Yamaha may be better known for its AV receivers and home theater systems, but the company was one of the early entrants in the digital-audio-receiver category, with audiophile-centric products like the Yamaha MCX-1000 MusicCast server. MusicCAST 2 is the second iteration of Yamaha's digital-audio-streaming platform, and it enters a product category that is now much more mature, with several recommendable products such as the Sonos BU150, Logitech Squeezebox Duet, and Apple TV.
The easiest way to get into Yamaha's MusicCAST2 platform is the ZonePack Solution ($1,100), which consists of a Network Music Commander ($500) and two Amplified Network Music Players ($400 each). The Network Music Commander is a touch-pad-style remote with a color LCD-screen that gives you full control over your digital music; it's very similar to Sonos' Controller. The Amplified Network Music Players allow you to simply connect a pair of speakers to enable music streaming to any room within your Wi-Fi network.
The MusicCAST2 platform supports a wide variety of digital-audio formats, including MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC and WAV, although notable omissions include WMA PRO/Lossless, Apple Lossless and DRM-protected iTunes purchases. There's also support for streaming music services, such as Rhapsody and Internet radio, but it's worth pointing at that competitors offer even more services, such as Pandora and Last.fm. Yamaha claims the system can support up to 32 separate rooms, and we were also happy to see it can integrate with music stored on a network-attached storage (NAS) drive, one of the easiest ways to store your music collection.
MusicCAST2 appears to be well thought out and packed with features, but it definitely has an uphill battle on the value front. Logitech's Squeezebox Duet includes a color remote and one-room streaming solution for just $400, while Yamaha's Network Music Commander costs $500 on its own. Even Sonos' BU150 two-room bundle--which we tend to view as pricey--comes in at $1,000, compared with the ZonePack Solution's $1,100 price tag. Yamaha's MusicCAST2 looks to be an attractive home audio-streaming solution, but we'll wait for a full hands-on review to see if it can justify its price premium.