802.11 Wi-Fi – a process that can be slightly quirky, but got a connection up and running fairly quickly.

Once on the network, the MusicCast can then see and recognise the sub as an available member of the MusicCast clan, which in turn allows it to be connected to any of the ‘rooms’ or systems on that network.

SOUNDS LIKE …

You want a subwoofer’s contribution to be unobtrusive and seamless. You certainly don’t want to hear where that extra bass is coming from. But you do want the extra bass to make the overall sound more authoritative, punchier, and in a movie context, more realistic.

The Yamaha ticked all those boxes: it might be a slim, fairly unobtrusive sub, but it delivered its low-frequency wares with satisfying momentum, adding foundation and substance to the sound’s bottom end – and, I suspect, lessening the bandwidth burden on the other speakers.

It not only made the WX-021 sound like a much bigger speaker, but also benefited the small speaker’s imaging accuracy and staging, so the overall sound was larger and more effusive. If you’re not in the know, you’d never believe that such a physically compact system could sound so expansive.

Bass-heavy tracks like Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ were rendered with impressive wallop and pace, the sub adding a tautly controlled, solidly rendered bass foundation that brought the entire track to life.

Movie soundtrack genius Hans Zimmer’s lushly orchestrated, ambience-rich Live In Prague gained space and stature, with the sub’s contribution boosting the authority of the strings and choir, while also adding more bit and punch to the often spectacular percussion.

Special effects such as the attacking aircraft, pounding explosions and machine gun fire in the battle scenes of Pearl Harbour gained greater realism and precision, creating an overall soundscape that was bigger and bolder than you’d expect.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The convenience, ease of use and satisfying performance make the Yamaha NS-NSW100 sub an attractive addition to small home theatre and lifestyle systems, where space or décor make the use of larger, more conventional speakers difficult.

It’s very much a MusicCast-focussed product, and it makes the most sense to deploy it in a MusicCast-enabled system, where its wireless capability can be fully utilised, as well as the integrated system matching and ease of use that come with the MusicCast app.

In that context, it will add a new sonic dimension to even the most modest of MusicCast speakers, and add bass authority to MusicCast soundbars not already endowed with a sub of their own.

VITAL STATS

Enclosure type: Ported, front-firing
Drive units: 1x 200 mm high-excursion woofer
Inputs: 1x 3,5mm minijack, 1x RJ45 Ethernet
Amplifier rating: 130 watts
Controls: Power, input selection, MusicCast connect, volume level
Dimensions (WxDxH): 252 x 418 x 383 mm
Weight: 12,6 kg
PRICE
R9 980
SUPPLIED BY
Balanced Audio