Natural black pearls are far more sought after than white pearls. Real black pearls are far rarer and very exclusive, and are found just off the coast of Tahiti. They are called Pinctada margaritifera, and the pearls turn black if they develop near the black lips of the Tahitian oyster. They cost about 10 times as much as white freshwater pearls.
The smaller version of Yamaha’s flagship speakers, the NS-3000, is as deep black as a Tahitian pearl, and almost as exclusive. They cost far more than most people expect from a compact speaker, and fall into a price range where it is more common to choose a large floor-standing speaker.
A pair of Klipsch Cornwall costs less and easily fills a large living room with overwhelming dynamics. Or you can choose a pair of Dynaudio Contour 60i if you want high-end sound in a pair of slimmer speakers.
So why choose a small speaker, which has to be places on stands anyway? For many, the answer is that they want a smaller footprint in the living room. Or that they have limited space for speakers. Then it makes sense to look for a pair of compact speakers that deliver many of the same qualities as a pair of large, floor-standing speakers.
This is where the black and polished Yamaha speakers come in.
They are barely 40 cm high, and the high price means that they stand in a field with exclusive speakers such as Sonus faber Electa Amator III, Dynaudio Confidence 20 and KEF Reference 1. Three placement-friendly speakers, which cost about the same – stands included, but sounds quite different.
The Italian Sonus fabers, in walnut and marble, deliver a beautiful warm and rich sound that is easy to like. The larger Dynaudios deliver more depth in the bass, and are a little more resolved, while the strength of the KEF speakers lies in a perfect balance and a uniquely precise stereo perspective.
The Yamaha speakers are perhaps most similar to the KEF speakers, but the texture of the soundscape is more polished, it is more silky than fine-mesh superwool, to draw in an analogy. They deliver a wonderful combination of resolution, dynamics and depth, which leads them straight to the top among the best compact speakers we have heard.
They may lack the thrust and range in the bass of the Confidence 20, but play more openly and articulate than the Electa Amator III, and provide e.g. piano sound more tonality than the KEFs. The NS-3000 sounds almost like a couple of the larger NS-5000s do, only without the same maximum sound pressure, and with of course, a little less weight in the bass.
Genuine black piano lacquer
Like the NS-5000, the cabinet is only made in black, and several coats of black lacquer are applied until the design is on a par with a Yamaha grand piano.
The speakers’ sonic relationship to the larger NS-5000 is due to the fact that they share the same technology, with the unique diaphragm material that debuted on the NS-5000; Zylon.
Which is a synthetic material developed in Japan, with greater breaking strength and elasticity than, for example, wood fibers that are often used as a diaphragm material. In the technical articles from Yamaha, it says that Zylon is better than even Beryllium on the combination of hardness, stiffness and weight.
The 16 cm large woofer with the Zylon diaphragm in a structured surface, is acoustically connected to a rear-facing bass port with a specially shaped mouth, which will dampen wind noise from the door. The tweeter is the same as Yamaha uses in the NS-5000, and has a 30 mm surface with a finely woven structured surface for better rigidity.
Behind the tweeter is a trumpet-like chamber, which removes the need for damping material behind the element, and at the same time eliminates resonances and compression behind the diaphragm. It should provide a more linear frequency response and better resolution.
A laser vibroscope and FEM (Finite Element Method) analyzes have been used to calculate how to effectively attenuate the energy in the cabinet, which can lead to unwanted resonances.
Although the cabinet is not very large, reinforcements and braces are mounted on the inside, where measurements show that they are needed the most. A U-shaped acoustic absorbent is placed in the middle of the cabinet, to remove standing waves.
The crossover divides at 2.8 kHz and is, among other things, built up with a Mundorf MCap Supreme EVO capacitor and a coreless coil, mounted on a double-printed circuit board.
The total weight per speaker is exactly 13 kilos, with the adapted stands the weight increases to 28 kilos.
The floor stands are specially made for NS-3000, and the stands called SPS-3000, are made of high-intensity MDF boards, and rubber tree wood, and the speakers are attached to the top board with two screws from the bottom. At the other end, the racks have a resonance-damping base with small spikes with a rounded tip underneath, for resonance-damping connection to the substrate, without damaging the parquet.
If you have heard the larger NS-5000, you know what to expect. The smaller NS-3000 does the same as the large speakers, only on a slightly smaller scale, and with less weight in the bass. Deep bass, for example, is better defined and more dynamic at 5000, while 3000 rounds of bass are quite abruptly just below 40 Hz.
Still, they managed to deliver compelling bass in my room of 30 sqm, and at the same time they managed to play loud and amazingly clear and distortion-free. They correspond to the experience of the NS-5000, which has an extremely fine-mesh resolution.
A pair of Electa Amator III will reproduce vocals with a pronounced warmth, while these focus more on a crystal clear and neutral sound with almost no emphasis or extra warmth. This does not mean that they are colorless, because there is a magnificent depth in the sound from Cecilia Bartoli’s mezzo, and a goosebumps deepening in Bryn Terfel’s baritone.
The dynamics of Gary Peacock’s double bass playing are reproduced with powerful control, and it’s really just the depth of Jack DeJohnette’s big drum, which lacks a bit of impact in the soundscape of Keith Jarrett’s trio recordings. In comparison, Confidence 20 has more deep bass in my room, and drums gain more weight through them, but in return, the super-light bass membrane in NS-3000 is more focused.
The Yamaha speakers have the same super-focused resolution as the NS-5000, over the entire frequency range. It is quite unique, even for a speaker in such a high price range, and only KEF Reference 1 matches these on the stereo perspective.
At the same time, they create more of the depth of sound that the NS-5000 has, and the way the speakers reproduce strings, vocals and piano sound, brings to mind neutral electrostatic speakers. One thing that is worth being aware of is that the speakers may sound a bit muted and withdrawn the first time they are played. A couple of weeks of regular playing works wonders for the dynamics, and not least the bass, which opens up and releases the music from the shackles, creating the magic that makes me not want to send the Yamaha speakers back.
The Yamaha NS-3000 is made with the same unique eye for quality, as the NS-5000, and shows that Yamaha has not forgotten everything they know about speakers. At the same time, they have learned something new, and introduced better materials, better components and more efficient attenuation, and created one of the best compact speakers we have heard. Unfortunately, the Yamaha NS-3000 is so expensive that it becomes a product for the few, who can afford the exclusivity of a pair of speakers in this price range. But that’s how it is with black pearls: they are not for everybody.