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Yamaha NS-F901 Soavo
page 2
page 3 Conclusion
page 4 Measured Peformance
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Removing the blue wire links allows bi-wiring; sturdy gold plated terminals accept 4mm plugs, spades and bare wire.

 

SOUND QUALITY

As always the NS-F901s were run in heavily, using pink noise, then music, then a Monitor Audio De-tox/run-in CD. We took them to 60 hours before listening, which is plenty enough for most loudspeakers, and sounded right in this case - they lost a light midrange patina and developed a sense of depth. Speakers with Kevlar cones and diamond domes need 200 hours and Tannoy Westminster Royal SEs need 8 months whilst the woods settle, I am told! 

   The drive system comprised Quad QMP monoblocks, driven by a Mirus Invicta DAC (reviewed this issue), fed by an Astell&Kern AK120 acting as a digital transport, playing CD and high-resolution digital up to 24/192. Also feeding the Quads directly was an Icon Audio PS3 valve phono stage (it has a volume control) hooked up to a Timestep-tuned Technics SL-1210 MkII Direct Drive turntable with SME309 arm and Ortofon Cadenza Bronze moving coil cartridge. 

   Moving up and down in front of the speakers confirmed that they focussed properly low down, as measurement had suggested, imposing a low optimal seating height. I had to remove the rear feet and unscrew the front feet to their limit to tilt the cabinets back to correct this, and still a little more backward tilt was required – so ideally the legs need to be longer. I sat reasonably low, ear height 100cms, 350cms away (11.5ft) in our 25ft long listening room. 

   Appropriately, I really ‘got’ these loudspeakers when listening to Benjamin Grosvenor playing (superbly) 'Chopin’s Nocturne No5' (24/96). His piano sounded wonderfully pure, the notes having a lovely fresh and elaborate character to them that came from the instrument rather than the loudspeaker, I felt. 

And they drifted outward nicely at me with no hint of being anchored to the cabinet, such unfettered purity being a sign of low colouration. I rather suspected someone from Yamaha’s famous piano division had sat in on the voicing of the NS-F901s when listening to this. If you want a loudspeaker that captures the sound of a great piano, these are the ones. 

   This gorgeous performance immediately placed the Yamaha’s in a particular mould: they are an academically refined and extremely well considered loudspeaker, I learnt from this and other performances. 

   So on to John Coltrane playing 'It’s Easy to Remember' (24/96), a laid-back performance that moves at a slow gait with Coltrane’s saxophone sounding richly metallic and smooth as it drifted from the left loudspeaker (piano occupies centre stage in this piece), the final drum roll delivered powerfully by the right loudspeaker. The Yamaha’s delivered this remaining clean and composed and spry; they are not heavy or wallowy or boxy, but very nimble.

   With Diana Krall’s 'Narrow Daylight' (24/96) I realised the Yamahas are deeply insightful, teasing out every little whisper of breath from Diana Krall at the microphone. The final guitar solo cut out with tremendous speed, and the strings were vibrant and had sonic texture; they were palpably alive and forceful too, yet there was no laceration, no sting and no hardness; the tweeter sounds sweet. Meanwhile the prominent bass line was nicely supported, although there was a smidgen of box thrum here. 

   Tom Petty belted out 'Refugee' (24/96) with pace and vigour and again I heard every nuance of his vocal inflexions; the Yamahas again showed themselves to be extremely revealing. Here I detected a hint of forwardness, or lifting of detail; the Yamahas are not backward in coming forward, but their projection is subtle. There was plenty of space around Petty – and drums lay a few paces behind him; a sense of depth was apparent. Drums and bass were firm and fast, clean too, with a slight boom from the box, through the port, evident at times, but subsonics are muted, this keeping the speakers sounding tight and fast. This particular track commonly sounds a little harsh but the NS-F901s sounded almost magically clean and pure again, a very welcome feature.

   Spinning Phil Collins singing 'I Don’t Care Anymore' (180gm audiophile pressed LP), initially with an Ortofon 2M Black MM cartridge had the man sounding light in character, drums fast but lacking body and the soundstage a tad flat in perspective. Going back to our usual Cadenza Bronze largely corrected all these factors, showing how critical the Yamahas could be. They are very revealing and have strong upper midrange projection, so a preceding system without these traits is needed to achieve balance. Where I used the Mirus Invicta with the ESS Sabre’s Slow filter engaged to ensure smoothest digital, with LP I had to use a quality moving coil; MMs won’t do (the 2M Black is a bit shiny up top).

   With Mark Knopfler’s 'True Love Will Never Fade', from 'Kill To Get Crimson' (an audiophile pressing) I could hear every little detail of his finger work on the guitar’s strings and there was again a lovely sweet quality to treble. This track, that I use a lot for review work because it is so well recorded and pressed, confirmed that the NS-901s push vocals forward, due to their strong upper midrange. They lack the slight softness common in so many speakers, imposed by their crossover dip. This helps explain their tremendous detailing and insight but I knew that if I span 'Please Please Me' (1963) it would be overly analysed - and this was the case. 

   Moving on to a modern, well-balanced recording on 200gm audiophile vinyl, Kate Bush singing 'King of the Mountain', the strong reggae bass line rolled out fluidly whilst La Bush trilled clearly centre stage, every word sharply outlined and obvious. As the organ on 'Pi' drifted out, the sheer tidiness and sophistication of these speakers made itself obvious. They’re a little over-revealing for older recordings perhaps, but with modern material that has a natural balance and is well recorded, they fly. 



 

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