Yes, you can get a sound bar for much less money, but the Yamaha's benefits are obvious as soon as you turn it on. It has big sound with great bass response, all of the connectivity you could need, and streaming features from here to Hawaii.
While the Yamaha MusicCast Bar 400 offers all of the performance you'd expect from the storied Japanese brand, I did have a couple of usability quibbles. They're minor, however, and hardly spoil an otherwise excellent sound bar. The MusicCast Bar 400, also known as the YAS-408, is available now for $500, £600 or AU$800.
The MusicCast Bar 400 consists of the bar itself and wireless subwoofer. The relatively stylish bar is almost a meter wide (39 inches) and is designed to sit flat on a TV unit or on a wall. The back of the speaker has keyhole mounts for wall-mounting, but since it's deeper than it is tall it will poke out into the room somewhat.
About those usability issues: the power lights and controls are on top of the unit and if you've used the Dimmer control they will turn off after a few seconds. Depending on where you place the unit -- say on a wall -- it can be difficult to tell if it's on (with mute) off. In addition, video will play via the HDMI port to your TV when the bar is set to any input -- even analog -- and when the unit is powered down. Without any visual power indicator I wondered on several occasions why the volume wasn't working even though I could see a picture, until I discovered the bar was turned off. It was a confusing user experience.
The subwoofer is not the plastic box found on budget 'bars, and it looks very similar to the company's standalone models. It's quite large at 7.125 inches by 16.375 inches by 16 inches, so you'll need to have a dedicated space saved for it to sit.
The remote control stands a minor cut above most credit card style remotes by featuring pleasantly squishy buttons and a well-spaced layout.
The extras missing from cheap sound bars are connectivity, format support and multiroom audio, and the Bar 400 checks all three boxes. Physical connection options include a 4K HDR-passing HDMI input and HDMI output ( ), in addition to digital optical for older TVs and an analog input.
The Bar 400 offers Yamaha's MusicCast multiroom system over either Wi-Fi and Ethernet, plus Apple AirPlay and Bluetooth. To maximize compatibility, the sound bar will decode both Dolby Digital and DTS, plus it offers DTS Virtual:X for simulated surround sound. While some other (more expensive) sound bars include , the Yamaha doesn't.