Yamaha NS-1000M Loudspeaker Review

The Yamaha NS-1000M loudspeaker is proof that a big manufacturer can create a unique, inspired loudspeaker that in many ways has no peers. Let’s take a closer look.

The legendary NS-1000M monitor loudspeakers are hailed in audio circles by those who have heard them and loved by many thousands of owners. I own this pair and it’s these that I base my review on, though I’ve heard several other pairs.

All products are a mix of compromises and audio equipment is no different. Still, it’s hard to argue that the Yamaha NS-1000M holds fewer compromises than most loudspeakers. Indeed, the NS-1000M is one perhaps one of the least compromised designs ever produced for the mass market.

NS-1000M

History

The Yamaha NS-1000M hit the market in 1974. Imagine the reaction, everything was brown when these beautiful black monoliths appeared in stores. The NS-1000M is at once timeless and space-age in appearance.

Yamaha’s flagship speaker enjoyed a huge production run, for good reason. Manufacture of the NS-1000M continued until around 1984. My pair has matching serial numbers in the 60,000 range but I’ve seen them with six-digit serial numbers.

Reaction

The Yammies were widely reviewed at the time and widely adopted. The late, great J Gordon Holt wrote this for Stereophile, back in the day:

“The NS-1000s are like the class-A speakers in that they are almost embarrassingly revealing of the electronics feeding them. They sound best with the best tube-type electronics but excessively biting with most solid-state amplifiers. They also resemble the Infinity SS-1A in that they can become irritatingly strident if used in an acoustically bright listening room. Perhaps they are not everyone’s cup of tea even in an average room, but they can produce some of the most golden, blatcy sound from trombones of any speakers we have heard, and it must be remembered that trombones are the instruments that give an orchestra its power and drama.”

More recently, The Vintage Knob added this great page on the NS-1000M and there are loads more, all over the web.

Versions

This classic stand-mounted monitor came in two versions. The NS-1000M features black ash veneer and weighs 31kg. A more up-market version called the NS-1000 comes in a rosewood veneer and features an even heavier 37kg per box.

The Yamaha NS-1000M sprang from Yamaha’s wish to create a premium monitor-style loudspeaker for home and studio use. The goal was a design that raised the bar in terms of neutrality and resolution.

By definition, monitors are references when mastering and monitoring the mix in recording studios. The goal is to make sure the mix is right and that it will sound right on really good equipment. To achieve this, the NS-1000M features several design considerations that make them extremely desirable for use in a home hi-fi system.

Beryllium

Yamaha had all the R&D and resources necessary to create the world’s first beryllium dome drivers, for use in the midrange and treble drivers of the NS-1000M. Why beryllium? Because it is the stiffest and lightest material available for loudspeaker dome design. Stiffness and lightness translate into higher sensitivity, faster transient response and better retrieval of fine detail.

These great dynamic attributes help create the incredible air and detail these speakers are known to produce. It is incredibly hard to manufacture and work with beryllium, but its unique properties imbue the NS-1000M with a unique sound.

NS-1000M

Cabinets

Whilst vented boxes are more efficient, a well designed sealed box will have tighter bass and have a gentler 6db per octave roll-off below the resonant frequency of the bass driver and box. With room gain countering this gentle roll-off, bass response can actually be quite impressive. The typical in-room response is very tight and clean.

NS-1000M
As you can see from the photo I took of a special NS-1000M sliced in half (thanks Pierre), the boxes are incredibly solid. Cabinets are built from a mixture of chipboard and ply, and waste pieces don’t go to waste – they are used as additional stiffening, inside the box.

Yamaha utilised extensive internal bracing and cabinet damping materials and even used the offcuts from cutting out the hole for the woofer to brace other parts of the cabinet. Why waste good wood?

A sub-woofer can very nicely augment the bottom end of the NS-1000M, with the sealed boxes of the Yammies yielding tight bass down to around 45Hz.

Low Distortion

Yamaha designed and manufactured all three NS-1000M drivers. They didn’t rely on third-party parts or designs and were able to customise these drivers to perfectly suit the NS-1000M. This rarely happens now, drivers are almost exclusively supplied by Scanspeak, SEAS, Morel, Vifa, Peerless etc.

All three drivers in the NS-1000M have large magnet assemblies, especially the midrange driver. The large magnets provide a very high magnetic flux density. This, in turn, means the drivers are quite sensitive, which means the speakers don’t need a lot of power to play loud. They do however need a fair bit of power to control them properly.

The high sensitivity and good power handling, aid the speaker’s fine detail retrieval and help reduce system distortion. The combined effect of the highly linear motors and lightweight driven elements mean that these speakers exhibit extremely low distortion across the spectrum. In fact, in a famous test conducted by HiFi News back in the day, of all the loudspeakers tested, the Yamaha NS-1000M exhibited the lowest overall measured distortion.

Crossovers

Yamaha engineers understood the importance of the NS1000M crossover network and they designed it with few compromises. Crossovers sit directly on the rear terminal block. They feature large iron-cored inductors that are unlikely to saturate and non-polar paper-in-oil capacitors feeding the midrange driver.

Slopes are all second-order, which minimises group delay and phase inconsistencies. The midrange and tweeter are wired out of phase, relative to one another. This improves the dispersion and reduces cancellation effects near the cross-over point. The series high-pass electrolytic capacitor feeding the tweeter and the large electrolytic capacitors in the bass network are less than ideal. More on these shortly.

Driver Protection

One thing that might not look particularly aesthetically pleasing, but which usually preserves the condition of those amazing drivers in the NS-1000Ms are the driver guards protecting each driver. The delicate beryllium domes of the mids and tweeters are rarely damaged, because of this excellent driver protection.

NS-1000M
One of the best things about these speakers is ironically the somewhat ugly grilles – they protect the delicate drivers from prying fingers…
NS-1000M
These gorgeous beryllium tweeters don’t produce much sound above 20kHz, but what’s there is clean, crystalline treble with very low distortion.

Contrast this with the NS-1200 for example, featuring very similar, but unprotected drivers, almost always horribly dented and damaged.

Sound

Properly set up and tweaked, the NS-1000s sound amazing. They are airy, clean, smooth, tight, wide open. Really good systems benefit enormously from the insight afforded by a pair of these speakers.

Even without modification, these speakers sound remarkable, refreshingly clean. The NS-1000Ms are fast, precise and have amazing off-axis performance. You’ll get a great mid and high-frequency response from all around your listening room and very little beaming.

A complaint often levelled is that the NS-1000Ms sound bright. It’s true that they are brutally revealing of poor source equipment and material. If you have a harsh sounding CD player or bright amplifier, it will probably be tough going.

Much of my audio setup utilises class-A amplification and this certainly helps to give you a smooth starting point. With poor recordings, they can be brutally unforgiving. Choose good recordings though and these speakers will give you more of the music than you may have ever heard before. The NS-1000M certainly also favours tube and MOSFET or VFET amplifiers. Wonderful synergy can be achieved, as Mr Lim of the Affordable Valve Company notes here.

Improvements

The crossovers can be improved, to great effect. I’ve developed and tested a series of improvement as which I install for my customers with NS-1000s. A starting point is the series capacitor feeding the tweeter. A modern MKP or MKT capacitor dramatically improves things. Bypassing capacitors with 0.1uF film caps is also good engineering practice.

I replace the capacitor array feeding the mids. In their place, I use precision Russian military paper-in-oil capacitors, bypassed with a small MKP capacitor. Alternatively, I use quality polypropylene capacitors now. This yielded a useful improvement in performance, most notably clarity and harmonic richness.

Finally, I replace the large bipolar electrolytic capacitors in the network feeding the bass driver. Here, I’ve used with gorgeous ERO vintage parts. Now I use massive polypropylene capacitors matched to very tight tolerances.

NS-1000M
Here you see the large red Russian paper-in-oil (PIO) capacitors that I used in the midrange filter. The larger one is the series capacitor feeding the midrange dome, replacing the array of silver caps at the bottom. Paralleled with this is the green MKP cap you see out to the left, yielding the required 21uF. The smaller PIO cap feeds the tweeter, paralleled with another ERO MKP film cap. Note I’ve bypassed each cap array with a mil-spec Siemens 0.1uF film cap.
NS-1000M
I graded the Russian PIO capacitors. They were scarily close to their rated values, both 19.7uF, very impressive. I used hot glue to hold things in place.

The cabinets are incredibly solid but I highly recommend replacing the fasteners that hold the drivers onto the baffle. I use marine-grade stainless steel Allen bolts in place of the Philips-headed screws. Allen bolts allow you to torque the drivers down tightly and offer a definite cosmetic improvement.

The factory speaker terminals are flimsy and only accept small gauge bare wire. I replace them with gold-plated brass binding posts. These fit conveniently onto the existing mounting plate and look almost like they came that way from the factory.

NS-1000M

NS-1000M
Close-up of one of the marine-grade stainless steel Allen bolts I’ve used on my Yamaha NS-1000Ms
NS-1000M speaker terminals
Replacement gold-plated brass speaker terminals.
NS-1000M anti-diffraction rings
NS-1000 anti-diffraction rings I added to my set. These make for a very worthwhile improvement and are common in many more modern designs. They reduce edge diffraction from the sharp edges of old-school boxes like these. What you hear is less edge, more smoothness.

Stands

One thing you will need to get the most out of these great transducers is a good pair of stands. Stands for the NS-1000 are not easy to find. They are the SPS-500, check them out.

It’s almost impossible to get a pair of the original Yamaha stands because owners just aren’t selling them. Instead, I decided to design and build a pair that would be easy for the average DIY’er to manufacture. I’ve written an article documenting the build of my DIY NS-1000 speaker stands here.

The Bottom Line

In engineering per dollar terms, there’s no way Yamaha could sell the NS-1000 now for less than 10 grand a pair. There’s just too much custom engineering, metal, wood and beryllium. If you find a pair, in good condition, with undamaged drivers and matching serial numbers, grab them. Nothing for sensible money comes close. Seriously.

Yamaha has in fact decided to resurrect the venerable NS-1000M in the form of this monster – the stunning new NS-5000. You can read the full story here, with loads of tasty details and an interview with the chief design engineer.

Yamaha has just released the NS-5000 in Australia, with a recommended retail price of – wait for it – $ 19,999!! Who knows how they will sound, but looking at the details, it’s hard to imagine the that NS-5000 will sound anything less than spectacular.

Yamaha NS-1000M Loudspeaker

$1500 - 3000AUD
9.5

Build quality

9.5/10

Appearance

9.0/10

Sound quality

9.5/10

Value for money

10.0/10

Pros

  • Superbly well-built
  • Incredible sound
  • Great value for money
  • Tight, clean bass
  • Airy midrange and treble

Cons

  • Aesthetically a little hard
  • Lack really deep bass
  • Nothing else

18 thoughts on “Yamaha NS-1000M Loudspeaker Review”

  1. Salve. Anche io posseggo una coppia di NS1000M comprati nel 1987 . Pero sono saltati spesso i tweeter (due volte, visto il costo li ho sostituiti con dei Pioneer economici per tamponare) ed ora è partito un Woofer. Sono pilotati da un amplificatore Yamaha AX-792 . Giuseppe1964
    Translated: Hi. I also own a pair of NS1000M bought in 1987. But tweepers often skipped (twice, given the cost I replaced them with cheap Pioneers to buffer) and now a Woofer has started. They are driven by a Yamaha AX-792 amplifier. Giuseppe1964

    1. Hi Guiseppe, thanks for your comment. My Italian is not good I’m afraid so I’ve translated your comment for my mostly English speaking readers. It sounds like you are having issues with your NS1000Ms. These tweeters won’t ever blow unless they are overdriven, so look carefully at your setup and practices. I hate to say this but an AX-792 is way below what you really ought to be using with these amazing speakers. I’d seriously consider an amplifier upgrade, plus look at the room, source, music and way you listen. For example with lesser gear, or inexperienced ears, people sometimes turn up the bass or use loudness controls. This will almost certainly overdrive them as the volume is turned up. I’ve had mine for 6 years and use a 500 watt per channel amplifier of extremely high quality and I’ve never had an issue. With the right gear and listening practices, driver failure simply should not happen. Ciao, Mike

  2. Your ns 1000 write-up gives me a smile! I’ve a distant memory
    of being a young serviceman stationed in Japan in 1976. Wanting to get some good audio gear I asked friends for recommendations. Those were the speakers suggested. I took the train into Tokyo and listened to them in an electronics store, and was impressed. Could barely communicate with the salesman, but purchased them, anyway. With some rope they provided me I carried them both back on the train, to the base. Enjoyed them there, and shipped them when I returned to the US. Since then, they’ve moved many times around the US. All the other audio gear from those days eventually wore out. I was thinking these were sounding a bit dated until last week when I replaced and old receiver for a new yamaha av model. OMG, they are again sounding amazing. I was curious if they were still available and what other’s experience with them was/is and I came across your post. As a musician and music producer, I’d say they are still the best purchase I ever made. These days, I’m lucky to carry one of them at a time. With the exchange rate then, and getting them in Japan, I paid about a third of what they would have been in the US. As long as my ears are working, I’ll likely keep them. Thanks for the nice info on fixing them up, when necessary.

    1. Hi and thanks for your comment. What a great story and yes, I think many people now realise just how incredible these speakers really are. Ground-breaking in many ways and with no real modern replacement. With a little TLC, they can be made to sound even better and I’m sure your pair will continue to give you the same musical enjoyment and insight mine give me.

  3. Hello and thank you for this well written article. I really like the appearance of your marine grade stainless steel Allen bolts. Would you be so kind to share where I could purchase them and perhaps the item number on top for both the woofers and the tweeters/midranges? Thank you!

    1. Hi Joe, glad you like the bolts, me too. I purchased these from a local fastener supplier and I couldn’t tell you part numbers etc as I don’t know them. I suggest you take one of each size to your local fastener supplier and see what they have. If there is enough demand, I might consider selling a bolt kit..!

      1. Hi Mike and thank you for your reply. There is a number on top of the bolt, but I just can’t quite make it out. I currently have 3 pair of NS-1000Ms, one pair of NS-1000s and a pair of NS-2000s. A buddy of mine and I also recently partnered on a pair of his retro-mod NS-1000Ms cabinets in original ash veneer and my extra components. Pretty interesting look. We definitely need these bolts to complete the look, though. Thanks again!

        1. Hi Joe, sounds like you have some great Yamaha speakers there! The number you mention is brand and bolt spec, not part number. My best advice is to take one of each of the standard fasteners to a reputable fastener supplier and obtain stainless allen-headed replacements. These are metric of course, you may struggle in North America to find metric bolts but someone will have them.

  4. Hi. I congratulate you for the update you did to these great speakers. I have a question, buy a few Ns1000 recently but I want to update the Crossover, I want to know if you know where they sell the updated Crossover. Thank you

    1. Hi Steve, these would be an excellent match. They are very conservatively rated for studio use in mind. I’ve been driving them with a Krell KSA-150, and they’ve never been stressed!

  5. I believe we are moving back into the era of Hi Fi. vinyl will be the stimulus for sure. Its a just a matter of time before those buying vinyl will be experimenting with improving thier sound. Think that leaves a great opportunity for some one to move in with moderately priced systems and not high end with an attitude of education.
    PS great website .
    PPS should have a blog space for interaction.

    1. Hi Ian, thanks for your kind words re my website, glad you are enjoying it. I’ve been in this space for a long time and things are certainly happening, that is for sure! I agree, vinyl has been a wonderful catalyst for the renewal of a joy for hi-fi in many people and this is just wonderful. More of it I say! Regards, Mike

  6. Greetings from New Zealand…Thank you for the review. I concur with what you had to say. One thing that you have mentioned is that the NS 1000M can be very revealing – especially in the midrange. It would be better to set the midrange control on the speakers @ -3db mark or below in a normal room. This cuts out some of the glare and actually darkens the sound to blend with the lower end of the sonic spectrum – yet the highs remain clean. This is using soild state amps – the setting will differ for tube amps. I play analogue – vinyl – and have found this extremely effective to give a clean canvass of sound across the 20Hz to 20 KHz spectrum. Happy listening…best regards…G

    1. Hi George, yes I generally agree, though this will vary according to room furnishings, brightness and ancillary equipment. There are also issues if the attenuator knobs are ever removed, as Yamaha provided no instructions to correctly index the knobs upon reinstallation, meaning there can be unit to unit variation if these have ever been removed! Generally though, the -3dB setting is good in average and brighter suburban environments.

  7. Thanks for the review. Two comments: could you elaborate on the type of caps you used to replace the electrolytics across the bass driver? Did you hear any difference with this change? Did you hear much change with the tweeter cap substitution?
    Did you know that Yamaha on page 3 of their owners manual, under “Speaker Placement”, l says “The best location is one in which the speakers are placed with their backs against a hard wall.” This is contrary to what is usually done in contemporary set ups and could go some way in explaining the light bass balance so often mentioned when describing these speakers.

    I recently bought a pair to mix and master recordings, on the strong advice of a very seasoned recording industry veteran, a mixing and mastering engineer since 1973 or so. He feels the amp is very important and the best he had heard the NS-1000s that he used for 30 years was with the Yamaha B-1 V-FET amp. I could not afford one of those—they still command top dollar—but what I did get is, I think, another undiscovered Yamaha treasure: a B-2 amplifier. The combination of power, sound, metering and control flexibility (and current price) make this a knockout. Think about this: the retail price in 1976 was 200,000Y, about $2500 today and a ton of money back then, yet they sold around 10,000 of them.

    The owners manual for the NS-1000 suggests the B-1 and B-2 were intended to partner with the NS-1000, and it sure sounds that way. The bass is very tasty (I’m a closet bass freak).

    1. Hi Russell, thanks for your comments and for filling out my feedback pop-up and my pleasure regarding the review.

      A few comments in response to your questions. First, the replacement capacitors I used in the low-pass filters were premium EROs from memory. These are a laboratory/military grade cap and I used pairs that I tested to measure precisely 94uF, as per Yamaha specs. I did hear a difference with this change, but less so than with the changes I made to the mid and treble networks. The low pass filter is likely to change the cutoff frequency only, and these caps are not in series with the bass driver.

      The tweeter and midrange capacitor changes yielded more dramatic results, as you would expect, given that these caps are in series with these two drivers. These are well worth experimenting with, especially the tweeter, as this cap is a low quality electrolytic and needs to be changed. The midrange caps are better but paper in oil replacements still made a noticeable difference.

      I was aware of the suggestion to place these close to or up against a wall and this will definitely yield better bass response, though likely also poorer articulation and clarity, some experimentation is suggested here!

      I’m very glad to hear that you bought a pair of these wonderful speakers and I wholeheartedly agree that the Yamaha VFET amps are a superb choice to drive these speakers. The quality of the VFET amps is well known, but the impossibility of finding any spares for the fragile VFET devices means that counterfeit items are everywhere and many amps will no longer contain original, genuine VFETs. If you have a B-2 with genuine VFETs, look after it!!

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