What is the Yamaha WXA-50?
Connections & Control
Features & Specs
MORE: What is MusicCast?
Yamaha offer the WXC-50 pre-amp and WXA-50 amplifier, both of which can add MusicCast to an existing system, but since the WXA-50 has 70W per a channel (into 6 Ohms) of built-in amplification, it can also be used to create a separate system by simply adding a pair of speakers. The included connections mean that you can connect your various sources to the amplifier and use it as a two-channel system. As well as the ability to listen to other sources and devices connected via the MusicCast multiroom network, the WXA-50 also has DLNA (v1.5), Bluetooth (SBC/AAC) and AirPlay, allowing you to stream music from paired devices. The MusicCast app also allows access to streaming services such as Internet Radio, Spotify, Napster, Qobuz and Juke!
The WXA-50 also benefits from Yamaha’s advanced audio technologies and circuit designs, with preamp circuitry designed to minimise digital jitter and the same high performance ESS DAC found in their high-end AV receivers. Yamaha’s proprietary power supply ground configuration, called DAC on Pure Ground, ensures that the power supply will never negatively affect sound quality. The 48-bit digital volume control provides much greater precision than conventional digital or analogue controls and a highly rigid, metal chassis supplies the stability necessary for powerful, clear music reproduction. The WXA-50 supports high resolution audio formats, including DSD 5.6 MHz, FLAC, WAV and AIFF at up to 192 kHz / 24-bit, and ALAC (Apple Lossless) at up to 96 kHz / 24-bit for iTunes.
Setup & Testing
For professional installers the amplifier only measures 214mm wide and 42mm high without feet, so it will easily fit into a 1U (19-inch) rack, and the WXA-50 offers various custom installation functions, so by using several units it’s easy to create an extensive home audio system. It also has a trigger in/out, wired LAN connectivity, a Wireless Off function and Web setup compatibility.
You have the option of using the Ethernet port for a wired connection but, assuming you want to create a wireless connection, just attach the antenna and make sure the wireless is switched on at the rear. Then all you have to do is download the MusicCast Controller app to your phone or tablet and use it to set up the amplifier. You simply follow the instructions on the app and within a minute or so the WXA-50 will have either created a MusicCast network or joined your existing one; you can also use the MusicCast app to control the amplifier and all your other MusicCast compatible devices. Finally, you can turn the amplifier on by just pressing any button on the front panel and the One Push Play feature initiates playback of the previously selected source.
Yamaha WXA-50 Video Review
When it came to movie soundtracks the WXA-50 obviously struggled to deliver the immersive nature of a surround sound mix but with less bombastic films it was able to deliver a decent performance. It clearly is never going to replace a real surround sound AV Receiver or even a good soundbar in this context but it was able to give reasonable account of itself. It could certainly go loud without distorting and the amplifier should be able to handle an average sized living room. Ultimately though, if you're going to use the WXA-50 in conjunction with a computer on your desk, it would be highly effective but if you plan on using it with a TV you might find the number of connections limiting. In that situation a MusicCast soundbar like the YSP-1600 might be a better option or even a proper surround sound AV Receiver.
If you're looking for a two-channel amplifier for music listening then the WXA-50 will certainly fit the bill, especially as it then offers a number of additional options in terms of wireless connections. We found both the Bluetooth and AirPlay connections to be both robust and effective, allowing us to enjoy music streamed from both an iPhone 6 and an iPad. The same was true when it came to MusicCast and as we expected from previous reviews, the network created was excellent allowing us to not only listen to sources actually connected to the WXA-50 but also other sources within the multiroom system. We were also able to dispense with the fiddly little remote control and use the MusicCast Controller app to control the entire system, which meant not only the WXA-50 but also the RX-A1060 which was included in the network.
The ability to use MusicCast is obviously a big selling-point of the WXA-50 and it certainly handled all the various music we played through it with ease. As we said at the beginning of this section it delivered a composed performance and managed to give an epic track like Suede's Still Life a suitably symphonic sweep. The same was true with more sparse recordings like Kate Bush's This Woman's Work, with its simple vocals and piano. If we had a criticism of the WXA-50, it often sounded a little restrained, lacking some of the enjoyment we feel with a Yamaha amplifier. We used the direct mode for unprocessed listening to high resolution audio files and the WXA-50 handled them well, whilst the compression enhancer was useful when it came to more compressed streams. We also found the advanced bass extension could be useful with smaller speakers like the Control Ones, giving them a bit more low-end presence.
The appeal of the WXA-50 will very much depend on what you're looking for, so if you want a small and flexible amplifier around which to build a two-channel system, then it might be just the ticket. It could also be your first step towards building a MusicCast multiroom system. However if your main goal is to add MusicCast to an existing system, then the WXC-50 might be the more sensible option, dropping the unnecessary amplification and costing less. The built-in amplification of the WXA-50 is certainly capable of handling a variety of speakers but we sometimes felt it was trying to be all things to all people without really excelling in any one particular area. The reality is that there are better amplifiers available and cheaper ways to add MusicCast to your home but the WXA-50 remains a beautifully designed and well-made little amplifier with an interesting concept behind it.
- Good all-round amp
- Easy to setup and use
- Flexible installation
- Decent connections
- Includes MusicCast
- Attractive and well made
- Sound is rather restrained
- Remote is small and fiddly
Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming Amplifier Review
The WXA-50 includes 70W of two-channel amplification and although we found the overall performance to be very good, we did find the sound to be slightly constrained at times. It will obviously depend on what type of speakers you pair the amplifier with but clearly given its size and power it is better suited to a good pair of bookshelf speakers than floorstanders and if you can add an active subwoofer that would certainly help with some of the heavy lifting. The WXA-50 remained composed and assured but it lacked the sheer joy we often associate with Yamaha, perhaps sounding a bit too composed. If you're looking for a small amplifier around which to build a two-channel system then the Yamaha WXA-50 is certainly worth considering but at a price of £429 there is a lot of competition. Of course, the big selling point is the inclusion of MusicCast but if you already have a system it might make more sense to go for the Yamaha WXC-050 pre-amp and save yourself some money.
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