Soundbar speaker sales have really taken off, but not all HDTVs look right with all soundbars. Mainly it’s a problem of width, and you want it to be as close a match as possible, both for style and for proper stereo imaging with the on-screen action. The Yamaha YAS-152 ($349.95 list) is designed to work with 55-inch-or-larger HDTVs. On the outside, it’s basically an oversize version of the YAS-101, that now includes Bluetooth wireless streaming and analog audio inputs. But some unexpected issues with overall sound quality give us pause in recommending it wholeheartedly.
Design, Inputs, and Remote
The soundbar’s glossy black polycarbonate enclosure measures 3.5 by 47.25 by 5 inches (HWD) and weighs 10.6 pounds. Adding the stands and brackets brings the height up another three quarters of an inch, and increases the depth by three eighths of an inch. It looks like a quality piece of gear, and should blend in well with most HDTVs, although it picks up fingerprints easily. It’s also very easy to scratch; even a drag across a carpet in our test lab was enough to permanently scuff the front panel, and when I went to wipe dust off the top with my hand, my wedding band made a long surface scratch that wouldn’t come off. Definitely be careful with this one.
The front panel is pretty clean, save for two 2.5-inch full-range cones at the very ends of the enclosure. Hardware buttons for Input Select, Volume Up/Down, and Power sit along the bottom edge near the center, along with a line of LEDs for Status, TV, BD/DVD, Analog, Portable (3.5mm Aux source), Bluetooth, Surround, DTS, and Dolby Pro Logic II. Each side panel contains a rectangular bass port. A recessed area on the back panel holds Subwoofer Out, 3.5mm Aux, stereo RCA, and BD/DVD inputs, plus an optical digital input. The stereo RCA inputs are a nice addition over the smaller YAS-101, which lacked them, but there is still no HDMI input. The back panel also includes holes for wall-mounting the enclosure.
The two-prong AC power cable is hardwired, which isn’t ideal, as you can’t replace it easily if it ever gets damaged. The package also includes an optical digital cable, a hardware remote control, and a printed instruction manual.
The remote is a comfortable black plastic slab with a curved bottom edge. It contains a variety of controls, including Power, source select buttons, Stereo, Surround, Clear Voice, UniVolume, Audio Delay, Subwoofer Up/Down, Volume Up/Down, and Mute controls, plus Learn and Repeater buttons for controlling other components. The buttons are rubber and vary in shape and size, making it easy to find and press them one-handed, but the remote isn’t backlit.
Performance and Conclusions
Inside the enclosure are two 2.5-inch full-range cones firing forward, as mentioned above, and two 3.5-inch, downward-firing subwoofer drivers. A three-channel amplifier delivers 30 watts to each full-range driver, and 60 watts to the subwoofer.
Sound quality with movies is smooth and warm, just like it is with the YAS-152′s smaller sibling, the YAS-101. While watching X-Men: The Last Stand, the Surround mode and diminutive subwoofers made for a surprisingly effective home theater, with plenty of wide soundstaging and impressive dynamics, considering the lack of a separate subwoofer. The YAS-152, like its smaller brethren, delivers little of the deep bass extension that sets the house rumbling, but it does have enough punch for on-screen explosions and fisticuffs to pop the way they should. Having said that, the warm tone could sound muffled in a heavily carpeted room with lots of plush furniture.
As you adjust the volume and subwoofer level, the green LEDs on the front turn into a level control that light up more as you turn the level higher. Then after a few moments, the LEDs blink out and it returns to lighting up just the ones for indicating mode—such as Status, TV, Surround, and Dolby Pro Logic II, when playing a Blu-ray disc.
A UniVolume feature compresses the sound levels slightly so that program material and ads are at a more constant volume. In practice, this works great; pressing the button exhibits a marked drop in overall volume, but then as you raise it a bit to compensate, you can hear everything much more evenly, without noticeably changing the actual sound of the movie, at least at lower volumes where this effect would be most used.
The YAS-152 supports Bluetooth wireless streaming, though, which makes playing music from your phone or tablet a snap. If you don’t want to use the hardware remote, there’s a free iOS and Android app you can download for controlling the YAS-152, with much of the same functionality; when I connected my iPhone 5 via Bluetooth, the phone immediately prompted me to download the appropriate app.
Stereo music, when played through the YAS-152 in Stereo mode, sounds less impressive; which is strange, since the YAS-101 sounds quite good. The problem is seriously exacerbated with Bluetooth streaming, since the YAS-152 supports the older 2.1 + EDR protocol, which doesn’t sound nearly as good as Bluetooth 4.0 or aptX. On a variety of tracks, such as Rage Against the Machine’s “Fistful of Steel,” it sounded oddly muffled, with a pronounced upper midrange honk, as if Yamaha employed budget drivers without any signal processing. The acoustic guitar and stand-up bass in Ani DiFranco’s “Knuckle Down” lost their usual sparkle and clarity. With our standard bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the YAS-152 distorted easily at medium volumes, and I became concerned for the speaker’s welfare as I turned up the volume.
The Sharp HT-SB60 is built for 60-inch-or-larger HDTVs, sounds clearer, and also includes a powerful, separate subwoofer, although it costs $150 more. Our favorite soundbar solution overall remains the Sony HT-CT260, thanks to its excellent performance, thunderous bass, and flexible connectivity for $50 less, although it’s not as wide while also requiring an extra subwoofer, which may not fit your needs if you have a larger HDTV. In that case, if you do have a large television, and don’t want the added wiring and enclosure a separate subwoofer entails, the nicely priced Yamaha YAS-152 makes a decent case for itself. I just wished it sounded better with music.
|Power Rating (Left and Right, Each)||30 watts RMS per channel|
|Power Rating (Subwoofer)||60 watts RMS per channel|
|Wireless Remote Control||Yes|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc