Saturday, May 21, 2016

Review of Yamaha MusicCast WX-030 for DLNA playback


I have a large library of music on my home computer which I share throughout the house via J River Media Center and its DLNA service.  I also use the BubbleUPnP app on my Android phone and tablets to act as the front-end, to select songs and direct the playback to either the local device (typically bluetooth headphones) or my family-room stereo.

Over the years I have gone through multiple AV receivers from Denon, Sony and now Yamaha.  They generally work alright but both the Denon and Yamaha receivers tend to freak-out if I skip a song, i.e., they corrupt the playback and need to be power-cycled.  Also, the playback is restricted to one room -- albeit the most important room.  But I still hoped to find a solution for music listening in the kitchen and other rooms.


About six months ago I started a thread on the AVS Forum asking for input about DLNA playback on all the available network speakers, e.g.
  • Sonos
  • Denon Heos (Play-Fi)
  • Paradigm
  • Samsung
  • BlueSound
  • Definitive (Play-Fi)
  • LG MusicFlow
  • Polk Omni (Play-Fi)
  • Martin Logan Crescendo
Unfortunately, none of them seemed like a perfect match for my needs. The Play-Fi based models could act as DLNA 'Renderers' at least, but they were very expensive.  I had been prepared to pay a lot for high-quality sound but then, for instance, the Definitive floor-models (at Best Buy) had broken buttons so I worried about their design.


Now I have a new toy -- the Yamaha MusicCast WX-030 network speaker.  It's very affordable @ $250.  It has its own MusicCast app which allows you to playback from various streaming audio services like Pandora or Spotify, but I've yet to commit to any of those. It also lets you playback from 'Server' (DLNA) but then its track/playlist control is non-existent.  Fortunately the speaker also works perfectly with BubbleUPnP.  Probably the most important feature of the app is that it allows you to EQ the speaker as well as couples two speakers into a stereo pair.
BubbleUPnP playlist

DLNA Playback

When the speaker is asleep, I can initiate power-on and playback entirely from BubbleUPnP.  I can also control the volume.  And I specifically tested the EQ -- the settings I chose from the MusicCast app are saved by the speaker, they're not dependent on using that app.  So once I 'fixed' the EQ I never need to use their app again, I can rely exclusively on BubbleUPnP.


well... You get what you pay for?  It sounds alright, good enough that I'm not going to return it.  But its definitely a small speaker without any deep bass, also the EQ seems to change based on volume.  At low volumes the speaker sounds muffled, enough so that I boosted the high-band in the EQ.  The bass sounds better at high volumes, probably because of the relative-loudness phenomenon.  I also dialed-back the mid-band because the speaker seemed 'shouty'.

In conclusion, I am happy with the speaker.  Maybe 3 out of 4 stars?  I plan on buying a second unit and pairing them together for stereo.  That can't help but fill the room with sound, and hopefully it will improve the bass performance, too.

UPDATE: August 2016

I still rate it 3 of 4 stars.  I bought a second unit and set up stereo-pairing but it quickly had problems. If the system had been 'asleep' and I woke it up from either the MusicCast app or BubbleUPnP (DLNA), the two speakers would be horribly out-of-sync.  The right/master speaker would play normally but the left/slave speaker would stop and start.

I contacted Yamaha tech-support and they insisted it was something wrong with my home network.  They showed me where to access the diagnostics screen and that identified the problem.  It is accessible in the MusicCast app under Settings > (speaker) > Information > Diagnostics.  From this screen I could see that the right speaker could 'see' 5 or 6 of my neighbors' wifi and the ping time sometimes jumped from 0.03 seconds to 4.5 seconds!  The left speaker didn't see any neighbors and its ping was consistently solid at 0.03 seconds.

So I installed a PowerLine ethernet adapter for the right speaker.  So far it works perfect, although time will tell.

UPDATE: October 2017

The playback has continued to be reliable since I bypassed wifi.  I continue to rate the system 3 of 4 stars, though.  They seem to release firmware updates every few months -- which I appreciate -- however, the updates always break the stereo-pairing.  Recreating it requires a special key sequence on each speaker, i.e., it can't be enabled through the software.  Also, there's a second key sequence which is needed to disable the default wifi mode, i.e., after each update the wired speaker defaults back to wifi.

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