Live2Play Review: The Yamaha DSR Series It was tough choice. Do I go for the lighter-weight 2-way, 12”, DSR112 models and add the DSR118W sub woofer, or compromise with the 2-way, 15” DSR115 model?
Knowing that the typical Live2Play followers audio needs run the gamut from coffeehouse solo/duet gigs to barn-sized clubs, I requested the DSR115 in hopes of finding that perfect storm where portability, intense clarity and punchy bass all meet up. It also seemed like the logical starting point for anyone building an ever growing portable PA for the live stage or for larger mobile DJ gigs. In order to meet our publication deadline, while still completing our required amount of “real world” testing, I subjected two DSR115s to a series of DJ gigs—and then brought them back to our Live2Play studio in Upstate, NY for some serious listening.
What it is
The first thing that impressed me with the Yamaha DSR Active Loudspeaker series is the building-block approach that Yamaha has taken in developing the DSR line (which includes the models mentioned previously, plus a double 15” 2-way—the DSR215). The series is modularized so that you and your bandmates can easily build a matched system to meet the audio needs of the various venues you play. Each powered speaker cabinet has an input and output, so once you run a main line to the first box (inputs are balanced XLR and 1/4” TRS), connecting the rest is simply a matter of weeding through your box of patch cords. For solo/duet acts and DJs, two of the DSR112s or DSR115s on sticks mounted in the DSR118 subs should provide plenty of punch for the average size hall—once the speakers are positioned, it’s simply a matter of running a main line to each sub and then a short jumper to the top box.
On the mobility side, the smallest guys in the series, the DSR112s, weigh in at a very luggable 47 pounds. The DSR115s (subject of this review), tip the scales at 62 pounds each (for all the specs on the DSR line, visit usa.yamaha.com/products/live_sound/speakers/active_speakers/dsr_series/usa.yamaha.com/livesound”). That’s a tad heavier than some comparable light-weight designs, but there are two things to consider: First, the handle style and placement is superb—so the dead-weight of the speakers seems less than it actually is. Second, these speakers are constructed of wood, not polypropylene. Wood is heavier (EV’s ZXA5, a comparable 15”, 2-way constructed of polypropylene, come in 12 pounds lighter). The upside is that wood is denser and has different sound characteristics, allowing higher SPL and better sound quality at high levels. To protect the wooden boxes, the units are sprayed with Line X™ protective coating—which is the same stuff that’s been protecting my truck bed from road salt, various refuse and renegade chainsaws for over three years without so much as dig or knick. So, the bottom line on construction is that these are solid, strong boxes built to protect the drivers and electronics inside. As a testament to their build quality, one of our test DSR115s arrived with a 10” x 8” hole punched through the shipping carton (Hey! Get the license number of that forklift!). While the integrity of shipping box was seriously breeched, the only damage to the speaker itself was a slight ripple to the front grill.
Depending on your level of understanding (or interest) in digital audio, everything you need to know about the internal workings of the DSR Series is explained in detail at the Yamaha Website. For now, let’s look at the control panel and talk about what does what. As you have the option of using these speakers with either the line level output of a mixer, or plugging in a microphone (no phantom power provided) direct, the mic/line switch will most likely be the first switch to concern yourself with. Next is the HPF (High Pass Filter) switch which cuts frequencies below 120Hz—quite handy when you need to connect a microphone directly or are using a sub.
The D-Contour switch (D for Dynamic) is a multi-band, level dependent dynamics proceesor that puts extra emphasis on specific frequencies in the 50Hz to 500Hz range and in the range above 3kHz. The result is a fuller overall sound with extra “oomph” on the bass and a stunning clarity on the high-end. After an extended session of listening with the D-Contour on, the sound seemed rather flat and dull with it off. On the other hand, if you are using your own processing, you would probably want that flat sound as your starting point.
Other controls on the back panel include the main level control and a switch to turn off the white LED on the front panel of the unit, if you so desire. Personally, I thought it was kind of cool. Three indicator lights are provided to confirm that the speaker is on and ready to rock, or if the output limiter or protection circuits have activated to protect the system from possible damage. I suppose anything is possible, but with a rated power of 1300 Watts (850 to the woofer / 450 to the tweeter) and a measured maximum sound pressure level of 136dB @ 1 meter (for the DSR115) it’s unlikely. So if you find that you’re seeing those flash with consistency, maybe it’s time to add more speakers to your rig.
On The road…
Christmas came early this year (2010) as two DSR115s showed up at our offices at #1 Live2Play Tower the day before I was scheduled to play a holiday bash for a local land developer. The venue was the size and configuration of a medium sized warehouse. The ceiling was 30 foot or better, and it was certainly large enough (and almost cold enough) for a game of ice hockey. Hard floors, walls, everything. Not exactly the best place to play—but perfect for testing out new gear. As instructed, I set up at the far end of the room. Once the evening progressed past all the typical speeches, door prizes and best ass-kisser awards, I finally got a chance to crank the 115s, at which time I was glad for the high ceiling as I fear I could have easily run into some problems with echo.
Always a lover of bass, and therefore seldom seen without a sub, I was quite content with the chest pounding punch the twin DSR115s delivered. You could feel the bass anywhere on the dance floor and beyond—and nothing gets people out on the dancefloor more effortlessly than when they can really feel the beat. With the D-Contour switch activated, the default eq curve provided just the right boost at just the right points for a full, un-muddy sound from end to end. Having evaluated dozens of speakers over the years, I can say without qualification that these are among the best sounding—if not the best sounding—portable speakers I’ve had the pleasure of using. Their full-range, uncolored tone even seemed to compensate even when the signal going in (aaaaaa, note to self: track 221, 28 kbps is NOT CD quality) was less than desired. Back in the studio, at normal listening levels, the DSR115s continued to impress—sounding nearly as good the audiophile speakers in the listening room. Whether for voice, keyboard or guitar, the DSR115’s continued to provide the same fullness and clarity I had experienced on the road.
Wrap it up
Obviously, I don’t want to gush too much over these units as it may appear that I’m on Yamaha’s payroll—in fact, I did find one thing that I really found annoying: The placement of the mic/line switch. With the speakers stand-mounted in a dimly-lit room, it was way too easy to reach behind the speaker, intending to toggle the D-Contour and hit the mic/line by accident—at which point t
hings get very loud very fast. On the other hand, what the heck was I doing messing with the switches on the back of the speaker in the middle of a gig for in the first place. Point taken.
Yamaha DSR Series MSRPs
DSR112 – $1,199
DSR115 – $1,349
DSR215 – $1,649
DSR118W – $1,499