Yamaha has been responsible for some excellent sound bars in recent years, and we were big fans of the $200 YAS-106. In 2016 it was one of our favorite sound bars for the money. A lot has happened in the two years since it was released, but the most important thing at the budget sound bar level can be boiled down to one word: Vizio.
The performance of models like the Vizio SB3621N-E8 and is as good or better than the Yamaha for even more affordable prices. The new Yamaha YAS-108 ($248 at Walmart) has a lot more competition than earlier models.
The YAS-108 has a lot to offer -- sweet design, useful features like HDMI and dual Bluetooth connectivity, and excellent sound quality. It's a slicker package than either Vizio sound bar and is sure to attract its own fair share of fans. The Vizios are cheaper and sound better, however.
Of course, if you're in Australia or the UK the Vizio's aren't available there, so Yamaha's budget products like the YAS-108 represent the best of their kind. While pricing and availability for these regions aren't available yet, you can expect the price to be around the same as the YAS-107 it replaces -- AU$349 and £230, respectively.
With its low, flattened design, the Yamaha YAS-108 looks like a giant's tongue depressor. The 2-inch high sound bar is engineered to either sit flat on a TV stand or attach to the wall using the integrated keyhole ports. The speaker has an onboard gyroscope that optimizes the sound depending on whether it's positioned flat or vertically.
The YAS-108 includes twin 3-inch "subwoofers" plus two sets of dome tweeters and woofers with bass ports at each end of the bar.
As an entry-level sound bar, there is no on-screen display, just a series of LEDs corresponding to the input selection and volume. It's less confusing than the Vizio's displays, but it still only makes sense at arms-length where you can read the legends. To the side of the readout are capacitive touch controls for source selection, volume/mute and power.
The remote control is a step up from almost every other budget sound bar out there, with actual physical buttons and a sensible layout.
The Yamaha's features advantage over Vizio begins with HDMI in and out plus, compared to basic optical-only on the cheaper Vizio bars. HDMI connectivity offers more flexibility than a simple optical connection because it adds the ability to switch between the TV's onboard sound (via ARC) and the direct connection from another device, like a Blu-ray player. HDMI CEC also enables you to turn the sound bar on and off with the TV remote.
The YAS-108's HDMI ports also promise compatibility within its many-splendored forms, which should provide a small degree of future-proofing. In addition, the sound bar offers optical and analog inputs.
Interestingly, the Yamaha can connect to two Bluetooth devices at once, though you can only play back from one device at a time. You need to stop one phone, for example, to play from the other, but the advantage is that you don't need to reconnect the second device each time.