In India, the Yamaha brand name is most likely to make you think of a motorcycle or scooter. However, you'll also find that Yamaha is a reputed name in many other product segments including musical instruments, AV receivers, amplifiers, speaker systems, and headphones, with many of these being technically advanced, premium products for high-budget buyers. The company recently announced a new range of wireless headphones and earphones in India, including the flagship YH-L700A over-ear headphones which I'm reviewing here.
Priced at Rs. 34,990, the Yamaha YH-L700A is a flagship over-ear headset that focuses on the listening experience above all else, with advanced Bluetooth codec support, a '3D Sound Field' mode with head tracking for directional sound, and active noise cancellation, among other features. Is this the best premium wireless headset you can buy right now? Find out in this review.
The Yamaha YH-L700A supports the SBC, AAC, and Qualcomm aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codecs
The Yamaha YH-L700A headphones look great, but are bulky
In an industry full of products that adhere to a similar look, the Yamaha YH-L700A stands out with its bold, different design. The headset isn't sleek or trim like popular options in this price segment from Sony and JBL, instead going for a big, premium look like the Apple AirPods Max. That said, the Yamaha YH-L700A is a bit smaller than the AirPods Max in sheer size, but the ear cups and padding are a bit thicker.
The styling is also unique, with liberal use of fabric on the surfaces of the ear cups as well as the headband. There is thick foam padding all around the ear cups for a proper over-ear fit that completely covered my ears and ensured good noise isolation. The headband of the Yamaha YH-L700A has a metal frame with comfortable padding, and is adjustable to ensure a good fit. The ear cups can swivel and tilt which contributes to getting a good fit. Yamaha's distinctive logo is badged on the outer sides of both ear cups.
The padding definitely helped me get a comfortable fit, but the Yamaha YH-L700A is still a big and bulky pair of headphones weighing in at 330g. The sheer weight of it did feel a bit too much over long listening sessions, and the clamping force was at times a bit too intense for me with my spectacles on. I did get used to it over time, but I still needed to give myself a break every 45 minutes or so.
Unlike some competing products that use a combination of physical buttons and touch controls, the Yamaha YH-L700A has physical buttons to control everything from power and modes to playback. The right side has the power button, a 3D Sound button, the USB Type-C port for charging, and the playback and volume controls, while the left side has a button to cycle between the active noise cancellation and ambient sound modes, and a 3.5mm socket for wired connectivity.
The playback and volume control buttons are on the side of the right ear cup, and are covered by a leatherette sheet. This looks good, in my opinion, but the buttons didn't feel as tactile and easy to sense as I would have liked. Even after a few days of use, I sometimes accidentally hit the wrong button. Although not bad as such, the controls weren't particular easy to get used to.
Yamaha's Headphones Controller app (available on Android and iOS) is used to configure and control basic customisations and functions on the YH-L700A headphones. Once the headphones are paired using Bluetooth, the app will detect them and offer device-specific options and functions to choose from.
On this pair of headphones, that includes settings for the 3D Sound Field mode, Listening Care and Listening Optimiser; ANC and ambient mode activation; and an auto-power-off timer. You can also see the exact battery level of the headphones, but strangely, there is no way to adjust equaliser settings to tweak the sound to your liking. On the whole, the app covers the functionality of the headphones, but comes across a bit too simple for a high-end headset such as this.
The headphones look good, but the sheer size of the Yamaha YH-L700A and the clamping force can sometimes feel a bit much
The Yamaha YH-L700A is powered by 40mm dynamic drivers, and has a frequency response range of 8-40,000Hz. For connectivity, the headphones use Bluetooth 5, with support for the SBC, AAC, and Qualcomm aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codecs. There is also support for the default voice assistant on your smartphone. Included in the sales package are a charging cable, stereo cable for wired listening, flight adapter, and hard carry case for the headphones.
Battery life on the Yamaha YH-L700A headphones largely depends on how you use the features; naturally, heavier use of ANC and the 3D Sound modes will drain the battery considerably quicker. The headphones are rated for up to 34 hours of listening with only ANC running, and 11 hours with both ANC and 3D Sound in operation.
In practice, with ANC running and occasional use of the 3D Sound feature, I was able to use the headphones for a little over 23 hours on a single charge. This isn't exceptional compared to the competition, but it's more than adequate for hassle-free all-day listening.
Very good sound on the Yamaha YH-L700A, but 3D Sound isn't for everyone
Many people looking to buy high-end over-ear headphones tend to settle on options from one of the major brands in this space: Sony, Bose, and Apple. However, options such as the Yamaha YH-L700A offer a rewarding listening experience to anyone looking beyond the obvious choices; this is a very good pair of headphones when it comes to sound quality. Features such as 3D Sound and active noise cancellation work well too, although the former might not actually be something you want or need to use very often.
Other features such as Listening Care and Listening Optimiser work in the background to improve the usage experience. The former maintains a volume level balance to avoid sudden spikes, while the latter is said to customise sound based on the sound levels it picks up inside the ear cups. I wasn't really able to notice any specific differences in my music with these turned on or off, but these modes are meant to work discreetly in any case.
Qualcomm aptX Adaptive support on the Yamaha YH-L700A means that audio quality is a bit better when used with Bluetooth source devices that support the codec, and expectedly, I did find sound quality better when using a OnePlus 9 (Review) than an iPhone 13 (Review). Starting with Frankie Sinatra by The Avalanches, the headphones immediately showcased Yamaha's years of experience in the audio industry.
The soundstage was spacious and luxurious, giving a very real sense of direction and feel with this lively sample-based track. The faintest sample elements, the mid-tempo beat, and the instruments all felt present and well-positioned, and this was interestingly with the 3D Sound mode switched off. The big drivers and superb tuning of this pair of headphones made for a natural tendency to enhance even a simple stereo signal, and it was able to reproduce detail on par with a good pair of full-size speakers.
While the beautiful soundstage of the Yamaha YH-L700A headphones is, in my opinion, its standout characteristic, there was a lot more to like about the headphones. The sonic signature is balanced and incredibly refined, giving all frequencies across the range plenty of room to shine.
With David Guetta's Dirty Sexy Money, the bass was tight and aggressive without ever feeling overbearing and out of control, while Only Human by Onur Ozman managed to get the slow rumbling beat on point, making for an immersive and enjoyable listening experience that felt just as enjoyable as with my current top pick among high-end headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM4.
The 3D Sound mode and head tracking work well, but I preferred to listen to music with these features turned off
A key feature of the Yamaha YH-L700A headphones is 3D Sound, which is very similar to Apple's Spatial Audio technology for its AirPods headphones and earphones in terms of what it offers. Interestingly, when switched on, this mode works for just about any audio content regardless of app or operating system, and isn't limited to certain apps as is the case with Spatial Audio.
The various 3D sound modes added different listening effects, but definitely reduced the quality of audio, particularly when listening to music. Only the ‘Audio Room' mode was decent in terms of maintaining some level of sound quality without creating too strange a depth effect. Head tracking worked exactly as it does with Apple's Spatial Audio, and sounds seemed to "move" across channels precisely and quickly based on my head movements. However, on the whole, I found the mode a bit gimmicky and only really worth using when watching TV shows or movies, if at all.
Active noise cancellation on the Yamaha YH-L700A headphones is decent, but far from the quality on offer from headphones such as the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Apple AirPods Max. The silencing effect was noticeable and did help indoors, but didn't do much to reduce typical outdoor sounds.
This was also largely dependent on the noise isolating seal for effectiveness, and my glasses created enough of a gap in normal wearing to reduce effectiveness by a fair amount. Ambient Sound mode lets in a decent amount of sound to allow you to have conversations or stay aware your surroundings, but it felt a bit ‘piped' and wasn't as natural an effect as on the AirPods Max. The headphones are decent for calls both indoors and outdoors, and connection stability and quality was never an issue for me, working well at distances of up to 4m from the source device.
In the premium headphones segment which is dominated by a handful of brands and doesn't see new launches very often, the Yamaha YH-L700A comes as a breath of fresh air. This is a good-looking pair of over-ear headphones with very good sound quality and some interesting features, all of which make for a decent overall experience. The company's years of expertise in high-end audio products definitely helps make this an interesting product for the price.
Although average ANC performance and less-than-ideal controls do hold the experience back just a bit, the Yamaha YH-L700A headphones offer detailed, enjoyable sound that is on par with leading products in this segment such as the Sony WH-1000XM4. At around Rs. 35,000, it's also a fair bit more expensive than the Sony WH-1000XM4 and JBL Tour One, but is worth investing in if you're looking for top-notch sound quality and the benefits of its 3D Sound mode.
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