Tracing the History of Yamaha’s HS Series Active Studio Monitors

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By Pablo François

A response to the discontinuation of the NS-10.

Of all the brands in the larger loudspeaker market, few have a CV as diverse and balanced as Yamaha.

From their historic predominance in home cinema and hi-fi to their much respected sound systems (the Sound reinforcement manual is still considered the bible of all things FOH) and of course, their recent successes in installed products and commercial systems, the brand has always enjoyed an excellent reputation in the professional space, regardless of the branch. of the audio tree in which she lives.

Founded by Japanese businessman / engineer Torakusu Yamaha in 1889 as a manufacturer of reed organs, the brand has managed to simultaneously stay at the top of every sub-sect and major lineage in speaker design since their foray into Hi-Fi and paradise in the early 1960s. not looked back.

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Rest assured, if it has riders and involves a power amp of any sort, then the sight of a Yamaha logo (three tuning forks that intersect to indicate the brand’s commitment to music) is a sigh of relief. welcome relief. They are the benchmark for utility and unpretentious excellence in the field.

But of all of Yamaha’s successes in the broader speaker market, it is their studio monitors that hold a very special place, not only in the brand’s history but also further in the heart and mind. from the army of budding sound engineers who cut their teeth on Yamaha’s exceptional near-field offerings.

The iconic white drivers and black, angled housings have become a shortcut for near-field reliability, from their early days in the recording studio, to the current generation of highly acclaimed HS-series monitors.

This story is extremely important in the case of Yamaha, and to truly understand the brand’s heritage as a powerhouse, you must first go back to that first moment of the big bang, in 1978, when Yamaha inadvertently created the most iconic and influential studio. All-time monitor, the venerable NS-10.

The unworn and exceptionally fast NS-10 was a game-changer in every sense of the word and ushered in a wave of mobile and home recording practices, at a time when the process of tracking and mixing an album was mainly took place on a large scale. facilities built, with specially designed large monitors operating in medium and far fields.

At this point in history, recordings were generally formed on 3-way wideband systems (i.e. they featured an HF tweeter, midrange speaker, and LF woofer. in the same enclosure) and once a mix has been designed on these larger inputs. home speakers, it was common for this mix to then be referenced to a set of smaller, consumer grade speakers to get a feel for how those mixes would then translate into listening contexts across the board. beyond that of the elite studio environment.

It was with this task in mind that a handful of American engineers began to import the NS-10 from their native Japan and inadvertently change the course of surveillance forever, as the obscure little Hi-Fi speakers. Japanese fi’s have turned out to be much more of a “monitor worthy of a mix than anyone first anticipated.”

It didn’t take long for the NS-10 to establish itself and become the industry standard for the studio, inventing the concept of “close listening” as we know it now and pioneering many streams. professional and domestic recording work that we know how to use today.

The secret to the success of the Ns-10 has been well documented and is at the heart of the Yamaha studio philosophy. On the one hand, its narrow but pure frequency range made it an ultimate indicator of mix quality, with an ability to uncover a multitude of sins in the most important midrange frequencies, which would remain inaudible on larger speakers. indulgent.

The other important aspect of the NS-10 was the incredibly fast transient response offered in the time domain by the lightweight speakers and the closed, unported design. This made the NS-10 arguably the best monitor ever for dynamics and timbral processing and made it the controlled variable, to beat all controlled variables. To this day, every professional studio worth its salt has a set of NS-10s somewhere in their itinerary, for example how these speakers have become a ubiquitous and trustworthy institution.

Unfortunately, everything has to pass and in the case of the NS-10, this happened in 2001 when it became too difficult to obtain the specific tree, needed to make the pulp of the LF speakers out of cardboard, putting thus end to the legend of the studio.

Fortunately, Yamaha did not fail to beat, introducing the HS series a few years later and distilling the lion’s share of what made the NS-10 great (elite mid-range clarity, exceptional recoil speed, etc.) and distilling it into a Yamaha Nearfield for the active generation.

Today, the powered HS Series offers the same portless, closed design and incredible transient response characteristics as its ancestor, but with a new, more reliable (and easier to find) low-frequency driver, all while sharing the same aesthetic. iconic than the classic Yamaha of yore.

Since the heyday of the NS10, music has become more and more full frequency, with genres heavier and heavier and a move towards higher definition sound, at all levels. With these considerations in mind, the latest incarnation of the HS series has fitted the bill perfectly, with newly designed ultra-responsive woofers that use carefully selected large magnets and produce low-distortion sound with a well-defined bottom end at n ‘any output level.

All components in the range include this new high powered woofer technology as well as premium components including a premium woofer ring and basket, which in turn only add to the superb bass response. of the HS series, while providing clear and precise midrange higher up in the frequency spectrum.

They are also much easier to find and replace than the famous NS-10 woofers, which in turn means more consistency between units and longer product life. As it stands, the HS series has already almost passed the full lifecycle of the NS10 and shows no signs of slowing down, having already become an industry standard in its own right.

In terms of high frequencies, the highly efficient 1 ″ dome tweeter also significantly extends the usable frequency range, using a thick waveguide designed to minimize vibration. The design of the new tweeter allows the modern HS series to pull off the incredible party trick of delivering smooth, distortion-free highs up to 30kHz, which is no easy task.

Available in 8.7 and 5 inch variants (HS8, HS7 and HS5 respectively), there is an HS monitor for almost any application or control room setup, with sizing flexibility and consistency between HF drivers that make it a great option for potential immersive mixing applications as well.

Adding the HS8S (an 8 inch bass reflex subwoofer) can also extend the range of your system up to 22Hz, which is a treat for anyone who grew up trying to figure out which subwoofer to pair with their NS10. .

The minimum cost and time required to get a combination of nearfield / HS8S HS subsets powered (and the consistency of output that this provides across the frequency spectrum), is probably one of the most convenient little audio hacks. , especially for those looking to get into sound design and post-work.

Overall, the HS series provides an impressive example of how to modernize a classic the right way. By demonstrating a deep understanding of what made the NS-10 great in the first place, then developing the technical capabilities of the original in a way that works in the context of music (and monitoring) right now. If the original NS10 is Sean Connery then the HS thing is Daniel Craig, it’s that simple.

For more information on the Yamaha HS Series, visit their website.


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