Yamaha SRT-1500 review:

Sound base sounds good and surrounds great -- for a price

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The SRT-1500 sound base produces a large soundstage, extending well out to the sides of the speaker. Dolby and DTS decoding help it sound excellent with movies and decent with music. The speaker is well-built and attractive, with plenty of usability features such as easy-to-access cabling and a subwoofer output.

The Bad More expensive than many sound bases, including one of Yamaha's own with identical sound quality. Music mode is only okay. Most of the sound modes are superfluous.

The Bottom Line With cutting-edge surround from a single box the Yamaha SRT-1500 offers great sound, but it's not the best value speaker in the company's range.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Sound 8.0
  • Value 7.0

What a difference twelve months makes. In 2014, the sound base -- the speaker that doubled as a base for your television--was the "next big thing" in home-theater audio. But just as things looked good for the category, many television manufacturers started changing from a central pedestal stand to the more stable, but less sound base-friendly, splayed-leg designs. As a result, even brands such as Zvox, which started the sound base trend, have started producing the more versatile sound bars.

Nevertheless, Yamaha is forging ahead with its sound base plans by updating the existing SRT-1000 with a couple of intriguing features. The SRT-1500 is a good sounding unit with plenty of wallop in movies and acceptable music replay. But with identical performance to the earlier model, you've got to really want HDMI switching and Yamaha's proprietary music-streaming service to pay the extra $200.

In terms of pure value-for-money, the SRT-1000 is a better buy. And if you really want multiroom audio, you could buy a Chromecast Audio, pocket the extra $150 or so, and hook your cable box's HDMI video output directly to your TV.

Design

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If you have a TV with a centrally-mounted pedestal stand, like the one pictured above, the Yamaha will support screen sizes up to 55-inches. As a base it doesn't matter what the height is because the TV sits on top, but nevertheless the SRT-1500 is fairly squat at only 3 inches tall. It also measures 30.75 inches wide and 14.6 inches deep.

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The unit is constructed from MDF (medium-density fiberboard) and covered with the near-ubiquitous brushed vinyl wrap also seen on products from ELAC and Klipsch. Be aware that this finish mars rather easily, and a TV could easily gouge some nice holes over the lifetime of the product.

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The front panel houses the the main controls, including volume and dedicated source indicators, and the drivers are protected by an attractive metal grille.

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While the inputs are at the back of the cabinet, there is also a convenient hatch built into the top of the unit, which means you don't need to get behind your TV unit to plug new things in.

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The menu system is a little perfunctory, and sometimes not all that intuitive. For example to access network settings there's no "Page 1" "Page 2" prompt, you just need to know to press the setup button twice.

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The remote control is a step above most sound bar offerings in that it's an actual remote, not a credit card-size toy. There are even pictograms to explain the different sound options.

Features

If it wasn't for the different model number printed on the front you'd swear this was the SRT-1000, the cheaper sound base Yamaha released in 2014. And if you don't fumble around at the back of the unit, you'd struggle to see what the differences are. There are two main features the extra cash buys: the SRT1500 offers a 4K-compatible HDMI input and output, as well as Yamaha's own MusicCast multiroom audio system. Otherwise, the two are essentially identical.

The SRT-1500 uses eight directional "beam" drivers that direct the sound around your room and which are flanked by two more "traditional" oval stereo drivers. The beam drivers use phase-shifted technology to aim the beams at your walls. For bass, the SRT-1500 boasts two 3.25-inch "subwoofers" that can get down to a claimed 45Hz.

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While most of its competitors can only decode Dolby, the Yamaha can handle both Dolby Digital and DTS Digital Surround. This makes the speaker an all-rounder, suited to both TV audio and the surround soundtracks of Blu-rays and DVDs.

The Yamaha comes with a number of different preset modes but according to local Yamaha representatives the main effects are Clear Voice, TV and Stereo. While Movies and Music appear on the remote, these modes don't appear to work.

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The HDMI 2.0 connectors include compatibility with 60p 4K sources as well as Audio Return Channel (for listening to your TV's audio). The base also has a digital optical input in addition to an analog input, and a subwoofer out if you require more bass.

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