Since launching in 2005, Sonos has pretty much dominated the multi-room wireless speaker scene. But it may surprise you to learn that Yamaha customers could stream music around their homes at least a couple of years earlier courtesy of the company’s MusicCAST network audio system. Originally comprising a CD ripper/hard drive server and receiver stations, Yamaha revamped the digital audio streaming platform in 2009 and included a touchscreen remote controller, the ability to connect to a portable music player over Bluetooth and support for streaming music services and internet radio. Now, MusicCast has been updated again, with Yamaha promising a range of more than 20 enabled products by the end of 2015.
Though sporting a familiar name, Yamaha’s new MusicCast platform is a markedly different wireless music platform than those that have come before. In fact, the company has confirmed that its new animal is not compatible with any of the previous MusicCAST wireless multi-room system flavors.
By the end of the year, the 20+ member MusicCast-ready range will include AV receivers, wireless speakers, sound bars and powered speakers. But if you want to jump aboard the Yamaha streaming train, you may have to arrange a meeting with your bank manager before you dive in as prices start at US$250 and rise all the way up to $3,000.
Streaming music services, internet radio and digital music libraries to enabled products dotted throughout the home is made possible via an existing home Wi-Fi network, though MusicCast devices also boast support for Wireless Direct.
There’s audiophile-pleasing support for high resolution digital audio such as Apple Lossless (up to 24-bit/96 kHz) and FLAC, AIFF and WAV files (up to 24-bit/192 kHz), with some of the fleet also capable of single-device playback of DSD encoded streams at up to 5.6 MHz.
Listeners will be able to wirelessly feed tunes from Bluetooth-enabled smart devices, but usefully MusicCast products can also output a Bluetooth stream, to send wireless music to Bluetooth speakers or headphones. External audio sources like TVs, gaming consoles and hi-fi components can be cabled to the new devices, too.
Up to 10 MusicCast devices can be controlled using an iOS/Android app running on a smartphone or tablet, which also facilitates viewing and selection of tracks from any network-connected mobile, computer or storage source and caters for zone/room playback selection.
Some of the new MusicCast models have already recently appeared on the market, but are yet to be made MusicCast-enabled. That’s the job of a firmware update being rolled out to folks who already own RX-V 79 or Aventage RX-A 50 Series AV receivers.
Next month sees the MusicCast range start to expand, with a new 5.1-channel, 80 W soundbar ($499.95) and a 5.1-channel, 140 W speaker base ($599.95) featuring the company’s proprietary Digital Sound Projector technology “for true (vs. virtual) surround sound.”
Also slated for September are the RX-S601 5.1-channel AV receiver ($649.95), and a companion to Yamaha’s MX-A5000 11-channel amp. The CX-A5100 preamp/processor ($2,999.95) comes with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound technologies for a more immersive home theater experience.
October will bring a $249.95, 30 W MusicCast speaker in black or white (though if you want to pair two of these for stereo sound, you’ll have to wait until later in the year for that feature to be supported) and a network hi-fi receiver into the family. The YSP-5600 soundbar with support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and the company’s Digital Sound Projector technologies ($1,699.95) and a pair of $799 powered monitor speakers are to join the party in December.
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