Yamaha’s YAS-101 soundbar ($299.95 list) delivers plenty of punch for a single-piece home theater audio system. It saves space by including the subwoofer—really, a bass module, as you’re not going to get subterranean frequencies out of a thin enclosure—inside the main speaker. If you don’t want to deal with having an extra box in the room, or the corresponding AC outlet that’s required, you’ll likely be quite satisfied with the Yamaha YAS-101′s smooth, powerful sound.
Design, Inputs, and Remote
The YAS-101 looks sharp, thanks to its black gloss finish and slightly curved enclosure. It weighs 9.3 pounds—quite a bit more than our Editors’ Choice, the Sony HT-CT260 or the Vizio SB4021M-A1 soundbars, each of which has a companion subwoofer that handle the bass separately. The YAS-101 measures 4.3 by 35 by 4.8 inches (HWD) with the stands and brackets attached, or 3.5 by 35 by 4.5 inches (HWD) without. On the right side is a port, making this a bass reflex design; Yamaha says the duct outlet is shaped like a trumpet bell to reduce wind noise.
Inside the vented speaker housing is a pair of 2.5-inch full range cones, and a pair of 3-inch woofers for bass with oversized magnets and large-diameter voice coils. Total output power is 30 watts per channel @ 6 ohms for the left and right sides, and 60 watts for the mono subwoofer channel, though both are rated at a high 10 percent total harmonic distortion (meaning that clean output power is considerably lower). Yamaha rates the system at 50-20,000Hz, but without plus or minus decibel figures those numbers are pretty meaningless.
Ports are fairly skimpy; you get three digital inputs (two optical and one coaxial), but no HDMI inputs or outputs, and no analog stereo RCA inputs; something to pay attention to if you’re planning on hooking up an older DVD player or a cable box instead of, say, a Blu-ray player. There’s no Bluetooth or AirPlay wireless streaming, either, but there is a Subwoofer output in case you decide to add one in the future.
The included remote is pretty simple, and includes Input Select, Surround and Stereo mode toggles, plus Volume, Mute, and Subwoofer level controls. It’s not backlit, though. One unique feature: There’s an IR repeater, so if you position the YAS-101 in a way that it blocks your TV’s IR input, the YAS-101 will broadcast signals from the TV remote back to it, so that you can still control the TV with its remote. Unfortunately, the YAS-101 lacks a display of any kind, so you’ll be flying blind when choosing inputs and setting volume levels.
Performance and Conclusions
I tested the system with the $500 Oppo BDP-103, our current Editors’ Choice for high-end Blu-ray players. Without a subwoofer, you’re not going to get the room-shaking rumble of a proper home theater setup, even though the YAS-101 supports Dolby Digital and DTS surround encoding. That said, dialog, movie scores, and sound effects sounded smooth and rich, with a natural timbre that eludes other bargain-priced, overly EQ-ed soundbars. The sound isn’t particularly weighty; on-screen effects could use more bass oomph. I tested the YAS-101 with scenes from Avatar and Tron: Legacy; both movies sounded crisp and clear, with smooth resolution of film score elements and especially dialog, though action scenes never delivered quite the impact I was hoping to hear.
The situation improves when it comes to music. Don’t get me wrong: The YAS-101 is no audiophile system. But even so, it delivers surprisingly fast and punchy bass response. Rage Against the Machine’s “Fistful of Steel” exhibited smooth, natural vocals and hi-hat cymbals, with a powerful kick drum that sounded just as huge as it should. However, on Thievery Corporation’s “Habanos Days,” I heard less low-end extension in the electronic synth bass than I was used to with other, subwoofer-equipped systems.
Yamaha’s Air Surround Xtreme mode does a reasonable job of projecting sound in multiple directions, although as with all soundbars, it’s not convincing in the sense that you’re not actually surrounded by speakers. A useful UniVolume setting manages disparate volume levels between commercials, TV shows, and movie discs. This way, if you stop movie playback, the volume of a commercial playing on a particular channel won’t blow you out of your seat and send you to the hospital. It also helps when watching TV late at night while others might be sleeping.
If you’ve got a larger room and the space for a separate subwoofer, the $300 Sony HT-CT260 is a better bet, as it delivers significantly more volume and bass rumble, and gives a closer approximation of the true home theater experience than the Yamaha YAS-101. But if you’re just looking for sweet amplified sound that blows away the speakers built into your TV, and you don’t have the room or inclination to hook up a separate box, the YAS-101 is a worthy contender. And thanks to its slightly more detailed and natural sound, you may even prefer it to the otherwise more capable HT-CT260.
More Speaker Reviews:
|Type||Home Theater, Wireless, Soundbar|
|Power Rating (Subwoofer)||60 watts RMS per channel|
|Power Rating (Left and Right, Each)||30 watts RMS per channel|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc