Yamaha DSR 112/115/215/118W Active PA Loudspeakers Reviewed

Public address loudspeakers have remained aesthetically similar for decades and truth be told they’ve never been especially lightweight or portable. Those that have, it can probably be argued, have either been useless in performance terms, durability / reliability terms or both. Thankfully technological advancements, primarily in class D amplification, have at least reduced the racks of auxiliary equipment needed to run a speaker set to virtually zero.

The fact is, it would be nigh-on impossible to cram a traditional high-power class AB amplifier and its associated power supply electronic into a speaker cabinet without the speaker becoming not only hugely bulky, but also impractically heavy. Achieving live sound levels requires an amplifier with tremendous power reserves which – up until class D amps became not only affordable but decent sounding – were enormous and could weigh a ton. Especially once you reached a point where you required more than one amp per speaker.

Class D technology however means that manufacturers can now cram extremely powerful multi-kilowatt amplifiers into a single module barely larger than a terminal plate, and fit it into the back of a cabinet no larger, and often smaller, than a traditional passive speaker. Instantly the need for amp racks is eliminated, and with a lot of processing being done either via a computer or digital desk, the amount of gear is reduced to little more than a sound board, speakers and a few ancillaries. This means lower cost, faster setup and easier storage and transport for both the pro sound engineer and gigging musician alike.

Dsr112 Front

Yamaha’s DSR lineup has been out for a long time, as is not uncommon in pro audio. Things tend to evolve far more slowly than they do in consumer audio, in part because the products are vastly simplified and manufacturers tend to ‘get it right’ first time, and in part because the pro market depends on products with increased longevity, reliability and support rather than those with the latest and greatest feature sets. So confident are Yamaha in their DSR line that they offer a 7 year warranty on all models, though given the quality of build it is unlikely that you’d ever need to use it.

Should you need it however, Yamaha’s warranty is excellent. I once owned a pair of their lowest end DBR lineup which were being used as monitors. When the fans in both amplifiers failed the units were shipped to Yamaha, who had them returned via the dealer fully repaired within a couple of weeks, complete with new shipping boxes and a detailed technician’s report. Not bad for a prosumer line. The DSR line is, thankfully, passively cooled so no fan failures to worry about.

Dsr115 Front

The lineup includes 3 tops (DSR112 12”, DSR115 single 15” and a DSR215 with 2x 15” drivers). There’s also the DSR118W sub which still has to be one of the most compact and lightest 18” subs on the market, yet still with an impressive SPL of 132dB.

All models share 1300W class D amplifier modules (800W for the subs), with PFC switch-mode power supplies and 48-Bit digital signal processing which handles not only sound contouring but also limiting and protection of the transducers even when being pushed to high levels. The DSR112 has a peak SPL of 134dB, the DSR115 136dB and the DSR215 138dB respectively. The DSR118W sub manages a very respectable 132dB from a long travel 18” cast-frame woofer and extends the frequency response of the system to sub-40Hz.

The DSR112 / 115 / 215 feature inbuilt high-pass filters at 120Hz via switches on the back. The high frequency crossover point is 1.7kHz. There’s more than enough power on tap – 1300W continuous, with a combined 1500W delivered under dynamic conditions. And even at extreme levels they show no sign of stress or distortion and still run cool thanks to massive rear heatsinks.

Dsr112 115 215 Panel

Inputs are via balanced XLR or TRS jacks (XLR only on the DSR118W), and all have loop jacks to pass audio to other components or speakers in the chain. You get selectable mic/line functionality, meaning the system can be run without a mixer providing only 1 microphone or suitable instrument is to be used. The gain trimmer is recommended to be set to the 12 o’clock position when using a mixer for sufficient output. On the 112/115/215 at least, the gain knob has a faint central detent; though oddly this is not so on the 118W sub.

A peak indicator will light red when the input level reaches 3dB below clipping. Other LEDs show the status of the amplifier’s protection and limiting circuitry as well as the power status. There is also a light at the lower left of the front grille, but this can be disabled with the associated rear switch.

The final rear panel control toggles the Dynamic Contour function. This is intended to emphasise the low end, especially at lower levels. I leave this off in most situations and would rather EQ via the desk.

Power comes via a standard 10A IEC cable though with a neat locking mechanism to prevent the cable being accidentally pulled from its socket. The speakers are supply with short (roughly 1.5 m) cables but longer locking IEC cables are readily available. Claimed power consumption is a Meer 100W, though Yamaha don’t state at what load this figure is measured and I’ve never reached full output, let alone tested power consumption at such levels. Suffice it to say however that being class D with a switching PSU they will be a great deal more efficient than a more traditional setup.

The tops can be either stand or pole mounted, and have integrated flying mounts for installation use.

My system comprises a pair of DSR112s and a pair of DSR118Ws. It’s a compact setup as far as live sound reinforcement goes, but for smaller venues or events it’s preferable to the cost and logistics of hiring a suitable system. It will easily fill a venue with an audience of several hundred if not more. And it has to be said that as pro audio gear goes the Yamaha system is not only surprisingly compact, but also very easy to lug about. Though that doesn’t come at the expense of build quality which is exceptionally solid with a scratch-resistant textured finish (the same as that used on truck beds) covering the cabinets. Consequently mine are still in mint condition, despite three years of use and being continuously moved around both into and out of vehicles and in a home studio where they’re stored.

I used to run them with a Yamaha MGP24X which was a great match sound-wise, but I could never get on with it as a mixer. That said they work superbly well with the Soundcraft Signature 22MTK, which really is a versatile tool equally at home in a live environment as it is in a project studio.

Dsr118w Grill

My one concern when I purchased this setup were the subs, which some had reported to have weak output as compared to the tops. I haven’t found this to be the case. In fact the subs have more than enough output, it’s just that their output isn’t overblown or excessive to the point where they stand out as a separate entity. The system is so well integrated that the subs simply sound like an extension of the tops, which is how a system should be. There is nothing worse than listening to a system where the subs have been cranked to the max and are causing the sound to become muddy and overbearing. With the Yamaha system you’d have to try hard to achieve that effect; so much so that you’d really have to do so on purpose, and even the then the results probably wouldn’t be as unpleasant as they could with more unruly speakers.

Perhaps the system’s greatest strength is the ease of use. Pros will feel right at home using these, but even gigging musicians shouldn’t find these a struggle, even if you have a hard time discerning one end of a sound board from another. It’s certainly true that setup is key, and proper setup and tweaking is necessary to get the best from these speakers. But as PA speakers go they are about as plug and play as you can get, and providing you remain sensible with your levels and EQ it is really quite difficult to get a bad sound out of them. Yamaha have a guide for new users using the DSR lineup with the MGP series mixers Here.

Dsr215 Front

And what surprised me most is that these are simply very pleasant to listen to. No, they’re not hi-fi speakers. They were never designed to be. They’re far too loud, too dynamic and too gutsy to play at real levels unless you have a fairly large room. But if you can resist reaching for the fader and can keep the volume at least relatively sensible, they really do sound very nice indeed. With the subs in place you get a nice full sound with lovely mids, tons of detail at the top end and no muddiness at the bottom. Given that some pro audio speakers sound hard, harsh and fatiguing, this Is a real plus for the DSR range.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Yamaha DSR lineup to anybody looking for a high quality and cost-effective line of public address speakers. Street prices for these have long since dropped below a grand each (for singular speakers of course), which represents phenomenal value. Highly recommended.

Though I myself have been involved in pro audio for quite some time, it has rarely been a feature on Audio Appraisal. I’m hoping to expand into covering more pro audio equipment along-side the consumer gear I already feature, as well as discussing such topics as recording, live sound, instrument reviews and home studio setup. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

By Ashley

I founded Audio Appraisal a few years ago and continue to regularly update it with fresh content. An avid vinyl collector and coffee addict, I can often be found at a workbench tinkering with a faulty electronic device, tweaking a turntable to extract the last bit of detail from those tiny grooves in the plastic stuff, or relaxing in front of the hi-fi with a good album. A musician, occasional producer and sound engineer, other hobbies include software programming, web development, long walks and occasional DIY. Follow @ashleycox2

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