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Yamaha MusicCast Vinyl 500 Wi-Fi turntable review: Stream your LPs to any room in your home

Yamaha’s MusicCast Vinyl 500 Wi-Fi Turntable (type TT-N503) is a just about best marriage of good-ol’ analog and the most productive of lately’s electronic generation. The Vinyl 500 is the primary turntable that may movement vinyl information to each Yamaha MusicCast wi-fi audio system and Bluetooth audio system and headphones.

This gorgeously chic turntable may also be included into any conventional Hello-Fi machine, whether or not or no longer there’s a phono pre-amp on your ensemble. And absolute best of all, its versatile design is acceptable for each the vinyl amateur and the seasoned audiophile.

It begins with a cast turntable design

Yamaha’s analog-to-digital magic trick begins with a high quality turntable design, together with a substantive base constituted of MDF (medium density fiberboard) that’s complemented by means of adjustable, vibration-dampening toes. MDF is valued for its pressure and vibration-dampening homes, which is very important for nice turntable efficiency.

The Yamaha comes usual with a die-cast aluminum platter and a immediately tonearm equipped with an Audio-Technica MM (transferring magnet) cartridge. It is a belt-drive design with an remoted DC synchronous motor that’s bodily remoted from the platter that spins the file. All through setup, you merely slip your finger thru one of the crucial holes within the platter and slide the belt over the motor pully.

The Vinyl 500 is a belt-driven design. You slip the belt onto the motor through a hole in the platteTheo Nicolakis / IDG

Yamaha’s MusicCast Vinyl 500 is a belt-drive turntable. You slip the belt onto the motor thru a hollow within the platter.

Belt-drive turntables are coveted for his or her skill to scale back vibration. Direct-drive turntables, just like the Cambridge Audio Alva TT I reviewed in March, emphasize upper torque and sooner get started/prevent instances. As a common rule, high-end direct-drive turntables value significantly greater than nice belt-drive fashions (The Alva TT prices a groovy grand greater than this Yamaha type).

So one of the crucial traits of the Vinyl 500 that in point of fact inspired me was once how briefly this turntable was once in a position to begin and forestall—its efficiency on this house was once a lot nearer to direct-drive turntables than it was once to belt-drive fashions. That’s positive to enchantment to first-time vinyl fans.

Upload networking and MusicCast

You’ll get essentially the most take pleasure in the the Vinyl 500 should you additionally personal different audio system and wi-fi parts in response to Yamaha’s MusicCast multi-room audio generation. Yamaha provides a wide array of suitable audio system, soundbars, and A/V receivers that do. The Vinyl 500 can act as each a supply to movement vinyl and as a MusicCast preamp to obtain streamed tune from any MusicCast supported provider.

At the facet, there’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The Vinyl 500 connects to Yamaha’s MusicCast app similar to every other MusicCast community participant or speaker. For this evaluate, Yamaha additionally despatched me two MusicCast 20 audio system.

You set up the Vinyl 500 as you would any other MusicCast-enabled device or speaker. Once added theTheo Nicolakis / IDG

You set up the Vinyl 500 as you would any other MusicCast-enabled device or speaker. Once added the Vinyl 500 shows up as a “phono” source to the room assigned.

Setting up the Vinyl 500 and the MusicCast 20 speakers was a relatively straightforward experience, although I did need to apply firmware updates to each unit. What I found particularly perturbing was the fact that the Yamaha 500’s firmware update couldn’t be done via the MusicCast app. And I couldn’t use the unit with MusicCast until the firmware update was completed. I had to perform the update with button-press combinations on the turntable itself. There was no clear indicator of the firmware update’s progress, which non-technical consumers will find confusing. Yamaha’s on-screen prompts said that once this firmware was completed, all future firmware updates could be performed via the app. I hope that by the time you read this, Yamaha will have performed that update at the factory to make things less confusing for all.

With the firmware updates completed, I added the Vinyl 500 as a source and assigned it to a room in my home (in this case, the living room). Once assigned to a room, I could integrate the Vinyl 500 into an entire MusicCast ecosystem. If you’re not familiar with MusicCast, you’ll find a great primer here. The Vinyl 500 is also compatible with Apple’s AirPlay ecosystem.

The Vinyl 500’s initlal firmware update was cumbersome. Yamaha promises that future firmware updatesTheo Nicolakis / IDG

The Vinyl 500’s initial firmware update was cumbersome. Yamaha promises that future firmware updates will happen via the MusicCast app.

A world of music possibilities

For purposes of this review, I tested the Yamaha in a variety of different setups. For a minimalist setup you can pair the Yamaha turntable with a pair of MusicCast-enabled speakers and call it a day. Think about it: You can have only the Vinyl 500, two MusicCast speakers, and play your vinyl and music from your favorite music-steaming service or local music server anywhere in your house. This setup with a pair of MusicCast 20 speakers worked flawlessly for me.

Yamaha sent me the Vinyl 500 with two MusicCast 20 speakers.Theo Nicolakis / IDG

Yamaha sent me the Vinyl 500 with two of its MusicCast 20 speakers.

If you already have a stand-alone Hi-Fi sound system, just use the Yamaha’s line output and its built-in phono preamp to plug into that existing setup. I connected the Yamaha to my Anthem AVM 60 pream/processor set up the MusicCast 20 speakers as a stereo pair in another room.

If you have a high-end setup, you can use the Yamaha’s phono out to connect to an outboard phono preamp. You should be aware, however, that if you use the Vinyl 500’s phono outputs, you will lose MusicCast functionality. MusicCast only works when the turntable’s line outs are active.

I could link rooms to stream vinyl around the house or use the Vinyl 500 as a MusicCast streamer toTheo Nicolakis / IDG

I could link rooms to stream vinyl around the house, or use the Vinyl 500 as a MusicCast streamer to stream from music services, such as Tidal.

I really appreciated the Vinyl 500’s high-tech muscle when I had records playing from my main analog setup and streaming to three different rooms: the living room, kitchen, and family room. It was so cool to know that I could set up a multi-room audio system without needing a single wire run. I should note, however, that you can only stream vinyl by linking rooms—you cannot select the Vinyl 500 as a source from another room.

I gave the setup some simple challenges, too: I played one MusicCast 20 speaker connected to Wi-Fi and the second with an ethernet cable in two different rooms. There wasn’t any hint of latency. I then upped the ante by moving both speakers to different rooms. I set them up as a stereo pair with one connected wirelessly and the second hardwired. No delay between the two here, either. When I engaged the main listening room too with its analog connection, I heard zero latency between the Hi-Fi system and the remote room. Walking around the house, the analog and digital setups remained in perfect sync.

But things don’t stop there. The Vinyl 500 also has a Bluetooth radio onboard, too. Connect a pair of Bluetooth wireless headphones and you can stream your vinyl directly to your favorite pair of wireless cans. The Yamaha supports the SBC and AAC codecs, but you won’t find hi-definition codecs such as aptX HD or LDAC here.

The Vinyl 500 has phono pre-outs so you can connect the turntable with an external phono preamp. ItTheo Nicolakis / IDG

The Vinyl 500 has phono pre-outs, so you can connect the turntable with an external phono preamp. It also has a line output, which connects to the unit’s internal phono preamp.

I do want to mention one completely bizarre behavior when the Vinyl 500 is connected with its line outputs with MusicCast: As you’d expect, the Vinyl 500 shows up as a source (phono) in the room you assign it to. When I selected the Vinyl 500 as a source, the MusicCast app communicated with the Vinyl 500 and stopped its motor from playing a record. I could replicate this behavior every time. One would think that pressing the phono input on the app would then start the Vinyl 500 playing again. Nope. I needed to go up to the turntable and manually start the record playing again. I brought this anomaly to Yamaha’s attention.

Listening tests

As I mentioned previously, I tried the Yamaha Vinyl 500 in several configurations. For purposes of critical listening, I connected the Yamaha Vinyl 500 via its line out to an Anthem AVM 60. Speakers were Revel Ultima2 Salons powered by two Benchmark AHB2 power amplifiers in a bridged mono configuration.

The Vinyl 500 set up and ready to go.Theo Nicolakis / IDG

The Yamaha MusicCast Vinyl 500, all set up and ready to go.

I tested both Yamaha’s internal preamp and also connected and tested the phono output with a Cambridge Audio Alva Duo phono preamp. The Yamaha’s internal preamp is decent for the casual listener. However playing the Yamaha Vinyl 500 via the Cambridge Audio Alva Duo elevated the turntable’s performance in seemingly every aspect. Unfortunately, you lose MusicCast functionality in this latter configuration. The midrange—especially vocals—had comparatively greater detail, definition, and air with the Cambridge Audio Alva Duo. I preferred the top end too, feeling that it has more air. Therefore, if you’re connecting the Yamaha to a revealing Hi-Fi setup, you’d do well to add an external phono preamp to elevate the Yamaha’s performance. Note that if you want to engage MusicCast, you simply flick a switch on the unit’s rear panel to direct the audio back to the unit’s line output.

My observations below reflect my setup with the Cambridge Audio Alva Duo.

The Yamaha proved itself to be a solid midrange performer. Playing the Eagles Live, the Yamaha impressed me with its musicality. The Vinyl 500 compelled me to put down my note pad to sit back, relax and enjoy classics like “The Long Run,” “New Kid in Town,” and “Life’s Been Good.” I don’t always get that feeling with every piece of audio gear I review. The Yamaha’s performance with dynamics, vocals, and instruments was very good.

Settin up the turntable and its couterwight is easy.Theo Nicolakis / IDG

Setting up the turntable and its counterweight was easy as pie

Turning to orchestral works, I spun up John Williams’ score for Star Wars: The Force Awakens on 180g vinyl. The Yamaha had no problem conveying the breadth and depth of full orchestral works. Trumpets on the main Star Wars title were smooth and well extended. Drums burst forth with ample weight and dynamics. But the Yamaha Vinyl 500 relished tender movements, too, capturing the brilliance of the strings and flutes on “The Scavenger” and “Rey’s Theme.”

Rear view of Yamaha’s Vinyl 500 turntable.Yamaha

A rear view of the Yamaha Vinyl 500 turntable.

Conclusion

If you’ve longed to pair the analog luxury of a turntable with the digital power of a multi-room audio system, you need to consider Yamaha’s MusicCast Vinyl 500 turntable. It will let you stream your records to any room in your home or to any pair of Bluetooth headphones. And when paired with a high-quality external phono preamp, the Vinyl 500 will satisfy the audiophile in you, too. There is no easier way to add vinyl to your listening experience.

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