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Yamaha YAS-108 review: Superior features and sweet sound from a budget bar

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The Good The Yamaha YAS-108 offers clean, intelligible sound from a compact sound bar. Unlike competing models from Vizio, the speaker includes HDMI connectivity with support for 4K HDR video and DTS Virtual:X. The nonproprietary subwoofer out means you can add your own sub for more bass.

The Bad Vizio's cheaper bars sound better. The lack of a separate sub means it doesn't perform as well with action movies or rock or dance music.

The Bottom Line Although some cheaper competitors sound better for less, the Yamaha YAS-108 still offers excellent design, features and sound quality for a budget sound bar.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Sound 7
  • Value 9

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 SB362An-F6 is as good or better than the Yamaha for even more affordable prices. The new Yamaha YAS-108 ($200 at ABT Electronics) 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.

Design

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Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Features

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Unlike Vizio's budget 'bars, the YAS-108 has HDMI in and outputs.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Yamaha's features advantage over Vizio begins with HDMI in and out plus ARC, 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 with 4K HDR in its many-splendored forms, which should provide a small degree of future-proofing. In addition, the sound bar offers optical and analog inputs. 

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