First introduced more than 15 years ago, the Yamaha NS-6490 speaker remains a very popular model. It’s considered a “bookshelf” speaker, but with its 11½ x 13½ inch base and being 16 inches tall, you’ll need some fairly large shelves.
For a home theater or music system, you might prefer to put them on stands. At 13 pounds each, they’re not too heavy. And they come with a full 2-year warranty.
A distinctive feature of the NS-6490, aside from its boxy old-school look, is the 3-way speaker design. This architecture is rare in speakers at this price point. And an 8-inch cone woofer guarantees solid bass down to 45 Hertz, much better than most speakers of this size. It’s complemented with a 4-inch cone midrange speaker and a 7/8-inch dome tweeter.
The cabinet uses an acoustic suspension design, in which the speakers are mounted in a sealed, airtight cabinet. This helps tighten and smooth out the bass response, at the expense of some overall volume loss. It also means the bass isn’t significantly affected by how close the speakers are placed to a wall.
Keep in mind that the NS-6490 is a passive speaker without any built-in power amplifier. So your music player will need a receiver or amp of some kind. And they won’t work as a plug-and-play computer speaker.
So, let’s take a closer look…
The NS-6490 can handle a continuous 70 watts of power without the speaker coils overheating, with peaks up to 140 watts. The input impedance is a standard 8 ohms.
The entire cabinet interior is shielded. This protects your television or monitor from magnetic interference if they’re placed close on either side.
Especially noteworthy is the speaker’s sensitivity. In spite of being an acoustic suspension design, it’s rated at a remarkable 90 dB/W/meter. In plain English, this means that with a signal input of 1 watt, the output sound level is 90 decibels measured from 1 meter away. This translates to an ear-splitting 108 dB when driven at full volume.
The crossover frequency between the midrange speaker and the tweeter is 2,500 hertz, using a simple capacitor circuit.
How Do They Sound?
Beyond looking at the technical specs, audio quality is very subjective. But, the NS-6490’s track record speaks for itself. In the more than 15 years it’s been available, countless customers have chosen this model and sung its praises for all types of music with 5-star reviews.
The NS-6490 can deliver fat bass down to 45 Hertz, or approximately the lowest note on a bass guitar. But if you’re someone with forgiving neighbors who likes to shake the walls with bass, you can always add a separate subwoofer. For example, Yamaha’s model YST-SW216 is a good match.
And these speakers have a bright, sizzling high end. The NS-6490 is rated all the way to 23 kilohertz, beyond the range of human hearing. You’ll be able to hear all the details of cymbals and other instruments with substantial high-frequency content, and what is often mysteriously called the “air” in a recording.
However, while the NS6490 may be a perfect choice for a home theater system, there are better options for professional studio near field monitors, available from Yamaha and others.
So What’s Not To Like?
The Yamaha NS-6490 won’t dazzle you with its sleek and sexy modern look. It’s a black, vinyl-covered box. For sure, it’s solidly built, but for function and not style.
It can also take up significant shelf space. If you have at least 16 inches of clearance between shelves, you can safely lay the speakers on their sides. (Hint: Orient them so the tweeters are at the far left and right, to get a wider stereo field).
A more significant question that might affect your decision to buy is whether the NS-6490 is a good compromise but not the best solution for any specific application. Three-way speaker systems need to have considerable cabinet volume so all three elements can work together independently.
In fact, most 3-ways speakers are designed as towers that rest on the floor. If the elements are mounted too close together, there’s a chance that under certain musical conditions they could cause acoustic interference.
As an alternative, you could get a 2-way speaker system that puts out less bass and focuses on clear midrange and highs, then add a separate subwoofer to handle the deep bass. Of course, that means more wiring and more complexity, and probably a higher cost.
You may also be interested in our review of the Polk Audio RTI A3 as a comparison.
Yamaha NS-6490 Speaker Pros & Cons
- 3-way design provides full-range frequency response.
- Great price.
- 2-year warranty.
- Not powered, so you need a separate amp.
- Kind of bulky, if space is a consideration.
- Not the best choice for studio monitoring.
Yamaha NS-6490 speakers provide an excellent cost-effective solution for a home theater or general music system. They fit – just barely – on shelves, or alongside the television.
Ultimately, choosing speakers is a very personal and subjective decision, and your idea of the “perfect sound” is probably different than someone else. But Yamaha has designed a product that’s proven popular for several years and made many happy customers. We think you’ll be happy with them, too.