Yamaha adds Amazon Alexa voice interaction to its YAS soundbar stable – but doesn’t forgot to focus on performance too, says Mark Craven. Read our YAMAHA YAS-209 Review.
YAMAHA’S SOUNDBAR LINEUP can feel confused at times, with models dating back as far as 2015 still available (the YSP-5600 and YAS-105), joined but not replaced by later arrivals. In the middle of the 11-strong stable sits the new YAS-209, which represents the pinnacle of its standard soundbars – not endowed with MusicCast multiroom, and not classed one of the brand’s multi-driver ‘digital sound projectors.’
It’s not feature-lite, however, combining soundbar and wireless subwoofer; one-in, one-out HDMI connectivity (with 4K HDR passthrough); Bluetooth music streaming; hi-res file streaming over a network; and integrated Alexa control, courtesy of its in-built microphone.
The stereo soundbar, which finds each L/R channel getting a pair of midbass drivers and a tweeter, is nice to look at, with full-frontal cloth grille, no hard edges and a top-plate offering touch controls and LED status lights.
The accompanying subwoofer is also quite cute, apart from its gloss plastic front port.
The Alexa feature certainly gives the YAS-209 a leg up over many of its rivals at this price, and those already used to squawking commands at a smart speaker will
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PRODUCT: 2.1-channel soundbar/sub system
Position: Below Yamaha’s MusicCast models
PEERS: Klipsch BAR 40; Panasonic SC- HTB700
feel right at home. It’s still easier use the Yamaha’s stumpy IR remote for one-button controls, but being able to ask your soundbar what the weather will be like tomorrow never gets old. It also brings the Spotify and Amazon music platforms to the party.
When it comes to audio decoding, there’s no Dolby Atmos or DTS:X handling here, nor, in fact, Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA.
There is, however, DTS Virtual:X postprocessing for faux height frolics, activated by the 3D Surround button on the YAS-209’s handset (or on Yamaha’s Sound Bar Controller app, which you’ll need to have installed to set up the network/Alexa functionality).
I’d definitely recommend giving Virtual:X a whirl, as it’s remarkably efficient at enlarging the vertical scale of the soundstage without sounding too artificial. Just don’t expect genuine overhead excitement.
For a playback experience to match the bar’s drivers, there’s Yamaha’s Stereo preset. Other modes – Movie, Music, TV and Game – all introduce a level of DSP tweaking.
Yamaha’s sub pairs wirelessly with its soundbar
A strength of the YAS-209’s performance is its skilful blending of soundbar and subwoofer, with the latter sounding punchy, powerful and not afraid to dig quite deep (there’s a Bass Extension mode to instigate if it want it to push harder, but this can make it overbearing at times). With the cartoonish antics of The Grinch (Sky Cinema), it adds bouncy, bassy enjoyment to all the onscreen bangs and bumps, and fills out the bottom end of Danny Elfman’s score. Above it, the soundbar’s sextet of drivers work to create a warm-sounding midrange and clear (although not necessarily attacking) HF.
You can go loud with confidence.
With none of the beam-steering/reflective tech from Yamaha’s YSP models, the YAS-209’s soundstage never approaches the sides of your listening position, remaining resolutely in front of you. Yet its stereo spread is appealingly broad, and even without a physical centre channel, dialogue is well-projected.
With streamed tunes, avoid the Music preset and stick to Stereo, as processing that can be effective with film content can make your favourite tracks sound a little odd.
This is an impressive 2.1 concoction from Yamaha. Its styling is neat and tidy, and its performance is full-bodied and assured, with effective DTS Virtual:X processing a sweetener considering its lack of native 3D audio skills. Amazon Alexa is also a welcome addition. There’s plenty of competition at this price, but it’s worth auditioning
An assured, smooth-sounding soundbar system that doubles nicely as an AI assistant. Has Atmos rivals to contend with, though.
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DRIVERS: 4 x 1.75in midbass drivers; 2 x 1in tweeters ONBOARD POWER (CLAIMED): 200W (including subwoofer) CONNECTIONS: 1 x HDMI input; 1 x HDMI output with ARC; 1 x optical digital audio input; Ethernet DOLBY ATMOS/DTCX: No/No SEPARATE SUB: Yes REMOTE CONTROL: Yes DIMENSIONS: 930(w) x 62(h) x 109(d)mm WEIGHT: 2.7kg
FEATURES: DTS Virtual:X; Music, TV, Movie, Sports and Game presets; Bluetooth; Wi-Fi; Dolby Digital and DTS decoding; Amazon Alexa integrated; 4K HDR passthrough; WAV/FLAC to 24-bit/192kHz