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             Review: Yamaha Desktop Speakers: YST-M10, YST-M5.
  Calum Tsang                                               tsangc@io.org
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Introduction
~~~~~~~~~~~~
When Amigas were older, they came with special monitors: ones that ran at
15 KHz, which Commodore customized at the OEM level.  Made by Phillips,
Daewoo, and others, models such as the 1084, 2080, and 1080, came with
internal speakers to showcase the audio capabilities of the Amiga system. 
Some of these speaker systems were actually quite good, including the pair
integrated into the cabinet of my aging C1084SP2.  However, with the
proliferation of deinterlacers, AGA, and graphics cards, plus Commodore's
unfortunate demise three years ago, very few Amiga users have the benefit
of sound in their monitors because they've upgraded to new SVGA class
displays.

Some resort to brutish measures like wiring up receivers and custom made
amplifiers.  While this certainly satisfies the need for audio, it's also a
waste of energy, and space consuming.  What many Amiga fans need is a good
set of desktop speakers.

The first set of high quality desktop speakers I tried about four years
ago, was a pair of Synthedata SD series stereo monitors, originally hooked
up to a Roland U20 keyboard at school.  They accepted a wide range of
input, from the mixboard/amp ready output of the keyboard to line level. 
They sounded amazing attached to my Amiga 2000, and their cast iron casing
exuded a certain professionalism to them.  However, they were very
expensive.

While at Comdex 95, I remarked at a very pretty pair of desktop speakers
made by Sony, those Japanese stylemeisters of industrial design.  (I
secretly wish to be a graphic designer, industrial stylist, architect, or
even a Lightwave modeller, but so far, all I've amounted to is a wishywashy
industrial engineering student, and a bad one at that, according to the
Faculty.  :) So not only is sound quality an issue for me, but I wanted
them to look nice too.

In more recent years, it seems there are many desktop speakers for the
consumer: but primarily, all are designed for headphone level output, with
an impedance incorrect for the line level output of Amiga systems, or their
external CDRom subsystems.  Many, sporting rather large ratings for power
output, are poorly designed: A pair of speakers at work, given to me
because they came with a generic sound card, rattled at any volume greater
than 10%.  They're usually made of cheap plastic, and look very ugly, a
generic PC clone derivative.  No Mac user would come near these atrocities,
but then of course, they have Apple's rather exquisite AppleDesign Powered
Speakers.

I had looked at Sony and Yamaha, even Roland too.  All produced line level
speakers with high quality output.  Unfortunately, they were also extremely
expensive at around $180-250CAD.  But one day, visiting my local Future
Shop consumer electronics retailer, I noticed a giant stack of Yamaha
YST-M10 desktop speakers, complete for $70 in their oddly spartan red and
rice coloured Japanese packing.

YST-M10
~~~~~~~
The M10's are very attractive speakers, which is what drew me to them
originally.  About nine inches tall, in a rice/white colouring, these
speakers have a pretty cloth grill on the front, unlike the cheap,
resonating plastic or metal grills of normal PC speakers.  Each speaker has
a distinctive curve outwards, with a finely moulded plastic backing. 
Instead of some cheesy SuperBass function, controls are very simple: Power,
Presence and Volume.  Presence is basically Tone: more treble or bass in
one knob.  All the controls are on the right speaker, and the setup is
integrated: no additional amplifiers are needed, just the supply and the
two cabinets.

Most importantly, the M10 supports both line level and headphone level
input.  There is an input for power, supplied in a very nice power adapter
module which doesn't take up extra plug spaces, being halfway down the
power line, an output for the left speaker, and a stereo input.  The signal
connectors are both 1/8".

Complete with a dual RCA to 1/8" adapter, plus 1/8" to 1/8" for Walkman's
and PC sound cards, and 1/8" to 1/4" phono for larger headphone jacks, my
first test of the YST-M10 was to our family's Pioneer CLD1080 LaserDisc
combi player.  Accidentally setting the volume up high, the first brass
horn blasts of Gloria Estefan's "Conga" scared the hell out of me.  
Subsequent tests with Dave Matthews, Kon Kan and U2 proved the Yamahas to
be amazing in sound quality, filling the entire room the way our Sony
STR-AV970 200W surround receiver does.  The floor rattled.

The pair was subsequently relocated to my bedroom, where my Amiga 3000 is
located.  Hooking up to my machine was really simple: a pair of RCA cables.
Amiga sound was fine.  The M10 made the Amiga native audio seem somewhat
depressing compared to the LD's output.  I also hooked up my NEC CDR83i
CDRom drive, housed in a Apple SC CD casing.  It's output was also
extremely good.  I've since used a set of Y cables to mix the Amiga 3000
audio and the CDRom sound.  A3000T and A4000 owners have this feature built
into the motherboard with a simple mixer circuit.

The M10 also hooks up to headphone level devices, including a Toshiba
420CDT notebook's headphone jack, and a Panasonic RQ-SX1V walkman.  Using
the M10 has been a blast: while I usually have music playing quietly while
using the Amiga, when I need volume, the M10 surely delivers.  It has great
range, and you can never hear the thing resonate.  Powering up and down the
speaker makes little "pup" noise, and volume control is easy.  The only
issue is switching off the powerbar while the speakers are on: this makes a
pop noise.  The disturbing thing is that the M10 is only rated at 10W.   It
uses Active Servo Technology, which, according to a more knowledgeable
friend, basically improves the SPL and quality by actively monitoring the
output and changing the speaker signal dynamically.  It compares to 80W PC
generic soundcard speakers.

YST-M5
~~~~~~
Shortly after purchasing the M10's, I was at PriceCostco, and saw the
younger sibling, the M5 for sale.  At $39, it was certainly a deal! 
Knowing how good the M10's were, the M5 would likely be the same quality. 
Most intriguing was the incusion of TWO input ports, instead of the one on
the M10. 

Again, the M5 supports line level in, a must for Amiga owners.  Yamaha
intends you to use this as a true multi component speaker system: the
instruction leaflet shows diagrams for hooking up to a Nintendo, a TV, a
VCR, a PC sound card, and a CasioTone (tm) keyboard. 

I intended to use this pair with my sister's A2500/30, which has both the
native Amiga sound, plus a A2386SX25 Bridgeboard and a SoundBlaster Pro
card on it.  Plugging in the SoundBlaster Pro into input 1, and the Amiga
RCA output into input 2, I discovered the M5 was designed to truly use both
at the same time: each input is independent!

As a result, both signals are at the correct volume.  A perfect match for
our Bridgecard/Amiga setup!  The M5 is less neat looking than the M10, with
a more traditional plastic styling without the cloth grille.   However, the
plastic is still the same high quality material, and it comes with the
entire assortment of connectors and cables.  Canadian versions also come
with an extra box on the outside with more tacky designs, plus a free The
Who's Tommy musical MMCD.  I found this to be largely useless and I gave it
away to a friend. 

The M5 is rated at only 3W, but like the M10, sounds much more powerful.
It was such a good deal, I ended up buying two more pairs for friends who
had Amiga systems.

Both speakers are magnetically shielded, which means they don't interfere
with monitors or erase floppy disks.  The M10 is rated at 80 Hz to 20kHz
+/- 3db, the M5, 90-20kHz.  The only issue I've had with either is the
connectors: they tend to be loose.  As long as you don't toss them around
and unplug every day, they're fine.  You can even get them in stylish black
too.

Conclusion
~~~~~~~~~~
In late summer of 96, Yamaha replaced the M5 and M10 with newer models: the
M7 and M15.  A friend purchased the M15 to replace his M10, and reports
slighly better treble high range, plus the added benefit of a 1/8" front
headphone jack. 

You can additionally add a subwoofer unit.  I've never found a need for
this, but it includes an active crossover somewhere inside.  The entire
line is of very high quality, and while I prefer the look of the M10 to any
of the other models, any will certainly make a great addition to your Amiga
setup.