Yamaha MusicCast 50

Like the smaller MusicCast 20 (HFC 443), the MusicCast 50 has been designed to be used either on its own or as part of a multi-room setup. It is considerably more curvaceous than its predecessors and the use of good-quality materials and careful execution means it feels solid and well made too. Black and white finishes are available.

Unlike its smaller sibling, the MusicCast 50 is already a stereo speaker in its own right and is fitted with a pair of 100mm mid/bass drivers and 30mm tweeters. It supports Yamaha’s extensive MusicCast functionality and can be easily integrated with other compatible Yamaha products as part of a multi-speaker setup. Both wired and wireless connectivity are provided and it can stream audio at sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz with streaming service support for Qobuz, Tidal, Deezer, Spotify and Juke as well as internet radio and AirPlay. There’s also Bluetooth 4.2 streaming, which lacks aptX but does have AAC support. Voice control via Amazon Alexa is additionally onboard.

There’s plenty of support for old-fashioned wired connectivity with an analogue input on a stereo RCA connection and an optical digital input that’s useful for hook up to a TV or set-top box.

There’s a useful selection of hard controls on top of the unit for quick adjustment, but otherwise alterations are handled by the free MusicCast Controller app. Setup is simple and the app is easy to navigate and is as happy controlling multiple devices as it is just the one.  

Sound quality
Placed on a sturdy table and taking a feed from a Melco N1A (HFC 397), it imparts a character of its own to the performance. It’s seemingly impossible to provoke it into sounding harsh or forward and a spirited rendition of an edgy 16/44.1 rip of Bloc Party’s Luno is civilised and has none of the sibilance that can so often be present on other systems of a comparable size and type.

Although this goes against our audiophile sensibilities, listening to the same track via Spotify sounds almost exactly the same. Hi-res material doesn’t really show much of a performance advantage and the Yamaha sounds remarkably consistent regardless of source quality.

What is less desirable is that for such a relatively large speaker, the MusicCast 50 doesn’t feel especially powerful. It can reach a respectable listening level in a typical UK lounge, but it doesn’t feel like it has much more in reserve beyond this point.

One thing it does do more effectively is generate a convincing stereo image from its single-chassis design. The large-scale recording of Dead Can Dance’s Liberator Of Minds extends into a believably large and open presentation underpinned by decent bass extension. As it lacks passive radiators, there isn’t quite the heft of some rivals but there is a definition and control that some such systems can tend to lack. It also means that faster material like Greta Van Fleet’s The Cold Wind, it keeps a level of rhythmic engagement although the lack of treble info can leave things sounding a bit too relaxed.

The biggest challenge for the MusicCast 50 is that for slightly less than the asking price, you can have a stereo pair of MusicCast 20s. This offers genuine stereo and a very engaging presentation that is arguably better than the sum of its parts. It does without the physical audio inputs found on the 50, but given the flexibility of the MusicCast platform this is unlikely to be a deal breaker. As it is, the MusicCast 50 is a capable and well-built wireless speaker that doesn’t quite deliver a knockout blow for the product category at the price. ES

Product: Yamaha MusicCast 50
Price: £450
Type: Wireless speaker
Read the full review in March issue 447

Yamaha UK
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