What is the Yamaha MusicCast WXA-50?
A lot of multi-room audio speakers are built for convenience and style, rather than pure audio fidelity. The Yamaha MusicCast WXA-50 is a little different. Rather than an integrated all-in-one device, this stereo amplifier lets you hook up your choice of speakers.
With a decent pair of speakers, the quality from this neat, well-built music streamer is rather sumptuous. And, if you’ve decided to turn to MusicCast for your multi-room setup, the WXA-50 will fit in nicely with the huge range of other MusicCast speakers, ranging from standalone models to soundbars and AV receivers.
Throw in AirPlay, Bluetooth and Spotify Connect streaming, plus analogue and optical inputs, and the WXA-50 is one well-connected amp.
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Yamaha MusicCast WXA-50 – Design and Build
At just 215 x 52 x 251mm, the WXA-50 is rather diminutive, but at this size you can easily place it anywhere, and it will fit in a 1U rack.
With its metal case, the WXA-50 feels pretty hefty, bringing a reassuring air of quality. It can even be mounted vertically using the provided stands. I love the simplicity of the design, with the front of the amp containing just three control buttons (power, input select and play/pause), status lights and the volume dial.
It’s a great dial, too. As you turn it, it clicks into position, so you can feel when you hit the next volume step.
Round the back are all of the ports you’ll need. For networking there’s Ethernet, although built-in Wi-Fi means that you don’t necessarily need to use this. It’s a little disappointing that there’s a need for the cheap-looking screw-in wireless antenna, which slightly ruins the looks of the amp. I found that a strong enough network connection was achievable with this antenna folded out of the way.
Stereo analogue phono inputs, a USB port and an optical S/PDIF let you hook the WXA-50 up to other devices, so you don’t have to rely on streaming alone. Speaker terminals can power stereo speakers from 4-to-16 ohms, plus there’s a subwoofer output for room-shaking bass.
It’s the other ports and switches that set the WXA-50 apart from its competition, however. These include a 12V trigger (in and out), a switch to disable wireless (you can have no wireless, just Bluetooth, or Bluetooth and Wi-Fi), and there’s a Remote in port, so you can hook up an external IR receiver and hide the WXA-50 in a cupboard.
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Yamaha MusicCast WXA-50 – Features
To use the WXA-50 you first need to hook it up to your network. If you’re using Ethernet, you just plug it in; if you want to use Wi-Fi, you need to follow the simple setup routine using the MusicCast app on (iOS or Android).
I soon had my WXA-50 connected to my Wi-Fi network via the 2.4GHz connection that the amp provides. You’ll also need to wire in your speakers and (optionally) subwoofer. I chose a pair of Paradigm Atom Monitors for this review.
While you can control the amplifier entirely through the MusicCast app, there’s a small remote control in the box. It’s a little weedy – a larger, tougher-feeling model would have been nice. However, at least the remote control provides quick access to most of the WXA-50’s controls without you having to reach for your smartphone.
For more advanced features, the MusicCast app is the way to go. Its simple front page provides access to all of the supported music services, ranging from Spotify to local DLNA servers, the amp’s inputs and its settings.
From this app, you can also link rooms together, so you can play the same music in different rooms. I found music synchronisation with my second MusicCast device (a YSP-2700 soundbar) to be spot on.
The Now Playing screen displays the current content, so you can play, pause or skip from this app, even if you’re using Spotify Connect. With MusicCast’s neat interface and simple controls, I found it easy to control each room individually, or to group them all together.
Yamaha MusicCast WXA-50 – Sound Performance
Sound quality is dependent on the quality of your speakers, but pair the amp with something decent, and it will deliver an assured and composed performance.
Clarity and presence are top-notch, with the WXA-50 delivering subtle and delicate piano work in DeBussy’s “Claire de Lune”, to the full-on power of Rage Against the Machine‘s “Bomb Track”. It even helped bring alive the fun of Louis Armstrong’s “Mack the Knife”.
If I’m to be a little picky, then I’d say the WXA-50 lacks a little of the excitement and finesse of the top stereo amps – but it’s a close-run thing. HD audio sounded excellent on this amp, with it able to play 24-bit, 192KHz tracks.
An equalizer lets you adjust the low, mid and high frequency individually, with separate volume controls for the main unit and – if you have one – subwoofer.
I’m a fan of the Compression Enhancer setting, which smooths out some imperfections with more heavily compressed tracks. Similar quality is evident when using external sources, such as CD player, connected to either the digital or analogue audio inputs.
This makes the WXA-50 a great all-rounder for anyone that wants a stereo amp.
Should I buy the Yamaha MusicCast WXA-50?
If you already have a stereo amp you’re happy with then you can save some money by buying the MusicCast WXC-50, which has the same features bar the integrated amp.
However, if you’re looking to build a powerful system from scratch, matching your high-quality speakers to a great amplifier, then the WXA-50 is an excellent choice.
A slightly more robust remote control would have been preferable, but overall the WXA-50 is a great stereo amp for streamed audio and external sources alike.
Well-built with plenty of inputs and excellent audio quality – this is a great all-round stereo amplifier.