With its luminous VU meters, the Yamaha R-N2000A already managed to seduce last year. A nice device, but not that cheap. For more modest budgets, there is the R-N800A this spring, a receiver with slightly less power but the same streaming options and YPAO room correction. The Japanese brand also immediately provides speakers that must fit well with the R-N800A (or other amplifiers).
The brand name ‘Yamaha’ really hangs on many types of products. Fast engines, powerful motors for racing boats, pianos, strings and wind instruments, pro audio – and hi-fi. That is very diverse. But in some crazy way, Yamaha always manages to build a bridge to one of its other activities in its audio devices. This is not difficult with devices like the new R-N800A receiver and the NS-600A Bookshelf speakers. Both carry a piece of DNA from the Yamaha instrument builders department. This concerns, for example, the piano lacquer appearance of the compact NS-600A speakers that we are looking at here, but especially the sound character of this duo. Yamaha itself always aims for a natural sound that matches what you would get from an instrument.
That Natural Sound label also hangs on the R-N800A, a fully integrated receiver of 2 x 100 Watts (8 Ohms) available in stores for 1,099 euros. We write ‘receiver’ instead of ‘amplifier’ because this device is still equipped with a radio tuner – suitable for FM/DAB+. That is a rarity these days. But it makes this device even more complete than it already was.
The R-N800A is instantly recognizable as a Yamaha because of its retro look. There are otherwise very contemporary functions under the hood. As with a traditional device, you can connect external sources, including a turntable to the dedicated phono input. But the R-N800A also comes with MusicCast and other streaming technologies built-in. YPAO is even present on this cheaper model in the RN family. That’s a Yamaha feature to address acoustic issues in the room. As a result, this amplifier would present a nice sound quality in less ideal living rooms.
|What||Stereo receiver with streaming|
|inputs||USB class B, 2 x optical, 2 x coaxial, phono (MM), 3 x cinch|
|Outputs||sub out, pre-out, headphone out|
|streaming||MusicCast, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth (SBC/AAC), Tidal Connect, Spotify Connect|
|Dimensions||43.5 x 15.1 x 39.5 cm|
|What||2-way bookshelf speaker|
|Frequency response||47 Hz – 65 kHz|
|Impedance||6 ohms (nominal)|
|Dimensions||20.7 x 38.3 x 32.9 cm|
Very fully equipped
The R-N800A is the entry-level model in the new generation of RN. It follows the successful EISA Award-winning R-N803D, one of the first integrated amplifiers to feature built-in streaming and room correction. Because Yamaha is quite conservative in design, the similarities between the new and old models are quite large. The large rotary knobs in a central position immediately provide a recognizable retro vibe. And that feeling only strengthens when you see the quartet for bass, treble, balance and loudness. Functions that you mainly saw on amplifiers in the past are brought up again by Yamaha here. The Japanese like to build hi-fi devices reminiscent of well-known models from the past (read: the seventies and eighties).
What we don’t immediately see on this entry-level model: VU meters (like on the R-N200A) or a large display (like on the R-N803D). And yet he has one. Yamaha’s new design language introduces a subtly applied screen, discreetly hidden in a black glossy strip under the front panel. It is a feature of the three new RN models. There is usually not much on it, such as the active streaming service’s name or the volume level when you press the quieter or louder button on the remote. However, it is very useful for adjusting settings and performing a YPAO measurement. Things that don’t require an app – although there is one – and can be performed directly on the device itself.
Accessible high end
Just as the R-N800A receiver is part of a larger line, so are the NS-600A speakers announced in May. But it’s just different. Yamaha may have been recognized for decades as an important manufacturer of hi-fi and AV components, but that recognition is not in terms of loudspeakers. Not that the brand has only recently started with reproducers. For the studio and pro world, Yamaha has always needed it. However, higher-positioned hi-fi speakers are reaching for an earlier post. At least, until recently, because with the NS-5000 3-way speakers, the brand launched a real statement in 2019. Not least because it opted for a large housing on low stands; think of the type of speaker you sometimes see in films set in the 1970s. Or other vintage designs, such as the classic line from JBL or retro models from British brands such as Wharfedale or Mission. There is a difference: Yamaha started with a flagship, priced at approximately 8,250 euros each. Since then, it has systematically introduced lower-positioned models. The NS-600A is the provisional final piece in this step-by-step plan and the most affordable in this line. Although this bookshelf speaker still aims a bit higher. They are in the shop for just under 2,400 euros per pair. So it is certainly not a budget offer.
Yamaha wants to refer to its musical instruments with its speakers, particularly its famous pianos. That works well with the NS-600A. There is, of course, that black lacquer, which immediately makes you think of a piano (and for which you have to keep a duster nearby). The rounded corners and the case that tapers towards the back also have something graceful. Also well done is how the tweeter and ZYLON driver are seamlessly incorporated into the NS-600A’s baffle. You can magnetically hang the grids on the front if you don’t want to see it. Strange but clever: the grille bends over the top of the speaker.
They exude a certain class, we think, and distinguish themselves from the rest of the playing field. However, the appearance is rather Japanese-minimalist. It’s not an outspoken design. A small eye-catcher at the back is the Twisted Flare Port bass port, with its shape reminiscent of a flower. This ensures the speaker does not make unwanted sounds (‘chuffing’) when you turn up the volume.
Part of a big family
Although Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, and AirPlay 2 are on board, Yamaha prefers to bet on its MusicCast platform. Understandable because it has now grown into a very mature platform that includes both streaming and multi-room use. Because MusicCast is built into most Yamaha products, you can choose from dozens of products to provide a home with multiple music solutions. A soundbar in the living room, the R-N800A in a sitting area, a Yamaha AV receiver in the attic slash home theater, a pair of MusicCast-enabled wireless speakers in the dining room… a lot is possible. You have a lot more choices than with Sonos. Only BluOS has an equally varied selection.
The foundation is provided by the MusicCast app. Since its first appearance, it has received a major makeover, appearing even fresher on a tablet screen. It looks (depending on screen size and resolution) a bit busier on a smaller smartphone display, but it remains very usable.
In the MusicCast app, you can see the streaming options (several services, such as Napster and Qobuz, and internet radio), the possibility to play music files (over the network or via USB), and the physical inputs on the R- N800A. You can also route the audio from an input (such as from the turntable) to another MusicCast device. The user experience provided by MusicCast is good. It responds smoothly, and you have quick access to useful functions.
Measuring is better
YPAO may be just one of the many stickers on the box, but we think it’s a good reason to choose the R-N800A. There are very few integrated amplifiers with something similar at this price point. Most rivals offer Dirac, expensive software that pushes up the cost of the amplifier. YPAO may not be as sophisticated as Dirac – at least not in this version – but it is very easy to use. Taking a measurement is just plugging in the included microphone and placing it on your seat. Then it’s just a matter of pressing ‘go’ and waiting for four test tones to play. You get the necessary instructions on the screen on the amplifier, but you don’t even need those.
With its measurement, YPAO checks the room, whether the speaker cables are plugged in correctly, and the distances. If your two speakers are not completely symmetrical concerning the sofa, it will make the necessary adjustments. This is especially noticeable in more extreme scenarios where the two speakers are not positioned properly – the soundstage suddenly centers itself in the middle.
Know what it wants
To get to know the R-N800A better, we do not immediately connect the amplifier to the supplied Yamaha speakers. First, we bring out our KEF R3s, slightly larger speakers that are best placed on stands. They have now been replaced in the market by new META models, but we will still be working with the models from 2018 for this test. As we know, KEF and the R3s need some power to come to life. The bass, in particular, only comes off well when a suitable amplifier is provided. It’s something of a litmus test that the R-N800A easily passes. We hear the bass guitar in ‘Haseen Thi’ by Arooj Aftab being played in great detail and with a lot of body. The Pakistani singer previously won a Grammy for her vocal performance and compositions that jump across all genres. ‘Vulture Prince’ from a few years ago already showed her solo talent; on ‘Love in Exile’, she delivered with jazz topper Vijay Iyer and bassist/composer Shahzad Ismaily. This album is very minimalist but also very emotional, something that is well communicated by the approach of the Yamaha amplifier. It is certainly not analytical, but it is honest and revealing.
The YPAO function proved to offer real added value in our test room. The difference in tightness and imaging between the indie rock on ‘How Do You Burn?’ by The Afghan Whigs and the gabber-inspired ‘Fossora’ by Björk, which is not very listenable, is quite remarkable. It sounds a little thinner (maybe because a room mode is being tackled). But above all, it is more balanced and more centered. The YPAO Volume function is not necessarily necessary. Both albums also show that the R-N800A can safely play less well-recorded music with a lot of drive and a touch of forgiveness. That is positive because it allows you to stream via Bluetooth or Spotify without knowing all the shortcomings.
If we go back to Arooj Aftab’s album that we listened to earlier with the R3s, we can hear how the NS-600As do it differently. Where the bass guitar in ‘Haseen Thi’ and the lower piano tones in ‘Shadow Forces’ on the KEF are more central, with the NS-600A there is a bigger picture where especially the dexterous playing on ‘Shadow Forces’ is very natural in the room.
The more relaxed tuning of the NS-600As puts the spotlight on voices, especially those of female performers. For example, we get the strong voice of Dianne Reeves on The Ummah remix of ‘Down Here on the Ground’ very beautifully presented. This track can be found on ‘Blue Note Trip 2’, an album that is part of a seemingly endless series of remixes of funk, soul, and jazz classics (and, let’s face it, songs that are a lot less classic ) of the tag. With ‘Dancin’ In an Easy Groove,’ the Yamaha speakers show their best side by playing this track as if we were in the room. It is also recorded that way, of course, so you enjoy the solo horns playing very passionately. The speakers emphasize that but also the organ playing of Dr.
Three-dimensional is also Kx5’s ‘Alive,’ which in terms of experience more than compensates a little bit for the slightly limited impact of the basses in this techno track – they remain compact speakers, of course. Well brought super tight; that’s just as important as the pounding. We have to say: we already knew from the R-N2000A that Yamaha could safely be called European in terms of sound, but that this system would deliver an album by deadmau5 and Kaskade in such a tight and controlled manner remains an eye-opener.
‘Onda’ by post-rockers Jambinai mixes ultra-heavy guitars with traditional Korean instruments, creating a wall of sound with a character all its own. However, the chaos and distortion don’t overwhelm; you don’t get to hear an undefined mush, but something powerful where those folk instruments stand out. The Yamaha speakers do this well: present something beautifully defined and authentic sounding without losing sight of the fun factor.
With the R-N800A, Yamaha offers a real all-rounder. The price tag is a strong argument because 1,100 euros is very reasonable for an amplifier with many options and room calibration. Streaming, good app operation, a DAB + tuner, a decent phono input, a nice portion of power … nothing is missing. Only an HDMI-ARC port is absent – but you will find it on the slightly more expensive R-N1000A. You can also bring in your TV sound with an optical cable. In short, a very nice and complete package.
The NS-600A speakers are in a higher price category but are not disappointed by the R-N1000A. They go well with this Yamaha receiver. They are reproducers that focus on a natural sound and balance and therefore make relaxed music.
*Grade averages 9.0 for the Yamaha R-N800A and 8.0 for the NS-600A. FWD Award Recommended for the receiver.
- Room correction on board
- MusicCast platform
- The asking price is very reasonable
- Sufficient power
- Give a lot of insight and emotion as a gift (NS-600A)
- Minimalist but handsome (NS-600A)
- No HDMI-ARC (see higher model)
- No Roon status