The front-ported MSP7 differs physically from the lightweight NS10’s sealed-enclosure, infinite-baffle design. At approximately 8.5" W, 13" H, and 9.2" D, the MSP7 may seem similar, but appearances can be deceiving: When I first picked one up, I almost blew out a few vertebrae—the magnetically-shielded MSP7 weighs in at over 26 pounds!
Unlike the passive NS10 the MSP7 is self-powered, insuring a better match between amp and speaker. This biamped monitor touts an 80W amp section driving a 6.5" polypropylene woofer and a 50W amp section driving a 1" titanium-domed tweeter; the crossover point is 2.5kHz, with a 30dB/octave slope (both LF and HF).
Along with the power switch, IEC line cord receptacle, and balanced female XLR input connector, the MSP7’s rear panel includes a 31-position rotary level control and a triple array of slide switches that control Low Cut (Flat/80Hz/100Hz), High Trim (+1.5/Flat/-1.5dB at 15kHz) and Low Trim (+1.5/Flat/-1.5/-3dB at 45Hz). However, there was an anomaly in the MSP7s we received: The surrounds on the outside of the woofers were two different colors—one charcoal grey, the other jet black. While just a small aesthetic issue, it does raise some concerns about whether quality control might overlook something else.
THE NEW GENERATION’S SOUND
After setting up the MSP7s in the studio control room on sand-filled pedestals in the preferred equilateral position away from all walls, an engineer for whom I have great respect entered the room. I had just pulled up a nearly completed mix of a new song by a well-established alternative rock act that had upwards of 90 tracks—it required a real balancing act. The engineer had heard the tune several times in this nearly finished form in two different rooms, both with costly, high-end monitoring systems. This time, he congratulated me on really nailing the mix—yet I hadn’t touched a thing from the last few times he had heard the mix. The MSP7s made a nice first impression on him . . . and me.
NS10 critics sometimes cite mid- to high-end brittleness, and ear fatigue over time. We highly doubt anyone will feel this way about the MSP7; the general consensus of numerous engineers and producers in our studio was that they were extremely detailed, yet smooth. The mids were very musical, the imaging focused and articulate, and the sweet spot was larger than anticipated for a speaker this size. And no one complained of ear fatigue.
We do wish Yamaha had also shipped the complementary SW10 subwoofer ($999.99 list); although the MSP7 has more punch in the lower frequency ranges than the NS10, its 6.5" speaker still can’t pack a gut-rumbling low end. Still, we all agreed that for transferability, mixes done on the MSP7s translated very well to other environments.
We also tested the MSP7s with trusted reference CDs, including “Lithium” from Nirvana’s Nevermind. The sound of this song is as honest as it gets; the dynamics are still intact from not being overmastered, and it gives me all the information needed to tune in a mix. After a close listen, the MSP7s again exceeded my expectations.
We then fed the speakers a 20Hz–10kHz sweep and monitored the levels on a hand-held dB meter. Below 80Hz we noted a hefty, yet reasonable, decline in emitted energy, as expected with an enclosure of this size. The SW10 subwoofer would likely address this.
SPEAKER TO ME: THE FINAL WORD
Over the past year we’ve reviewed some very fine self-powered studio monitors. The MSP7s are as good as any of them and maybe even better than most, including some higher-priced competitors.
Will the MSP7 achieve the NS10’s classic status? Check back in a decade or two! But there’s no denying that designer Akira Nakamura, who recently retired from Yamaha, has left us with a studio monitor that has the potential to exceed the NS10’s legacy.
PRODUCT TYPE: Powered two-way studio near-field monitor.
TARGET MARKET: Recording studios and post-production suites.
STRENGTHS: Fantastic imaging and brilliant mid- to upper-range response. Decent low end for a 6.5" woofer. Very inviting to work with. Translates well.
LIMITATIONS: Has the lack of low-end punch characteristic of small near-field monitors.
LIST PRICE: $699 each