Yamaha ISX-80

Yamaha MusicCast FRAME - ISX-80

THIS IS PART OF OUR YAMAHA MUSICCAST REVIEW - for the full index, go here.

Yamaha lists this product under ‘Lifestyle Audio’, often a controversial description in audio circles, for several reasons — among them that there’s an implication that the product is more about appearance than performance.

ISX-80 reviewSo it’s a good job this product has so many other names to distract from that unreasonable assumption — its model number is ISX-80, though it says ‘Restio’ on the box as a sort of IKEA sub-branding, while as part of the MusicCast range it has been dubbed the FRAME.

This last name, the FRAME, is well-coined visually though not practically — the only thing ‘framed' here is the odd central display dominated by the weird vertical time read-out (to which, despite its attractive purple LED segments, not many visitors responded positively).

You can, however, like a frame, hang it on the wall, as it’s only 6.5cm deep, while it’s 30cm square (almost exactly the height of a copy of Sound+Image magazine), with very nice cloth grille around the central display and concealed twin 3cm soft-dome tweeters and a pair of 8cm woofers. So proper stereo from the ISX-80, if minimally separated.

Since it’s a wireless unit, you don’t need to run signal connections to your wall-mounted FRAME, though it will, of course, need a mains socket for its removable power cable. That connects to the left side, where there is also an auxiliary minijack input, and if you plan to use its FM abilities, you/ll need to connect an antenna (a string-type is supplied) to its right side.

ISX-80 supportTo use it on a tabletop, as did we, you attach a single steel tube to the back in the manner of some real picture frames — it’s a highly effective and elegant support solution. It seems quite large on a bedside table, but it can go at the back of everything else — you won’t need to touch it much, given the larger than usual small remote (with good button layout, this one), and of course those LED time segments are large enough to be seen from the garden.

So, you’ll decide on the aesthetics for yourself. We can certainly recommend its performance. It’s no hi-fi — it has little of the sonic purity and magic dealt by the N500s. The treble and midrange are a little softened, bass is a little slow (we felt things were clarified a little by using the app’s three-band EQ to dial down the bass about 20%), and spoken word tone was just slightly boxy and thinned. But it’s entirely pleasant, it opens up a size beyond the relative compact sound of the WX-030, and music rolls forth with warmth and clarity, and plenty of level for even a large bedroom.

ISX-80As with all MusicCast devices, the MusicCast app allows the IX-080 to enjoy wireless access to streaming sources and networked music shares. The MusicCast app links directly to Pandora and internet radio, and to music on your own devices (here you see our iPad which is called, for reasons too complex to explain, 'ezines'). Navigate through Shares to music on your PC or NAS drive (or to iTunes if you use our third workaround here). 

You can also share the analogue minijack input with other MusicCast devices, and usefully also the FM radio, the only FM source in the four MusicCast units we reviewed.

It also has both alarms and sleep functions — interestingly you can set the sleep going from the app but for the alarms you seem to have to do it the old-fashioned way, using the buttons on the top (which could be tricky if you’ve wall-mounted it at mirror height) or the remote (for which you’ll need the manual to work out which buttons are used to set the alarm type, source and volume).

As with the N500 speakers you can use the six presets on the remote (and more in the app) to store favourite network shares, Pandora or internet radio stations, and here FM as well, which can, as with everything else, be slaved off to additional MusicCast players, a through-home FM source.

So sonically yes, you could get larger wider brighter sound at this price. But not in this form — hung on the wall out of the way, with Bluetooth, AirPlay, and all the sources available to every MusicCast player on your network.

Crazy clock display aside, we thoroughly enjoyed the ISX-80.

Product page: Yamaha Music Australia

Here are the links to the rest of our extended MusicCast review:

- Intro to Yamaha MusicCast
how a MusicCast system is set up
the MusicCast app, what is can do and what it can’t
three ways to use iTunes with MusicCast

Other MusicCast reviews on AVHub include:

BAR, the YSP-1600BSW soundbar with its subwoofer

PLUS, the WX-030 standalone wireless speaker unit

STUDIO, the NX-N500 active stereo speakers

- the RX-A3050 networked AV receiver

the YSP-5600BSW Atmos soundbar + subwoofer

the latest RX-A3060 networked AV receiver