Yamaha WXAD-10 MusicCast Adapter Review
Is this little box of tricks the way to smarten up your setup?
What is the Yamaha WXAD-10?The Yamaha WXAD-10 is described as a ‘MusicCast Adaptor.’ It is designed to head off a problem that affects many households considering the move to a multiroom system. Any room you buy a piece of equipment for directly will be good to go but in most cases, the reality of the situation is that there will be legacy equipment that won’t talk to your all singing, all dancing equipment. Sometimes this means that sentimentality will dictate the likelihood of your purchasing decisions but equally, financial reality will too.
As such, the WXAD-10 exists as a means of talking to this equipment and bringing it ‘on side.’ This is another punch being landed by Yamaha in their quest to be a serious multiroom contender. Having decided from the outset that they were going to go ‘all in’ and fit the greater part of their products with the ability to talk to one another, this is a logical step to help fill in the gaps.
Of course, take a brief look at the specs the Yamaha offers and there is potentially strong case to look at it even if there are no other MusicCast devices in your house. With streaming, internet radio and streaming service support in a little box for £150, is this a welcome dose of smarts for any system or something that will only appeal to MusicCast users?
SpecificationsThe reason for the WXAD0-10 to exist is entirely straightforward. If you buy a piece of Yamaha equipment in 2017, the bulk of it will have MusicCast on board. We have covered both the launch of MusicCast and its arrival on a very broad range of products. If you were in the position where you had never owned any audio electronics up until the point you decided you wanted a MusicCast system, you’d be laughing. For most of us though, this is not a fair representation of how we have accrued kit. If you replace an AV receiver with a Yamaha unit and pick up a WX-030 or two, you have the rudiments of a multiroom setup. If you have a soundbar in the bedroom though or an older all-in-one system somewhere, this isn’t going to be part of the system.
The WXAD-10 is the means of adding the MusicCast interface and basic function set to any device with an analogue input. To this end you get a 24/192kHz capable media streamer with native support for internet radio, streaming services such as Napster, Qobuz and Spotify (Tidal has also been announced and will be added in due course) as well as internet radio. Crucially, if you are sending information from a MusicCast Hub, the WXAD-10 is able to act as one of the receivers. As such, anything you connect it to becomes a MusicCast device.
There are some limits to exactly what the WXAD-10 is capable of as you might expect. The first is that it has no means of controlling the volume of the device it is connected to. It is neither a preamp nor does it have the IR Flood emitter that the more expensive Musaic MPL is fitted with. Another omission which is understandable at the price is a digital output. The WXAD-10 is analogue only which means that performance is going to be limited by the decoding of the Yamaha. If you are relegating a system with high quality decoding to secondary duties, that might be a shame but I can understand why Yamaha has done it.
The actual internals of the Yamaha are not something that the company goes into much detail about but the specifications seem to suggest that high res material is handled without compression or alteration and the hardware supports niceties such as AirPlay and Apt-X Bluetooth so the functionality is reasonably extensive. One interesting part of the spec is that the Yamaha uses a USB power supply. This means it can be powered from an Android charger if you needed but more usefully, if you have an older Yamaha AV Receiver such as the RX-A3040 I still use, the power output for the Bluetooth module can be used to drive the WXAD-10 as a straight swap. If you are truly up to date and you have mains plugs with USB chargers in, these will work as well.
A final part of the Yamaha’s connectivity is a 3.5mm stereo output. This might seem a bit superfluous on a product that already has an RCA output but it is there for a reason for a uniquely Yamaha line of thinking. The WXAD-10 can be connected directly to the company’s Clavinova electric pianos via this connection. On one level, this provides a means of turning a musical instrument into a fairly comprehensive all-in-one system but there’s a potential USP here too. Yamaha has an active music school program and the WXAD-10 has some genuine potential as a means of streaming the accompaniment to piano pieces to the piano as a practise aid. This might not immediately blow your frock up but it does have some considerable potential for the not inconsequential number of Clavinovas in the market.
DesignIt is something of a given that Yamaha is not necessarily the company you make a beeline for if you are looking for something truly radical. Styling on key lines changes at a relaxed pace and there is a strong sense of brand identity to the products. The WXAD-10 gives Yamaha a chance to style a completely new genre of product… and to be honest, they’ve not gone wild. The WXAD-10 is a small grey box with three lights on it. Anyone looking for something dramatic to have on display will probably need to look elsewhere.
This does miss the point a little though. The Yamaha is small, unobtrusive and easy to hide away. As it has no display or indeed any controls on it, it has no need to be in sight and it will do its job pretty much regardless. Judged by this way of thinking, the overall levels of build and finish are more than up to the job. It is a bit too light to stay put if connected to stiff cables and I don’t fully understand the significance of the lights on the front but this doesn’t really affect the operability.
As the point of contact for the Yamaha will be the control app, the news here is rather better. I liked the MusicCast app when it came out and I still like it now. What Yamaha has done is ensure that the multiroom aspect of the app is built in to the fundamental design. There’s never any ambiguity about the device you have selected and the business of sharing audio to multiple locations is straightforward. The streaming section also works well – not least because it does without a queue function and at no stage has it been anything other than completely stable.
The Yamaha is small, unobtrusive and easy to hide away
How was the Yamaha WXAD-10 tested?The Yamaha has been placed on my wireless network and accessed lossless and high res FLAC and AIFF files from a Western Digital MyBook NAS as well as streaming services. Bluetooth was tested via a Motorola G4 Android phone. It has been connected to a Naim Supernait 2, Cambridge Audio 851A and a Yamaha RX-3040 AV Receiver running a variety of speakers. The app has been tested on the Motorola and an iPad Air.
Sound QualityHaving performed the setup procedure for the WXAD-10, which is the same as every other member of the MusicCast family which in turn means it is straightforward but still much easier to do on iOS than Android, I realised something interesting. My setup and installation of the Yamaha came almost five years to the day that I wrote my first review of the Chord Index streamer- which is now discontinued. The Chord was a £1,000 product, meaning you could have six Yamahas and a £100 to spend on biscuits for the same money. The specification of the WXAD-10 is also effortlessly superior to the Chord and in terms of control and integration with other products it feels like there is a lot more than five years between them.
Sonically, the Yamaha does a great deal right too. Listening to the 16/44.1kHz rip of Air’s Premieres Symptomes, the performance is refined, rich and spacious. This is an almost entirely instrumental album that mixes syths and real instruments into tracks that could have been laid down any time from 1977 onwards. The WXAD-10 captures the warmth and almost organic quality that the recording has. There is a refinement that manages to exist without losing the top end energy that helps guitars and high notes sound energetic and lifelike.
An area where the Yamaha is also strong for a relatively affordable bit of kit is the bass. Massive Attack’s Karma Coma has the hulking sense of menace and scale it needs to sound convincing and while there isn’t the level of fine detail and definition that some (considerably) more expensive devices can bring to the piece, it sounds pretty good. High energy music manages to sound fast and engaging too. The big, potent beats of Underworld’s Mo Move are well handled and you find yourself drawn into the performance in a wholly convincing way rather than sitting there picking holes in it.
No less impressive is the way that the Yamaha manages to keep these basic characteristics when you use compressed services such as Spotify. I frequently use Spotify when physically typing as I can flick to the desktop app for control rather than firing up the Android or iOS apps. To be clear, the device doing the playback – be it the Yamaha or the considerably more expensive Naim ND5XS that lives here – isn’t my main focus of attention but the WXAD-10 has managed to sound entirely decent while it does so. If you want Tidal ahead of time and stream it via Apt-X Bluetooth, this sounds more than decent too with total stability and decent range.
This matters for two reasons. As a device for bringing a touch of smart audio to systems that previously had no means of being so, it does work brilliantly. You could buy an old but respectable stereo amp on eBay for sensible money and – once the Tidal update is added especially – use the WXAD-10 to be all the digital that you would ever need. It also makes good on the promises of MusicCast being the most flexible of the multiroom options. I’m not going to say that £150 is ‘cheap’ but it’s half the price of the Sonos Connect and £100 cheaper than the Musaic MPL and it will go on to talk to a range of components that has both those product ranges knocked into a cocked hat.
As a device for bringing a touch of smart audio to systems that previously had no means of being so, it does so brilliantly
- Entertaining and engaging performance
- Good value
- Excellent feature set
- Not pretty
- No digital out
Yamaha WXAD-10 MusicCast Adapter ReviewAt my most critical, I could lay into the Yamaha for a number of reasons. It looks dull and feels a bit lightweight. I’d love it to have a digital output and a volume control because even if it was a simple bit reduction system it would be useful for better integration into a whole house system.
All of this completely misses the point though. For £150, the WXAD-10 is hugely capable and consistently entertaining to listen to. It has facilities that were largely unobtainable even a few years ago and it is stable and utterly simple to use. Even if you have no other MusicCast devices, this is a well implemented streamer that can be had for sensible money. If you are thinking about going all in for MusicCast, this is a device that is priced in such a way as to make adding them to a few locations a practical proposition. Yamaha has gone and made multiroom streaming that little bit more practical and for that reason the WXAD-10 comes highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £150.00
Ease of Use9
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