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Yamaha MusicCast 20

Introducing the entry-level model of Yamaha's multi-room MusicCast range

As the smaller of a brace of powered speakers, the MusicCast 20 represents the entry point of Yamaha’s wireless speaker range. MusicCast is the company’s ambitious multi-room system and as well as working on its own, the 20 can also be integrated with other MusicCast products as part of a multi-room or multi-speaker setup with products detecting one another for full flexibility and seamless integration around the home.  

Using the 20 as a standalone speaker, it’s still impressively specified. A network audio product, it supports sampling rates up to 24-bit/192kHz via wired and wireless connections and backs this up with its impressively comprehensive list of streaming services, including Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, Deezer and Napster. It additionally has Amazon Alexa voice compatibility along with internet radio, Bluetooth v4.0 and Airplay wireless connectivity from compatible devices. There is no physical auxiliary input – you’ll need the larger MusicCast 50 (£449) for that – but you can configure two speakers to be used as a stereo pair. 

The compact chassis is home to a single 30mm tweeter underpinned by a 90mm bass driver and further augmented by a pair of passive radiators. The quoted output power is 25W for the larger driver and 15W for the smaller one. 

There’s a selection of hard controls on the top panel, but it’s otherwise pretty much dependent on the control app to access most features. This is a solid piece of software that allows you to navigate large music libraries quickly and efficiently. The speaker is perhaps not the most visually exciting I’ve seen, but the overall build is extremely good and the ability to wall mount it is handy. 

Sound quality
Comparing the MusicCast 20 with the Bluetooth speakers in the Group Test (HFC 443) is interesting. The manner in which it handles the same test material doesn’t show up as many differences as I’d expect, even though it chooses to eschew stereo output – unlike some in our roundup. Peter Gabriel’s San Jacinto is particularly impressive. There is a commendable feeling of space around the upper registers and his vocals are delivered with enough of their distinctive tone to pull you right into the performance. 

Also of note is the bass response. Switching to the 24/44.1 AIFF download of My Baby’s album MounakiBy The Bright Of The Night, the MusicCast 20 does a fine job with the infectiously funky Supernatural Aid track. The bass it produces has more than enough weight to it and is delivered with the finesse and general energy that conveys the catchy fun of the record itself. As you wind the volume up towards the upper limits of what the Yamaha can deliver, the bass loses a little of its control and integration but never becomes unlistenable. 

Although hi-res capable, the speaker doesn’t really show off files of this nature to their best. The 24/96 download of Mark Knopfler’s Privateering sounds very pleasant, but some of the fine detail and the decay to the guitar work are quite clearly missing. The benefit is that the MusicCast 20 performs very respectably with sources like Spotify and BBC 6Music and rarely shows up the lack of bit-rate. When you consider how it is most likely to be used, it is a sensible call. 

Conclusion
A quick test of a pair of MusicCast 20s operating in stereo is a genuine surprise. As well as the obvious gains in stereo separation, the increased radiating area ensures that it sounds bigger and more confident at the same time. If you have £400 for a network audio system, the performance on offer here is entirely competitive with rival offerings. In both mono and stereo configurations, the Yamaha loudspeaker is a fine performer and its MusicCast capabilities make it one of the more flexible designs around. ES

DETAILS
Product: Yamaha MusicCast 20
Price: £199
Type: Wireless speaker
Telephone: 0344 8111116
Website: uk.yamaha.com/en
Read the full review in December issue 443

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