Soundbars come in in all sizes and costs. And with that, variability in their sonic capabilities. Fortunately, as you’ll see by reading my Yamaha YAS-203 review, that this soundbar doesn’t compromise on much, making it one of the best soundbars to take the place of a set of stand alone speaker. Moreover, its surround sound capability lives up to its name. It is the best soundbar for those who love audio.
What We Liked:
- Excellent virtual surround sound
- Solid bass response
- Bluetooth connectivity for smart devices
What We Didn’t:
- No HDMI support
- Frequency range feels a bit limited
Design and Build Quality
The YAS-203 is solidly built yet sports subtle touches that includes a curve to the front of the sound bar and rounded corners on the accompanying wireless subwoofer. Both come with an all piano-black finish that blends in with any home theater system. That said, it’s solid and feels as if it’s been crafted with attention and care. In other words, you won’t be tossing this sound bar in the trash any time soon.
Connecting the YAS-203 soundbar to the TV is simple: just an optical cable from the TV’s output to the sound bar and that’s the end of the cabling. The sub is wireless and syncs automatically once both are turned on (its 6 1/2” woofer is large enough to drive thumping bass).
Added inputs consist of a coax digital audio and analog stereo RCA, if additional devices are needed to connect directly (for example, a Blu-ray player). An IR-pass through lets the TV’s included remote work even if the sound bar is blocking the televisions IR panel. Moreover, the Yamaha remote is able to “learn” the TV functions.
A Few Audio Features
A row of 9 LED indicators on the front panel indicates the mode of operation currently selected, as there is no visual menus to be displayed. The “Clear Voice” features stands out due its ability to enhance voices, and I found this to be a real winner when watching sports or news broadcasts.
Also built-in, and similar to those found in other soundbars, is an audio features that can maintain a constant volume level (eliminating issues with audio content coming in over a cable box) and a “bass boost.”
A Surround Sound Investment
The big question is sound quality. In “real-world” use (i.e., watching TV shows, playing movies, etc.), I found this system provided a great audio experience, one in which the sound was clear and had a wide dynamic range.
The Bluetooth transmitted audio sounded equally good as well. But most interesting was the “Surround” function, because the enhanced surround effect seemed to bring in audio from either side of the room, although the “behind-the-viewer” audio cues were often weak. This increase in the sound field definitely enhanced the viewing experience by making surround effects “sound” more realistic as to their position in space — in many cases the ear was being completely fooled into thinking that there was other speakers in the room. Considering that the sound bar has only two drivers (2 1/8” in size), it’s all the more surprising that it lives up to Yamaha’s claim of providing a virtual surround audio experience.
Sound bars might look the same from the outside, but Yamaha’s YAS-203 knows a good thing when it hears it — by making sure the viewer hears it too (200 watts of total power being more than sufficient). $399.95 (retail) is in no way exorbitant for getting a space-saving “surround sound” audio system for an HDTV set.
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