The Yamaha YAS-101 was one of the best sound bars to grace the $300 category. It gives the 5.1-channel surround sound experience without being so complicated to set up. However, other sound bars that compete in this category manage to get the upper hand in features. In an age where smartphone usage is peaking, it is essential for sound bars to allow smartphones to interact with them. This is what the Yamaha YAS-103 intends to achieve without changing Yamaha’s formula.
The YAS-103 keeps the sleek curved design of its predecessor and there is definitely nothing wrong with that. While the unit itself weighs a little bit lighter than the YAS-101, the front panel looks the same with its smooth piano-black finish and circular speakers on the opposite ends. This Yamaha sound bar comes in bright white too if you are tired of the common black design. An array of labeled light indicators take the bottom center of the unit making it pretty easy to see the sound bar’s current status. The only buttons you will find is the input button and power button along with the usual volume buttons. You will need to use the compact remote control that comes with the package if you want to mute the volume, switch to a source directly, adjust the subwoofer and/or use the extra audio features.
The back of the YAS-103 looks the same as well but there is a minor change that is worth knowing. The Yamaha YAS-103 trades the subwoofer output featured in the YAS-101 for dual RCA input for analog audio. Eliminating the subwoofer output sounds like a bad thing since having a good external subwoofer can improve the audio quality but the YAS-103 has built-in subwoofers anyway. So this move actually makes more sense for people that weren’t even aware of the subwoofers built right into the sound bar unit. The dual digital optical inputs for the TV and media player and the coaxial input jack remain present. In addition to the remote control and 1.5-meter optical cable, the Yamaha YAS-103 comes with a mounting template and 2 spacers in case you want to mount the sound bar to your wall. When installing the sound bar, you don’t have to worry about the possibility of the sound bar blocking the TV’s IR input since the sound bar has an IR passthrough.
The YAS-103 finally adds Bluetooth support to enable wireless streaming. Because of the limited range of Bluetooth, you won’t be able to feed music to the sound bar from another room but it is better than having no wireless capabilities at all. Getting the mobile device paired with the Yamaha YAS-103 is as simple as pairing with other devices. People that own mobile devices powered by Android or iOS can remotely control or configure the sound bar via Bluetooth too. All you have to do is download the free Home Theater Control App from the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store and make the pairing. The app’s interface is simple enough for anyone to understand. The HDMI ports are still lacking but it is less of a big deal now since the analog inputs and Bluetooth connectivity are present. Setting up the sound bar remains an easy affair. It is one of the huge advantages that the YAS-103 has over traditional 5.1-channel sound systems.
With the same internal hardware as its predecessor, the Yamaha YAS-103 performs the same as the YAS-101. Back in 2012, many critics and customers loved the audio quality of the YAS-101 for the price so it may make sense for the YAS-103 to play safe and not tinker with anything. Since the Yamaha YAS-103 has the same price as well and is billed as a minor update, Yamaha did the right thing for the most part. The only problem is that the competition isn’t standing still and it would have been nice if some audio improvements have been made to pull away from the other competing models.
For those that never tried a Yamaha sound bar before, the YAS-103 is still a strong contender. The pair of 2.5-inch full-range woofers and down-firing 3-inch subwoofers are capable of producing some impressive stereo sound with some good bass at reasonable volume levels. It is an ideal movie performer thanks to support for Dolby Digital and DTS Digital Surround. Of course, the Yamaha YAS-103 won’t be complete without some proprietary stuff. Also like the previous model, the YAS-103 features a technology called Air Surround Xtreme. It is this technology that puts this particular sound bar in the surround sound category. It simulates a 7.1-channel environment with pretty good accuracy.
If you are not fully satisfied with the results, you can try out some of the minor features that augment the sound quality. This includes the Clear Voice feature which increases the clarity of vocals, which can come in handy in news channels or programs with a lot of dialogue. This Yamaha sound bar also has its own version of volume normalization called UniVolume. If you are annoyed with sudden loud commercials or huge shifts in volume as you change channels, it would be a good idea to turn on this feature. Finally, there is an audio delay control if the timing of the dialogue and picture needs adjusting.
The Yamaha YAS-103 made its debut back in February 2014 with a $299 price tag. While some stores may sell this sound bar at a slightly lower price, the older YAS-101 even sells for cheaper. Because the YAS-103 has the same technologies and design as the YAS-101, the YAS-101 isn’t exactly obsolete and could still be a fantastic deal. You just have to determine how important the added Bluetooth functionality is. For a lot of people, Bluetooth is very important so you might want to spend the extra dollars on the Yamaha YAS-103.
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