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Yamaha YAS-106 review: Yamaha's budget bar is a cinema star

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The Good The Yamaha offers a wide-open sound that is great for movies and surprisingly good with music. The connectivity is up there with some of the best sound bars, regardless of price.

The Bad The YAS-106 doesn't include a subwoofer. Even better sound can be had for an extra $100 or so.

The Bottom Line The Yamaha YAS-106 raises the bar for sound quality at ultrabudget prices.

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8.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 10

Sound bars have been one of Yamaha's greatest strengths in recent times with models such as the YAS-203 earning the company accolades, including our own Editors' Choice. But in the two years since, the company has struggled to maintain momentum in the face of strong competition from LG and Samsung. In an era when AV equipment is getting both better and cheaper, models such as the YSP-5600 Atmos speaker and the SRT-1500 sound base were simply too expensive for what they did. Yamaha needed a budget hit -- and that's exactly what its new YAS-106 delivers.

The YAS-106 is evolved from the YAS-203 and yet it offers a more affordable price and support for HDMI. It does lack a subwoofer, but that may well be a feature rather than a bug for urban apartment dwellers. And you can still add a wired subwoofer. Build quality is top-notch, and sound quality is just what you'd hope for from Yamaha.

Throw in a wall-mounting option plus Bluetooth streaming, and you have one seriously flexible sound bar for the price of a portable speaker: Just $200 or £169. The YAS-106 doesn't appear to be available in Australia, but that US price translates to about AU$275.

Design

yamaha-yas-106-10.jpg

The Yamaha YAS-106 is an entry-level sound bar which offers excellent sound quality and HDMI connectivity.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As soundbars get smaller and shorter, there is one recent trend that is actually helping improve sound quality. Designs like the Sony NT5, Samsung K9500 and the YAS-106 put the drivers on top of the unit where there's more room. By and large, bigger drivers means better sound.

yamaha-yas-106-09.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

The unit is 35 inches wide, and if you operate it in "tabletop" mode -- sitting in front of a TV -- it's 2.25 inches high and 5.25 inches deep. The speaker is better suited to wall-mounting and comes with a pair of keyholes on the back to attach it -- even the rear-mounted control buttons are designed to be used in this upright position.

yamaha-yas-106-12.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

We like uncluttered remotes, and we especially like this one because it puts the speaker volume and subwoofer volume buttons side by side for easy access, why can't all sound bar remotes be this smartly designed? It may be a "credit card" shape but this is pretty much a "grown-up" design. The rubberized buttons are easier to use than the blisters you usually see on these things and it's also reasonably ergonomic. (The "subwoofer" volume switch controls the bass level.)

Features

The Yamaha is an affordable stereo sound bar which offers a decent number of connection options and usable sound modes.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The speaker features two sets of drivers each consisting a 2.25-inch cone woofer, a 3-inch bass driver and a 1-inch dome tweeter. If you want to enhance the bass output of the unit, the system comes with a subwoofer out and Yamaha offers a selection of matching subs from about $125. The YAS-106 includes an HDMI input which can pass 4K and HDR material in addition to decoding vanilla versions of Dolby and DTS. The unit also comes with optical in, 3.5-millimeter analog and Bluetooth.

The sound bar offers a "Clear Voice" mode in addition to the standard movie and music modes. If you want more bass out of the smallish cabinet there is also a Bass Boost option. Finally, as this is not one of the company's sound projector models, any surround modes are simulated.

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