Kevin Hunt: Review: Yamaha MCR-N560 micro-component audio system


If still-cool, still-relevant is the post-retirement goal, Yamaha's MCR-N560 micro-component audio system might help.

It is piano-black comfort food for anyone too old, or too wise, for technological fussin'. This $649.95 system comes with a diminutive receiver with built-in CD player and FM radio — outdated, perhaps, but must-haves for the traditionalist — two speakers and a tall-boy remote.

This is the way music was played in homes before streaming music services, portable Bluetooth speakers and $300 Beats headphones. Yet you'll amaze the retirement community with the hipster options: An Ethernet connection bringing instant access to music stored on a computer linked to a home network, AirPlay for wireless streaming from Apple mobile devices and a free remote control app.

The system's designers like their music too.

The system plays pristine FLAC and WAV audio files, up to 24-bit, 192-kilohertz resolution.

Amplification is of-the-moment Class D, small and cool-running. It generates more forceful sound than one might expect from 32 watts per channel, though distortion is rated at an ungodly 10 percent.

The circuit boards for the CD's digital-to-analog conversion and network audio are separated to avoid noise, enhancing sound quality.

The two digital inputs, designed for connection to a television/cable box and Blu-ray player, bypass the receiver's digital-to-analog chip. The theory: By remaining digital, the signal should retain its purity for the best possible sound.

And the speakers, with medium-density-fiberboard cabinets and proprietary internal bracing beneath the glossy PianoCraft finish to reduce distortion, significantly improve upon the flimsy house-brand models supplied with such systems in past decades.

Yamaha otherwise keeps things ultrasimple. It forsakes Wi-Fi, for instance, which dramatically limits placement of this system to within the length of an Ethernet cable to a router. This eliminates any fears of a catastrophic Wi-Fi installation, though technological daredevils are invited to go wireless with Yamaha's Wi-Fi (YWA-10, $99.95) and Bluetooth (YBA-11, $69.95) adapters.

A network device without Wi-Fi is a deal-killer for many shoppers, but some wireless components are almost impossible to configure without tech support. This system, using either the remote app or the actual remote and the receiver's on-screen display, immediately located on my home network a music library stored on a PC.

AirPlay, likewise, offered foolproof delivery of music from a Mac and the streaming-music apps on an iPhone and iPod Touch. Yamaha includes a single Internet radio service, vTuner (vtuner.com), with thousands of stations from around the world accessible with either of the system's remotes. But its load time, at least on my home network, and clunky operation will turn any owner toward the many streaming-music opportunities like Spotify, Beats Music, Slacker, iTunes Radio and Pandora available on mobile devices.

How clunky?

You cannot save favorite stations using Yamaha's remote app or on-screen display. Instead, it takes a visit to the vTuner website. After you set up an account and select your favorite stations, they should become visible on the Yamaha system — except they never showed up in my tests. Yamaha tech support tried to help for close to an hour before referring me to vTuner. Goodbye, vTuner.

The shoe box-shaped CD receiver qualifies as micro because it's perhaps half the size of a audio-video receiver at 81/2 inches wide, less than a foot deep and not even 41/2 tall. It weighs only 6 pounds. The speakers' soft-dome tweeter ensures smooth highs, but their 43/4-inch polymer-injected mica diaphragm woofers restricts the lows. (For more, add a subwoofer.)

The CD receiver (CRX-N560, $499.95) is available separately, but it matches so well with these speakers that anyone, young or old, looking for an uncomplicated, high-performance all-in-one system would be wise to consider the MCR-N560.

And if you're sleeping a little too late in your newfound life of leisure, it has a wake-up timer too.

Yamaha MCR-N560 Micro Component System

Price: $649.95

The good: Good looks, good sound, high-quality speakers. An earnest attempt at maximizing sound quality in a micro system.

The not so good: No Wi-Fi, only streaming service (vTuner) poorly integrated into system, CD player instead of DVD or Blu-ray.

Information: usa.yamaha.com

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