Yamaha long has been among the market leaders in sound bar technology. The company draws upon its extensive history in both the musical instrument and AV electronics fields to deliver compact speaker arrays that produce surprisingly wide sound from a narrow shaft of drivers small enough to fit under a tabletop placed flat-panel TV screen.

The Yamaha YAS-706 sound bar with MusicCast fits somewhere in the middle of a wide selection of models that range from affordable one-piece solutions to kits with multiple wireless speaker add-ons.

The Yamaha YAS-706 is a two-piece virtual 7.1-channel system with 210 watts of built-in amplification. It is comprised of a long and flat sound bar measuring 37 inches long, 5 inches deep and 3 inches high, and a floor standing cube-shaped wireless subwoofer measuring 12 by 12 inches on all sides. Both components are offered in matte black plastic cabinets with matching cloth grills that shield the speakers without blocking any of the clear, rich sound they produce.

Read more of our review of the Yamaha YAS-706 sound with MusicCast after the jump:

Yamaha ensured that the sound bar design was compact enough to fit below the screen on most tabletop TV mounts, and in our test setup, it slide perfectly below the bottom bezel of a Samsung QN65Q7F 4K Ultra HD QLED television, as if it were designed specifically for that display.

The YAS-706 is also designed to be easily hung from a wall under an accompanying TV screen. In fact, mounting the sound bar flat against the wall positions the drivers directly out at the audience, where in tabletop placement the drivers are positioned up and forward. In addition the LED display panel is easier to see when mounted flush against a wall so that you can easily tell the various modes and settings that have been activated. The LEDs tend to disappear from view in tabletop placements, but the sound bar fits so well under the screen that we can forgive the modest inconvenience.

The bar houses eight drivers, including dual .75 inch balanced dome tweeters on each side, two 2.125 inch mid-range drivers and two 5.5-inch built-in subwoofer cones. A bass reflex port is placed on the end of the sound bar to channel airflow for enhanced low-frequency response.

As subwoofers go, the 75-watt wireless cube that comes in the package is a mighty mite, producing a solid kick from its 5.5 inch cone to fill in the foundation of musical rock and jazz performances and appropriately shake the room to punctuate the drama in movie thrillers. It’s diminutive design makes the sub easy to place without adding clutter to the room.

To control the YAS-706, Yamaha offers a couple of remote options. One is a compact, handheld remote that is small enough to easily fit in the palm yet large enough to include an ample selection of buttons to easily find and activate sound modes, input sources, separate sound bar and subwoofer volume controls and arrow keys to control more extensive on-screen menu options.

Alternatively, the YAS-706 is a member of the Yamaha MusicCast family, meaning it is compatible with the acclaimed wireless multi-room audio platform of the same name that revolves around a slick iOS or Android device app. This not only enables controlling the sound bar functions, it allows accessing and sending music through the app to the sound bar as well as other compatible Yamaha wireless MusicCast speakers and audio systems in the house.

MusicCast uses both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to distribute music from a variety of sources — including streaming audio stations and DLNA storage devices. It also supports AirPlay wireless streaming from Apple device users.

Music

As we began our review of the YAS-706 a MusicCast firmware update was delivered bringing with it access to the popular Deezer and Tidal international music/pod cast services and joining other popular steaming options including Napster, Pandora, SiriusXM, and Spotify.

With a few simple taps on the MusicCast app screen we had registered our SiriusXM account and began streaming the service’s new Beatles channel to pleasant tonal surprise.

The YAS-706 adeptly handles music reproduction for a system designed to primarily support flat-panel TV audio. With the aforementioned streamed Beatles mono and 2-channel songs, the sound was clear, rich and full without being overly flat and dated. Sure, there were limitations in the brilliance of the high end; Cymbals sounded somewhat muted and muffled but they weren’t overly shrill like some more modern digital CD productions.

For comparison sake, we switched over to CD input using the latest remastering of Led Zeppelin’s first album. Here we picked up some limitations in the sound bar’s mid range, particularly in more explosive harder-edged sections of Good Times Bad Times, where Jimmy Page’s crashing guitar cords  sounded more muddled compared to a full reference surround sound system with separate speakers. Yet, the gentler passages and vocals were clear and full for such a small configuration.

The YAS-706 is equipped with Yamaha Air Surround Xtreme technology produces a more spacious, immersive listening experience. But to be clear, few sound bars are a match for a full multi-channel home theater set up and the YAS-706 is no exception. Music sounds narrower and boxy in comparison to well-spaced 7.1-channel speaker setups with larger subwoofer drivers.

For music, the sound was a decided step up in tonal quality from the on-board sound system in the Samsung QN65Q7F QLED TV, which handles sound impressively well for a TV. The YAS-706 nicely filters some of the shrill top end in CD music that gets through on the TV’s smaller speakers. In addition, the subwoofer adds a distinct bottom end giving music a more satisfying and sophisticated overall performance. For those streaming music and high-resolution audio lovers, the YAS-706 with MusicCast plays MP3, AAC, WMA, FLAC, ALAC, WAV, and AIFF files and supports high-res playback for PCM-based files up to 24-bit/192kHz. But we couldn’t get it to play a multi-channel DSD stream from a SACD sent through the Oppo UDP-203 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

Movies

Where the YAS-706 pays immediate dividends is in movie watching. More modern titles with Dolby Digital sound tracks are clear and expressive supported by ample bottom end from the separate subwoofer accompaniment.

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We could feel the vibration of the engines of the space ships attaining orbit in the opening sequences of the Blu-ray version of Independence Day: Resurgence, and upon switching between input sources we were immediately struck at the stark narrow quality of the old stereo soundtrack in the Exorcist. The YAS-706 handled both in the way each was produced without embellishment.

The YAS-706 offers five listening modes: Music, Movie, TV Program, Sports, and Game. It also includes Clear Voice mode for clearer, louder dialog when watching those late night TV shows. The sound bar produces some degree of surround sound effect, although this was mostly presented in a wider sound stage. We didn’t experience much in the way of virtual overhead or rear-channel effects with the sound bar in table-top position.

Connections

One of the strengths of the YAS-706 is its diverse array of input and outputs to easily accommodate integration with almost any television. On the back of the bar are 2 HDMI inputs and 1 audio return channel (ARC) output.  The HDMIs support 4K/60p passthrough, HDCP 2.2 and High Dynamic Range (HDR) video. For more basic setups two digital inputs (one coaxial and one optical) are offered in addition to two analog inputs. For networking the sound bar has an ethernet port and built-in Wi-Fi wireless connectivity.

Also included is a subwoofer output if a different subwoofer is preferred over the wireless cube that comes in the kit.

Setup

The YAS-706 doesn’t take rocket science to set up, but it isn’t exactly plug-n-play either. Making matters a little more frustrating is the fact that Yamaha puts the complete instruction manual on a CD requiring a computer and optical drive to read it. While some of the connections are self-explanatory, not all of the HDMI control settings are instantly intuitive and will take a little time to discern. Although, as mentioned above, Yamaha offers a host of input and output connections for flexibility, users will be better off using HDMI inputs and outputs to assure compatibility with newer surround sound formats that won’t necessarily translate over the optical connection.

If you can use HDMI, this will require at least two separate HDMI cable connection — one input that connects to the output on a source device like a Blu-ray player or set-top box and one HDMI ARC output that connects the HDMI (ARC) port on the television. This will allow sending up to 4K/60fps video between the source input and the output to the TV.

The subwoofer and sound bar pair nicely via Bluetooth upon powering up each component.

If there is an iPhone in the house, Yamaha simplifies the setup process somewhat by allowing the sharing of Wi-Fi settings from the iPhone to the sound bar. Android users will have to setup the Wi-Fi connection by finding the network and entering the router password – the good old-fashioned way.

Conclusion

Selling now at $999.95 the Yamaha YAS-706 is a nice addition to even higher-end 4K Ultra HDTVs. The full speaker array and separate wireless subwoofer give depth and vitality to most soundtracks compared with tiny on-board TV speakers. An ample connection pack and diminutive cabinet design offer placement flexibility without filling the room with gadgetry. Best of all, the built-in MusicCast support allows streaming music through a mobile device from a range of popular services and then relaying those selections to compatible wireless speakers and devices throughout the house.

Compared to other sound bars in this range, the YAS-706 is tad on the expensive side but its fidelity is rock solid without crossing into Dolby Atmos/DTS:X territory, where sound bar pricing steps up another $500 to $600. But, you don’t get the overhead and rear channel effects in the quite the same way.

Still, the YAS-706 is a nice easy-to-use and full-sounding solution to the shallow, thin audio that most flat-panel televisions produce today. It’s also less expensive and more decor-friendly than most 7.1-channel home theater systems.

We therefore award the Yamaha YAS-706 four out of five hearts:

 

The Yamaha YAS-706 used inn this review was a company loan.

By Greg Tarr

 

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