Yamaha C-5000 Preamplifier, M-5000 Power Amp, NS-5000 Loudspeaker, GT-5000 Turntable
I have a dream for audio. It’s the dream that a brand already embedded in the greater culture will pick up the torch of “better sound matters” and expand the universe of participants, creating a momentum that sweeps our little specialty audio world into a bigger, brighter, and more prosperous future. Like I said, a dream.
Imagine my enthusiasm then when I was approached to review a full system from a company that is the largest manufacturer of musical instruments on this planet, a review of highly ambitious products from a company whose corporate logo appears under the hands of Lady Gaga, Elton John, John Mayall, and many, many more, an opportunity to explore the “high-end” efforts of a more than 130-year-old Japanese firm with a market cap of approximately $8¼ billion dollars (not including its motorsports division), a brand that was already in my house, appearing every time my son pulls out his trumpet, a brand name that would be familiar to nearly every man and woman on the street. Yamaha.
Making up for Lost Time: The 5000 Series
Yamaha left the high-performance electronics marketplace in the 1990s with the market winds blowing in the direction of home theater. I’ll blame that decision on corporate bean-counters. (They’re everywhere it seems.) The subject of this review marks Yamaha’s return to the audio deep end with a complete system—the 5000 Series—comprising the GT-5000 turntable ($7999), the C-5000 preamplifier ($9999), the M-5000 power amplifier ($9999), and the NS-5000 loudspeakers ($14,999 including stands). This system is not a cautious dip of the toes in the water. The 5000 Series is a nineteen-engineer/eight-year-in-the-making, full cannonball dive off the high platform. Yamaha announced it as its “biggest statement in the hi-fi market since it coined the term ‘hi-fi’ 65 years ago.”
That last pronouncement is particularly bold when one considers that Yamaha’s history in the industry has earned it a very loyal and hungry following. Yamaha pioneered the use of beryllium in loudspeaker drivers and developed a vacuum-deposition molding process to create the world’s first pure (well, 99.99% pure) beryllium diaphragm…in 1974! The speaker utilizing this technology was the NS-1000(M). It had a 23-year run through various iterations and sold over 200,000 units (not a misprint). Many other now-vintage Yamaha “hi-fi” products sell for much more today than they did new. The NS-5000 loudspeakers and GT-5000 turntable are obvious descendants of Yamaha’s earlier, well-regarded 1000/2000 Series, but designed (as you will read) with clean new slates.
Four Components, One Review, True Sound
I was fortunate to have been invited by Yamaha to its North American debut/training event for the 5000 Series, led by the former head product engineer and now product planner for all Yamaha hi-fi products, Susumu Kumazawa. I wish that all of you could have been there, because the training allowed for an inside peek into Yamaha’s engineering prowess and manufacturing capabilities, which are combined with an overriding aesthetic that serves to balance the technical with the human. The training demonstrated a special maturity and honesty behind the 5000 Series project. It demonstrated value.
NS-5000 Loudspeaker Technical Details
Earlier I referred to Yamaha’s longstanding, technically groundbreaking NS-1000 speakers. The NS-5000 is a loudspeaker of similar type (three-way “bookshelf”) and dimensions, although the NS-1000M was a sealed design and the NS-5000 is ported. In every other way, the NS-5000 is a clean slate. Looks the same. Isn’t the same.
The headline technical story is Zylon. Yamaha heralds it as the world’s strongest fiber. Stronger than carbon fiber. Stronger and lighter than beryllium. A single 1.5mm strand can lift a ton. It’s the material that is used to keep the wheels of an F1 car from breaking free in a crash. Perhaps more importantly, Zylon sets a benchmark in its balance of excellent stiffness and damping. So, while its stiffness (Yamaha calls it acoustic velocity) is on par with beryllium, its damping (Yamaha calls it internal loss) approaches that of polypropylene and pulp/paper. Zylon seems to promise an ideal blend of speed and smoothness, without the extremes of either side (i.e. etched on the one hand and sluggish on the other).
Yamaha believes (rightly, my listening suggests) that it has a wonderful material for loudspeaker diaphragms. As you will all know, Yamaha also manufactures pianos. You can’t blame them for concluding that the best way to reproduce all 88 keys through a loudspeaker is to use that same material for every vibrating surface. One sound, top to bottom. The problem is, how does one manufacture speaker diaphragms with 100% Zylon strands? Others had tried.
Yamaha flexed its diverse capability and leveraged its Yamaha Fine Industries (which makes wooden panels for luxury cars) to realize this goal. It took five years just to develop the manufacturing techniques and tooling. The NS-5000? One-hundred percent Zylon for the 1¼” tweeter, the 3¼” dome midrange, and the 12″ woofer. Really big-company stuff. Manufacturing know-how and muscle power not available to 99.99% of our industry.
Just as interesting to me is what is out of sight—inside the 5000s. The older 1000/2000 Series was stuffed with damping material. The NS-5000 has none. Instead, Yamaha has taken a more targeted, measured (literally and figuratively) approach. For lower-frequency internal cabinet resonances, it deploys two “J”-shaped acoustic absorbers (think small Helmholtz resonators) to passively oppose the most offending internal low frequencies. For mid- and high-frequency “tube” resonances, it developed two Resonance Suppression (R.S.) chambers that extend from the back of the midrange and tweeter. Each are double, unequal-length tubes modeled to cancel problematic higher resonant frequencies. Turns out that Yamaha knows a thing or two about resonant tubes/chambers. It had special software used in the analyzing and simulating of trumpets, flutes, clarinets, French horns, etc., etc. to aid in the R.S. chamber designs. The result (if one can judge a piece of technology within a much more complex engineering puzzle) is devastatingly effective.
The same measure then treat approach was used for the internal bracing of the laminated white birch cabinet. A combination of predictive FEM analysis with real-word laser vibroscope measurements allowed for precise location of cross-bracing. Even the design of the supplied stand for the NS-5000 was considered for its impact on the radiated sound. Its open structure significantly reduces reflections when compared to a solid surface base.
The loudspeakers are single-wired, with all drivers connected in positive phase. Mundorf parts are sprinkled in. PC Triple C (Pure Copper Continuous Crystal Construction) cabling to a circuit board coated on both sides with a copper-foil pattern four times the thickness of traditional construction. This is said to ease current flow and reduce wiring length. The speaker terminals are solid brass.
A quick word on the stand, which provides a useful feature. The loudspeaker sits on four very smooth metal discs/sliders located at the stand’s corners. The speaker is then safely fastened to the stand via a single, centrally located bolt. This allows one to easily rotate each speaker around its axis to adjust toe without having to move the stand. Final adjustments of a loudspeaker can prove to be a very awkward procedure, so Yamaha’s solution was much appreciated!
Finally, the piano-black finish of the NS-5000 (and the rest of the components in the Series, for that matter) puts most of the industry to shame. Many other manufacturers use the term “piano black” loosely. Yamaha, on the other hand, knows a thing or two about the process, and it shows. The speakers have significant girth as objects in your room (piano black is accurate, while “bookshelf” is not), but the finish allows all kinds of beautiful reflections from your room to show. The NS-5000s look special. Beyond nice appliances.
By Allan Moulton
Let’s just start with a confession of sorts. I enjoyed listening to the combined talents of Roger Whittaker, Nana Mouskouri, The Irish Rovers, Zamfir, and Chuck Mangione with my family as a youth (Allan winces).More articles from this editor