Are you in the market for a new set of studio monitors? If you’ve settled on Yamaha as your brand of choice, we think you’ve made a great decision. Yamaha has been making great quality gear for decades, yet they keep their prices approachable.
Yet simply deciding you want to go with Yamaha studio monitors isn’t the end of your decision-making process. There’s an entire range of Yamaha monitors to consider, and model names alone don’t do much to clarify what’s what.
In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about Yamaha monitor speakers. We’ll also outline every current model in the lineup. Then we’ll finish out with a quick section on how to decide which Yamaha studio monitors are right for you.
Understanding the Lineup of Yamaha Studio Monitors
There are essentially two series of Yamaha studio monitors, plus three additional models that don’t fit into a series.
First is the Yamaha HS series, which is the most popular of all currently available Yamaha monitors.
Then there’s the MSP Studio series, which the company describes as Yamaha monitor speakers designed with serious monitoring in mind. Yamaha monitors in the MSP Studio series are the highest quality monitors the company offers.
There are also two variants of the MSP3, plus a small and budget-friendly set of desktop Yamaha speakers called the MS101III. (Yeah, we know — Yamaha’s naming conventions strike again.)
Let’s dive into each model Yamaha offers.
Yamaha HS Series
First up is the Yamaha HS series. These powered studio monitors are far and away the most popular Yamaha monitors on the market, and for good reason. The Yamaha HS series is based on the underlying design and principles of the NS-10M, one of the best and most iconic Yamaha speakers of years gone by.
Of course, to this rich history, Yamaha has added in all the modern tech you’d expect to find in an active, bi-amplified reference monitor.
The goal of the HS series is the goal that all reference monitors should have: to produce a pure sound that accurately represents exactly what the audio source contains. To that end, the company developed new transducers for this series that give as smooth a response as you can find at the price point.
With an advanced magnetic field design, a high-performance bi-amp unit and low-resonance enclosures, every speaker in the Yamaha HS series is an impressive studio monitor in the low to midrange price tier.
Yamaha has been iterating for decades now, and the current HS series builds upon the successes of several previous generations of Yamaha monitors. What the company has achieved here is a highly refined, mature product.
Currently, there are three HS series models, plus a subwoofer. Each speaker reviewed below is also available in an i variant, which adds four-way bracket mounts (but nothing more).
The smallest and most affordable speaker in the Yamaha HS series is the HS5. This two-way bi-amplified speaker features a five-inch cone woofer with a one-inch dome tweeter with a total of 70 watts of amplification— 45 watts for the woofer and 25 for the tweeter.
You get a fantastic frequency response for the size as well, from 54Hz up to 30kHz. The cabinet itself is available in black or white, but both finishes feature the iconic white woofer cone.
The MSRP on the HS5 is just $250 per speaker, putting the HS5 in a seriously affordable price tier. If your recording space is a small room (like a bedroom or home office), a five-inch speaker pair should be more than enough power for your reference listening needs.
One area where Yamaha could have done more is in response controls. Not every listening space is perfect, so many reference monitors include controls to modify the sound to overcome room problems.
The Yamaha HS5 does include two response controls, but both are pretty limited in functionality. Room control offers a -4/-2/0 dB toggle switch at 500Hz (dropping or boosting everything below 500Hz). High trim gives you -2/0/+2 dB toggle above 2kHz.
These response controls, while welcome, are far less detailed than what some brands offer.
As far as inputs go, XLR and TRS jacks on the back can accept balanced or unbalanced signals, and there’s an input level adjustment knob as well.
The Yamaha HS7 is the midsized active monitor in the HS series. The woofer measures 6.5 inches (which, apparently, gets rounded up to seven in the naming conventions?), while the tweeter measures the same one inch as on the smaller speaker.
Power and frequency response get a bump here (and price tag, of course). For that $425 MSRP, you get a frequency response of 43Hz to 30kHz and 95 total watts of amplification. That’s 60 watts for the woofer and 35 for the tweeter.
Pretty much everything else is the same. It’s still a nearfield studio monitor that seeks to create an even, flat response, and it does a fantastic job at it. If your studio space is a little larger than a small bedroom or you expect to need more power than most, the HS7 could be the right call for you.
If you’re editing in large basement, garage, or room over garage (or in a bona fide commercial recording studio), you may need even more power. For you, there’s the HS8.
Again, most features are identical to the smaller models. The changes here are size, price, frequency response and power.
- Size: eight-inch woofer and one-inch tweeter
- Frequency response: 38Hz to 30kHz (with optional subwoofer – see below)
- Amplification power: 120 total watts – 75 for low frequencies and 45 for high frequencies
- MSRP: $529
If you’re running a home studio in your bedroom or office, you almost certainly don’t need this much power. But if you’re in a larger space, you’ll be glad you spent a little more for an appropriately-sized reference monitor.
HS8S Powered Subwoofer
If you need a stronger bass response than you’re getting with your HS8 studio monitors, there’s a sub for that. The HS8S is a beastly eight-inch bass-reflex powered subwoofer that significantly reinforces your low end, from 22Hz up to 150Hz.
It’s the most expensive speaker in the lineup, with an MSRP of $730. And most home studio artists won’t really need a subwoofer at all. But if you need it, you really need it.
There’s a ton of power here: 150 watts courtesy of a purpose-built low-frequency amplifier. You also get more in terms of control, with a low cut switch, plus low and high cut controls.
Setting up the HS8S in a configuration with HS8 monitors is extremely simple, thanks to Yamaha’s phase switch.
To sum up, the HS8S is an addition that most people won’t need. But it’s crucial for some setups, and we’re glad Yamaha has included it in the Yamaha HS Series lineup.
There are a handful of other Yamaha studio monitors on the market today, and all but one of them fall into the MSP Series. Top of the class in this series is the Studio moniker, so we’ll start with the MSP5 Studio.
Billed as Yamaha’s top-of-the-line powered studio monitor, the MSP Studio Series was meant to be an impressive contender. And it may have been when it was new in the 2000s. But time moves along, and the line has largely been displaced by the Yamaha HS series. There was a a higher-end seven-inch speaker in this MSP Studio series, but it has been discontinued.
That leaves only the MSP5 Studio in this category. Despite its age, the MSP5 Studio is a quality reference monitor built on the legacy of the NS10M Studio. The bi-amplified speaker features a five-inch cone with a 40-watt amp as well as a one-inch tweeter dome with a 27-watt amp.
Built with magnetic shielding that surpasses many speakers in its class, you’ll get clean, distortion-free sound. There’s also rounded baffle construction with an internally mounted tweeter, giving a cleaner and more precise sound.
The MSP5 Studio offers a much greater degree of audio control, with three adjustment types instead of two and more levels of sensitivity on each. This is perhaps the most compelling reason to upgrade to the MSP5 Studio from the HS series.
There are scenarios where even a five-inch woofer is overkill, such as a smaller music production system setup (we don’t want to call it a closet, but…sometimes it’s a closet). But stepping down to a smaller speaker shouldn’t have to mean compromising features and quality.
The MSP3 is a pint-sized reference monitor, featuring a four-inch cone (we know, we know—why didn’t they name it the MSP4?) and a 0.75-inch tweeter with a single 20-watt amplifier. This bass-reflex active monitor features Yamaha’s Waveguide Technology, allowing higher frequencies to enjoy even dispersion.
MSP3 monitors are magnetically shielded, so you can place them near your computer or other hardware without risk of damage or interference.
Tone controls are limited to simply LOW and HIGH, but both are on knobs rather than static switches.
The MSP3 is a respectable desktop monitor, but it does have some flaws. Yamaha sought to rectify those flaws with the newer MSP3A. The MSRP jumps by $50, but the upgrades are worth it to us.
The big innovation here is what Yamaha calls a Twisted Flare Port, which diffuses air turbulence caused by bass tones and leads to clearer, more present bass— even in this small of a speaker.
The amplifier also gets a boost up to 22 watts, two more than the earlier model.
The MSP3 and MSP3A strike us as an awkward middle in the lineup of Yamaha monitor speakers. Sure, they do the job. But for the price, why wouldn’t you just get a pair of HS5s? Unless you want portability most of all, we recommend choosing the HS5 studio monitor instead.
Which Yamaha Studio Monitors Should You Buy?
Now that you have a better handle on Yamaha’s current lineup of studio monitors, it’s decision time. If you’re still unsure which ones to buy, let us help you through the process of making a decision.
To help you narrow it down, consider the following questions.
What Is Your Budget?
How much money you have to spend on studio monitors is one of the biggest points of differentiation. If you can only afford one or two of the models on this list, you’ve already narrowed down your choices considerably.
At the same time, realize that more isn’t always better. It’s possible to spend more and buy too much speaker for your space. Doing so will lose you money, but even worse, it’ll make editing a real headache (literally!).
How Small or Large Is Your Studio Space?
The size of your studio space matters. Most at-home recording artists and mixing artists are working in a converted standard-sized bedroom, where a five-inch speaker is likely sufficient. If your space is larger or smaller than that, you’ll want to scale up (or perhaps even down) in speaker size and power.
Unfortunately, there’s no foolproof guide on how much power is too much for a space, but the general guideline we just mentioned should help.
Have You Acoustically Treated Your Space?
In an ideal world, your home studio will be nearly perfect acoustically, with treatments of various types throughout the room. (If you’re working in a dedicated commercial studio, we’re assuming that this work has already been done.)
But many at-home artists don’t live in an ideal world. They live in the real world. If your space isn’t well treated (or, worse, treated at all), you need a monitor with maximum adjustability. You won’t get a perfect sound without fixing your room. But the more adjustments your speakers can make, the closer you get to a bearable acoustic space in the meantime.
In the world of Yamaha monitors, the MSP5 Studio offers the most acoustic adjustment. This is one of the reasons you might lean toward the MSP5 Studio over the newer HS5 monitors.
Wrapping Up – Final Recommendations
For most at-home or commercial studio spaces, the Yamaha HS Series is going to contain the best Yamaha studio monitors for all-around performance and affordability. Our general recommendation is to choose the HS monitors that make sense for your room size, going up in speaker size the larger your room.
The smaller MSP3 speakers only really appeal to us as more portable options or for those editing in truly tiny spaces. On the other end, the MSP5 Studio has some admirable qualities. If you need maximum acoustic adjustment, the MSP5 Studio has more than the rest. But otherwise, you’re probably better off saving the extra cash and sticking with the HS5 (links below).