Yamaha have a bit of a history building some very fine loudspeakers. The NS-1000 is one of the most famous speaker lines in the world, its various iterations having found their way into some of the most prestigious recording studios where they’ve been used to mix many a classic track. The Yamaha NS-BP401 is a thoroughly modern loudspeaker incorporating their latest driver technology and hand finished to a premium standard. They’re Available stand-alone or supplied as part of the MCR-N870 mini hi-fi system, paired with an A-U670 amplifier and either a CD-NT670 or CD-NT670D network CD player depending on whether you opt for the system with an onboard DAB+ tuner.
The NS-BP401 is a 2-way loudspeaker incorporating a 130MM (5-1/4”) bass / mid driver and a 3CM (1-1/4”) soft dome tweeter. The bass/mid driver diaphragm sports a 99% pure aluminium cone, which is lightweight yet rigid, eliminating cone breakup and allowing the cone to move back and forth on its suspension with greater linearity. The tweeter employs a coated diaphragm moulded using a unique moulding technology, extending the treble response up to 100kHz.
The rear ported bass-reflex cabinets feature mitred joints connecting all angled parts crucial to cabinet strength. Those joints are then polished to make them invisible before the piano finish is added. That finish comprises 14 layers including multiple undercoats and top coats. The membrane thickness is tightly controlled as are the drying times, and grinding and polishing is repeatedly carried out before and after each step to ensure a perfectly smooth finish. More than half of this process is carried out entirely by hand, and the result is a beautiful true piano finish. The cabinets measure 176 x 310 x 327 mm (W x H x D) and weigh 5.9 kg each.
In the box, along with the speakers and documentation, you receive a pair of 2M speaker cables with pre-stripped ends, and a pack of 8 self adhesive rubber feet to avoid scratching the speaker finish or the surface upon which they are placed. The speakers are also supplied with a pair of cloth-covered grilles, held in place by magnets which align with the bolts securing the drivers. The grilles are largely plain aside from some unobtrusive Yamaha branding. I left them off during the review, but they’re acoustically transparent so I see no reason why they shouldn’t be used.
On the front, you’ll find the 2 drivers in a traditional arrangement whereby the tweeter sits above the woofer. Both drivers are surrounded by plastic trims and there’s some more subtle Yamaha branding at the bottom. On the back you’ll find the large bass port, along with a pair of gold-plated speaker terminals able to accept large spades, banana plugs or bare wires. The terminals do protrude from the back of the speaker, but unless you’re using particularly large plugs they’re small and don’t add any significant bulk.
In terms of specs, Yamaha claim a frequency response of 50Hz – 40kHz (-10dB), and up to 100kHz (-30dB). Sensitivity is a reasonable 85 dB, with a 6 ohm nominal impedance. Input power is 60W nominal / 120W max, ideal for the matching A-U670 amplifier.
With their traditional driver arrangement, positioning the NS-BP401s is a far easier task than with other speakers. You’ll need a pair of sturdy stands, tall enough to place the tweeters in line with your ears when you’re seated. You’ll also want to keep them away from electronics sensitive to magnetism, including CRT TVs and some turntables, as they’re not magnetically shielded. Optimal results can be achieved by angling them inwards by a few degrees once you’ve positioned them to achieved an equilateral triangle between the speakers and your listening position.
Sound wise, the NS-BP401s offer up a sound that is on the bright side of neutral. The brightness isn’t fatiguing however. Bass is taut with little blur thanks to that aluminium cone, though there is some evidence of slight cabinet colouration at very high volumes. The treble has a little bite to it though it doesn’t become harsh. Sound staging is excellent with realistic stereo imaging, and there’s plenty of detail across the whole frequency spectrum.
In summary, I must admit to being a little biased towards single-point source or dual-concentric loudspeakers. In my experience, such speakers typically offer superior stereo imaging and a more cohesive presentation than those of a more traditional design. The NS-BP401s however have pleasantly surprised me in that regard, offering up a stereo image that is every bit as good as any single-point source speaker at this price, and a cohesive presentation that I wasn’t expecting. Despite being for the most part a very neutral speaker, rather than one that is particularly warm or exciting, the NS-BP401s proved extremely enjoyable to listen to. They’re also beautifully made and finished to a premium standard that is unusual at this price. They’re a worthy partner to both the A-U670 and CD-NT670 as part of the MCR-N870 mini hi-fi system. Highly recommended.