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Avantone CLA-10 (Yamaha NS-10M Clone) Review

Rate this studio monitor

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 153 90.5%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 7 4.1%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 4 2.4%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 5 3.0%

  • Total voters
    169

amirm

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This is a review, listening tests and detailed measurements of the Avantone CLA-10 which is made to be a clone of the famous Yamaha NS-10A monitor. I purchased it from Amazon and costs US $699 (a pair).
Avantone Pro CLA-10 Yamaha NS-10 NS-10m Studio Monitor Clone Review.jpg

We have the iconic paper white woofer. Speaker is commonly shown the horizontal configuration as you see but I tested it vertically as you see below. No port or anything exciting in the back:
Avantone Pro CLA-10 Yamaha NS-10 NS-10m Studio Monitor Clone back panel Review.jpg


The claim to fame of the original Yamaha NS-10m was that it would allow mix/mastering engineers to create pop/rock music that "translated" well to whatever people were using to listen to music. A bit of its history and anechoic measurements are documented in this excellent paper:
THE YAMAHA NS10M: TWENTY YEARS A REFERENCE MONITOR. WHY?
Philip R Newell Consultant,
Moaña, Spain Keith R Holland ISVR, University of Southampton, UK
Julius P Newell Independent Audio Systems Engineer, UK

Here are their conclusions:

6. SUMMARY
From the investigations presented, and from experiences in the use of the NS10M, it would appear that the following statements can be made.
•The free-field frequency response of the NS10M gives rise to a response in typical use which has been recognised by many recording personnel as being what they need for pop / rock music mixing. The principal characteristics are the raised mid-range, the gentle top-end rolloff, and the very fast low-frequency decay; the latter is aided by the 12dB / octave roll-off of the sealed-box cabinet.
•The time response exhibits a better than average step function response, which implies good reproduction of transients. Many people speak of the "rock and roll punch" of the NS10M. •The distortion characteristics are also better than average for a loudspeaker of such size.
•The output SPL is adequate for close-field studio monitoring with adequate reliability.
•In many of these characteristics, the NS10M mimics the response of many good larger monitor systems in well-controlled rooms. They are hence recognisable to many recording personnel in terms of their overall response.
•They are tools to achieve a well-balanced mix. It is notable how many of the people who use them in studios do not use them for home listening.


I tried to find a real NS-10m on various auction sites but all I found were speakers in horrible shape and still asking what this Avantone more or less costs. Testing the old samples would not give us data on how they performed when new so made no sense to risk buying them.

As noted, I chose to test the CLA-10 vertically as it was easier to set the reference point on Klippel NFS. Otherwise I would have to shift the speaker to the right, making for an asymmetrical situation. Fortunately this doesn't impact on-axis response and you can just transpose vertical measurements for horizontal and get that data as well (can't do that with preference score but that is not a big thing here).

Tweeter center was the reference axis although it did not make much difference when I lowered it.

Avantone CLA-10 Speaker Measurements
Let's start with the anechoic measurements from the Newell, et. al. paper of the Yamaha NS-10M:
Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone Frequency Response Measurement.png


We see that it has a hugely over boosted midrange to low treble. We get that in CLA-10 but unfortunately here, the boosted response goes way higher:
Avantone Pro CLA-10 Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone Frequency Response Measurement.png


So assuming the paper measurements are correct, then the CLA-10 clearly is not its clone. That aside, there is a narrow but nasty resonance around 3500 Hz. We have a large directivity error that would have been in the Yamaha as well. Overall, this is a horribly bad response by any measure.

Strangely that resonance did not show up in near-field measurements indicating it likely is not in the drivers:
Avantone CLA-10  Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone near-field Frequency Response Measur...png


Paper talks about low distortion but they measured it at 90 dBSPL so not matching mine. But we can interpolate and kind of see what they are saying:
Avantone CLA-10 Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone THD Distortion Measurement.png

Avantone CLA-10  Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone relative THD Distortion Measurement.png


We really need relative distortion measurements as that includes the variations in response. Absolute levels as they show is not instructive unless speakers being compared all have flat measurements (which they do not). Using our relative measurements, we see broad distortions where our hearing is most sensitive at 96 dBSPL.

We see the strong directivity error impacting our early window reflection sum:

Avantone CLA-10  Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone early window Frequency Response Meas...png

Breaking that down we see that using the speaker as tested, i.e. vertically, is much more optimal:

Avantone CLA-10  Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone early reflections horizontal vertica...png


As noted, the pink curve which is the sound being sent to you, going past and reflecting from the wall behind you (if it is close), makes the tweeter even hotter so absorption there would help.

If you placed the speaker on its side the right graph becomes your horizontal axis, emphasizing that massive error. You better absorb the heck out of your sidewalls then (assuming they are close to the speakers).

Here is our predicted in-room response:
Avantone CLA-10  Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone predicted in-room Frequency Response...png


We see the effect of directivity error in our 3-D near-field plot:
Avantone CLA-10  Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone 3D directivity Measurement.png

Level of reflections in the room will change the tonality of this speaker fair bit.

Our beamwidth and directivity tell the story we already know:
Avantone CLA-10  Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone horizontal beamwidth Measurement.png


Avantone CLA-10  Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone horizontal directivity Measurement.png


Avantone CLA-10 Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone Vertical directivity Measurement.png


The paper talks about fast settling response of the Yamaha NS-10 but they use wildly different timing scale so we can't compare that to my measurements (they can do that because they have an anechoic chamber). Here is the data anyway:
Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor CSD waterfall Measurement.png

Avantone CLA-10  Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone CSD waterfall Measurement.png


So we don't just have boosted frequencies but lots of resonances within. I think this is the worse waterfall measurement I have seen of any speaker I have tested.

The paper also has a step response and here, matching to our measurements is excellent:
Avantone CLA-10 Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone step response Measurement.png


Rating impedance of the original I think is 8 ohm and we are kind of there with CLA-10:
Avantone CLA-10  Yamaha NS-10 NS-10M Studio Monitor Clone Impedance and phase Response Measure...png


Avantone Pro CLA-10 Speaker Listening Tests
I was listening to my everyday music when I started to test the CLA-10. When I hit play on the same track I was listening to using my headphones, I thought something was seriously wrong as all I was hearing was distorted high frequencies. I went back to my standard test tracks and there, the sound was somewhat better but as you can imagine, had heavy treble emphasis. Not only that, it sounded grungy and bad. I dialed in an inverse filter for the 3450 Hz resonance and that cleaned things up a bit. From there, I built a five filter correction but the speaker still sounded quite lousy.

I then took the inverse approach of boosting bass. That was more successful but still, what I was hearing was just not great. The sound and experience was bad that I just gave up on playing with it more. The idea here is not to make this a hi-fi speaker anyway as the use is for mastering and everyone says it is not good for enjoyment. On that front, they are right.

I did experiment with putting in a shelving filter to bring the response close to the NS-10m and that was definitely an improvement. So I don't think the Yamaha was nearly as bad as CLA-10 is. I like to meet the mastering engineering who was involved the design of CLA-10 to understand how he thinks these speakers are equivalent.

Discussion and Conclusions
The data here seems clear: in attempting to clone a rather broken speaker, Avantone has made an even more broken speaker. It fails not only in mimicking the frequency response of the NS-10M but seems to also introduce resonances that may not have been in the original. Any attempt like this should have been done as you see above: with detailed anechoic measurements to make sure the design is a true clone of the original. Using what is thought to be original parts and tuning based on someone's ear is just not the way to do it.

The whole idea of a mix that "translates well" is a problematic thing. Yeh, in the 1970s and 1980s we listened to a lot of music in cars with stock sound systems and clock radios and such at home. Those systems were likely to have had midrange/lower treble emphasis. That all changed with advent of iPods and people listening to headphones/IEMs that have deep bass response. So likely what translated to old casual audio systems of the past, will not work in this era. Why there is still interest in buying such a speaker is beyond me.

I know I may be making a lot of enemies by saying this but maybe this speaker was compensating for poor listening skills of people using them. That is, unless there was so much exaggeration in large portion of the frequency response, they couldn't tell that they had boosted them too much in the mix/mastering.

The massive directivity error just adds to the problem. No wonder folks were covering all the walls in their studios. They couldn't stand the sound otherwise!

If I were to listen to this speaker to tune a mix, I would have to turn so much of the gain from upper midrange to treble. It is so grating otherwise. The mix then would sound absolutely dull on any half proper audio system. The industry needs to ditch this concept and adopt fully neutral audio systems used in mixing/mastering systems. Then we can adopt the same and be on the same wavelength.

Anyway, I am out $750 including tax so hopefully you found this analysis and measurements of value!

Needless to say, I can't recommend the Avantone CLA-10 monitor.

Specifications​

  • SYSTEM TYPE: Passive - full-range two-way stereo pair
  • FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 60Hz-20,000Hz (Accessible musical range)
  • POWER CAPACITY: Program – 60W, Maximum – 120W
  • SENSITIVITY: 90dB SPL (1W, 1m on axis)
  • COMPONENTS:
  • Low Frequency: AV10-MLF 18cm cone
  • High Frequency: AV10-MHF 3.5cm soft dome
  • CABINET: 10.4 liter sealed design, 18mm MDF with real wood veneer
  • CABINET DIMENSIONS: 381.5mm x 215mm x197.5mm ( 15”x 8 ½”x 7- ¾ ” )
  • CABINET WEIGHT: 6.3kg / 13.9 Lbs (each)
  • WARRANTY: 5 Year Limited Warranty to original purchaser

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fineMen

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As we often recognized, there are sound engineers with a mindset resembling that of a common audiophile. An own world of ideas, preconceptions, hailing brands and all.
So, as to not count into the audiophile camp, question is by which purpose could this be a monitor. I think, besting its virtues, it would make you identify a broken cable. Fair enough. Quite professional, and decidedly not for more pedestrian use.
 

Ported

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Thanks for the insight. Shame you could not get hold of a real NS10M for comparison. I sold mine about a year ago for the reasons you mention (not for home system).

For me the positives were you could guarantee they all sounded pretty much the same wherever you were. I would only use in short bursts to check comparative levels and track quality for which they are very revealing. You would mix an odd mess if you equalised a track to sound best possible on it. In general they sounded very hard but I do believe the unwanted energy absorption is what made them useful for the above.

They were never a mastering tool .. another mess would be had! I believe Yamaha stopped manufacture because the pulp for the cone ran out and could not be replicated (and contained banana fibres) but that may be studio myth? If true I guess they would argue it's impossible to clone.
 

SuicideSquid

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I've seen a few measurements of Avantone mics that were similarly bad. They need to rethink their approach.
 

Doodski

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I owned a pair of these Yamaha. Cannot believe how this piece of crap could be so well regarded. Totally crazy...:facepalm:
I sold the NS-10M for some years and I unintentionally walked a lot of people that left without buying anything. They wanted NS-10Ms and when I would suggest a alternative for home hi-fi use they would apparently become agitated and think I was swindling them or something like that. The other sale peeps in my dept would not even question the NS-10M seekers and so they sold lots of them. I could not stand the sound of the NS-10M for home hi-fi and so I reflected that in the form of trying to sell the customers JBL, Energy, Polk, Infinity or Mission etc. A quick spin around the sound room(s) made the Yamahas sound pretty harsh. So a NS-10M clone like this Avantone CLA-10 to me makes little to no sense in a retail environment.
 

nahuel

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You just have to know how stuff sounds through them. Some people find it useful and that's ok. Wish Amir used the filter to try to match the NS10s frequency response. From what i've heard online, you have to use it, otherwise it is too bright.
 

Toni Mas

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I sold the NS-10M for some years and I unintentionally walked a lot of people that left without buying anything. They wanted NS-10Ms and when I would suggest a alternative for home hi-fi use they would apparently become agitated and think I was swindling them or something like that. The other sale peeps in my dept would not even question the NS-10M seekers and so they sold lots of them. I could not stand the sound of the NS-10M for home hi-fi and so I reflected that in the form of trying to sell the customers JBL, Energy, Polk, Infinity or Mission etc. A quick spin around the sound room(s) made the Yamahas sound pretty harsh. So a NS-10M clone like this Avantone CLA-10 to me makes little to no sense in a retail environment.
I bought them when were at university and played synths at a band with friends. I bought them at the musical instruments shop were i bought my tr808 and juno6. And yes, i realized much later how bad they sounded when i gave them to my dad that tried to use them for hifi.
 
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amirm

amirm

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You just have to know how stuff sounds through them. Some people find it useful and that's ok. Wish Amir used the filter to try to match the NS10s frequency response. From what i've heard online, you have to use it, otherwise it is too bright.
I mentioned that I tried that filter and was better.
 

Rick Sykora

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Welcome the addition of basic product specs to the end of the review. Thanks Amir!

Will certainly help to have for products that are vintage and/or may no longer be on the vendor's website. :)
 

rynberg

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The problem with the NS-10 is that it was ignorantly designed to have flat in-room response, instead of flat anechoic response. It's actually a well-engineered speaker, it's just that the engineering target was massively wrong. In any case, using it for any kind of serious mixing or mastering is a colossal mistake -- it was really only good for hearing how the mix would sound on a clock radio or similar quality playback system.

This Avantone is just a poorly engineered POS.
 
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