Yamaha is best known for their high-end sound bars which have highly sophisticated virtual surround sound technologies. This makes them excellent TV companions if you want a great overall movie experience without going through the complications of setting up a typical 5.1 or 7.1-speaker system. These technologies don’t come without a high price though. For instance, Yamaha’s class-leading Yamaha YSP-4300 costs nearly $2,000. Yamaha does have a couple of entry-level products but they are not as great since technologies have to be cut to meet that low price target. The Yamaha YAS-203 is one of the few exceptions because the price is just right.
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About the Yamaha YAS-203
The YAS-203 is Yamaha’s most affordable sound bar that is bundled with a wireless subwoofer. The sound bar itself is essentially the Yamaha YAS-103 which sells for $100 less if you don’t need the subwoofer. But the Yamaha YAS-203 costs just $399 and it might even be cheaper in some places since the sound bar bundle was released in 2014.
Although the main unit is made of plastic, it has a nice piano-black finish with rounded edges so it looks pill-shaped. It measures about 35 inches wide, making it a decent companion to 60-inch TVs or smaller. In addition to the subwoofer unit, the YAS-203 package comes with an owner’s manual, optical digital cable and a remote control with batteries. The optical digital cable is important since the sound bar doesn’t have any HDMI inputs. Your only alternative is the traditional RCA inputs.
Despite the lack of HDMI inputs, the built-in Bluetooth makes up for it. This allows all kinds of smartphones, tablets and laptops with Bluetooth capability to wirelessly stream audio. AptX audio coding is supported as well.
The Yamaha YAS-203 is about 3.625 inches high and you can give it an even lower profile if you remove the feet. This should prevent the unit from blocking the TV’s remote sensor. If the sound bar still does, you can either mount it to the wall or just keep it in place because the YAS-203 comes with a nifty TV remote repeater that captures TV remote signals and sends them through the book. On top of that, the remote control is compact with a button arrangement that isn’t so confusing. You might not even need this remote since your own TV remote can also be used to control the sound bar, too. You have to use the “Learn” function and it isn’t very difficult to accomplish.
With Yamaha’s Air Surround Xtreme technology built into the Yamaha YAS-203, movies sound surprisingly great with clear dialog. The virtual 7.1-channel surround sound effect doesn’t sound as defined as Yamaha’s flagship models but it is a noticeable step up from the typical 2.1-channel sound bars. Both DTS and Dolby Digital are supported as well, making Blu-ray movies sound far better compared to your TV’s internal speakers. You can also augment the performance of the YAS-203 by enabling features like Clear Voice and UniVolume to enhance the dialog further or balance out the volume across different sources of programming.
Most sound bars fall short on music playback but the Yamaha YAS-203 is also a pleasant exception. Bass is well defined, thanks to the subwoofer and other genres of music sound pretty detailed. The sound quality isn’t as great though if you are playing music over Bluetooth from a device that lacks aptX.
• Excels in both movies and music.
• Balanced bass.
• Nice remote control experience.
• Affordably priced.
• Lacks HDMI inputs.
• Requires an aptX device to get the most out of the Bluetooth performance.
Paying more than $1,000 on a sound bar will still give you better sound quality but the YAS-203 has an already great audio experience for just $400. As far as audio performance goes, this sound bar should hit the needs of the average consumer who is fed up with internal TV speakers. If you are okay with the lack of HDMI ports, this sound bar is a top recommendation.
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