Back in the 1980s, Yamaha came out with the NS-10s. These monitors sounded absolutely horrible, but it was that exact reason that Yamaha found great success through their release. The short of it all was that they were harsh, brittle, but extremely accurate at showing sore spots and weaknesses in any mix.
Yamaha’s newer line of monitors, the HS5s, are often compared to the NS-10s, and for the most part, that comparison is fairly accurate. Like we said, the NS-10s sounded terrible, but in the context of practical mixing applications, they proved irreplaceable in their usefulness.
The general idea was that if you could get your mix to sound good on the NS-10s, then it would sound good on any other system. For this reason alone, the NS-10s are still well sought after.
30 some years later, of course, the HS5s seem to be the better option. Against the NS-10S, the HS5s are far flatter in their response. The tweeters are easier on the ears (helping with fatigue), and the bass response is slightly better as well. While many may steer you towards finding a used pair of NS-10s, the HS5s may be the best present-day alternative to those legendary monitors.
Our verdict on the Yamaha HS5
The Yamaha HS5s are fine, maybe even a little bit better than fine. It seems that Yamaha is trying to keep up with the signature sound of the NS-10s, which is great for several reasons but maybe horrible for some.
The bottom line is that these are monitors meant for mixing, and we say that in the most serious way possible. If you’re looking for monitors for casual mixing, or just to have some monitors for some lightweight creative endeavors, don’t buy these. They don’t sound good, but that’s exactly why they can prove invaluable for mix engineers – they’re not necessarily supposed to sound “good”.
If you want some monitors to show you what’s wrong with your mix, the HS5 is a good contender in the current market. Just like the NS-10s that preceded, if you can get a mix to sound right on the HS5s, your mix will probably sound right on everything else.Check availability and current price: SweetwaterAmazon
Power and frequency response
The Yamaha HS5s have a rough frequency response of about 74 Hz – 25 kHz, -3 dB (or 54 Hz – 30 kHz , -10 dB). The bass starts to roll off at around 200 Hz, recovering slightly around 80 Hz before the final drop-off. Keeping this in mind, these monitors are unfortunately very bass shy. If you intend to use them as your main monitors then investing in a subwoofer should be written next on your to-do list.
Beyond this, there is a notable peak (around 3-5 dB) right between 650 Hz and 1.3 kHz before a sudden drop-off that hits a trough at 2 kHz, increasing the presence of mid-range by quite a large margin. There’s yet another small dip around 7-10 kHz, effectively understating any vocal sibilance that might occur in your mixes.
At a quick glance, the HS5 carries on the signature look and design of Yamaha’s older monitors. Just like the NS-10s, the HS5s share the same boxy cabinet, with the iconic white cone over the woofer. They feel fairly solid, and while they are on the smaller side, they’re incredibly durable.
There’s some weight to them, sure, but they’re still light enough to remain relatively portable. Yamaha also chose to invert the color schemes as well in case any of you weren’t sold on the black and white color scheme of the default model. All in all, the monitors are stylish and well-built.
I/O and controls
On the rear panel, the monitor is equipped with two connection options: a balanced TRS input, as well as a balanced XLR input.
The HS5 also features a room control switch that allows you to engage a 2 to 4 dB low-cut below 500 Hz to compensate for muddy low-frequencies that may occur if your speakers are placed too close to a wall. This low-cut filter is accommodated by a corresponding High Trim filter, allowing you to cut 2 dB from frequencies above 2 kHz. This is extremely useful when having to attenuate for an overly dampened, or a conversely bright room.
Compared to other studio monitors
While the Yamaha HS5s may very well be the perfect monitors for you, let’s take a look at other models to see how they compare. Also, check out our picks of the best budget studio monitors and the best studio monitors under $500.
Yamaha HS5 vs. KRK Rokit 5 G4
The KRK Rokits, as we’ve discussed in the past, are some of the most popular monitors to date. While the Yamaha HS5s are becoming increasingly popular as well, the comparison just about ends there. The KRKs are extremely bass-heavy, and there is an exceptional amount of coloration they impose on the source material. Having said this, the Rokits sound better than the HS5s, but working with them might set you up for an inaccurate sounding mix. For the more serious engineers, the HS5s are most likely the better option.
Check out our full KRK Rokit 5 G4 review
Yamaha HS5 vs. PreSonus Eris E5
Without getting too technical, the Eris E5 is probably the better deal in this comparison. Although highly overlooked, the E5s offer a slightly wider and far more transparent frequency response and they’re more affordable. Just like the Yamahas, the E5s lack a lot of low end in their response. However, their strengths in total severely outweigh the Yamahas in value. Get the E5s.