The march of Bluetooth speakers continues onward without relent, even amid increasing competition from better-sounding alternatives that use Wi-Fi. Take the Yamaha MusicCast WX-010. Sure it does Bluetooth too, but its main appeal is as a smart Wi-Fi speaker.
Although it's Yamaha's cheapest such speaker, it has a number of features that its competitors don't. The first is Yamaha's own MusicCast multiroom system, which makes the WX-010 a nice addition to a so-equipped system. Apple AirPlay is the other inclusion, which could likewise interest users bound up in Apple's ecosystem.
The WX-010 is a compact speaker at roughly 5 inches cubed. It features a 3.5-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter in the front while the sides incorporate opposing passive radiators.
If you have two WX-010 speakers handy, you can pair them for stereo sound. Unfortunately this involves pressing a certain sequence of buttons on the speakers themselves, which didn't work for me at first. I found I had to factory reset both the router and the speakers (by pressing more buttons), and I needed to remove all Sonos speakers from the network before it would function. Yamaha assured me most users don't have the same problem, but either way pairing was a more complex process than on competitors.
After reviewing the Sonos One speaker and its new app, I've come to the conclusion that multiroom apps in general are too unwieldy. Sonos, Yamaha and others should take a cue from the excellent high-end Roon software.
The more I use Yamaha's app the less I like it, but then again most competitors are similarly mind-bending. "How do I turn the volume down on one speaker?" and "How do I choose what's playing next?" require a little bit of mental agility. It's possible to learn this kind of thing -- scrolling through multiple screens -- but Roon, for example, makes these tasks simple and intuitive. The MusicCast app includes streaming from Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Pandora, Napster, SiriusXM and Napster.
Sound quality was actually pretty good for the price. Not "Sonos good" or even "Heos good" but good. The Yamaha is not a detail monster but it gives you a spirited outline of the music and lets your brain fill in the gaps.
Compared with Sonos One and the JBL Playlist, the WX-010's sound had strengths and weaknesses. Brand New's album "Science Fiction" could sound a little edgy through the JBL Playlist while the Yamaha was smoother and more "musical". The fingerstyle guitar and voice of "Could Never Be Heaven" sounded surprisingly spacious coming out of the Yamaha.
When compared with the Sonos, some songs sounded better on one speaker than the other, but the Sonos won most of the face-offs with its more listenable sound, especially in stereo. A paired set of Sonos Ones sounds great, with excellent soundstaging and surprisingly deep bass. In stereo, the Yamaha sounds much smaller; dependable but not earth-shattering.
At its recommended retail price of $199, £170 or AU$249 the Yamaha is a listenable and cute-as-a-button background speaker. However, as I write this the speaker is on special for $99, £120 or $227 which makes it especially competitive in the United States -- especially if you're buying two. The Alexa-powered Sonos One is much better overall, but if you've invested in a Yamaha MusicCast AV receiver, the WX-010 is worth a look.