Yamaha had made high-quality monitoring affordable for the masses with the HS series. After listening to a pair of HS-5 for four years back in Ngee Ann's EE department, I decided it was time for an upgrade. Selecting a model was the challenging part since Yamaha offered the HS-8, HS-7 and HS-5. I settled for the HS-5 due to space constraints although the HS-7 would be a better option. Upgrading from the existing MS-101 to these pair of HS-5 proved to be a tremendous step in sound reproduction quality. The first thing that caught my attention was the white woofer cones which were reminiscent of the legendary NS-10. Being a pair of active two-way monitors, the HS series had a clear advantage over my previous MS-101s. For once, you could hear your mix and edits with accurate rendition without much margin for guesswork.
As monitor speakers go, most of them have a very flat frequency response and minimal coloration. This pair is no exception. They do not produce much detectable coloration to the incoming signal and are faithful to the source. I do find them a notch brighter than other European monitors but fortunately, the high end is still smooth to the extent that one will not suffer from the dreaded listening fatigue after long hours of monitoring. The ‘brightness’ seems to reveal the more subtitle details in the soundtracks. That could be attributed to the use of a dome tweeter with a crossover frequency of 2 kHz. Bass is not compromised despite its compact size. I can still hear the kick drum and electric bass guitar distinctively on these speakers. However, their low-frequency roll-off is typical for bookshelf-sized monitors which are around 70Hz at -3dB due to the 5-inch woofer. Their performance will be greatly enhanced with the optional HS-8S subwoofer.
The onboard amplifier seems to be a class AB design judging by the amount of heat coming from the rear heat sink. They are well designed to handle dynamic tracks without any distortion. This is typical for any piece of professional equipment. Floor noise is also kept to the minimal. Yamaha had also made EQ adjustments relatively easy by simplifying a bunch of knobs to two switches. These adjustments are used to compensate for discrepancies in the monitoring environment or listening room. One switch marked room EQ is used to attenuate the bass (500 Hz shelf filter) in steps of -2 dB or -4 dB. Another is labelled High-Trim which is used to adjust the output to the tweeter in steps of -2 dB, 0 dB or + 2 dB. Should these pairs sound too bright, that can be compensated by cutting the high trim by – 2 dB. I found that leaving the switches at 0 dB most suitable for my room as they produce the most balanced sound.
My room has another problem, though; the walls actually produced much exaggerated low-mid emphasis. That will have to be resolved by either shifting my table out of the corner or treating the walls. Inputs wise, these speakers accept both balanced XLR and 1/4” TRS plugs. The volume knob has markings and notches for professional line level at + 4 dBu and consumer line marked at – 10 dBV.
To summarise this review, I will make things simple here:
- Value for money
- Relatively accurate
- Minimal sound coloration
- Flexible Inputs
- Low-Frequency response could be better (But for this size, it is already good.)
- A more neutral signature would be preferred. (A little bright)
- Absence of trim pots for High and Low-frequency adjustment
But this is just from my perspective. If you want to simply hear the HS series, simply walk into a Popular bookstore (Serangoon Nex). Most of them have a pair of HS-5 with an HS-8S. However, some are using KRK monitors. So you can get a brief comparison from there. I do not quite prefer the KRK VTX series as they muffle the sound to an extent.
Overall, I will rate these pair of monitors 4.5 stars out of five. I would definitely recommend to anyone getting their first pair of speakers for production or simply music playback in their study.