Important Specs Overview
Speaker type: passive, 3 way, sealed
Continuous power handling: 70 W
Peak power handling: 140 W
Impedance: 8 ohms
Sensitivity: 90 dB/W/m
Frequency response range: 45 – 23k Hz
Unit weight: 13 lbs
Unit dimensions: 11 x 13 x 16 in (width x depth x height)
Warranty: 2 years
Review And Discussion
Yamaha makes a wide variety of music and audio equipment, and while they’re mostly known for their receivers and other such ancillary equipment, they do produce a few very decent budget-tier speakers, and the NS-6490 is one of them. It’s a 15 year old product, but it remains a highly popular bookshelf speaker.
The NS-6490’s major distinction is that it uses a sealed 3-way design with a built in full-sized 8-inch subwoofer, which is a higher end feature that you seldom see in budget-tier bookshelf speakers, even the newer ones.
This design choice is reflected in its comparatively excellent response floor of 45 Hz, whereas most bookshelf speakers rarely go below 60-70 Hz. What the 3-way design does is give an additional crossover to dedicated subwoofer driver that exclusively focuses on the bass frequencies, while the mid-woofer and tweeter can focus exclusively on the mids and highs. This kind of design will certainly outperform a single woofer trying to reproduce the bass and the midrange, as per the much more common 2-way design that most bookshelf speakers use.
A 70 W rms, 90 efficiency rated speaker is also plenty loud enough to fill most non-large rooms. The result is a rare bookshelf speaker that is truly designed to work well as a standalone pair, without necessarily needing a subwoofer to handle the bass. If anything, it’s a nice to have such an option exist for those who’d like the simplicity and convenience.
The NS-6490 is rather large and heavy for a budget-tier bookshelf speaker (Yamaha’s speakers tend to be bigger and heavier), but this is an understandable concession in order to accommodate a 3rd driver that’s 8 inches no less.
Yamaha’s speaker designs have never been aesthetically stellar from what we’ve seen – the plain box black vinyl mdf is pretty dated looking, and the contoured cover looks… sort of whatever, but it’s decent enough, if you even care to begin with. Yamaha offers 2 years of warranty coverage on its passive speakers, which at this price point is decent but not amazing.
Our Overall Take, As Compared To The Competition
The main reason we like the NS-6490s is that there’s nothing else quite like them currently – a 3 way bookshelf speaker with a full sized built in subwoofer is actually really nice, and despite being as old as they are, these are probably going to give you the best all around sound for the price. They seem like the perfect solution if, for whatever reason, you can’t or would rather not pay for or have to deal with an additional subwoofer.
Having said that… the issue with, not so much the speakers themselves but the general concept, is that you kind of wind up with a “jack of all trades, master of none” type speaker, if that makes sense. If you want a standalone 3 way speaker, and if you’re willing to spend not all that much more money, you can get a full fledged tower speaker like Polk’s Monitor 70s (reviewed here) which are significantly bigger and more powerful, and much more suited for a home theater set up. Also the drivers aren’t quite so crammed into the same space, which runs the risk of resonance and interference.
The other option is to just get a 2 way speaker like the Klipsch R-15M (reviewed here) that really focuses on powerful mids and highs, then just get nice and big separate subwoofer – a 2.1 system is probably the most common entry level home theater set up. You’ll have to spend a little more but you’ll get the most value for your dollar there. Also keep in mind that most home theater subwoofers are powered and thus really easy to add – all you need is an RCA slot on your receiver, which it will almost certainly have, and it’s ready to go. There are plenty of really good inexpensive subwoofers too – check out this article for more information on that.
Also note that the NS-6490s are passive, not powered, so they’ll need a receiver and won’t work for plug-in-and-play desktop/computer speakers if that’s what you’re looking for.
Anyway, none of this is to imply any sort of right or wrong answer or choice, we’re just giving food for thought.