Yamaha HS5 Review. Bose of studio monitors

After reviewing JBL LSR305, KRK RP5 G3 and Presonus Eris E5 there was one more big name on the market that was missing from my portfolio of 5 inch studio monitor reviews. The name was Yamaha, one of the biggest players on the market, and the model I decided to review is Yamaha HS5 (I also considered HS7 but decided that review of HS5 will be interesting to broader audience). Yamaha HS5 next to JBL LSR305 is the best selling studio monitor with 5 inch woofer on the market, so I was interested if it can outperform the American counterpart and be a good alternative for anyone looking for monitors for their desktop audio setup. The price definitely suggested that it should be able to compete with JBL or even outperform it quite significantly as HS5 is considerably more expensive. So, today we will find out if the steep price and big name standing behind this monitor will keep the promise and deliver the goods. Welcome to my review of Yamaha HS5 studio monitors.

Specwise Yamaha HS5 is typical 5 inch studio monitor. It is bi amplified system with 45W and 25W amplifiers powering respectively 5 inch white plastic woofer and one inch soft dome tweeter hidden behind metal mesh grill. Signal delivered to monitor via either TRS or XLR inputs is divided between two amplifiers by active crossover. We have also two “tone controls” that allow to shape the sound signature of the HS5 a bit, one is High Trim for the treble and the room control for the bass. Unfortunately Room Control, responsible for bass performance, allows only to trim the bass down and why this is a problem You will realize while reading about listening impressions. Overall there is nothing new or exciting about physical side of this monitor except maybe for its looks. I decided that I want something different this time so I went with white vinyl finish of the monitors and I have to say that it was a good choice as they look very good in white, definitely much better than any other studio monitor I tested till this day. I like the way the side edges are rounded it gives HS5 very modern and stylish  yet minimalist look that will not feel out of place in a modern room or on top of designer desk. Also build quality is top notch, cabinets feel dense and inert, all the dials and switches work smooth and give nice feedback, except maybe for those two flimsy switches for tone controls. The icing on the cake for me are the illuminated Yamaha logos on the front that lights up with soft white light when the monitors are working. So far so good, lets check how they sound than.

As usual in my reviews, before I start to describe the sound quality I want to have a few words about the hiss and hum levels from the internal electronics. Considering the big price compared to competitors, I expected a bit more here, yet Yamaha HS5 as all other similar monitors I tested, has typical for studio monitors audible hiss coming from the tweeters. It is not annoying or anything, but it is audible especially in quieter rooms, on par with JBL LSR305 or KRK RP5 G3.
After the music start to flow from the speakers, the first impression is that HS5 sound quite light on its feet compared to other monitors with 5 inch woofers. Not so long ago I commented that Presonus Eris E5 is rather lean on bass, but what HS5 is showing here is rather anemic in my opinion. All thought there is enough detail and You can hear the bass well, the physical or visceral part of it is more or less missing. As a result music lacks drive and groove down low, coming through rather flat and uninspiring. Only subwoofer can help here as tone controls do not allow to boost bass response of HS5. Midrange is where the real problems start for HS5. At first it all seem ok but the more You listen the more You realize there is something wrong here. First of all HS5 has some audible coloration somwhere between 500 and 800Hz resulting in honky sound, especially evident when something like distorted guitars come into play. Also human voices do not sound right, they are congested, a bit nasal and lack real openness. It seem as if they are coming through some kind of short tube before they reach listeners ears. It is all very disappointing and surprising at the same time, considering price of the speakers and the manufacturer standing behind them. Going up in the range, there seem to be a bit of disjoint between woofer and tweeter probably due to poorly executed crossover point. Upper midrange and lower treble is where Yamaha HS5 does a bit better job but still lacks behind better speakers in this class, especially in detail and air. Also, while on normal listening levels HS5 is gentle enough for my ears, when the volume rises the situation change for the worse and HS5 starts to be piercy and hard resulting in fast listening fatigue. The soundstage produced by HS5 is good if a bit congested with nice depth and solid center image. What is nice about HS5s soundstageing is the big sweet spot, I can move far to the sides from the center spot and the image stays in tact. Do not get me wrong, as much as my discription may paint a very grim view of how HS5 sounds it is not totally terrible (it sounds passable for the most part IMO), it is just that I, for reasons mentioned before, expected it to sound much better than it actually does.


I have compared HS5 with two other monitors with 5 inch woofers, JBL LSR305 and Presonus Eris E5. Both of these monitors are significantly cheaper than Yamaha, yet both in my opinion manage to beat Yamaha HS5 in terms of sound quality rather easily. Starting with Presonus, my biggest complain about its sound in my recent review was that it lacks a bit of punch and depth in bass, yet Yamaha HS5 manages to sound even leaner, almost anemic in my opinion. If You really want to use Yamaha HS5 than subwoofer is a must. Midrange in E5 is cleaner, more natural, more detailed and better integrated with the rest of spectrum. Also top end has more details and air. Presonus is also more dynamic speaker with more headroom for loud listening without headache. Overall sound signature of both E5 and HS5 are quite similar with lean bass and a bit forward upper midrange and treble, but Presonus does it all audibly better and would be my choice if I was looking for monitor for music production with those characteristics.
Sound comparison between Yamaha HS5 and Presonus Eris E5:

Sound comparison between Yamaha HS5 and JBL LSR305:

JBL LSR305 is a speaker that when compared with HS5 side by side manages to make it sound a bit like an old radio. Everything about the sound of JBL is at least a class above of what Yamaha presents. Starting from bass, JBL goes deeper with more authority and punch yet has all the detail You expect from studio monitor and can be used in nearfield without serious need for subwoofer most of the times. JBLs midrange is sweeter, more natural, more detailed and open. The same can be said about the treble that will give You more details without fatiguing your ears. JBL can play louder without sounding harsh or hard and has bigger, more detailed and more realistic soundstage. 
As a side note I will say that even Presonus Eris E4.5, smaller monitor that costs about half the money of Yamaha, has more natural, coherent and dynamic sound than HS5. That is the extent of misery of Yamaha HS5.

Just as the Bose products I reviewed in the past, Yamaha HS5 looks very good and is build well but lacks sonic qualities promised by its price and heritage. If You plan on buying monitors just to look at them and You have enough spare money, than Yamaha HS5 may be a monitor for You. In any other case there are monitors available on the market that will give much better sound for significantly less money. My judgment may seem harsh but is a reflection of the dissonance between expectations based on price and heritage of manufacturer and reality of Yamaha HS5. A disappointment.

Final Score: 7 / 10

The Good:
-Looks great in white
-Good build quality
-Big sweetspot for sounstage

The Bad:
-Anemic bass that begs for subwoofer
-Honky, nasal and congested midrange
-Gets harsh when volume goes up
-May be tiring on longer listening sessions