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Review and Measurements of Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming Amp

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Yamaha WXA-50, multi-function DAC, pre-amp, power amp, streaming and multi-room unit. It is on kind loan from a member. Even though it came out a few years ago (2016?), it is widely available. Amazon shows it costs US $478.

Success of SONOS as a multi-room audio solution has been the envy of many traditional audio companies. Many have tried to chase them with Yamaha being one of the earlier ones.

The WXA-50 is a surprisingly heavy unit although looks somewhat unremarkable:

Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming DAC and Amplifier Audio Review.jpg

The case is metal as best as I can tell which is good as the unit generates good bit of heat. Strangely the heat is concentrated on the left side yet the vents are on the right!
There is an IR hole on the left which confused me to no end, constantly wanting to push it to turn on the unit.

I am not a fan of a single light indicating input and overload condition of the amplifier. Worst part of the interface is the volume control which has no marking and no display. Unless you use the app, you have no idea what volume you have set this to. This made my testing maddeningly hard.

I downloaded the App and here, I was pleasantly surprised by the performance and reliability of it. With no configuration, the WXA-50 was recognized and manipulating its controls were instantaneous and reliable. I only used the App to reset the EQ, etc. so for its full functionality, you should seek out other reviews.

The back panel has extensive set of inputs and outputs although lacks USB:
Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming DAC and Amplifier Back Panel Audio Review.psd.jpg
I was pleased to see both analog input and outputs.

Yamaha heavily courted the Custom Install (CI) industry to use this instead of SONOS and it shows from inclusion of trigger input and output for control. Inclusion of Toslink input goes along these lines to fetch audio from a TV being fed by HDMI.

DAC Audio Measurements
I briefly measured DAC performance. I read however that there are two DAC chips inside this unit (an ESS and Bur-brown/TI) and that the fixed output is driven by the latter. So this may not be representative of what happens when you stream music into this device:

Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming DAC and Amplifier DAC SINAD Audio Measurements.png


This is decent performance although it degraded fair bit if I turned up the volume on the amplifier to max. That increased the higher order harmonics even though the output level of the DAC did not change. We have seen this before and likely is the power supply sagging causing DAC performance to suffer. SInce you don't listen at max volume level, I did not derate the WXA-50 performance when including it in the performance chart:

Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming DAC and Amplifier DAC SINAD Rating Audio Measurements.png


Amplifier Audio Measurements
Since we have analog inputs, I started my testing using that and got this for our usual dashboard at roughly 5 watts:
Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming DAC and Amplifier Analog Audio Measurements.png


I played around with combination of input levels and volume control and performance was pretty consistent. SINAD (signal over noise and distortion) is actually quite respectable for an amplifier:

Best Audio Amplifiers Measured.png


I tested the same, this time using Roon to stream the 1 kHz tone to it using Airplay:

Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming DAC and Amplifier Digital Audio Measurements.png


We lose just a couple of dBs although distortion levels are a bit lower.

From here on, I tested the unit using its analog input unless specified.

Frequency response shows decent bandwidth and flat response in audible band:

Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming DAC and Amplifier Analog Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


No strange and limiting digitization of input is visible which is good.

Signal to noise ratio is good enough for 16 bit audio:

Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming DAC and Amplifier SNR Analog Audio Measurements.png



Let's get into all important measurement: power into 4 ohm versus distortion:
Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming DAC and Amplifier Analog  Power into 4 Ohm Audio Measurements.png


We are close to meeting the spec (I measure at much lower distortion than they do). We have cleaner power than either Sonos or Amazon amps although the SONOS has much more power.

Here is the performance at 8 ohm:
Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming DAC and Amplifier Analog  Power into 8 Ohm Audio Measurements.png


I don't have as much data for 8 ohm but what is there, shows competent performance but with just 55 watts on tap.

Intermodulation distortion versus power level tells a similar story:
Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming DAC and Amplifier Analog IMD vs Power Audio Measurements.png


THD+N versus frequency and power shows very predictable performance with no corner cases exposed:
Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming DAC and Amplifier Analog THD+N vs Frequency Audio Measurements.png


Only 20 Hz tones gives it a bit of trouble with rising distortion above 10 watts but that is slight.

The unit also shut down at 20 kHz at max clipping level. I reduced the volume level a few notches and that went away even though I was still pushing the unit into hard clipping.

Spectrum of 1 kHz tone with no AES filter shows the usual noise in high frequencies we get from class-D amps:
Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming DAC and Amplifier Analog 1 kHz FFT Audio Measurements.png


While this looks ugly, the spikes near audio band are way down at -75 dB which is very good. I have tested amps where these levels are much, much higher.

The two channels have different switching frequencies. Not sure if this is on purpose or variation in the clock source of their modulators. The two beat against each other likely creating the intermodulation spikes that we see throughout the range.

Conclusions
Unlike the bag of parts performance I often see in these modern streaming products, the Yamaha WXA-50 seems to have benefited from some attention to raw performance of each subsystem. There are no funny results, strange pipelines that go in and out of digital domain, etc. The performance graphs are all smooth with no sudden jaggies or other anomalies. This makes it easier to use the unit, not having to work around its weakness (I am talking to you SONOS).

We also have decent amount of power, approaching 100 watts into 4 ohm which should be plenty. If you add the subwoofer to it, you will be golden even at high SPLs.

The app likewise, gives a feeling of polish that I often find lacking in competing products.

In summary, I did not raise an eyebrow when measuring the Yamaha WXA-50. It won't provide competition to state-of-the-art separate products but it also doesn't embarrass. As such, I am going to put the WXA-50 on my recommended list.

------
Questions, comments, critique, etc. are welcome.

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Nango

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#3
Yamaha rarely disappoints. Always wanted to try their headphones, the flagship models around US-$ 200 are cheap!
 
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squ1gs

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#4
@amirm Thanks for reviewing this, have been using this for a while now, nice to see some numbers! Where these tests performed with “direct” setting enabled through the advanced settings? Any chance of testing the optical in?

In regards to the volume indicator, there is a visual for this on the box, one of the LED’s changes colours much like the chord mojo, agree this isn’t ideal.

This unit uses an ICEpower125ASX2 module hence some good results :)
 

amirm

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#5
@amirm Thanks for reviewing this, have been using this for a while now, nice to see some numbers! Where these tests performed with “direct” setting enabled through the advanced settings? Any chance of testing the optical in?
Yes, direct mode. And I tested the optical in DAC measurements.
 

squ1gs

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#6
Yes, direct mode. And I tested the optical in DAC measurements.
@amirm Ah good to hear. I believe the amplifier only outputs from the ESS Dac. Would optical in and output from the amp measure differently? Output from the line out is routed through the Bur-Brown as you mentioned.

The analogue inputs go through an ADC, just being fussy haha
 
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amirm

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#7
@amirm Ah good to hear. I believe the amplifier only outputs from the ESS Dac. Would optical in and output from the amp measure differently?
I would think it is identical to network streaming which I tested.
 

D700

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#8
I haven't seen you mention it...but isn't the Yamaha capable of 24bit decoding where SONOS is limited to 16bit? Does the bit rate move the needle on any of the standard measurements you use?
 

cjfrbw

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#9
Is the 'on screen' menu through a TV, or can it be done with computer or android tablet? Of course, there is a convergence of these media types since most tv's are computers or big tablets nowadays.
 

Nam

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#10
Thank you for the review. I feel good seeing the numbers meet my expectations for yamaha's integrated DAC, and amplifier too.
I believe if amirm has opportunity to measure yamaha's budget amplifiers like as301 or as501, it will get strong recommendation for amplifier below 500$.
 

amirm

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#11
I haven't seen you mention it...but isn't the Yamaha capable of 24bit decoding where SONOS is limited to 16bit? Does the bit rate move the needle on any of the standard measurements you use?
No because we can't even get to the limit of 16 bits either in its DAC or amplifier.
 

amirm

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#12
Is the 'on screen' menu through a TV, or can it be done with computer or android tablet?
No TV. But it is in their app for phones and tablets. That is how I changed the EQ settings for example.
 

restorer-john

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#14
Have to agree the lack of volume indication is poor. Not everyone wants to use apps and secondary devices.

That said, it's not ugly and looks nicely finished. Un-insulated amplifier binding posts however are not clever.
 
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Daverz

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#15
Given that this seems the least compromised amp at this price point so far, I have high hopes for Yamaha's more traditional integrated amps.
 

BillG

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#16
I've been waiting for a proper performance analysis of this, as I suspected that it would measure reasonably well.

My only misgivings about it are the lack of a USB input from a computer. Although I guess one could use a USB to Optical converter without a problem, or even analog if the output from the motherboard/soundcard is clean enough... :cool:
 

gvl

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#17
I've been waiting for a proper performance analysis of this, as I suspected that it would measure reasonably well.

My only misgivings about it are the lack of a USB input from a computer. Although I guess one could use a USB to Optical converter without a problem, or even analog if the output from the motherboard/soundcard is clean enough... :cool:
One could also use it as a DLNA renderer from a DLNA compatible player, e.g. JRiver. Hopefully it supports lossless formats in DLNA renderer mode.

Would be interesting to see how WXC-50 performs.
 

BillG

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#18
One could also use it as a DLNA renderer from a DLNA compatible player, e.g. JRiver. Hopefully it supports lossless formats in DLNA renderer mode.

Would be interesting to see how WXC-50 performs.
Reading is fundamental. I'm already well aware that the amplifier supports WiFi streaming natively, as does everyone else, besides you obviously... :rolleyes:
 

gvl

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#19
Reading is fundamental. I'm already well aware that the amplifier supports WiFi streaming natively, as does everyone else, besides you obviously... :rolleyes:
Huh? You seemed to be unhappy about the lack of a USB input which you would only need if you didn't want to use the Yamaha MusicCAST app. Using it as DLNA renderer partially fills that gap, as you can use the amp as the output device from any DLNA compatible player on your PC without a need for a USB to optical converter or a mobile MusicCAST app.
 

soundwave76

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#20
Nice to see this one measure well. I considered the preamp version WXC-50 which has by the way a coax out, which makes it a great companion to digital active speakers like Genelecs. I ended up buying the Bluesound Node 2i instead.
 
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