Saturday, April 8, 2017

Yamaha WXAD-10 (MusicCast Add)

Multi-room music streaming has been mainstream for a while now, thanks to the likes of Sonos, but music streaming that's affordable and marries up to your existing setup is only a recent thing - mainly because of Google's dinky Chromecast Audio dongle and to an extent the Amazon Echo Dot.

The success of these devices has spurred many a company into making their own streaming add-on. The latest is the Yamaha WXAD-10, nicknamed the MusicCast ADD.

This streaming adapter is Yamaha's way to get its MusicCast streaming service into your home and turn any 'dumb' wired speaker into a fully fit smart system. 

It also has in its bag a fantastic, if quirky, USP: the MusicCast Add can turn Yamaha pianos into fully fledged streaming speakers. 

So, if you just so happen to have a Yamaha Clavinova lying around in your two-bed semi, then simply attach MusicCast to the thing and you have a piano with some fantastic audio smarts.

Design and features

The Yamaha WXAD-10 is, for Yamaha, a mainstream device. It's the company's way of spreading out its MusicCast service to more devices - something it's been trying hard to do since MusicCast's launch in 2015. 

The amount of Yamaha products that have MusicCast embedded in them now stretches to 50, so it's serious about making a big dent in the music-streaming market. 

Given that it's a streamer, the Yamaha WXAD-10 is small enough to meld with whatever audio setup you happen to have. It's by means not as tiny as the Chromecast Audio puck - its footprint is around the size of a beer mat - but its dark gray color and brushed metal look is meant to be both seen and heard. 

Physical controls on the MusicCast add are few and they hidden on the bottom of the device. You have an on/off button, a 'connect' button to get it syncing with your home's Wi-Fi and an option button. 

The option button is something you may have to use on occasion, depending on how you use the device, but for the most part you control things with the MusicCast app. 

To connect it to your speaker setup you have two options: aux out and line out -there's no digital option available here. There are another three ports on the back, one for ethernet, a micro USB slot and a mini USB slot. 

The mini USB is to power the device and the micro one is hidden behind a rubber enclosure. This is because you shouldn't really need to use it. It's only there if the box needs completely rebooting, or some sort of firmware update. 

The design is minimal but sleek, though we do worry that the gray fascia will be prone to scratches.

Setting up the MusicCast ADD is simple. We were walked through a demo on the show floor of Frankfurt's big music show Musikmesse and the box seamlessly slots into an existing MusicCast setup.

Load up the app and the box will be listed alongside the rest of your MusicCast devices. 

This doesn't mean that you have to already have a MusicCast setup installed somewhere in your home. The MusicCast ADD is designed to be a stepping stone into streaming, as well as a way of adapting an existing setup to play nicely with the rest of your MusicCast-enabled systems. 

You don't even need to use the app, as both Bluetooth streaming and AirPlay are also enabled but the app uses a great visual interface to group all MusicCast devices together. The app also supports Tidal, Spotify and Deezer so should stave off the issue that you can't access these apps natively through MusicCast.


In the show demo I had, we first listened to a piece of music - Led Zeppelin's Good Times Bad Times - streamed through a Yamaha MCR-043 system (in fetching Yamaha motorcycle colors). This system was then paired to another one. The whole thing felt cohesive, with no mucking around with grouping speakers like you have to do with Chromecast Audio. 

Given some will have an audio setup that runs into the thousands, switching to a smarter streaming system isn't as easy as swapping out speakers. And that's where the MusicCast Add comes in. It's for those who don't want to re-buy for a smart world, but are warming to the idea of listening to digital music - or spreading their vinyl listening to other rooms in the house without having to shift their record player.

Early verdict

The MusicCast Add also supports 24bit/192kHz high-res audio files - which means you may want to plumb the system in through the Ethernet port. It also shows where Yamaha's thinking is with the ADD - it's not just a means to make your system smart but it also cares about audio clarity, too, thanks to an inclusion of a Burr-Brown DAC.

And that's where it might succeed in a streaming world currently dominated by Sonos at one end and cheap dongles at the other. Although Yamaha hasn't set exact pricing, expect the device to be priced around £120 ($150, AU$200). 

For those with expensive setups, and embedded in MusicCast already, this is a great way to refresh older systems for a streaming world - and an update in August will see MusicCast play nicely with Amazon Alexa, which will open up the system to voice control.

Oh, and for those who have a Yamaha Clavinova piano lying around - it's a must.


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