Yamaha MusicCast VINYL 500 review
One of the things that I think is particularly unique about the Yamaha MusicCast VINYL 500 turntable is the kind of buyer its aimed at. Offering you a mix of analog technology with slick new digital features, this is probably one of the better bluetooth record player’s available on the market that’s pleasing in both sound and aesthetics.
But at approximately $700, is this a turntable that’s worth your money? Well, in this article, I’m going to review this Yamaha wireless turntable to help you better determine if this is the best option for your budget. And, to better help you decide, please feel free to use our interactive table below, where you can directly compare the Yamaha VINYL 500 to other notable record players on the market.
|Rega Planar 1 Plus||Plug and Play Audiophile Turntable in White|
|Marantz TT-15S1||Includes Clearaudio Virtuoso Ebony MM Cartridge|
|Clearaudio Concept Black||Comes with pre-installed Moving Coil cartridge|
|Technics SL-1500C||Direct drive turntable w/built-in phono preamp|
|Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB||Pro-Ject Speed Box Built-in|
|Rega Planar 3||Elys 2 MM Cartridge|
|Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO||Satin Blue Finish|
|Denon DP-450USB||S-Shaped tonearm; Auto-Stop function|
What This Turntable Promises
Having tested out this record player recently, I think this is a turntable that fits three very specific needs:
1) I think it’s ideal for a vinyl fan that’s a relative beginner in the hobby, yet also wants something that’s a bit more quality than a Crosley record player or the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X.
2) The VINYL 500 is ideal for someone looking for a good mix between convenience and flexibility. Someone that wants a turntable that’s a bit more substantial than the cheap record players on the market, but not overly complicated in its operation.
3) And, just as important, a turntable that isn’t tied to just playing vinyl records—but one that can stream music files or Spotify tunes, as well.
The good news is that the VINYL 500 can do all of that. So let’s dive a bit deeper into what you can expect right out of the box, as well as details on how you set this record player up.
Unboxing the VINYL 500 and Setup
The VINYL 500 comes with a beautiful glossy black plinth. The platter is made out of aluminum, and to get started, you need to place the platter onto the the spindle.
Since this is a belt-driven turntable, simply pull the belt (that’s attached to the underside of the platter) across the motor pulley. Spin the platter around clockwise a few times to make sure the platter spins correctly—and to confirm the belt isn’t twisted.
After that, you’ll need to pop the counterweight onto the back of the tonearm and attach the headshell.
The headshell comes with the cartridge pre-installed (with the stylus cover on, of course), so you’ll simply need to place the headshell onto the front of the tonearm and then tighten the headshell by rotating the front end mechanism of the tonearm until it locks the headshell securely in place.
Next up is setting up the dustcover. What you’ll notice is that the dustcover comes with two hinges that you need to install by essentially pressing the clips into the proper places on the dust cover.
Once installed, I placed the hinges into their proper placement in the back of the turntable. It locked in fine, but lifting the dust cover then caused the hinges to fall off. It was then that I realized you actually have to add much more pressure than I initially thought to get the hinges fully onto the dust cover. So don’t be afraid to put a little elbow grease into it to get them both on there—you’re not going to break the hinges or dust cover.
The nice thing about the VINYL 500, as you’ll notice throughout this review, is that it gives you several options to enjoy listening to your music. Probably one of the biggest of those options, at least when it comes to listening to vinyl specifically, is the fact that this record player comes with a built-in phono preamp.
So if you want to use the built-in phono preamp because you’re connecting this turntable to an amp or receiver that doesn’t have a built-in phono stage, you’ll need to reach behind the VINYL 500 and switch the sliding lever over to the LINE OUT (Phono EQ) setting.
Once you do that, just connect the supplied RCA cables (the red and white cables) to an available input—be it AUX or CD or AUDIO 1 input, for example.
If you have an amp that does have PHONO INPUT, and you’d like to use that amp’s phono stage, move the sliding knob on the back of the turntable to PHONO OUT. Then connect those same red and white RCA cables to the PHONO INPUT on the back of your amp.
But just know that, if you’re connecting the turntable to your audio component this way, you won’t be able to use the cool network features this turntable offers, like Internet radio and bluetooth connectivity.
You can also connect this turntable directly to your router, rather than use the wireless function. Again—it’s always nice to have options.
|Best Selling Turntables|
|1) Denon DP300F|
|2) Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO|
|3) Audio Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB|
|4) Audio Technica AT-LP60X-BT|
|5) U-Turn Orbit|
Setting Up the Turntable to Play Records
Before we can start playing records, we do need to properly set up this turntable. Luckily it’s not difficult, but it does need to be done accurately in order to ensure you get the best playing sound and overall experience possible.
To begin, let’s first remove the stylus guard. Then, you’ll want to rotate the anti-skate setting to 0 (the anti-skate mechanism is a circular, semi-flat knob that’s connected to the tonearm’s base).
Once that’s done, our next course of action is balancing the tonearm. So first, release the tonearm lock. And then lift the tonearm so that it can rest in the space between the arm rest and platter (make sure the stylus don’t hit or scratch any part of the turntable—you don’t want to damage the needle).
Now, to balance the tonearm, this step requires a bit of trial and error. Essentially, you want to rotate the counterweight until the tonearm seems to be horizontal—that indicates the tonearm is balanced. Rotating the counterweight to the left makes the tonearm go down, while rotating the counterweight to the right makes it move up.
Again, play around with it until you’ve achieved a nice, floaty balance. Once that’s a success, return the tonearm to its rest and lock it in place. Then, turn the counter ring to 0—but be careful to not rotate the entire counterweight that’s behind the ring.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll now want to turn the entire counterweight counterclockwise and set it specifically at the right stylus pressure setting. This setting will all depend on the cartridge you’re using. In the case of the pre-installed cartridge on the VINYL 500, you’ll want to set this to 3.5 grams. As you turn the counterweight, don’t be alarmed if you see the counter ring rotate too—that’s normal.
The last step of the setup is adjusting the anti-skate. In this case, you’ll want to rotate the anti-skate clockwise to 3.5—the same value you set the counterweight.
Aesthetics of the VINYL 500
The buttons on this record player are nice and clear on the front panel, but there’s only so much feedback or visual confirmation that the turntable gives you when you make your settings. And upon initially setting it up, it was a bit unclear without taking a quick glance at the manual.
For example, you have the ability to play 33 RPM or 45 RPM records on the VINYL 500—and there’s a button for that. To play 33 RPM records, pressing the button makes a yellow light above the button turn on. Hitting that button again allows you to now play 45 RPM records—and yet there’s no light that confirms that selection.
And that’s not a flaw or a defect in the table—this is a design choice that’s confirmed by the manual.
Other buttons, like the SOURCE button, are a bit like that too. Hitting this button helps the turntable figure out what you want to do in terms of listening to music.
While you simply get a light indicator above the button to confirm you’ve hit the right setting, I did like that it seems that the turntable won’t actually play if you hit the wrong selection for SOURCE (meaning, if you hit the SOURCE button a couple times, and get the blue light that indicates bluetooth, the platter won’t spin to play your record because you’re in the incorrect setting to perform that specific function).
Yamaha MusicCast VINYL 500 Sound
So let’s talk about how the sound fares on the VINYL 500.
I think, overall, the sound is surprisingly very good. Usually, in turntables that give you a whole bunch of unique features (like a turntable that can play records via a wired connection, stream music, connect to your router, etc) you can find yourself a bit disappointed when it comes time to play actual vinyl records.
It can feel very much like the popular refrain: “Jack of all Trades, Master of None.”
So, I was cautiously optimistic with the Vinyl 500, but fully prepared to expect the sound to be lacking in several areas.
To my surprise, the sound is actually quite good. I felt the music most shined in the mid-range on several albums I tried. Harmonies of vocals were quite nice—listening to Sheila Ferguson, Valerie Holiday and Fayette Pickney of “The Three Degrees” harmonize on songs like “Can’t You See What You’re Doing to Me” or “When Will I See You Again”—were a joy to hear.
Listening to Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” or “The Circle Game” was full of life too, with Joni’s vocals filling the room quite nicely without any distortion.
I will say that, I think with a better cartridge, a bit of the imperfections in the sound could be ironed out. I did notice some background static on certain records, and that’s something that I simply don’t hear when I use, say, the Clearaudio Concept Black, which I reviewed a while back. But, that turntable costs about two and a half times more than this one, so it’s important to keep that in mind.
I then wanted to see how the sound came off playing modern music that has a good amount of bass in it. So I threw on Pharell Williams’ “GIRL” album, and again, was pleasantly surprised.
Although I think older albums, especially from around the 1970s, often sound the best on turntables I’ve tested, I felt that the VINYL 500 played this record the best out of the ones I’ve tried. The beat and bass was thumping—and I wasn’t even using a subwoofer.
Even the horns that are layered throughout the song “Brand New” could be heard, although with a better cartridge, I feel they would’ve sounded more pronounced. But again, for a turntable that’s biggest concern is to allow the user to have multiple options to listen to their favorite songs—be it a vinyl record or a digital file—I’m quite impressed with the sound.
I then tried testing this turntable with a slightly warped record. And unfortunately, I didn’t get the best results. I put on Peggy Lee’s “A Natural Woman” and watched the tonearm bobble up and down before the stylus popped out of the groove and just roared across the record’s surface at what felt like warp speed.
This could, I suppose, be due to not re-adjusting the counterweight, but I just think it’s moreso a result of the fairly lightweight tonearm and cartridge that comes with the Vinyl 500.
But again, this turntable serves a different kind of audience, and I think it’s always important to keep that in mind. This turntable is for someone that wants a good player that, while it may have some flaws, will allow you to have a analog and digital experience—which not a lot of turntables on the market can claim they do.
You’re not buying this turntable because you’re looking for the absolute best that is on the market. You’re buying this turntable because you have a record collection that you’d like to listen to, and would also love to play downloaded music files and stream Tidal or Spotify or Apple Music from your mobile device to your bluetooth/wireless enabled turntable (and out through your speakers).
Using Bluetooth Technology with the VINYL 500
This was another area that impressed me. I liked that setting up Bluetooth was easy…and it just worked—which I feel is always the most important thing.
After hitting the SOURCE button a couple times to get the Bluetooth indicator light illuminated, I then pulled out my iPad, opened the Bluetooth settings page, and was instantly able to find the the VINYL 500 turntable.
Pairing the iPad to the turntable via Bluetooth was easy.
I then went to the music streaming app Tidal and began playing different songs. Everything worked without a hitch. Using my Cambridge CXA60 amplifier, I was able to control the volume of the streaming music that came out of my PSB Imagine Mini speakers.
Again, the sound here was very good. And more than that, I was impressed that there were no delays in between tracks and I personally didn’t experience music suddenly stopping and starting either. When you’re a “jack of all trades” kind of turntable, the biggest compliment I can give is that everything works as it should, and I’m happy to see that was the case here.
Yamaha WX021 MusicCast 20 Speakers
I also had a chance to try out the Yamaha WX021 MusicCast 20 speakers, as well. These are speakers that are bluetooth and wireless capable, allowing you to stream music from your computer or phone or tablet with ease. On top of that, you can pair these speakers to your VINYL 500 turntable, allowing you to play your vinyl records in one room and listen to the music via these speakers in another room entirely.
What’s also nice about these speakers is their size–they have some heft to them, but they are compact enough that they will easily fit on almost any bookshelf or desk you have. I suppose the one downside is that they don’t use batteries, so they’ll always have to be plugged into an outlet to be powered.
Not only do I like the aesthetic of these speakers, I think the very discreet look of the buttons on top of the speaker make this a sexy but not showy speaker. In my mind, very much like the VINYL 500 itself, these MusicCast speakers look premium despite costing only $200 each (not a cheap price by any means, but still quite a bit cheaper than my PSB Imagine Mini speakers).
To test these two MusicCast speakers, I first paired both speakers directly to my iPad to see how streaming music via Tidal would go.
And, well, playing the music was a bit of a mixed bag.
The good news is that the music always streamed without a problem, just as it did when streaming it through the turntable.
The bad, however, is that there was never a time where I was able to get the music to come through both speakers at the same time. Although the iPad paired to both speakers, music would only came out of one at any given time.
With that said—this seems to be an Apple flaw, not a Yamaha flaw. I am not aware, as of now at least, of how to stream music via bluetooth to two paired speakers simultaneously if you’re aim is to directly pair the speakers to your iPad (or perhaps iPhone) via AirPlay. I thought updating the software to the latest release would help, but it didn’t fix the problem. I just don’t think Apple tech can do this when it comes to bluetooth—but I will update this review if I learn more about this issue.
With that said, if you connect these speakers to your wireless Internet, I think you’ll likely have more success in this department.
It should probably be noted, too, that although these speakers are marketed as being “wireless,” you very much do need to power them using a power cord (the cord comes in the box for each speaker you buy). Once connected to a wall outlet, you’ll then be able to stream music via Bluetooth or Wireless Internet technology.
Overall, I liked how easy it was to use the speakers, and I appreciated that they looked quite elegant despite costing a little over $200 per speaker on average.
I should mention, by the way, that these speakers are not needed to be able to listen to your vinyl records. And while I think the idea of being able to play your records on the VINYL 500 in the living room and listen to the music via the MusicCast speakers in the bedroom sounds awesome on paper, remember that the VINYL 500 is not a fully automatic turntable. So if you ever were to fall asleep or otherwise become distracted while listening to your records, your turntable’s motor would keep chugging along, with the platter spinning and spinning and spinning until you remembered to come back to the VINYL 500 and return the tonearm to its rest (and shut off the record player).
I think it’s a great idea in theory, but in practice, I’m not sure how practical this otherwise very cool feature is.
The Yamaha MusicCast Vinyl 500 turntable is a very good record player. It offers good sound, simplicity, and the innovation of digital integration that makes this feel like one of the more truly modern turntables on the market.
I think if you’re seeking a turntable that will satisfy your desire to play vinyl records, while also giving you the flexibility to stream old digital files you’ve had for years (or new albums you love on Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer or Tidal), then this is going to be a record player very worthy of your consideration.
*Please note that Yamaha provided a review unit of the VINYL 500 turntable, as well as two MusicCast 20 speakers. My opinion and review of these products, however, is my own.
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