The DSR family of powered speakers from Yamaha
It’s hard to really audition a set of speakers at a NAMM Show, given the high level of ambient noise and general mayhem, but the new Yamaha DSR powered speakers prevailed over such adversities mightily when I heard them demo’d in Anaheim. Yes, the Yamaha rep risked getting busted by the “sound police” patrolling the aisles, but for a few glorious minutes, listened to the new DSR’s in all their full-throated glory. Would those crystal-clear highs, punching bass, and focused mids I heard on the show floor still be there when I had a set of my own, and put through repeated use?
Suffice it to say, I was not disappointed in the several weeks I had the DSR’s doing sound-reinforcement duty. The speakers that had impressed me in a few short minutes some months before continued to deliver over time, under scrutiny, and in critical work situations. Let’s get to it!
The DSR series comes in several configurations: a choice of three two-way full-range cabinets, the DSR112, DSR115, and DSR215, and an optional subwoofer, the DSR118W. Of course, being powered speakers (with parallel inputs), you can devise any configuration, but my review setup consisted of four speakers: two mid-level DSR115’s and two DSR118W subwoofers (see Fig. 1). The DSR115’s sides are gently sloped inward from front to back, making them appear as full-width main speakers when facing the audience, while retaining enough of an angle to serve double-duty as floor monitors. While the cabinets are not light weight, neither are they boat anchors, owing to their efficient Class-D amplifiers, all-digital DSP and filter section, well-balanced design, and well-placed handles.
Figure 1. The DSR115 is a two-way midrange cab.
Hookup and operation are straightforward and set-and-forget. On the DSR115, you plug the XLR or 1/4" cable into the cab’s input. An XLR Thru jack is also included for daisy-chaining speakers together from a single signal source. The back panel functions blessedly simple to operate, even while they control sophisticated circuitry. There’s a single level control, with a center detent to put you right at a calibrated +4 dBu line level.
You can also switch in a handy boost circuit if you’re plugging a mic directly into the cab (see Fig. 2). Three additional functions, each with its own dedicated switch, perform the following functions: 1) disable the front LED; 2) activate the high-pass filter (for eliminating stage rumble and wind noise); and 3) activate D-Contour—Yamaha’s multiband dynamic processor that monitors and adjusts the output levels. The power outlet and heavy-duty rocker on/off switch are safely located on another part of the cab, further down.
Figure 2. The DRS115's back panel shows simple but useful options.
The DSR118W’s hookup scheme is only slightly different. There’s no 1/4" input, but there are left and right XLR In and Thru jacks. The Front LED Disable switch and Level control are present, along with a Normal/Inverted Polarity switch (which you’ll sometimes see referred to erroneously as a “phase” switch on other gear). Both cabs have the same LED makeup, with a green power LED and red LED’s for when the Limit and Protection circuits are active. Both glow at varying brightness levels depending on the intensity of the effect being applied.
Though they don’t have user-adjustable parameters, there are several systems at work in the DSR series that keep your sound humming along efficiently and distortion-free. The crossover network, called FIR-X Tuning (Finite Impulse Response), employs high-order filters that simultaneously optimizes both frequency and phase response, adjusting the time alignment between drivers. This improves clarity in general, and imaging specifically, which is especially obvious in recordings with complex and full-range instrumentation.
I confirmed this with my favorite reference CD of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s version of Holst’s The Planets. The sound is noticeably more open and intelligible on the DSR’s than in my other live rigs. Other circuits at work include a high-efficiency switching-mode power supply using Power Factor Correction (which maximizes power output providing a clean waveform with minimal noise), and DSP Protection (which digitally protects the power supply, power amp, and speakers from damaging spikes and other line irregularities). Like good plumbing, when everything works, nobody notices. And in the case of these enhancement and protection circuits, they save you from sounding bad sound at least, and permanent system damage in severe cases.
From the top of the frequency spectrum to the bottom, with rock bands and symphony recordings pumping through them, the DSR’s delivered with power, reliability, and great sound.
For most of my applications I run in mono, and while I was grateful to have two DSR118W’s (and a matched pair of cabs), I found that from a power perspective, I really didn’t need the second subwoofer—even in the loudest application I had, which was running sound for a rock band at an outdoor event. Speaking of bass, in many systems, turning up the bass simply causes things to smear out, to lose the punch. Not so here. In fact, this was the biggest surprise of the DSR series. I had expected to hear pretty good quality out of a Yamaha sound system in this range, but not to be blown away by a bass response that simply never lost focus and tightness, no matter how loud the band cranked it. It was the best bass response I’ve heard in a powered speaker system.
The DSR’s are a shining example of the continual refinement of powered speaker coming out of Yamaha. They are a delight to work with, with features working in the background to make you sound better, maximize your power, and protect your system. And you’ll never hear bass frequencies this consistent, this loud, and this clear, than in the DSR118W. In addition to the elegant design and perfectly focused, smooth, and clear sound—even in under less than ideal or predictable conditions—the DSR series deliver solid performance and outstanding quality every time.
Jon Chappell is a guitarist and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has contributed numerous musical pieces to film and TV, including Northern Exposure, Walker, Texas Ranger, All My Children, and the feature film Bleeding Hearts, directed by actor-dancer Gregory Hines. He is the author of The Recording Guitarist: A Guide for Home and Studio (Hal Leonard), Essential Scales & Modes (Backbeat Books), and Build Your Own PC Recording Studio (McGraw-Hill), and has written six books in the popular Dummies series (Wiley Publishing).