The DBR range is Yamaha’s big-bang-for-the-buck series of active loudspeakers. This is not to say that corners have been cut in the development of this series; rather, more effort has gone into its design to provide an excellent product at a more affordable price.
Speakers in the DBR series are offered in 10-inch, 12-inch and 15-inch woofer versions. The DBR10 boasts 700 watts peak power (figure about half of this for true, continuous power), while the DBR12 and DBR15 offer 1,000 watts peak (again about half is a real number). Yamaha, like all the other active-speaker manufacturers, has to play this “watts-per-dollar” game, so just remember when shopping to compare “apples to apples.” MSRPs are: $529 for the DBR10, $659 for the DBR12 and $899 for the DBR15.
All units in the DBR series have tough plastic enclosures with metal grilles, molded-in handles, stand-mounts and even rigging points. Yamaha offers an optional “functional speaker cover,” which I would recommend for keeping scuffs off the speakers when setting up and tearing down. It also keeps rain out if you are doing an outdoor job and the weather does not cooperate— just a couple of seconds to get the “top up.”
The bass on all models is quite decent, more than what you might expect—and not just quantity, but also quality. As to the woofers… the scaling of the three models goes from 10-inch woofer, 12-inch woofer, and 15-inch woofer—and all are bass-reflex enclosures. All models have an excellent 1-inch exit with a 1.4-inch diaphragm compression driver and matching horn for 90-degree horizontal coverage, which is the best compromise between longer throw and wide coverage for most gigs.
If you will typically also use a subwoofer, you might want to pick the DBR10s, as it is better not to take a 15-inch woofer up to the horn so that you maintain better midrange balance. But if you are only taking the DBR speakers to the job, then at least the DBR12 and, better, the DBR15 should be the way to go.
The electronics have some basic input mixing, so you could connect an MP3 player, a mic and line input. But more relevant for DJs are the pre-sets for the sound balance, with the Contour setting probably the best fit for most music-playback jobs.
Teardown: I opened up a DBR10 and pulled the fan-cooled DSP/amplifier module and was impressed with the effort to keep the woofer’s vibration energy separated from the electronic guts. Not only does the module have its own metal casing (instead of the cheaper “open-frame construction”), but this assembly fits into a plastic sub-enclosure sealed from the speaker back chamber. This is all very nice, potentially avoiding repair issues over time on the electronics.
Toting: The DBR10 weighs in at 23 pounds—fairly light, even though the enclosure was reasonably strong and the woofer had a bulky ferrite magnet. Here’s our field report from Bay Area DJ Tony Russell (aka Tony Roxxx):
According to Tony: “So far, I’ve used the DBR Series in a few applications. For my first time out with the speakers, however, the venue wouldn’t allow me to turn them up too loud, so I’ll call that experience ‘inconclusive.’ Thus, my honeymoon with the Yamahas began on the second date.
“Why? Because the next time around they were truly awesome. I really pushed the speakers at a nightclub where I was DJing and the sound was very crisp with little to no distortion. I appreciated the lows on these speakers, as they have a very full sound—I didn’t find them too bright at all.
“I like the double XLR/TRS combo inputs, as well as an added RCA input for plugging in a separate music player. The finish and look is very nice and the speaker is very light and easy to lift. I think this is a great unit for a mobile DJ or for really any application where you’re looking for a great speaker at an affordable price.”
Conclusion: The active-speaker scene is competitive and crowded, but Yamaha (as usual) has a solid position in this market—and it’s well-earned. Every unit in the DBR Series is a good value and provides well-engineered construction and good sound, plus the bass truly does fight above its weight.