A Studio Monitoring Classic Reborn

Some classic audio products just won’t go away. One of those is the Yamaha NS-10, a home speaker that unexpectedly became a staple nearfield studio monitor among the world’s top rock and popular music producers. The reason: it easily revealed poor quality in recordings. Now, Avantone is reproducing this audio classic for a new generation.

Originally conceived as a domestic hi-fi speaker, the Yamaha NS-10 was designed by Akira Nakamura and launched in 1978. It flopped — big time. But in the recording studio, the speaker found a home. It became one of the most popular monitors of the 1980s era in recording studios throughout the world.

Avantone CLA-10 replica of the Yamaha NS-10

Avantone CLA-10 replica of the Yamaha NS-10

The NS-10 probably first reached American shores through a recording engineer’s visit to Japan. The engineer, likely to have been Greg Ladanyi, monitored a recording session through the speaker in a Japanese studio and brought a pair back on his return to the United States.

Ladanyi then began using the speakers in a Los Angeles studio. Other engineers heard the NS-10 for the first time and were impressed by its sound. Its use spread to New York where the NS-10 was adopted at The Power Station and other major studios.

Early use of the NS-10 among engineers include Bob Clearmountain, Rhett Davies and Bill Scheniman in the U.S., and Nigel Jopson in the UK. Clearmountain, then a rising star in record production, is often credited for the popularity of the NS-10.

It became a legend that Clearmountain had chosen it because it was the worst speaker he could find. He was one of a new breed of creative freelance recording engineers and producers who would travel from studio to studio equipped with their own gear that included microphones and a pair of Yamaha NS-10s, as a reference.

Recording studios around the world adopted the speaker as their standard. In excess of 200,000 pairs were sold throughout the world. Even years after Yamaha discontinued the monitor in 2001, it continued to be found in studios everywhere and is still sold on eBay.

In basic terms, the NS-10 possesses sonic characteristics that allow record producers to assume that if a recording sounds good on these monitors, then it should sound good on most playback systems. As a Hi-Fi speaker at home, however, it could lead to listener fatigue with prolonged use.

The NS-10 does not have a perfectly flat frequency response. The sound of the speaker is slightly heavy in the mid range, and like other sealed-box speakers of similar size its bass extension is limited. It has a +5 dB boost in the mid range at around 2 kHz, and the bottom end starts rolling off at 200 Hz. The mid range response is so open that it exposes the frequencies that are the most problematic and worst-sounding to the human ear.

Now, when most had relegated the Yamaha NS10 to the bins of history, Avantone is bringing back the classic studio monitor. Designed in conjunction with the expertise of mixer Chris Lord Alge, the Avantone CLA-10 studio monitors are the faithful modern reproduction of the Yamaha NS10.

Avantone said a tremendous amount of attention was put into ensuring that the performance matches that of the original speakers. The CLA-10 is made from MDF with a wood veneer. The company changed the rear terminal plate to use a better grade of connector. The crossover network uses the same value capacitors —just a better grade of material and rating. The inductors exactly match the original in DC resistance, winding dimensions and value.

The Avantone tweeter assembly

The Avantone tweeter assembly

The Avantone AV10-MHF tweeter dome went through a difficult engineering process to get the exact phenolic resin doping to match the original performance curve. It is constructed in-house to ensure and exact match every lot. The AV10-MLF woofer uses custom tooled mechanical parts that recreate the original. The AV10-MLF woofer cone is made to match the original.

Avantone worked closely with it supplier to get the same stiffness and weight of the speaker. The main difference is the company chose to go with a pressed cone as opposed to lapped. This allows tighter control over stiffness and weight. All of Avantone’s testing revealed no tonal difference or response between the new model and the original. This has the added benefit of being the first time matched pairs are truly available.

The Avantone CLA-10 pair are 15 x 8.5 x 7.75 inches and weigh 13.9 pounds each. They come with a five year limited warranty to the original purchaser. The cost is $699 a pair.

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