Yamaha WXC-50: a modern MusicCast audio streamer with integrated Qobuz app in Hi-Res!
With this new WXC-50 standalone network player, Yamaha is addressing itself to a much wider market compared to that of its previous high end model, the NP-S2000. The WXC-50 offers a number of options, as it is compatible with the MusicCast multi-room system that integrates Qobuz in Hi-Res, and also with Airplay and Bluetooth connections as well as a USB A connector made for Apple.
Yamaha is recognised as the leading Hi-Fi manufacturer to offer a network connection via their MusicCast system. As with its Hi-Fi audio, audio-video and even some of its musical instruments, these products have very specific features which position Yamaha as at the front of the pack, as it already is for audio signal processors and soundbars.
It's worth noting that the MusicCast system integrates the Qobuz player app in Hi-Res and that a controller app is available for Android and iOS devices. This application activates various controls and can also access more advanced settings to manage sound quality, (improved reproduction of compressed files, adaptive volume, Advanced Bass Extension, Direct mode to skip Yamaha's data processing). It was therefore completely logical that we offer you the benchmark of a MusicCast network player in the case of the WXC-50 model.
No frills or ‘bling’ added to the Yamaha WXC-50 network player, but it does boast a modern and discreet design with a compact body in charcoal grey resin and a front panel with a few buttons and LEDs, as well as a silver volume control in a similar design to that of audiophile amplifiers from the brand.
On the left side of the front panel, there is the window for the remote control receiver, the start button, one for the input selection, and the play/pause. The first allows you to set up the wireless network by holding down the button for five seconds at the same time as the WPS button on the LAN router. The second, under the same conditions, provides access to network settings using the MusicCast app.
Then, there are three LED's, two multi-coloured, which indicate the status based on their colour. And finally, the volume control, as the WXC-50 can function as a pre-amplifier or as a single source. It's worth noting that the LED Status changes colour temporarily as you turn the volume up or down, going from blue for low volume to red for higher volume, (just like water temperatures!)
A small remote control, with source buttons the same colour as the LED indicator of the selected input, means the the WXC-50 is good for everyday use and offers over six programmable keys giving instant access to your stored favourite music as well as several functions that are not shown on the front panel.
The back panel of the WXC-50 is more like what you'd expect for a product of this type, but this also makes it rather overcrowded...
Let's start with the sources. The WXC-50 has an S/PDIF optical input, a network connector doubling as a WiFi connection, Bluetooth connection, the shared antenna being on the right side on the back panel, a USB input compatible with iPhone, iPod, iPad and a stereo analogue input.
Next to the two trigger controls, (input and output) a three-positioned switch enables you to connect to WiFi and Bluetooth, Bluetooth-only, or to switch both off.
There is also an auxiliary stereo output which will connect the WXC-50 as a source to a standard built-in amplifier, a subwoofer output, a stereo Pre-Out to a variable level for use with a built-in, non-adjustable amplifier, or a fixed level in Player mode (which bypasses processing) by sliding the switch to the right. There are also two digital S/PDIF outputs - optical and coaxial. A plug for the remote control receiver completes the inventory.
Production is a careful process for this product with a metal frame wrapped in resin and on the inside, a main board, and several auxiliary boards where you'll find the connectivity for controls and displays. You can see where the amplifier is positioned on the WXA-50 model, the board being at the back making space to connect speakers.
On the front of the main board there is the power socket where you'll see there is a section using a switch technique alongside a standard moulded section with a transformer.
In the other part of the main board is the bulk of the digital processing electronics and the connector that links these electronics to the WiFi / Bluetooth module. So in this section there is a Toshiba TMPM462F15FG, a powerful micro controller and a model that can be used in an AV amplifier. Among other features, there is also an interface to an Ethernet controller or USB Audio.
The WiFi module, produced by Yamaha (it couldn't be any better-suited, as it's their own design), also includes a Bluetooth receiver.
It is this controller that handles all digital signal processing and transmits them to the analogue digital converter, an ESS Sabre 9006S model. This chip includes eight channels and operates on Hyperstream from ESS, resampling on 32-bit high frequency for all incoming signals, regardless of their original sample, and also has Time Domain Jitter Eliminator processing.
One thing however that has puzzled us in this circuit section is to find a second digital to analogue converter chip. In fact it's a model, we really like, the Burr-Brown (a PCM5102 with a signal report on sound that has slightly lower quality).
We think it's for the stereo Aux-Out (and perhaps also for the subwoofer) providing a fixed level because the ESS Sabre 9006S chip used for pre amplified output provides a variable level that is a function for volume control and can not therefore be used for the auxiliary fixed output. You can try to resolve it by tuning it, as you can expect a slight difference in sound between the Aux output and the Pre Out.
Use & Listening
We are going to show some screenshots here, produced on an iPad, which are slightly different depending on your language and device.
- The Home Page
- The menu where we can choose the Qobuz appl
- Login to access the Qobuz music servers
- Option for using Qobuz
We started by setting the WXC-50 in Player mode. Yamaha specify high-resolution diffusion to allow the listener to hear the pure source, without it first being processed.
In order to identify the differences in sound between the output in Player mode and that of the Aux output, we connected them to the amplifier's two analogue inputs with a TEAC AI-501DA headphone connector linked up to our Oppo PM- 3 (so we could listen to loud music if necessary, without disturbing our colleagues!).
We then began listening to various excerpts from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff performed by the London Philharmonic Choir and the London Philharmonic, conducted by Hans Graf.
Overall, in both cases sound quality is very well maintained, dynamic, precise, bright, and this is where we expected differences between the two outputs. Actually we felt a slightly stronger sound listening to the the choir and also the orchestra on Pre Out than on Aux out, but it seemed that the TEAC headphones partly took the edge off the difference, which reminded us of our impressions about the AI-501DA.
When listening to Bâtard from the album Racine Carrée by Stromae on headphones you hear good sound performance, but it seems that you wouldn't want to use the AI-501DA for headphone output.
So we decided to get out the Lyngdorf TDAI-2170 amplifier as we had just published the bencmark. This also meant we could proceed as before with two analogue inputs, therefore powering our Triangle Antal Anniversary speakers.
The difference between the two outputs was a little more pronounced, with the Aux output having an advantage, an opinion shared by a colleague. The treble mix was slightly annoying, but hey, even if it's a bit sensitive to some pieces, in reality it really isn't a big problem and will undoubtedly go unnoticed most of the time - even more so if the sound system used doesn't offer a high degree of definition.
Still, this WXC-50 works well and we've enjoyed using it with its flexible and powerful MusicCast app.
In conclusion, the Yamaha WXC-50 network player is a modern product offering plenty of functionality and settings thanks to the MusicCast app enabling it to be integrated into a multi-room network. As for its excellent sound performance, you're left to enjoy your favourite music, including streamed music with the Qobuz player app in Hi-Res.
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