I’ve been using a pair of RCF Ayra 5 monitors in my home studio for a long time. They really are an excellent speaker and despite being a tad difficult to mix with at times (mainly owing to the low end) I’ve always had excellent results from them. However they’ve always struggled in a larger room, and that coupled with the insufficient low end and my accidentally blowing one of the amps meant that, as part of a project studio revamp, new monitors were in order. I looked at a huge number of products from budget to esoteric but eventually settled on the Yamaha HS8s.
My decision in part was based on having owned, and enjoyed, a pair of NS-10s a long time ago. This classic passive speaker requires external amplification and is either loved or hated in the industry with very few listeners falling somewhere in between. The HS8 brings that heritage, and the same sound signature, to a smaller active monitor.
There are three models in the range – the HS5, HS7 and HS8, with installation versions of each denoted by an I in the model. There’s a sub too, the HS8S. Though unless you’re producing bass-heavy content, HS8 owners may find the sub unnecessary as they are quite capable of producing copious amounts of low end by themselves.
The HS8s are nothing special aesthetically. Classic boxy cabinets hold white-coned drivers with a mesh grille protecting the 1” dome tweeter. The amplifier module is mounted at the rear along with a bass port and external heatsink, which barely rises above room temperature in operation. The cabinets are MDF with a vinyl wrap. The wrap isn’t as durable as it could be and is easily chipped, but the cabinets are otherwise sturdy enough with neatly rounded edges and inset driver surrounds.
Rated output power is 120W (LF:75W, HF:45W). Frequency response is rated at 38Hz – 30kHz (-10dB) or 47Hz – 24kHz (-3dB). Adding the HS8S sub brings the frequency response down to 22Hz. The crossover point is a very respectable and unproblematic 2kHz.
Inputs are via either XLR or TRS balanced jacks and power comes via a standard 10A IEC cable with a quoted power consumption of 60W.
You get a decent selection of controls including a level control (+4dB), High Trim switch (+/- 2dB) and a Room Control switch (0, -2 or -4 dB under 500Hz). The level control has a centre detent which is useful for getting the level perfectly balanced between the two monitors (providing they’re set up in an ideal location), and is a suitable level to obtain high output with most mixers or interfaces.
I set the HS8s with the tweeter at ear height, and a 22-degree angle crossing the tweeter axes at a point just behind my head in the typical listening position. This provides the biggest sweet spot but also the best imaging. Mine are supported by 25 mm Sorbothane hemispheres atop the raised section of my studio desk, the sorbothane practically eliminating the transfer of vibration between the speakers and desk. They’re fed by a Soundcraft Signature 22MTK mixer and interface supporting 24-bit resolutions at sampling rates of up to 48kHz.
Imaging is by far one of the stand-out qualities of the HS8. The image is broad, deep and tall with bags of detail. Discerning individual aspects of a mix is easy on these thanks to the level of detail both at the top and bottom end. Mids don’t stand out as you would expect from a neutral monitor but they’re certainly there. Vocals in particular sound stunning when you get them on point.
Some describe the HS series monitors as sounding harsh or brittle. I don’t personally find this to be the case, though I can imagine this may be an issue with the smaller monitors in the range which don’t have quite as much low-end grunt. They also won’t respond well to a poor mix, so if you tend to push the levels or produce an overly bright mix the HS8s will certainly convey that. In reality, the HS8s show a surprisingly linear response as advertised as in the below graph.
Idle noise is inaudible unless you bring your ear right up to the monitors. They also have a delayed muting circuit on startup, avoiding loud thumps when powering them up along-id a mixer via a power distribution unit.
And most importantly for me, they have plenty of power. My RCFs were struggling to fill the room, firing along a rectangle of approximately 5.3 metres in length with the speakers at a point just under half way along the rectangle’s length. The HS8s are capable of reaching uncomfortable sound levels with no strain or breakup even when playing a complex mix or something with a lot of low end. At realistic mixing levels, they are more than up to the job, and I’ve never felt the need to raise the level control.
I’ve been consistently impressed by the affordability and quality of Yamaha’s kit and these are no different. These are cracking monitors at a great price. They’re best in bigger rooms and can’t be placed against a wall owing to the rear ported enclosures. But if you can accommodate them, you’ll achieve excellent mixes which translate well to consumer devices and pro audio alike.