Hadyn Green trials the Yamaha MusicCast Vinyl 500 and Elac Miracord 50.
By Hadyn Green
The Yamaha MusicCast Vinyl 500 is a turntable that can stream over WiFi. No cables required. I paired it with two Yamaha MusicCast 50 speakers to see how well it worked.
Yamaha MusicCast Vinyl 500
Set-up was simple enough. I put the speakers on either side of a room, set the turntable in the middle, downloaded the app, put a record on and away it went. The only real trouble I had was balancing the turntable arm to the right weight (always tricky when setting up a record player).
The MusicCast app is the heart of the operation. You use it to add individual devices, and then connect them together over your home WiFi network, rather than Bluetooth. Order is important. I needed to join the speakers together and then add them both to the turntable. Doing it the other way round wouldn’t work.
Once the record was playing, everything went fine – the music was crisp, clear, and had none of the issues usually associated with streaming audio (dropouts, etc). I was impressed, but then a friend asked “isn’t the point of listening to vinyl to get that analogue sound?” He was right, I needed to try it.
I connected the turntable to my 90s Denon amplifier and some speakers from the 80s. The sound that came from these was better and “warmer”. It was easier to hear that subtle crackle you expect from records.
This is because music transmitted digitally over WiFi (or any other process) is compressed. While different systems use different types of compression, there’s almost no way around it. Usually this cuts out the extremes of the sound range, whereas an analogue signal (via non-digital cables) keeps everything – hence the crackles and warmer sound.
Elac Miracord 50
I also tried out the Elac Miracord 50. I hadn’t heard of this brand, but it’s a German company that’s been making music equipment for 90 years.
The Elac was simpler than the Yamaha, mostly because it didn’t have a streaming component. There’s a control knob for 33rpm or 45rpm and that’s it. I preferred how the needle dropped on the Elac – when you release it the arm moves down slowly, which is good if you’re trying to line up a track on the LP. The Yamaha had no resistance, so I needed to be more careful.
Both turntables can be set to either have a direct line through to your amplifier’s phono connection or to use their own internal pre-amp. This is where the Elac fell over, as the sound using the internal pre-amp was terrible. I suspect this was a function of combining my older Denon with the new Elac, because the change in sound was too extreme.
I played a range of albums on the two players. The crackles and pops were more noticeable on older vinyl, but the two systems both picked up the music more than the noise. They both handled scratches well.
I tried them with a new pressing of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and one from the 80s. The difference was clear with both. The newer album sounded full and rich while the older was diluted somewhat with crackle, but in a way you expect from an old album.
I preferred using the Elac and, in general, liked the sound from it more. However, it was hard to compare the two for sound quality, and really the difference would only be noticeable to audiophiles (which is good because, for the price, these models are really for those who are into their vinyl).
The Yamaha is a great solution if you have your turntable in one room and a wireless speaker at the other end of the house (it doesn’t solve the problem of having to walk over and flip the record every 20 minutes though).
Both turntables are excellent and the differences between them are mostly quibbles. While they’re high-end machines, they’d be great for those looking to start a vinyl collection and wanting something to play them on for years to come.
Yamaha MusicCast Vinyl 500 Price: $1300
Elac Miracord 50 Price: $1100
Note that both of these are available from specialty audio retailers.
First Looks are trials of new and interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.
The turntables and speakers were loaned to the writer by Sound Group.
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