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Lifewire / Emily Ramirez
Beautiful, sturdy build
Light and slim
Crisp, room-filling sound
Bass clarity sacrificed for volume, resulting in boominess
Serious distortion below 200Hz
Treble could be cleaner
The NS-F210BL Floor Speakers are a very impressive experiment from Yamaha, but they ultimately sacrificed too much sound quality to achieve that sleek form factor.
The Yamaha NS-F210BL Floor Speakers are thin, bouncy things. While most audio companies experiment with how to make the best sound, Yamaha focused on how it could build a better chassis. These speakers are very svelte with an eye-catching silver grille, and they boom right into your bones. For those that are dipping their toes for the first time into the world of sound, these are a solid introduction due to their balance of sound and function.
Those with trained ears, however, may find its big bass muddied and one-note, while distortion plagues both the bass and treble range. It doesn’t have any deal-breaking flaws compared to the performance of most consumer speakers, but there are better-value speakers in both the tower and bookshelf markets.
The NS-F210BLs are some of the lightest, thinnest tower speakers on the market. At 16 pounds the NS-F210BLs are easy to lug around the room. They house a ⅞” balance dome tweeter and dual 3.125” cone woofers and are very slim and sleek, with a round stabilizing base, and they stand at a little over 40 inches. The drivers are situated on the top third of the tower and can be covered by an optional gray grille. We personally love it without the grille, because the drivers are housed in a gorgeous silver plate.
The NS-F210BLs are some of the lightest, thinnest tower speakers on the market.
If you look closely, the tweeter has three spokes that kind of look like an airplane rudder. They’re excellent speakers if you’re looking for something minimalist that will blend into the background. The chassis is black wood laminate on fairly stiff MDF. Overall, the speaker feels rugged, which is impressive given how light and thin it is.
Unfortunately, the Yamaha tower is not compatible with banana plugs (likely due to restrictions in Europe), so you’ll have to use bare speaker wire, pins, or spades to install it. Yamaha provides a healthy length of speaker wire if you don’t already have some on hand. The installation is bare-bones, which lets you get up and running with the speaker in less than five minutes if you have the proper setup. If you’re not sure what amplifier to get, then be relieved to know that the Yamaha NS-F210BL is a fairly sensitive model at 86dB/W, meaning that you don’t need a powerful amp to drive a pair of them.
While the Yamaha towers are thin, their sound is anything but. They filled our modestly-sized living room, and they had a crisp, clear sound that met my expectations for their $180 asking price. The only major complaint about the sound is that they feel a little flat, lacking the aggression that you may be seeking out of a tower speaker for a home theater setup. They feel too “friendly” compared to more aggressive, in-your-face models. They get modestly loud at 96 to 100dB, which is more than enough for a small to medium living room.
For those who are more technically inclined, we’ve taken several measurements in REW to characterise their performance. While they have an impressively loud bass for their size, the audio significantly distorts below 200 Hz— it has a total harmonic distortion of almost twenty percent in some spots! Its step response is unexceptional, meaning sound should be neither crystal nor muddy. Its impulse and waterfall plots revealed significant ringing around 14.5kHz . This is fairly high and shouldn't be too obnoxious, but those with good hearing might find it tiring.
At $180 per speaker, we feel that the Yamahas are a little overpriced for their performance.
Now for the most important part: the Yamaha NS-F210BL’s sound signature. It has a fairly flat midrange, and then its treble gets a little harsh due to 2kHz and 14.5kHz peaks. The sound has a soft peak at 260Hz, which makes high voices more boomy, while lower vocalists may sound hollow due to a trough at 140Hz. There’s also a boost between 50 and 100 Hz, giving kick drums extra life. This is especially great for snappy genres like indie and pop.
Because the Yamaha speakers consistently distort anywhere between five and twenty percent below 200Hz, we strongly recommend pairing these speakers with a good subwoofer to give them space to breathe in the mid and upper ranges. They’re not perfect speakers by any means, but they are still fun and decent to listen to with a subwoofer. They’re especially good when you consider how small these towers are, so they’re a great pick for people who want a tower with a small footprint.
At $180 per speaker, we feel that the Yamahas are a little overpriced for their performance. It is clear that Yamaha put a lot of time into research and development with these towers, given their small size, light weight, and boomy bass, but it doesn’t pay off for discerning listeners. They feel more like a novelty item, a speaker designed for people who prize form factor above all else. If size is the most important factor to you in choosing a speaker, the Yamaha is fine, but if you’re looking for the best sound on a budget, there are better options at lower price points.
Polk T50: Are you looking for the best tower audio you can get under $300? Look no further than the Polk T50, often found for $200 a pair. They’re fantastic, offering a neutral signature and little to no distortion. Our major concerns are its build quality and its spaciousness. They don’t have poor stereo per se, but there are better performers in the bookshelf speaker realm. As for build quality, the T50s are quite fragile, especially for tower speakers. In comparison, the Yamaha’s don’t have a perfect signature, but they’re solidly built and will last a long time.
ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2: If you’re looking for something small but powerful, consider this bookshelf speaker from ELAC. They’ve been storming the audio world since their debut, offering an incredible value for $250 a pair. Below $500, bookshelf speakers generally provide a better value than towers, and these ELACs perform phenomenally well, offering true audiophile-grade sound.
JBL 305P MkII: These JBL powered bookshelves are $300 a pair, but you can often find them or their MkI predeccesors on sale for $200 a pair. They’re studio monitors, so you know they’re designed to present music and movies exactly as they were recorded. They’re incredibly well-made, incredibly detailed, and incredibly tight and spacious.
Great chassis, imperfect sound.
These speakers offer excellent build quality in a slim, attractive shell, and while the sound quality isn’t best-in-class it is fairly solid. Finding towers this thin and light is nearly impossible, but if audio quality is the primary factor for you there are models out there with better sound for the same price or less.
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