$300 is a highly competitive price point when it comes to sound bars. It is also a price that people are willing to pay if they cannot afford to buy those 5.1-speaker systems and home theater receiver. Of course, tradeoffs have to be made in terms of audio quality and products like the Yamaha YAS-101 really highlight that. But the YAS-101 is a bit special in its own ways and could be one of the best budget sound bars to recommend for certain individuals.
The design of the Yamaha YAS-101 stands out as one of the greatest things about this sound bar. It has a nice piano-black finish which can match rather well with other premium home theater components. Yamaha actually uses this design language with their other products. Another nice thing to note about the design is its curved surface which not only gives the sound bar a more stylish appearance but it also symbolizes its ability to project a solid surround sound experience. Unlike other $300 sound bars, the YAS-101 does not come with a separate subwoofer. This is because the subwoofer is built right into the sound bar and it gives the overall appearance that very wide profile. This also makes this sound bar stand out a bit more compared to the competing models. The speaker grill takes a saran net approach which actually helps with the audio clarity.
The slim profile of this sound bar is ideal if you want to create a very minimal living room setup while still having that acceptable sound reinforcement. If the TV is mounted to a wall, you can hang the Yamaha YAS-101 on the wall too.
The YAS-101 focuses more on the audio quality than anything else which is great if that is your main concern. The tradeoff here lies in the limited connectivity options. There is no HDMI input or output and even lacks analog audio inputs. You won’t find any built-in wireless technologies in this sound bar as well so it isn’t a recommended pick if you want to send your smartphone playlist to the speaker. All you really have to work with is a pair of optical inputs and a single coaxial digital input. One of the interesting things about the Yamaha YAS-101 connectivity-wise is the presence of a subwoofer output so you can actually enhance the bass performance if you don’t feel contented with the way the built-in subwoofer performs.
But because of its simplicity, the YAS-101 is every easy to set up. All you have to do is plug the sound bar to the TV using an optical cable and power it up. The included small remote is useful if you want to do things like switch between the surround sound and stereo modes.
The audio performance is where the Yamaha YAS-101 really shines. The sound bar is equipped with dual ½” cone speakers and a dual-driver 3” subwoofer to produce high quality audio in a compact package. The digital amp is capable of pushing the output to 120 watts. Thanks to the large magnets and bass reflex port, bass reproduction is pretty decent although it falls a bit short compared to those sound bars with discrete subwoofers. But you won’t notice that shortcoming as long as you don’t crank up the volume. Also remember that you can add a discrete subwoofer in the future.
The YAS-101 is a nice sound bar to get if watching movies is your main gig. Blu-ray action movies sound very balanced with just enough supporting bass. It is fully compatible with Dolby Digital and DTS Digital Surround formats so any movies that support multi-channels should sound good. The Air Surround Xtreme technology is also an available option that artificially reproduces a 7.1-channel surround sound system and it works pretty well.
Other nice extras that help with the audio quality include the Clear Voice feature which enhances the clarity of narrations and dialogs that you would often hear in movies, TV shows, sports broadcasts and games. Some TV programs do not properly synchronize the picture with the dialog. The Yamaha YAS-101 can correct that using the audio delay control which serves as the sound bar’s lip sync feature. Finally, the UniVolume feature makes the audio performance more consistent by trying to keep the volume level the same across all programs, channels, input sources and commercial breaks. This feature can be switched off if you do not need it.
As long as you are willing to accept the lack of connectivity options, the YAS-101 is a nice choice. It is also worth mentioning that this is Yamaha’s first attempt in creating a budget sound bar and the company managed to do a lot of things right. On a sound quality perspective, the Yamaha YAS-101 gives you the best bang for the buck.
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