Yamaha YAS-209 review: Great sound for TVs and music meets the convenience of Alexa

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The Good The Yamaha YAS-209 offers excellent sound in a compact size. Amazon Alexa is useful and the mics work well in loud environments. The soundbar's implementation of DTS Virtual:X offers a rich surround effect. The subwoofer is more articulate and offers more headroom than the competing Polk soundbar.

The Bad There's no onscreen display and the LEDs on the top are too small to see from your chair.

The Bottom Line The Yamaha YAS-209 smart soundbar delivers excellent sound quality, whether it's playing music or movies, along with the convenience of Alexa.

8.4 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8

The YAS-209 soundbar is Yamaha's first smart speaker of any kind, and since its release last year it has remained one of my favorite soundbars, period. Yamaha chose Amazon's Alexa for its voice control, and the YAS-209 performs well as a smart speaker and sounds excellent with music, TV and movies. 

It's not the cheapest soundbar available -- the Vizio V21 lacks voice control but is half the price -- but in my book the Yamaha's worth the extra money. Shoppers in the YAS-209's price range might well prefer the Sonos Beam for its multiroom chops and choice of Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple AirPlay 2. Neither the Sonos nor the Vizio match the Yamaha's sound quality, however. 

The YAS-209 is everything I expect from a midpriced soundbar: ease of use, powerful output levels and an ability to replay both movies and music to a high standard. The fact that you can ask Alexa for a song -- and have it sound better than pretty much any smaller smart speaker -- puts it over the top. In the 12 months since its release I have yet to hear a soundbar that can equal the Yamaha for its mix of sound quality and features, and for this reason it deserves our Editors' Choice award. 

The YAS-209 is available from Costco as the ATS-2090 and Yamaha says the two models are identical.

Little boxes on your sideboard

07-yamaha-yas-209
Sarah Tew/CNET

The Yamaha YAS-209 is a soundbar and wireless subwoofer combo incorporating two microphones for use with Amazon Alexa. Unlike such competitors as the Sonos Beam (which lacks a sub) and the Bose Soundbar 700, the Yamaha is not going to get Google Assistant in the future.

The main soundbar is approximately 37 inches wide and 2.5 inches tall, and I found it fit under a number of TVs without blocking the IR port. You can also mount it on a wall in the same horizontal orientation. The subwoofer, on the other hand, is a large box that houses a 6.5-inch bass woofer. It's a little more intrusive than the bar at roughly 16 inches square and 7.5 inches wide. 

The speaker offers DTS Virtual:X for simulated surround effects from a single bar, plus a bunch of media-specific presets: Music, TV program, Movie, Sports, Game and Stereo.

yamaha-yas-209
Sarah Tew/CNET

Connections include HDMI in and HDMI (ARC) out, optical digital and Bluetooth. You can connect the soundbar to Ethernet and Wi-Fi, for Spotify Connect and Alexa support, though there's no AirPlay 2 or built-in Chromecast.

08-yamaha-yas-209
Sarah Tew/CNET

The soundbar comes with a larger remote than usual and the back of it is pleasingly concave. Given the small nature of the soundbar's LED display readout, the remote is one of the main methods of interacting with the soundbar; its button selection is suitably comprehensive and easy to use. 

The soundbar doesn't use the Amazon Alexa app for setup, but rather the Yamaha Sound Bar Controller app for iOS and Android.

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