Yamaha MSP5 Studio Monitor Review


The MSP5 studio monitor from Yamaha has been around forever and we still think it's an excellent studio monitor that holds it own against current offerings. You can still find the MSP5 on Amazon and B&H for $279 each and if you track the price over time you can snag them on sale for $199 each. At $199 you can't beat these for value.

Yamaha initially rolled it's MSP line of studio monitors out over 10 years ago. The MSP5 and MSP7 were essentially the successors to the ubiquitous NS10s. The MSP5 are a powered 5-inch design that sit in in that sweet spot of not too big and not too small for the personal home studio or video editing suite. They have a tight controlled response with enough low end for critical monitoring even without a subwoofer. We rarely have a need to check our mixes on any other monitors as these translate very well. We tested these monitors with and without the Yamaha SW-10 sub engaged.  They are clean and powerful and quite amazing with the sub engaged but it's not required for making incredible mixes. So if you find yourself with a lot of low frequency engergy to deal with, pick up a sub.  Every now and then you can find the discontinued SW-10 on ebay.  Most likely you'll have to pair the MSP5s with something else if you need that extended low end.

The Yamaha MSP5 is a really clean and precise monitor with almost no coloration. Mixes take more effort to dial in and sound good. The class A/B amps have great transient response and punchiness to them. We actually prefer these over the Genelec 8030s in that regard. You really notice when tracking instruments and with drum machines. The titanium tweeters are slightly bright but Yamaha provides a couple db of eq via switches on the back to boost or cut the high and low frequencies. We backed off the high-end just a touch. We mixed the same documentary in two edit suites. One was outfitted with Genelec 8030s and the other with MSP5s. There were no glaring differences in the mix that made us want to change anything. Genelec's auto on/standby feature is awesome along with excellent performance from class D amps which results in less power and less heat. The MSP5s hold their own very well in terms of sound quality.  However,  they do generate a little heat and you also have to toggle the power on the back of the unit, there is no auto on/off.  

The MSP5 is extremely well made and feels like a professional piece of gear, as it should. We love the fact that the low frequency driver has a heavy duty metal grille to protect it. The tweeter is also protected. The stereo image is beautiful and transparent. The class A/B amps do give off some heat but Yamaha designed a really elegant heat sink for the MSP5. We like the subtle green light in front that lets us know they're powered on and the volume control on the front is useful for slight adjustments when necessary. Generally we leave them at the nominal level. Overall, it's a beautiful and functional design that has aged extremely well. 

These monitors are perfect for a video editing suite. They're shielded and just the right size to place on a small platform next to your video monitor or mount on the wall. We really like these for editing dialog and even final mixdown for documentary and story telling where critical low frequency mixing is less of a factor. 

We found the noise floor whisper quiet, similar to the Genelecs and better than many class D offerings that sometimes have a significant noise floor when powered on such as the JBL 306MKIIs we reviewed a while back. We'd buy this decade old design over the brand new JBL any day. The MSP5 looks better, feels better and most importantly sounds more accurate. Notice we didn't say better. It takes more work on the MSP5 but the mixes translate well.  If you dial in a good mix on the MSP5s it will sound good on any kind of playback device from car stereos to TVs to smart phones.

For many years we preferred using our passive JBLs and Hafler amp in a studio setting and sort of scoffed at powered monitors. All that changed with our first encounter with Genelecs. But quality is all over the map with powered monitors. The pro grade stuff from Genelec, KRK, JBL and Yamaha are all pretty good. We like the simple setup of going directly from the mixer to the monitor.

Genelec remains one of our favorites with a beautiful design and excellent power management. The class D amps give off very little heat and you never have to think about toggling them on and off. The automatic power of/off feature when audio signal is present works flawlessly. You can't go wrong with Genelecs. However, Genelecs cost significantly more than comparable monitors at any given size. Typically 2 to 3 times as much per monitor. Apples and Oranges to be sure but when budget matters the Genelec is a harder sell.

We would love to see Yamaha rethink it's studio monitor lineup and update the studio series with better power management, maybe class D amps, if they can dial in the same transient response and class A/B sound. The HS series just looks and feels cheap like the JBL MKII series. We've been hearing that Yamaha has stopped making the MSP5, yet we still see plenty of stock at Amazon and B&H. We feel these monitors never got their moment in the in the sun and maybe a post Covid remix and relaunch is in order.  We hope we see another pro offering from Yamaha and the HS series is not a harbinger of the product roadmap.  

If you're in the market for studio monitors for your home studio, the MSP5 still offers outstanding value, one of the best values really, and we recommend getting a pair while you still can. Give them a few days in your studio and give your ears a chance to get used to them. You may just like what you hear and enjoy a classic before we're surrounded by a sea of lightweight, cheap feeling and less accurate nosense that looks and sounds like plastic.  We've already bought a backup pair for the edit suite.

Learn more about the MSP5 studio mointor