YAMAHA WXC-50 network streaming preamplifier
+ Small footprint. Tremendous bass and excellent on vocals. A little hot on top, so system matching is paramount. And when you get it right, this is one exciting pre-amp with excellent PRAT.
– Sans phono input and sadly no SPDIF input either. Otherwise excellent value for money.
THE Yamaha WXC-50 is a network streaming preamp with a variety of wired inputs (optical, RCA, USB, Ethernet), as well as wireless via Bluetooth, allowing access to stored music on your phone/tablet, Spotify, Pandora, Juke, Qobuz, and Internet radio stations, with multi-room connectivity via the MusicCast app.
There is a separate subwoofer out, with its own volume control, adjustable on the fly through the app. You can place the preamp flat on its footed belly or on its side via different footers, like a book on a shelf if you are low on space. Once turned on, noise is near zero.
The WXC-50 comes with a little remote control that has limited functions. Full functions are found using your hand-held device of choice with MusicCast in it. Nice. The onboard DAC also supports DSD5.6 and FLAC/WAV/AIFF (up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution).
The unit is best used with a good Internet connection. You will need to download the MusicCast app into your mobile device; the app is free from the Play and Apple stores. You will need the antenna (included) attached to the pre-amp for wireless connectivity.
The supplied power cable is a two-pronged one, and in my experience, orientation of the cable makes a significant audio difference with the WXC-50, so do experiment with this. One way sounds significantly better in terms of clarity and soundstage size.
It took me less than five minutes in all to download the MusicCast app into my Samsung mobile phone and thence, sync the phone to the WXC-50. Clear instructions on how to do this are given in the manual included, as well as the Yamaha – MusicCast website. Once this was done, I used the RCA pre-outs to hook up the WXC-50 to my power amp.
My listening experience revealed that the two best inputs were the optical and USB ones. The RCA input was decent enough, but nothing to write home about. The difference was mainly in the upper treble energy, detail retrieval, timing and bass. All better through Toslink and USB. Midrange clarity was the same through all inputs.
From the first track, and all through every bit of music played, the WXC-50 put out a very exciting, rich yet analogue sound. With David Bowie’s Modern Love CD, there was so much oomph and energy, and sharp clear highs. There was also so much detail that I could almost see Bowie crystallised in 3D in between my speakers! And that bass… deep and tuneful.
Siri’s Svale Band’s Necessarily So is something you must get into your collection. This is my female vocal “go to” test album – vocals, saxophones, acoustic and electric bass, percussion and drums, and an exceptionally good recording. The WXC-50 produced every note so remarkably well. I wanted to just listen to one or two tracks, but ended up listening to the whole CD.
The layering of instruments and Siri’s vocals were re-produced in a soundstage of decent depth, and excellent separation between instruments. There is much air and space in this recording, and the Yamaha got most of it out in the open before me. The sense of musicians playing in a real space, with air between and around them, was very good to excellent.
On Toto’s IV album, the speed and space-reverberation of the studio were heard clearly through the WXC-50.
On to the Encomium: A Tribute To Led Zeppelin CD, on the third track, Dancing Day. This track has a huge soundstage and superb recorded space of the venue. It’s all there with the WXC-50. On track nine, Custard Pie, with David Yaw’s unique “listen to me sing with 10 marbles in my mouth”… his unique articulation could finally be labelled as English. Quite something wonderful.
It was time to break out a potential deal breaker, Janis Ian’s Breaking Silence CD. This, to me can sound tedious, uninteresting, and a major labour to go through in a system that is not up to par in terms of timing. I sat through the whole performance. Space, layering and timing were excellent.
Thus, some of the WXC-50’s strong points emerge. Timing, excellent energy, clarity, and a fresh and robust sound. And it was simply superb with vocals and bass. The Toslink and USB inputs have the least sizzle on top, the RCA input, more so. This hot-on-top treble, however, is more of an analogue brightness that one can control with judicious choice of cables and speakers (assuming you are starting a system from scratch), and unlike an un-correctable digital brightness that will leave you weeping in your hi-fi listening seat.
With Internet radio, there was some digital glare but possibly due to the nature of digital radio in the 1st place. But it was very good listening, especially to human voices. If world radio is your cup of Java, and you enjoy listening to documentaries, debate or conversation type programmes, then this is the preamp for you. Human voice is its single most endearing feature. Plus, that heavenly bass.
THE LAST WORD
Did I enjoy it? Very much so. You will have a tough time finding something that sounds better with all the features provided, at this asking price. The multi-room capability, analogue characteristics, magic on human voice, bass, detail, soundstage, layering and more make it worth its asking price.
On the flipside, the Yamaha WXC-50 could use a little more headroom. I maxed out the volume (or maybe I just need a more powerful amp for my Maggies?). And what was Yamaha thinking, placing the USB input at the back of the unit? Put it in a tight space and you cannot regularly access the back of the unit.
Sources: CEC T2 transport, Oppo BDP 83 SE, Mac Mini using Audirvana/Mytec 192 DAC / Amps: Air Tight ATC-1 preamp, Conrad Johnson SA250 power amp / Speakers: Magneplanar 1.7 / Wires: Crystal Clear Audio I/Cs, Gotham, MIT MH750 Shotguns and Audience OHNO speaker cables.
Malaysian price: RM1,790
Review unit courtesy of Acoustique Systems (+6012-339 3738) / Find your distributor.
– Bal Kaulsay is a medical doctor with an absolute love for music and the reproduction of. High on his bucket list are such ideas as building his own Batcave hi-fi space far from the rest of the maddening crowd. And to build his own super amplifiers. The fact that he can’t work a soldering iron to save his life hasn’t deterred him one bit. His wife, however, expresses grave concern.