03 September, 2010

Review: YAMAHA NS-1000

Note: After the big job of re-labeling I just performed on this Blog, as part of my re-organization, I'm going to eliminate my other sister audio Blog (Review and Overview), to let everything be archived here. Today I'm duplicating all reviews from my sister Blog here. This may cause inconvenience for a few users who follow some of my items; my apology. In the long run, this shall be a lot more efficient. For regular posts, scroll down to 01, Spetember and below.

Figure: The making of Yamaha Beryllium drivers (via TheVintageKnob)

Review: YAMAHA NS-1000 (Sony CDP-R1/DAS-R1 and CDP-553ESD; Meridian 206; Counterpoint SA-2000E; Bryston 4B)

Before my coming articles on iPod and Music Server, I'd like to introduce you to this famous pair of monitors, which I happened to be using for the assessment of my digital iPod files.

YAMAHA NS-1000(M), from the mid-70's, enjoyed a long production life, and has several permutations. It is famous for being a very accurate monitor, and even more for being the first to utilize Beryllium drivers, not one but TWO at that, pre-dating Focal JM Lab by almost 30 years! Talk about "progress"! Read this site for history, spec's and more (make sure you click "more")! NS-1000 is also undeservedly infamous for being "bright".

Figure: Right speaker (designated) of mirror-image pair.

My pair (serial # 11466R/L) is the heavier "home-use" version with REAL wood cabinets, and how beautiful they are. These used to belong to a friend of tubediyer and I had the luxury of trying out before buying.

When they first arrived, sound was decidedly sluggish, probably due to long-term dis-use. I have them 2/3 of the way into the room, in relatively close-field position. After re-running them in, sound steadily improved. One day, I began to get only intermittent sound from the right mid-range unit and it eventually lost sound altogether. I took it out and found that the soldering joint for one crossover cable had completely disintegrated! I had difficulty cleaning and re-soldering the terminal. But after I finally managed to do it, sound took a significant step forward.

I have been driving the Yamahas from my second station, appropriately a half-Japanese one. Let me digress a little to talk about these CD players. The SONY CDP-R1/DAS-R1 was the flagship of the 16-bit TDA 1541A era. Connection using the propreitary SONY Twin Link optical cable is said to offer the best jitter reduction. Although this method does not seem to confer more details (and non-ATT opticals are not my favorites), compared to the other S/PDIF inputs though a darker background is revealed. What I love most about this DAC is its composure, an ability to maintain a rock-like stability during loud passages. I personally judge its ability in this regard to be better than most of the theoretically superior 24/96 and 24/192 decoders, including the very expensive ones. And better than most of the famous professional CD players of this era, including Studer/Revox (D730/226) and EMT (mind you, I have the EMT 931) , though perhaps not better than the little-known SONY professional 3000, a rare bird that I had the good chance of hearing in NYC recently.

A replay of a Bruckner or Mahler symphony is such a pleasure through this machine. Let me cite some examples. On the Tennstedt Live LPO Mahler 5 (Japanese EMI) the first BIG orchestral crescendo is not rendered correctly on most machines. On the R1/D1 you can hear the entire backbone of the cresendo, and it just seems steadier, longer and better, each moment a little more than the previous, and isn't that what we want?? On most machines, the crescendo just peaks too quickly, a sort of premature ejaculation! Last night I played the ALTUS (Alt-129) Shostakovich 1st, captured by Japanes engineers in the late 60's, and the recording has a shocking realism, definitely among the best live recordings I have heard. I must tell you that through the Sony combo it doesn't matter whether I am using the Yamaha or the sensational Usher X-708 I can rest assured I get all of that. Here I must also praise the worthless (in terms of current price) CDP-533-ESD, which uses a priceless transport and delivers a pristine signal that I sometimes prefer to the R1 (hush...)!!! If you find one with laser in good condition, grab one, it'll slaughter most modern transports! And the sound through its own DAC is not bad either...

Figure: Meridian 206

That said, there's a downside to the Sony R1/D1: a certain inaccuracy in rhythm and pace, something most audiophiles who just listen to slow saliva songs do not undertsand . So, while it plays the 3 B's great, Stravinsky's unusual meters may just seem too earthbound. Even in vocals, my newly acquired Meridian 206 (Delta-Sigma version) just beats it. Nothing is perfect, as the Meridian shall lose something in large-scaled replay. There are many generations of Meridian. I don't quite like their 1-bit era, but this 206 is a surprise indeed. The sound bears more resemblance to later 506/508 Meridians, which are not that far off (even better in some ways) than current ones. One can safely say though, Meridian knows their digital!

Figure: The original Bryston 4B. Ugly!

Where are the contributions of the preamp and the amp? They are sleepers and guardians. The Counterpoint 2000E is just a 3000 in linestage configuration and a close approximation to the 5000. The Thousand Series is in general more analytical than the older Point One series, more extended at the frequency extremes and less euphonic. The E version denotes balanced-out option provided by IC conversion. Despite that, I have determined that it is the better way to connect the XLR-in-only Bryston 4B, losing very little the tube liquidity and gaining dynamics. Now to the amp, my 4B is an old version, which looks a lot coarser than the subsequent ST and SST versions. However, in terms of driving power, the older versions is a powerhouse and more powerful! It is supposed to be "coasre", but I find an hour of warm-up and mating with a tube preamp is just fine. The 4B its little brother 3B are my ss workhorses.

The setup drove Yamaha beautifully. I get a big sound and do not suffer from so-called "agressive highs", and this without attenuating much of the pots! The 90 db Yamaha's are not that difficult but do need power for the bass to fill out. After a good amount of run-in at good level, sound is fast. and the amount of detail it retrieves is simply phenomenal. With my setup, nothing grates the ears. Most of the negative criticisms simply reflect the low-quality equipment people partner these with. What's pricelss is the sense of presence, as evidenced by playback of the CDs mentioned above. The comments about its similarity to JBL is not completely unfounded. Bass is deep and tight, but peters out around 40 Hz, though it does not have the mid-bass coloration of JBL. Meanwhile, the soundstage is to die for, matching the best of the modern speakers. What is really unusual to me is that they lack almost nothing; it's hard to pinpoint particualr weakness. Great Monitors that I can trust testing to!

A lot of people have heard my Yamaha's and they were all surprised by the performance of these 30+ year-old designs. Robin the music-loving Scot came one fine day and could not stop marvelling. He is as good a judge as any, as he has recently got a pair JM Lab Mini-Utopia Beryllium! Two weeks ago Danz also came by. He was amazed that they sounded nothing like what he heard before. We had all heard these previosuly at a delaer, driven by a Music Server and Benchmark DAC. Very dry and distorted sound; perhaps the computer playback had needed some improvement. Well, matching I guess.


CapnDad said...


I'm scouring the internet trying to find the right configuration (left/right) for the NS-1000M speakers. i.e. aer the tweeter and midrange speakers supposed to be on the outside or the inside? I've had them on the inside for the past 25 years and I think I'm wrong.


John Davis

CapnDad said...


Are you saying that the NS-100M speakers ae to be configured with Left and Right from the listeners perspective or from the speaker's perspective? I've had the tweeters and midrange speakers on the inside for the past 25 years, but perhaps that's been wrong all this time?


john Davis

doctorjohn said...

Hi, sorry for late reply.

I was told to have the tweeters outside, but have no link to back this up yet. Let me call the person who told me this.

In general (as in JBL) the studio stuff has no definite rule. The NS1000 manual says it can be placed horizontally too (this gives better sound with a lot of pro or pro-derived speakers)

Centrally placed tweeters may have better "pinpoint" imaging, but outwardly placed ones may result in a better soundstage. Mine is quite enormous!

Experiment with toe-in too.

Glad to hear from another user. Cheers.

CapnDad said...

Thanks for the reply. We spent all day Saturday setting them up. We experimented with toe-in,distance apart, distance from the ear, and so on. We ended up with the Tweeters on the inside mainly because when they were outside they felt like they were too far apart. but not having a lot of room, we surmised we could just switch them to compensate rather than push them closer together.

That worked well. At the end of the day after all the small moves, an inch here and an inch there, they sound amazing!

We've had them for almost 30 years now and I've had them repaired once... last week...when the tweeter separated. Now they sound good, or better, than new.


CapnDad said...

THanks for the reply.

We spent all day Saturday setting them up again after coming back from Tweeter repair. The Tweeter had separated so there was no crack and no need to replace the domes with inferior cone products.

We experimented with the Tweeters on the inside and the outside, but ended up with them inside. A lot of that has to do woth room size, and we just felt that on the outside they needed to be pushed closer together. Rather than do that we switched them.

That, combined with a lot of toe-in experiments in half inch increments, got us the sound we love. Good sound stage, great tone, and much less fatigue than we've had in different rooms.

Great speaker, and I can't believe sometimes that when I bought them it was simply because they sounded good.


doctorjohn said...

Hi, I am glad you're finally getting the sound you want. I spoke to some friends and we all agree there's no fixed rule.

One day I'd urge you to try them horizontal. My space doesn't permit it though previously I got great result from my JBL 4312B that way.

A tube preamp can remove most of the "glare". In my system the Yamaha never sounded harsh at all. Curious what gears you're using?

TruthSpinner said...

In my pair I experience ringing from one of the midrange drivers when I knock on top.

Any idea what might be causing this?

doctorjohn said...

Curious, this ringing. Tubes can ring due to microphonics, but drivers! You don't happen to have a tube preamp on top?

CapnDad said...

I must have missed your earlier reply when you asked what gear I'm using. I'm running a MacIntosh MA6300 Integrated Amp, Rotel RCD971 HD CD Player, and a Linn Basik turntable.

TruthSpinner said...

Nope, this happens under all vercumstances. Somehow I am able to induce hearable (quite so) vibrations in some metal part(s) inside the driver, and I guess this should not be possible?


  1. Left and right are indicated by the "L" and "R" suffixes on the serial number of each speaker. According to that, the mid/tweeter array belongs on the outside. Nevertheless, I have seen the opposite (tweeters in) even in Yamaha literature.

    1. Indeed, and I use them that way, but whatever sounds better!