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Yamaha YAS-103 Soundbar Review

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The first are still among the best

by Steve Withers Jul 4, 2014

  • Home AV review

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    Yamaha YAS-103 Soundbar Review
    SRP: £229.00

    What is the Yamaha YAS-103?

    Yamaha were building soundbars long before most of the other manufacturers jumped in on the act.

    Their familiarity with this particular market is evident in all of their models, with an attention to detail and design that only comes from years of experience. We've seen a few of Yamaha's soundbars recently and they have all impressed with their emphasis on sound quality and features. The YAS-103 is their latest example, an entry-level model that sports a gloss black finish and a decent cabinet size, making it ideal for larger TVs and improved sound.
    Perhaps failing to learn their lesson from the awful sound that plagued modern slimline TVs, the manufacturers have been pursuing ever smaller and thinner soundbars. Thankfully the YAS-103, by comparison, is unrepentantly old school in its emphasis on sound quality over size zero design. It also includes Bluetooth and at £229 it might make a tempting prospect for anyone looking for a soundbar where the emphasis is on sound.

    Yamaha YAS-103 Design and Connections

    The YAS-103 uses a gloss black finish that is very attractive and nearly invisible at night but it will show up fingerprints and dust if you're not careful. At 89cm wide it's a fairly big cabinet, making the Yamaha ideal for larger screen sizes of up to 50 inches. It might not make a perfect match for some of today's more flashy designs but it looked great in front of our Pioneer Kuro. Measured from its rubber feet the YAS-103 is just under 11cm high, which means it might obscure the bottom of the screen for some of the more recent TVs but there is the option of hanging it on the wall.

    For those that find black somewhat dull, Yamaha do provide the option of a white finish, which is far more contemporary and a better compliment for silver-bezeled TVs. The YAS-103 combines two 6.5 cm cone speakers with a dual-driver (7.5 cm cones) subwoofer, driven by a digital amp with a total output of 120W. The dual-driver subwoofer employs large magnets and large-diameter voice coils to realise dynamic and robust bass sound reproduction. In addition Yamaha's Advanced Bass Extension Processing (surround mode only) is designed to deliver a greater sense of bass presence.
    Yamaha YAS-103 Yamaha YAS-103 Design and Connections
    Yamaha YAS-103 Yamaha YAS-103 Design and Connections

    The YAS-103 employs a bass reflex port that has a straight shape and adequate length to provide improved bass response together with the large volume cabinet. The duct outlet is shaped like a trumpet bell, which reduces wind noise for better sound clarity. The YAS-103 has all its physical connections located in a recess on the back of the unit and these include a single coaxial and two optical inputs, along with stereo RCA inputs. That covers a lot of devices but there's no HDMI input or output, so if you're looking for CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) or ARC (Audio Return Channel), this isn't the soundbar for you.

    The gloss black finish is classic but understated, whilst the larger size is designed for bigger screens.

    Yamaha YAS-103 Setup and Control

    The front of the YAS-103 is very minimalist with drivers at either end, behind saran net grilles, and a series of indicator lights in the middle which show you which input is selected, the nature of the source and whether you’re utilising the surround processing or listening in two-channel. There are four basic control buttons next to the indicators for input toggling, power and volume but most people are more likely to use the supplied remote.
    Yamaha YAS-103 Yamaha YAS-103 Setup and Control
    Yamaha YAS-103 Yamaha YAS-103 Setup and Control

    The provided remote control is small and compact, which is fairly typical for a sound bar but it gets the job done. There are dedicated buttons for all of the inputs, independent volume and subwoofer controls, buttons to activate the two DSP options, an audio delay key, plus the expected volume and power controls. It’s a reasonably good remote control, that sits comfortably in the hand, the layout is straightforward and overall we found it easy to use.

    Yamaha YAS-103 Features

    One of the most useful features on any Yamaha soundbar is the Remote Repeater which provides the ability to pass through the infra-red signal from your TV's remote to the TV itself. Given the dimensions of the YAS-103, there’s quite a strong possibility that it might obscure the IR sensor of your TV and this can definitely cause frustration when you want to do anything other than change the volume. The repeater is activated by holding down the corresponding button on the remote control for around 3 seconds and, when the three centre indicator lights flash, the feature is switched on. There is the also the option of teaching the YAS-103 the On/Off and volume controls from your TV's remote but the remote repeater is probably easier.

    The YAS-103 is also compatible with Yamaha's free app controller (HT Controller) for iOS and Android, which provides an operating screen that uses icons to let you easily perform a variety of operations from your smartphone or tablet. The YAS-103 includes Bluetooth, which can be activated by simply selecting the Bluetooth input and then performing the usual pairing sequence with your enabled device. You can also set the YAS-103 into a Bluetooth Standby mode which will allow you to activate it with your paired device, which means you won’t necessarily have to go searching for the remote when you want to listen to some music. The YAS-103 can also decode Dolby Digital and DTS Digital Surround and tells you it is doing so via indicator lights on the front.

    The YAS-103 delivers a wide front soundstage with detail, clarity and good stereo separation.

    Yamaha YAS-103 Sound Quality

    The first thing you notice when you turn on the YAS-103 is that despite the lack of a separate subwoofer the bass is still very present. Everything we watched had a solid foundation and the low frequency response was well integrated with the mid-range to produce a superior audio performance. The higher frequencies were also well served and thanks to the larger cabinet and speaker configuration, the YAS-103 produced a wide and open front soundstage. There was a pleasing sense of clarity and detail to the sound and the result was an enjoyable experience whether we were listening to music, watching a movie or biting our nails through England's inevitable early exit from the World Cup.

    The cornucopia of football on TV gave us a chance to really put the YAS-103 through its paces and the Yamaha delivered a suitably big sound, filling the room with the sounds of the stadium. However it also managed to keep the commentary clear and anchored to the screen, even as it immersed you in the action in Brazil. Yamaha's Air Surround Xtreme feature also worked well, helping to create a more immersive audio experience. It won't ever replace actual rear speakers but it does make for an acceptable and more convenient alternative. When it came to watching movies a film like Gravity, with is highly directional sound design, was well served, although not as encompassing as it would be on an actual surround system.

    The YAS-103 handled the bass-heavy action in Pacific Rim without getting lost in the mix, whilst the musical numbers in Frozen also sounded very good, with excellent vocals and instrumentation. Whatever we watched, from cooking programmes to football matches and from action films to musicals, the YAS-103 was always solid, delivering an accurate and precise sound without colouring the audio. This was especially apparent with music, where familiar tracks were rendered in a faithful manner and the BBC's blanket coverage of Glastonbury retained the visceral sensation of the live event, making you feel like you were there. In fact it was better than being there since you didn't have to deal with the rain, toilets or crowds.

    Yamaha YAS-103 Video Review


    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Detailed and clean sound
    • Good clarity and precision
    • Nicely integrated low-end
    • Interesting DSP options
    • IR repeater
    • Classic design

    Cons

    • No HDMI inputs
    • Gloss black attracts fingerprints
    You own this Total 2
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    Yamaha YAS-103 Soundbar Review

    The YAS-103 is a great example of a well designed soundbar, where the emphasis is on classic looks, decent sound quality and useful features. The gloss black cabinet might show up the odd fingerprint but its classy looks are understated and unassuming, so it will blend in rather than drawing attention to itself. The relatively large size has allowed Yamaha to fit in a combination of twin cone speakers and dual-driver subs, resulting in a superior sound. There's also a decent set of digital inputs at the rear, although there are no HDMI inputs or outputs, so bear that in mind if they're important to you. There's also a handy remote control, along with other useful features such as Bluetooth, an IR repeater and a remote app.

    The YAS-103 delivered a great audio performance, with a wide front soundstage and a decent amount of stereo separation. The sense of openness was enjoyable, enhancing programming whilst still keeping dialogue clear and centred. The Yamaha produced a detailed sound that retained plenty of clarity and precision and the bass was well integrated into the mid range. The higher frequencies were also well served, resulting in a soundbar that does exactly what it was designed to do - provide a capable audio solution with the minimum of fuss. Yamaha's Air Surround Xtreme feature also worked well, helping to create a more immersive audio experience and adding the final cherry on an already impressive cake.


    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    8

    Connectivity

    7

    Ease of Use

    8

    Sound Quality

    8

    Features

    7

    Value for Money

    8

    Verdict

    8

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