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Christmas Gift Guide

Yamaha YAS-101

Remote

Connectivity

Bass ports on the side

Front-panel buttons

Front-panel lights

Yamaha basically created the sound bar category and continues to sell its best-in-class Digital Sound Projector line, but it can be hard to recommend the company's sound bars when they generally cost in excess of $1,000. The YAS-101 ($250 street price) is Yamaha's entry into the increasingly crowded budget sound bar field, and it's one of the few that manages to stand out.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Yamaha includes a remote with the YAS-101, which isn't always guaranteed with a sound bar system. This particular remote is a mixed bag: button layout could be a lot better, but Yamaha does include virtually all the buttons you'd want, including direct input buttons and a subwoofer volume control.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Inputs are located on the back panel, and it's a weakness of the system. There are three digital inputs (two optical, one coaxial), which is pretty good, but we were surprised that there isn't an analog audio input. That's bad news for Nintendo Wii owners (the console only supports analog audio), although you can likely work around this shortcoming by connecting the Wii to your HDTV and using its digital audio output.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
In addition to the rear-mounted subwoofer, the YAS-101 has two bass ports on each side.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
There are a few basic front-panel buttons in case the remote goes missing.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
There's no display on the front of the YAS-101, so when you make volume adjustments (subwoofer or overall) with the remote the only visual feedback you get is from the tiny LED on the front of the speaker. It's green when the volume is low, orange at standard level, and red at higher volume settings. A numerical display (like the one on the Zvox Z-Base 555) is more useful, but this approach is better than nothing.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
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