For years, Yamaha has been one of the top companies for studio professionals and at-home artists alike seeking a true reference monitor for their recording and mixing needs. Over the last several decades, the company has consistently churned out high-quality studio monitors with a flat, even response— precisely what you want in a recording studio or control room.
The company’s most recent iteration in the active monitor space is the HS Series. These gorgeous yet affordable studio monitors are at the top of many wish lists (and already installed in many studio spaces) because of their solid balance of affordability and performance.
Yamaha’s HS series contains three models of reference monitor: the HS5, the HS7, and the HS8. This post, our Yamaha HS5 review, is our full review of the popular Yamaha HS5 studio monitors, updated for 2021.
For a more in-depth comparison of the differences between the various HS models (plus the other monitors in Yamaha’s lineup, check out Which Yamaha Studio Monitor Speakers Are the Right Choice for You?, another blog post in this series.
Yamaha HS5 Overview
The Yamaha HS5 is an active, bi-amplified two-way monitor. It’s the smallest and least expensive in the series: you can pick up a Yamaha HS5 pair for under $500, sometimes even around $400.
The 5 in HS5 represents the size of the cone woofer, which clocks in at five inches across. This is one of several standard sizes of studio monitors, consistent across multiple manufacturers.
Yamaha HS5 speakers are designed for placement on a speaker shelf or stand and lack mounting points for brackets or other hardware. This curious design choice bothered many audio professionals, and Yamaha responded by releasing a variant to the HS5, the HS5i. This variant is identical in every way to the Yamaha HS5, except it includes bracket mount points on four sides of the unit.
Who the HS5 Is Most Suited For
As a smaller studio monitor, the Yamaha HS5 is most suited for those working in smaller spaces. At-home musicians often work in a small to average-sized spare bedroom or office. It’s not a ton of space, and you don’t need a metric ton of power to fill it.
Many commercial recording studios have at least one small mixing room. The same principle works in pro-level spaces. If you have a large control room with room for a half dozen people (or more), the HS5 probably isn’t going to cut it.
But if you have a “back room” for low-key editing or mixing (the kind of work where you don’t expect a crowd), a smaller monitor like a Yamaha HS5 pair is likely a perfect solution.
Other ideal candidates for the Yamaha HS5 include these:
- Discerning artists with constrained budgets
- First-time buyers looking to skip the cheap, entry-level monitors
- Those who are ready to upgrade from said cheap monitors
If money is no factor at all in your decision-making process, you can certainly find better five-inch monitors out there. But can you find anything better in this size and at this price point? In our experience, you’d be hard-pressed to do so.
Yamaha lists the HS5 monitor at $250 for a single speaker. At least, that’s the MSRP. If you need mounting points, you’ll want to go for the HS5i, which lists for $290 per speaker.
That said, the Yamaha HS5 often runs for $199 or so on Amazon, and it’s common to find a Yamaha HS5 pair for around $399.
The mountable HS5i currently sells for around $230 apiece on Amazon as well.
The Yamaha HS5 studio monitor has an excellent frequency response for its size and class. This small speaker gets down to 54Hz and all the way up to 30kHz. 54Hz corresponds to roughly the second-lowest A on a full piano, while 30kHz is well outside the range of human hearing.
For a five-inch speaker, we’d say that’s a pretty good response. If you’re needing even more bass, Yamaha has a subwoofer solution for you (see that section below).
The Yamaha HS5 comes in two color variants. One variant is nearly all white, while the other is nearly all black. Whichever color variant you choose, you’ll get some really nice accent touches.
The black speaker features a white interior on the cone woofer, which provides a nice pop of contrast. On the other hand, the white variant is nearly all white, with just one ring of black at the edge of the cone woofer.
The choice of white or black is up to you and likely depends on the aesthetics of the rest of your studio. Either way, you’ll get a speaker that’s both attractive and iconic.
The Yamaha HS5 is the smallest speaker in the lineup, with petite yet not diminutive dimensions. The speaker measures 11.25 inches tall by 6.6875 inches wide by 8.75 inches deep. Each Yamaha HS5 speaker weighs 11.7 pounds, making a Yamaha HS5 pair relatively lightweight (even if not exactly portable).
The Yamaha HS5 studio monitor is a nearfield studio monitor featuring two-way bass-reflex design. It’s an active monitor with a five-inch cone woofer that’s paired with a one-inch dome tweeter. The crossover between these is at 2 kilohertz.
This bi-amplified speaker offers 70 watts of total power amplification, with 45 of those watts going to the woofer and 25 to the tweeter.
The cabinet is made from high-quality MDF material that’s designed to reduce resonance and audio artifacts. While this monitor may lack some of the futuristic or high-tech materials found in more expensive models, we’ve found for the cabinet to be effective in doing its job.
As far as other specs go, there are a few controls on this monitor. However, this is an area where other more expensive speakers will outshine a pair of Yamaha HS5 speakers. Controls include a high trim switch (+/- 2dB), a room control switch (0/-2/-4 dB below 500Hz), and a +4dB level control.
These limited controls certainly don’t match what some other manufacturers are offering, but they will offer you some help in tuning your speakers to your room.
Yamaha sells a subwoofer in its HS series, the Yamaha HS8S. This sub is primarily designed to work alongside a pair of Yamaha’s largest studio monitors, the HS8. However, it’s entirely possible to use an HS8S subwoofer with a Yamaha HS5 pair. The phase pairing technology works equally well here as with the larger speakers.
The HS8S retails for $699, but many retailers regularly cut $200 or more off that list price.
As with most active monitor/subwoofer setups, you’d run your signal into the subwoofer, then your subwoofer OUTs on to the two Yamaha HS5 speakers. The subwoofer has a crossfade built in and will intelligently split and route the audio signal as necessary.
As most five-inch speakers are, the HS5s are a little weak on very low bass (and completely absent on extremely low sounds). That said, the HS8S is a beast of a subwoofer. In a small space, it might just be too powerful to be helpful.
Hs8s sub: https://www.amazon.com/Yamaha-HS8S-HS8-Studio-Subwoofer/dp/B00DHSK8C2
Pros and Cons
Every set of speakers has both pros and cons. Here’s a brief list of our top pros and cons for the Yamaha HS5.
- Fantastic performance for the price
- Solid frequency response
- Legendary Yamaha quality
- Ideal studio monitor for smaller studio spaces
First off, the Yamaha HS5 is just a fantastic speaker for the price. The performance you get for a monitor pair under $500 is just impressive. The frequency response is also remarkable, wider than some much more expensive five-inch speakers.
Yamaha is known for its legendary quality, which shows up strong in the HS5. The HS series is built on a storied history as well, including the NS10 studio monitor.
Lastly, the Yamaha HS5 is ideal for smaller studio spaces like a small mixing room or a converted bedroom or home office. It provides just enough power without overwhelming your space.
- Limited audio and EQ controls
- Stark design won’t please everyone
- MDF construction
- No mounting points on standard configuration
No speaker is perfect, including these. One of the biggest cons to the Yamaha HS5 is the limited audio and EQ controls. Just about every studio space needs to make at least some minor adjustments to get a truly even response. Yamaha does offer some minimal controls. You can modify the speaker output in small ways.
But other competitors give greater flexibility. If you know your studio space isn’t friendly and aren’t able to fix that problem, you might need a studio monitor with even more control and adjustments
Second, while we like the design of the HS5, we have to admit it’s a bit stark. If you’re looking for softer edges or colors to complete your studio aesthetic, these monitors might stick out.
The MDF construction gets the job done and makes sense given the price point, but some purists might prefer another material for the enclosure
Lastly, we’re baffled alongside many others that the standard model doesn’t include any mounting points. It’s a strange oversight. While Yamaha has somewhat righted this wrong by releasing the HS5i variant, it’s frustrating to have to pay that much extra for a few screw holes in the cabinet.
Despite the cons just mentioned, the Yamaha HS5 is a truly impressive small studio monitor— one of the best that we’ve seen anywhere near a sub-$500 price point. If you’re looking for a reliable compact studio monitor, the HS5 gets our recommendation.