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Yamaha MusicCast Bar 400 review: Great sound, extra wireless options make a sweet midpriced sound bar

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The Good The Yamaha MusicCast Bar 400 offers a wealth of connectivity and wireless streaming options. The home theater performance, coupled with its ability to add wireless rears, means the bar can rub shoulders with more expensive models such as the Sony.

The Bad No lights on the front and "always on" video can make it hard to tell if the unit is on or off. Setting up the wireless surround speakers wasn't as straightforward as it was with the compatible Yamaha receiver. No Dolby Atmos or Google Chromecast.

The Bottom Line The full-featured Yamaha MusicCast Bar 400 offers a palpable sonic upgrade for your television over cheap sound bars.

7.9 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8

Whether you're upgrading from a smaller sound bar or adding speakers to your TV for the first time, there's a lot to like about Yamaha's MusicCast Bar 400 ($450 at Amazon)

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.

Design

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Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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If the bar is mounted high you may not be able to tell if it's on or off.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The remote control stands a minor cut above most credit card style remotes by featuring pleasantly squishy buttons and a well-spaced layout.

Features

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 (ARC), in addition to digital optical for older TVs and an analog input.

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