Review: Yamaha YAS-207 Offers Surprising Surround Sound For Under $300
Yamaha has been one of the leaders in soundbars for a while now, and for a good reason — its products sound better than most others for the money. The YAS-207, introduced earlier this year at a $299.99 suggested retail, stands as a step-up model in the Yamaha soundbar assortment, where it sets the bar for the under $300 category.
We found the Yamaha YAS-207 to have excellent sound quality for movies, regular television viewing, and even CD music, offering a surprisingly convincing virtual surround sound performance. While not exactly fooling us with simulated rear or side channel effects, the surround mode opened our ears to wide room-filling audio in a listening space about the equivalent of a mid-sized bedroom with lofted ceilings. The dialog was clear and understandable, even with loud explosions and background sound effects competing for attention.
Read more of our review of the Yamaha YAS-207 after the jump:
Where we had a slight issue with the soundbar was its inability to produce significantly better sound at very low volumes, compared to the speakers built into the TV set used for our review; This was a mid-range 50-inch Full HD LG LED-LCD TV that is several years old. We selected the TV as a good example of a television that would be paired with this unit in the home.
We don’t expect that listening to such low volumes will take place very often, although it could be if the soundbar is moved into a bedroom application, where most of the TV viewing is done before nodding off to sleep.
The YAS-207 has a compact speaker bar section with a textured matte black plastic top surface and black cloth front grill that provides a sophisticated look. The soundbar measures just 2.375 inches high, which is short enough to fit on the screen of most flat-panel sets on typical table-top stands without blocking any portion of the picture, although in some TV models the soundbar placement interfered with bezel-chin-mounted IR receiver.
Touch-sensitive controls are found along the top of the bar with a linear layout of tiny LEDs that indicate the various modes, connections and volume levels that are selected. Unfortunately, determining what the LEDs represented was difficult from typical viewing distances in dimly lit settings, and Yamaha omitted an on-screen menu readout to help quickly guide users through settings without getting up and squinting at the top of the soundbar.
For wall-mounted applications, Yamaha equips the YAS-207 with keyhole mount slots for easy placement underneath a connected display.
The wireless subwoofer is similarly compact and unobtrusive. Designed for floor placement, the sub measures 7.125 inches wide by 17.25 inches high by 15.75 inches deep and has a matching textured matte-black top, side and back made of MDF with plastic veneer and a black fabric grill over the right side where the driver is located. Sound ports out of the front of the cabinet for easy placement under a table or next to a sofa.
The soundbar and sub eliminate some of the cable clutter common to home theater ensembles by connecting to each other via wireless Bluetooth. Setup and pairing were amazingly painless. Simply plugging both soundbar and subwoofer into a power outlet and turning them on with the supplied thin-form factor remote linked both components without any additional steps required.
This year the YAS-207 adds HDMI connectivity to the traditional digital optical input. Both HDMI ports support HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 standards to pass through the latest 4K/HDR video sources. An HDMI ARC and an HDMI digital-in are provided on the rear/back of the soundbar. Although set-up was ridiculously easy with most newer TV models, our main test set proved to be tricky using multiple sources connected to the display, as the set lacked HDMI-CEC connectivity and interoperability.
One of the problems encountered trying to make the HDMI connections was the lack of an on-screen display to help to identify inputs and ensure they were configured correctly. Instead, users must rely on a row of tiny LED lights along the top front of the soundbar.
The HDMI ARC connections did work well on a 2017 4K Ultra HD Samsung television, however, and shouldn’t be an issue with the majority of models sold in the last three to four years. If a user prefers HDMI connectivity, the TV set should have HDMI-CEC ports that can be set up for interoperability through one remote, if more than one source device is connected to the television. Otherwise, the optical digital input from the TV worked fine.
The YAS-207 supports both Dolby and DTS soundtracks and is the first soundbar supporting the new DTS Virtual:X surround format, which is a virtual surround format designed for 2-channel sound systems.
DTS Virtual:X is designed to simulate from as few as two speakers 3D-surround soundtracks without all of the height and rear channel speakers needed for the real DTS:X experience. Although we didn’t detect any convincing artificial over-head or rear surround effects from the new mode, it did provide a much broader listening experience than is typical for soundbars in this price class.
Flipping the switch between surround and stereo provided a very demonstrable difference in sound quality and sound dispersion. This was true for 2-channel CD music as well as Blu-ray Discs encoded with DTS-HD Master Audio (with player connected directly to the soundbar via HDMI output) and Dolby Digital Plus soundtracks.
The Blu-ray version of Predators sucked us into the action with enveloping powerful bass roaring from the engines of the alien hunters’ spacecraft as they searched from the sky for their human prey on the forest floor below.
Producing all of this listening goodness are four 1.75-inch woofers and a pair of tweeters. The subwoofer packs a single 6.5-inch driver.
With surround mode on, the live CD of Delaney and Bonnie and Friends On Tour With Eric Clapton, sounded like it must have in the concert hall, with the naturally echoing reverb captured on tape powerfully reproduced over the diminutive drivers without the distraction of narrowly confined vocals or hollow and directional bass rhythms.
Sound and music delivered over the digital optical connection were similarly compelling, even with soundtracks downmixed to 2-channel to accommodate the limitations of the connection.
Overall, we found the sound of movies streamed over smart TV apps or channeled from Blu-ray Discs to be dynamic and immersive, with floor shaking bass punch (with the bass extender on) accenting the well defined and bright highs that were rarely shrill or harsh.
The dialog was always clear and understandable, and when necessary could be further enhanced with a Clear Voice setting.
Although there are less expensive soundbars on the market this year, few under the $300 mark come close to the YAS-207. It’s worth spending the few extra bucks to get the quality this little package provides. The YAS-207 is a recommended mid-level soundbar.
We, therefore, award the Yamaha YAS-207 4.5 out of 5 hearts.
The Yamaha YAS-207 used for this review was a company loan.
By Greg Tarr
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