Unlocking the Mystery of the Greatest Loudspeaker in History: the Yamaha NS10

“Ever wonder why the small Yamaha NS10 monitor is poised so confidently behind the mixing consoles of every major recording studio around the world? I have. When you explore this little loudspeaker’s list of credits, you’ll discover that no other single loudspeaker has played a greater role in your musical library than the Yamaha NS10—period!

The famous YAMAHA NS 10 studio monitors:

But the equation is more complex than you might think. We’ve got the most famous loudspeaker in history—a Grammy Awarded loudspeaker. And we have the world’s best sound engineers using them. But we have other engineers openly cursing these speakers: so, what gives??

Every major recording studio in the world uses these speakers and yet, if you asked someone to explain why the speakers are so valuable, no one would be able to tell you the real answer. Sound experts grapple with a real explanation of what these speakers actually do on a technological level that makes them so needed. It’s an industry mystery, and it is one that has intrigued me for years.

The NS10 was originally released simply as a domestic hi-fi loudspeaker in 1978; but it did not sound good, and it was poorly received. Then, somehow, by fluke or by miracle, recording engineers began implementing them as a reference benchmark for a bad sounding speaker. Imagine: what is now the world’s most influential loudspeaker was once regarded as the worst sounding equipment on the market. However, professionals soon began to realize the NS10 had the uncanny ability to reveal shortcomings in recordings, and the rest is history.

A short list of Grammy Awarded engineers known for using the Yamaha NS10 is Andy Wallace, Brendan O’Brien, Tom & Chris Lord-Alge, Charles Dye, and Dave Pensado. With these big names on board, it makes sense to say that the Yamaha NS10 is invaluable to the recording industry. Literally thousands of albums have been produced using the Yamaha NS10 or one of its production variants. We’re talking many Gold and Platinum production numbers here. Pick your top ten all-time favorite songs and albums from the last thirty years and you’ll discover the NS10 was likely used at some point in their production process. And, if you expand that top ten list of yours to movie and television recordings, you’ll soon realize that the NS10’s influence upon how and what we hear is near endless.

With a pedigree like this you’d think that every engineer worth his salt would have a pair of these black and white boxes and be using them every day—but they don’t. The ultimate irony here is Yamaha literally walked away from NS10 production in 2001. They completely abandoned all production! Yamaha soon moved into the realm of wider bandwidth, more linear, and larger-sized models; a mistake in my professional opinion.

In my career in the music industry, I have designed over fifty-five commercially available loudspeaker designs, but I had never been able to crack the secret of what makes the NS10 so valuable. Over the years I’ve been asked to build near-field monitors, or speakers that are used in recording studios, for audio engineers. To date, we’ve built them for some of the biggest names and artists in the industry. Intuitively, when I was first asked to produce a near-field monitor, I figured I needed to start with some homework, and the first thing I did was research the Yamaha NS10. When it came time to evaluate the NS10 frequency response, I saw something very intriguing. This loudspeaker, so highly revered by everyone, had the strangest frequency response I had ever seen. Then it hit me . . . the frequency response looked strangely familiar . . . but where . . . ? Then, the correlation was almost instant. I went straight to the ISO 226 equal-loudness contours curves and the Fletcher Munson curves—research that shows how the human ear hears sound at different frequencies. I copied a page from one of the tables, flipped it over upside down, and held the page up to my window. Through the light, I saw what looked to be the Yamaha NS10 frequency response now for the second time and located in a place where no one expected to find it. It now made perfect sense – mystery solved! My respect for Bob Clearmountain, the first sound engineer to regularly use the NS10 in a recording studio, now goes through the stratosphere! His intuitiveness, creativity, and most importantly, his ability to discern how music should sound in recordings places him in the realm of Picasso and Michelangelo.

The Fletcher Munson and Equal-Loudness Contours :

The Yamaha NS10 was an accidental inverse of the ISO 226 equal-loudness contours curves and the Fletcher Munson curves. The Yamaha NS10 becomes a successful near-field ‘mixing monitor’ when it is placed sideways with the tweeters opposed and on the outside; and placed in the near-field referenced to a level between 80-100dB. Mixing with a loudspeaker like this causes revealing midrange (harmonics and subtle details) and invites the engineer to emphasize the lower frequencies proportionally; reduce the midrange dominance, and emphasize and adjust high frequencies accordingly. Proper editing and playback on reference grade loudspeakers at levels between 80-100dB will reveal a quality end result. I’m oversimplifying all of this a bit here because this is not only pure science… it’s also art.

Based on the unraveling of this mystery, I have filed for patent protection for what I term a new type of ‘conversion monitor’ for ‘mixing sound’. I am pleased to announce new loudspeakers for near-field mixing and monitoring. These will be high quality scientific electro-acoustical instruments and powerful tools in a sound engineer’s toolbox. Pre-orders are now being accepted – please email me directly. I will also make licensing available to individuals, companies, and manufacturers. I also plan to offer a Yamaha NS10 crossover modification that will hug the equal-loudness contour inversion even closer. We are excited to add to the legacy that the NS10 has already brought to the recording industry, and are proud to offer you a new industry-changing product.

Eric Jay Alexander


Tekton Design LLC”

Yamaha NS10 Frequency Response:

Further enforcing the theory: Bob Clearmountain placed tissue paper over the tweeter to further attenuate it. This too, was no accident and it takes the NS10 much closer to the 80-100dB ISO equal-loudness contour.

The Fletcher Munson and Equal-Loudness Contours inverted:

Read more about the YAMAHA NS 10 studio monitors : How A Hi-fi Speaker Conquered The Studio World


Source: http://bit.ly/1GLVLfp

Win 200+ High-Quality Sound FX Libraries

For all of you guys out there into post-production, Sonniss.com now have over $8000 worth of sound libraries to give away (204 in total containing nearly 200GB of files) – all royalty-free with commercial usage rights.

Image Source: http://bit.ly/1C9HUzu

Simply enter your details in the boxes provided and 2 lucky winners will be randomly selected in 27 days from now.

If you have any questions about this competition please email timothy@sonniss.com for more details.

You can check the sound libraries here.

You can check the competition here.

Good Luck!