Imagine showing today's music tech to somebody from the 70s, the 80s or even the 1990s. They'd swoon as you used your smartphone to scroll through all the music ever recorded.
They'd recoil in terror as you turned your home cinema speakers up to eleven. And they'd honk with laughter when you tried to get music from one place to another in a mess of cabling, incompatible apps, Wi-Fi woes and Bluetooth pairing and unpairing.
Wouldn't it be great if your audio was available wherever you wanted it to, without any fuss?
That's where MusicCast comes in. It brings all your audio together, so you can take the sound wherever you want - effortlessly.
Streaming the football from Sky Sports to a portable speaker in the garden? MusicCast can do that. Connecting your old but amazing hi-fi gear to Apple Music, Spotify and Napster? MusicCast can do that too. Multi-room? Of course.
The idea is to make any audio available to any part of the system, anywhere in your home. For example, a wireless speaker might act as a transmitter for your headphones, or your soundbar could stream audio from your Sky box, or you might stream a CD from your micro system to a wireless speaker or FM radio to your soundbar.
What MusicCast is, and why it's great
MusicCast isn't a single product. Rather, it's a whole family of devices - over 20 so far, with lots more on the horizon - ranging from TV soundbars and AV receivers to wireless speakers and traditional hi-fi components. Audio is transmitted in high quality without any lossy compression, and if you have any Bluetooth A2DP devices they can receive audio from MusicCast too.
The MusicCast system comes from Yamaha, who know a thing or two about music: their instruments grace the world's biggest, most prestigious stages and they've invented all kinds of audio gear including the first commercial soundbar and the first commercial home cinema processing hardware. For over 125 years Yamaha has not only had its roots firmly in music but also sound quality.
MusicCast has been sound tuned not just in Japan, but in Germany and then again in the UK. Tuning the products specifically for the UK market and the discerning audio listener.
But Yamaha's non-musical activities are relevant here too: it makes commercial and enterprise networking equipment for hospitals and airports where rock-solid reliability is crucially important, and with MusicCast it promises to deliver the same combination of effortless setup and always-on reliability that it gives its big-budget clients.
MusicCast supports hi-res audio including 192/24 FLAC, WAV and AIFF and 96/24 ALAC. Some high-end devices will also support DSD (Direct Stream Digital) up to 5.6MHz - and if you already have DSD devices without MusicCast compatibility you can hook them up to a MusicCast product to turn them into an audio source. You don't need to worry about bitrates, either: MusicCast automatically downsamples the audio to the highest quality supported by each device.
Playing nice with your existing home audio gear
MusicCast isn't an open standard - it's all Yamaha's own work - but you're not limited to Yamaha gear.
MusicCast happily streams to Bluetooth A2DP hardware, so your existing wire-free headphones, speakers and other devices will happily receive MusicCast audio.
If you've splashed out on Yamaha's RX-V79 or RX-A50 series AV receivers, you've got MusicCast-enabled hardware. That said, we're pretty excited about the YSP-5600 soundbar, the world's first sound projector to deliver Dolby Atmos and DTS:X – the latest in object based audio technology. It has 44 speakers with Yamaha's patented sound beam bouncing tech called Intellibeam to deliver extraordinary, immersive surround sound audio - and because it's MusicCast you can get that audio from wherever you like, not just anything within reach of an HDMI cable.
It's all about the app
The brains of the operation live in the free MusicCast app, which you can get on both iOS and Android. The app integrates with your Napster and supports Spotify Connect, although for now if you're an Apple Music subscriber you'll need to stream that via AirPlay: integration is on the to-do list but it hasn't been finished yet.
The best part about Bluetooth and Airplay on board everything is you don't have to wait for Yamaha to integrate your favourite service into MusicCast. You can stream to any one of your MusicCast devices right out of the box and bounce the audio around your home.
You can give devices friendly names - such as “soundbar” instead of “YSP5600” - and then make things happen with a couple of taps: tap on the room you want to control and then tap on the audio source you want to use. It's rather like what the Philips Hue app does with lighting: all you need to do is tell the app what you want and it does the work for you. Yamaha tells us that more features are in development and that the app will be updated regularly, and you can try it right now by downloading it from your friendly neighbourhood app store for free.
Tell 'em about the money, honey
MusicCast hardware starts at a respectable £199.95 - that's the RRP for the WX-030 network wireless speaker - and the launch line-up encompasses hi-fi network receivers, active speakers, soundbars, multi-speaker packs and AV receivers ranging from the affordable to the extraordinarily powerful.
The speakers and starter packs are on sale this autumn, with the higher-end gear launching in the winter. You'll find full details, demos and the obligatory deep-voiced promo videos at http://Yamaha.com/musiccast.