This isn't the best-sounding speaker in its class, but you do get special surround sound features.
- Handy top-plate controls
- Has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
- Pleasant sound
- Relatively poor bass depth
- Mono sound character
- Review Price: £199.99
- Woofer and tweeter driver array
- Passive radiator
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Capacitive favourites buttons
- Wall mount port
What is the Yamaha MusicCast 20?
The Yamaha MusicCast 20 is a wireless multi-room speaker. It’s a smaller, relatively affordable model that won’t take over your living room.
It’s more open, more flexible than a Sonos One. Buy several speakers from the MusicCast line-up and you can turn them into a stereo pair or a surround sound setup.
The Yamaha MusicCast 20 is not the best-sounding speaker in its class, though. Its bass is a lot shallower than that of the Sonos One or Riva Arena, and a traditional driver array makes its delivery sound distinctly ‘mono’ next to some more dynamic models.
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Yamaha MusicCast 20 – Design
Having heard the Yamaha MusicCast 20 has more reserved bass than others, you might expect it to be smaller too. However, this speaker is larger than the Sonos One.
Some of the basics of its look are similar, though. It’s a curvy tower with an oval footprint. The speaker grille curves around the front and sides, building up to a lip that sits a little above the glossy plastic top plate.
The Yamaha MusicCast 20 is available in black and white. I’ve only seen the white version in person, but the black may look a bit slicker. The top plate in particular is not quite a visual match for the Sonos One, as it’s dotted with capacitive buttons, each with a descriptive icon.
This speaker has a minimalist style, but only up to a point. It is slightly busy.
It will adapt to your living room well, though. Most will probably just set it down on a surface, but there’s a cut-out on the back to let you hang it from a wall easily, and a threaded mount socket below to interface with a stand.
Related: Best Bluetooth speakers
The Yamaha MusicCast 20 does not have a battery. This is a home speaker, not a portable one, but it does offer better flexibility than many in this class.
Yamaha MusicCast 20 – Features
Like almost all multi-room speakers, Wi-Fi is the main way to stream music to the Yamaha MusicCast 20. However, you also get Bluetooth.
You can also link specific sources to the three numbered buttons on the top. I set them to BBC 6 Music, BBC Radio 4 and my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist. After these are set, you can get going without touching your phone.
As such, the Yamaha MusicCast 20 could easily replace a kitchen or bedside radio. These shortcuts are a great bonus feature.
The speaker uses Yamaha’s MusicCast system, a rival for to the Sonos platform. You’ll use it as an app for your phone or tablet, and it’s also responsible for the Yamaha MusicCast 20’s setup.
The app itself is not as slick as Sonos’s, but seems fairly stable. And as the Yamaha MusicCast 20 supports Spotify Connect, many of you won’t need to use it much anyway.
Deezer, TIDAL, Qobuz and Napster are also on board, and US buyers can use Pandora. Some of these are integrated into the MusicCast app, but Spotify is not. So if you want to add a playlist to the Yamaha MusicCast 20’s preset buttons, you just long-press one as the album or playlist is in progress.
To use the most unusual feature of the lot you’ll need a Yamaha home cinema receiver with MusicCast, though. This lets you delegate different channels of a surround sound mix to a multi-speaker MusicCast setup: no more speaker cable to worry about. I didn’t get a chance to test this. Funnily enough, it doesn’t work with my Onkyo AVR. But in theory the AVR integration means audio and picture sync should be a non-issue.
You can also use the Yamaha MusicCast 20 as an alarm clock, and there’s an alarm dismiss button on the top plate.
Yamaha MusicCast 20 – Sound Quality
Were you to tear the speaker grille off the Yamaha MusicCast 20, you’d find a two-way active driver setup. There’s one large woofer and one tweeter, both on the front. Large passive radiators sit on the sides.
Big radiators like this can often result in surprisingly impressive bass for the cabinet volume. However, as noted earlier, that’s not the case here.
The Yamaha MusicCast 20 has much shallower bass than the Sonos One or Riva Arena. You’re left with the impression Yamaha spent too much time thinking about the 20 as a satellite speaker. While a Sonos One can be used as a satellite too, it was clearly made in the knowledge it would be many people’s only music speaker.
This driver arrangement also leaves the MusicCast 20 with a narrower sweet spot, because the highly positional treble information is only thrown out from the front. There’s a reason the Apple HomePod’s sides are plastered with tweeters.
You’ll get better results with a pair of toe’d in MusicCast 20s. However, one speaker on its own does not have competitive sound dispersal, or a particularly well-separated soundstage. Next to more dynamic designs it sounds ‘mono’ — because it is.
All those criticisms aside, the Yamaha MusicCast 20 sounds perfectly good. It can go loud enough to fill mid-size rooms, there’s no harshness of note and there’s reasonable detail in the upper-mids.
If you’re sat in front of the active drivers, the MusicCast 20 is an enjoyable listen.
However, it’s clearly outclassed by the competition. It can’t promote vocals and other mid-centric instruments anywhere near as well as the Sonos One. While some of that Sonos mid punch is contrived by clever driver management and processing, the results are compelling.
All this aside, the Yamaha MusicCast 20 will make a decent speaker if you have a Yamaha setup and want a surround setup with no wires.
Should I buy the Yamaha MusicCast 20?
If you want a single wireless speaker, the Yamaha MusicCast 20 isn’t the best choice. There are more adept speakers that squeeze more out of the abilities of a small speaker, with deeper bass, wider dispersal and a better soundstage.
However, you should hear good results if you use a couple of MusicCast 20 speakers or build them into a larger surround setup.
This isn’t the best-sounding speaker in its class, but you do get special surround sound features.
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