Hands-On Review:Yamaha HS Series Powered Monitors
Affordable Reference Monitoring
By Calvin Anderson
Anyone who's spent time recording has undoubtedly realized the importance of the final mix. Maybe you learned this lesson the hard way by mixing through a pair of headphones, only to find that your songs sounded horrible through a pair of stereo speakers. The bottom line is if you spend time recording music, you don't want to blow it with a crummy mix. More often than not, the cause of such a mix is the monitors. As home recording systems become more powerful and functional, the need for professional monitoring at an affordable price is bigger than ever. Yamaha's HS Series monitors claim to answer that need, so Musician's Friend asked me to put them to the test.
Flat as a pancake
The problem with mixing through headphones or ordinary speakers is that they tend to add coloration to the sound they are reproducing. Some speakers are designed and tuned to produce richer bass, for example. A good set of monitors should have a flat response; that is, they should reproduce the sound as accurately as possible. Eager to hear how the HS monitors performed in this regard, I first set up the 70-watt HS50Ms in my home studio.
Classic look, modern performance
The first thing I noticed when I unpacked the HS50M monitors was the familiar white polypropylene woofer cone. If you've spent any amount of time in a professional recording studio, you've no doubt seen a pair of Yamaha's classic NS10M monitors with the same look. I was interested to see if these new monitors had the performance to match their legacy cosmetics.
I hooked the monitors to my mixer using the XLR inputs (1/4" inputs are also provided). Knowing the importance of placement, I positioned the speakers at an angle so the drivers were facing me and about 5' from the wall behind them, creating a nice sweet spot at my workstation. On a side note, if you're new to this stuff, the owner's manual has a nice tutorial on how to properly set up monitors. Knowing that these monitors would find themselves in a number of different room types, Yamaha included Room Control, High Trim, and Low Cut switches to properly tune the monitors to their environment.
Mix it up
The first project I pulled up was a straight-ahead, guitar-driven rock tune. I immediately noticed the tight low-end reproduction and shimmering high end. Keep in mind that these were elements that were naturally present in the recording and not an artifact of the speakers themselves. I found the cymbals to be a bit too hard on the ears, so I made some adjustments to the high end of the mix. After tweaking for a couple hours, I felt I had a solid mix. I put it to the test on my home stereo, through my headphones, and in my car, and it sounded awesome on every one!
Phat and phunky
In order to test out the HS80M monitors and the HS10W subwoofer, I used a hip-hop project that I'm producing for a local group (the first hip-hop stuff I've produced, to be honest). I immediately heard that I had way too much bass happening. I realized that I had done this inadvertently to compensate for the lack of bass in the headphones I monitored the recording session with. After getting that in order, I was able to hash out a solid mix that even sounded great on my boombox.
Just the facts
The HS80Ms have a tight low end similar to their smaller counterparts, but with a bit more volume and punch thanks to a larger, 8" woofer; lower frequency response; 1" tweeter; and 120 watts of biamped power. The 70-watt, biamped HS50Ms utilize a 5" woofer and 3/4" tweeter.
The HS10W subwoofer has an 8", 120-watt, long-stroke driver and is a must-have if you spend a lot of time mixing bass-heavy material. The bass-reflex cabinets in all of these monitors maximize the output and keep distortion to a minimum.
Versatile and affordable
I'd definitely recommend the Yamaha HS Series monitors to anyone looking to improve their home or project studio mixes. Their professional design and flat response allowed me to really tune in to sonic intricacies in my recordings and create mixes that sounded great no matter where I played them. Whether you produce music, film scores, or even multimedia soundtracks, HS Series monitors deliver professional Yamaha performance at an affordable price.
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