Customer Review

634 of 668 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lengthy but in-depth review; read first paragraph for synopsis, December 1, 2012
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This review is from: Yamaha YAS-101BL Soundbar, Piano Black (Electronics)
Synopsis: I read all 102 reviews available (at the time), then purchased the unit, spent 2 days trying to set up "correctly", researched more and found a helpful review in Britain, finally got set up "right", not quite happy, went to listen to side-by-side comparisons of Bose Lifestyle, Cinemate Series II System, and the Cinemate 1 SR soundbar system. That made the decision for me. I kept the Yamaha YAS 101, and am quite happy with it now.

All that said, it was a long process to make that decision, and although I generally prefer brief and concise reports, I'm going to try to to include all the information I wish I had had at the time, so bear with this review. This is of the [[ASIN: B005IVUWHW}] Yamaha YAS 101

I had never heard of a soundbar, or heard one. I was walking through Best Buy just browsing when I heard this incredible sound. Reconnoitering, it was a salesperson demonstrating a Polk soundbar with a wireless subwoofer. I had never even heard of a soundbar. I was impressed with the entire idea, and it seemed perfect for what I needed in my bedroom to augment the dinky speakers on our otherwise wonderful Sharp 57" HD TV. They were $350, and I virtually told him I wanted them. IN the discussion that followed, he mentioned Bose had a new soundbar out, the Cinemate 1 SR that "nothing else compares to" but was $1500. He had a Bose soundbar there for me to look at, but it wasn't hooked up so I could not hear it. It looked great.

Now my quandary began. I have been a BOSE fan since I bought my first set of 901 Series IV speakers back in the '70's. I also have a Bose receiver (they don't make them anymore), a third-party Bose car audio system (they don't make third-pary non-customized car systems either), and a Bose Dolby 5.1 Surround Home Theater System. What to do?

I went home with nothing, and started researching soundbars. I scoured the Bose website about their systems. I also did lots of searching on the Amazon site, and as usual I came across many helpful reviews. Numerous soundbars were looked at, but I kept coming back to the Yamaha YAS 101. The price was unbelieveable: $249. So I read all 102 reviews available at the time. The reviews were largely favorable, but with a significant (more than I usually care for) number of negative reviews as well, and those seemed to deal with the sound not meeting expectations.

I bought one from Amazon, and it was delivered the next day. Now it gets down-and-dirty. The packaging of the soundbar itself is great. ONE reviewer had noted to be careful unpacking when pulling out the soundbar, as there is a cloth-covered port on the underside of the bar that is not visible, and it would be possible to accidentally puncture this with a finger while unpacking if not careful. I was looking for that port, and he was correct: it would be easy to accidentally puncture that, so do be careful. Aside from that, no problems unpacking.

The set-up is widely advertised as being very simple, just a plug-in for power and one optical cable to attach to the TV, and that's it. Herein also lay a lot of comments from reviewers about the dearth of inputs on the Yamaha YAS 101 soundbar. There is NO HDMI input, so if this is a major problem for you, and it was for many, this could be a dealbreaker. There are two optical digital cable inputs, and one digital audio PIN input (more on this later), and that is all. As most people with a TV that has HDMI will also have an optical output on it, for most this will not be a problem. Indeed, one reviewer mentioned from unpacking to using the soundbar only took 20 minutes. It took me more like more like an hour, and this was where my problems began.

The manual that comes with the unit, for me, was not readable without a magnifying glass. This is not so much the fault of Yamaha, as I am 58 and my eyes just are not what they used to be. But my gosh, this was ridiculous. At this rate it was going to take me over a day just to try to read the manual. Solution: I went to the Yamaha website and of course the manual is in a PDF downloadable file, which was much larger and very readable. If you don't wear glasses, you won't have a problem.

The unit does work with just the hookup of the one optical cable. DO be aware of the plastic caps on the ends of the cables: they have to be removed of course, and it took me awhile to actually realize there were plastic caps ON the cables preventing me from plugging them in.

The unit has a has a small, non0obtrusive remote that works fine. The unit also can be input to "learn" to use your TV remote's VOL up, VOL down, and OFF?ON buttons. I had no troubles getting the unit to "learn" my remote, and afterwards my TV remote seemed to work fine at increasing the volume, and turning on/off, but not decreasing volume. I happened to realize it does decrease volume, but I instead of holding the VOL button down as normal, I had to repeatedly press the button down as if setting a clock, then it works fine. To me this is a minor point now that I know it is functioning, but no other reviewer noted this problem.

Now the big problem. The sound, and what to do about it. The sound is better than the original TV speakers, and there is a bass that is more noticeable, but not earth-shattering. Now, this unit does not have a separate subwoofer (there is an input for one), but it DOES have a built-in subwoofer and ports on the right side and underneath. It works quite well, but you don't "feel" it.

Now, ONE reviewer had noted that the signal he was receiving on his unit was not a Dolby Digital DTS signal, but was the lesser Dolby ProLogic II signal. The only way he knew this was the unit tells you which of these two signals it is receiving. He had not been that impressed with the sound, and even turning up the volume did not seem to make a difference, and he noted this, and so changed the signal to receive the Dolby Digital DTS signal, and he reported a MAJOR difference in the sound.

So I was LOOKING for this specifically when I hooked my unit up, and sure enough, I was only receiving the Dolby ProLogic signal as well. What that reviewer did NOT say, however, was how he changed over the signal. That took me over a day to figure out, all the time thinking this "simple" unit was taking a whole lot of time and effort to hook up and figure out. I finally found help, at of all places, the British Amazon site: Amazon.co.uk. If you go there, and type in a search for the Yamaha YAS 101, you will see [[ASIN: B00TWNoD6M]] Yamaha YAS 101bl soundbar. The "Most favorable review" is from Fatboy, who also noticed this problem, and states how he hooked his system up to solve it. To simplify (it that is possible), hooking from a cable box to a TV by HDMI may not send the DTS signal to your TV, to then be sent to your Yamaha. His wasn't, and neither was mine (I have a Comcast cable DVR). He explains how he got around his; I followed suit by leaving the TV attached to the cable box by HDMI, but attaching the cable box also directly to the Yamaha 101 by the digital optical cable. BINGO! I now had the Dolby DTS signal.

Okay, NOW i listened to the sound. First off, there is the "ClearVoice" option, which works, and works great. Almost all reviews mention this as a positive feature, and it is noticeable. Even my wife noticed whe could hear the dialogue clearly now, even during action scenes, so this is a big plus for the Yamaha. Also, there is the UniVolume button, which keeps the volume constant, so no sudden increases during commercials. This feature also works and works well.

The surround sound. Not impressed, but not expecting much in surround, except from maybe Bose, and more on that shortly. I was buying the unit to improve on tinny-sounding speakers, not get a surround-sound experience in my bedroom. Most all reviews comment on no real surround. Don't expect it to be there.

Then there is the bass. Here I was having problems deciding. It was noticeably there, even at lower volumes. Certainly, better than it was, which was virtually nothing beforehand. I listened to an NCIS program on cable HD in Dolby 5.1. Again, there is no surround, but I was getting the better signal, and the sound was better, but...

I put in a DVD of "Quantum of Solace" and played the opening chase scene. Then I put in "Avatar" and played the opening preview. Again, it was good....but not that "booming" base, but yet a nice bass. Problem was, did I want that booming bass, even if I had to pay more for it?

So, time to find out. I went to a different Best Buy store, and they had not only the Bose Cinemate 1 SR system (with its wireless subwoofer) there to hear and see, but it was set up next to a Bose Series II Digital Home Theater system (the 2 speakers system with a "hidden" wired subwoofer) and a Lifestyle Dolby 7.1 Surround Home Theater System, and all of it's speakers and a subwoofer. I listened to each, with my wife, repeatedly. Results: I was decidedly unimpressed. I mean, this was Bose, and it was certainly loud. But the bass I had been expecting from the Cinemate 1 SR soundbar just wasn't there, even though it has a wireless subwoofer. My wife thought the best sounding one was the Series II, and even it didn't have the bass we expected. And, the ONE thing that was very, very clear was that the dialogue from all 3 of them was NOT clear, especially in action scenes. More than one reviewer had commented when comparing Bose that they found themselves turning up the volume just to understand the voices, and would end up with a very loud program they were trying to watch in their bedroom.

The Bose does NOT have a Clear Voice option (or the UniVolume), which were becoming dealbreakers for me now. In addition, I was NOT impressed with the bass, either, even in this $1500 dollar system (the Series II runs around $540, and the Lifestyle was $2500). The Yamaha YAS 101: $249 (It's 199 punds in Britain).

Choice made. I kept the Yamaha 101. I've had it for about a week now, and I am quite happy with it. I've considered getting a second one for our kitchen TV, which is hard to hear when we watch it while cooking, which for the price is conceivable, but my wife might not appreciate me getting 2 soundbars.

Consideration points:

1. Clear Voice feature. Works, and how many times do you find yourself saying "What did they say?"

2. UniVolume feature. Not a necessary feature but it works too. Do you find yourself turning the sound down during commercials?

3. IR pass-through feature. I didn't mention this previously. The Yamaha takes your IR remote signal and "passes" it through and broadcasts it out the back. The Bose does NOT have this, either, and as it turns out the Yamaha sits right in front of where the IR signal for the TV is. Were it not for this feature, I would have to get up each time I wanted to change channels. This turned out to be a deal-breaker for us, too, and nowhere on the Bose site is it mentioned that the unit might block the signal. It would have the way ours is set up.

4. What are you looking for as far as bass is concerned? This seems the hardest thing to quantify or qualify in any of the reviews. Obviously, it will be a matter of personal choice. For me, I didn't realize I had what I wanted until I compared it to the Bose. My suggestion: If you have a place nearby that has the Bose system to compare, at least go listen to it.

5. Price. If the $1500 dollar price tag on the Bose soundbar is not even a consideration, then don't even bother listening to it. There are a number of systems that sell for around $500, including a Bose (Series II) and another Yamaha (YHT S401, also on Amazon). For $249 though? Can you really go wrong with that? Especially with Amazon's return policy if you don't end up liking it? Get it...try it in your home...then decide. Just be aware of the different quality signals and different ways to hook up to improve them. I'm surprised there is not more information on this out there, considering the number of reviewers who returned the unit as it did not meet sound expectations...and no mention made of signal type.

6. One last comment: One of the inputs on this unit is a digital audio PIN. It is NOT the same as a digital audio optical cable, despite what the guy at Best Buy told me before he sold me the wrong cable. It looks like an RCA PIN cable, but is not. Amazon seels them for $5.00. [[ASIN: B0002J2B8I]]
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Tracked by 7 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 18, 2013 9:37:00 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 18, 2013 10:12:02 AM PDT
I'd like to improve the sound like you did.

Did you buy a separate optical cable?

The way I have it hooked now is the optical cable on my tv goes into the optical on the yamaha. If I'm reading you right, to improve sound I need to have the optical cable on the yamaha go directly into my dvr box (i have dish).

Thanks!

update: I took the optical cable from the tv and plugged it into the dvr box.....I don't know if there's a differnece in sound or not, but when I turned on my bluray, the sound from the tv did not go off....in other words, the programing sound from the tv is heard instead of the movie!!!!!! Think a separate cable is needed, but my new sony doesn't have multiple optical cable slots.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 2, 2013 5:27:23 PM PDT
Corpsman says:
Sorry I'm a little late getting back to you.

This gets confusing, I know. I had similar problems in trying to figure this out. I did not buy a new optical cable.

I have the optical cable going from the DVR to the Yamaha. I have the Cable (Comcast) going int the DVR. I also have an HDMI cable from the DVR to the TV. My DVD player I had to buy an digital audio cable for, and run from it to the Yamaha.

When I wan to use the DVD, I have to go to the TV menu and go to INPUTs and choose the DVD to hear it, otherwise I get the TV also. Then have to switch back when through. This should help you with that aspect of it

A note about digital audio coax cable: It is different than a digital optical cable (you'll need to get this as there is only one slot on the Yamaha for one digital audio cable and it needs to go to the DVR). The guys at best buy told me they understood, and they sold me an optical cable anyway - which I cn't use as there is no second input for it. Go to Amazon (they have everything) and search under digital audio cable and you'll get a kazillion options. I bought the C2G/Cable To Go 29115 Digita Audio Coax Cable Blue and it works wonderfully: it should work for your Blu-ray to Yamaha just fine as long as there is an output on the back of your Blu-ray for Digital audio Coax. (It looks like RCA cable, but it is different).

Hope you figure it all out!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 14, 2013 7:45:56 PM PDT
I can not find ASIN: B0002J2B81 CABLE on Amazon . Is this # correct.?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 15, 2013 6:07:31 AM PDT
Well, I dunno.....I just kept the set up recommended by Yamaha.....the single cable in the box. The sound is great and certainly better than what I had with the TV. Don't know if it's Dolby or whatever....all I know is that I like the sound and like that it is seamless with my bluray player.

Less is more!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 16, 2013 12:39:33 PM PDT
K. C. says:
No. The last digit is an i! Use b0002j2b8i & it will take you to C2G/Cable To Go 29115 Digita Audio Coax Cable.

Posted on Aug 3, 2013 9:47:28 AM PDT
Chad Myers says:
For the volume down button not automatically repeating, try to relearn the signal. I've had that happen a couple times when learning remote signals. I believe you need to hold down the original remote's button the entire time so that the new remote can tell that the signal repeats.

Posted on Aug 9, 2013 3:57:40 PM PDT
I tried first to connect the YAS to the optical audio out on the TV. The sound was good, much improved over the TV (42" Panasonic Plasma) but not what I expected from Yamaha. After reading the review by Corpsman, I connected the YAS to the optical audio out on the cable TV box. Viola, much improved sound and the surround sound effect seems to be working now. I am a real happy camper now. I am using the Dayton 150 watt amp (sold here on Amazon) connected to the TV's RCA audio out to drive my old 12" Hsu subwoofer. I got a semi-serious Hi-Fi system going now.

Posted on Aug 17, 2013 9:42:30 AM PDT
CF says:
Ohh, I'm hoping someone can help me too. I just got the Yamaha 1010 (same as Yamaha 101, just without the final zero). I originally connected TV to Yam1010 direct with the provided optical cable, and had "meh" sound. Following Corpsman's suggestion, I moved the optical cable so it now goes from Yamaha to Comcast's cable box direct. Based on the lights on the Yamaha, I'm still getting ProLogic II. Did I miss a step? Both Yamaha and cable box have optical cable type connectors for BD and TV. (I could try BD slots again on both but don't know that it made any difference.) Is there a setting in the Comcast box somewhere to make it operate off BD or something?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 3, 2013 4:30:37 PM PDT
Kevin Murphy says:
Is anyone using the YAS 101 with an Apple TV? I have comcast hi-speed internet in my office, and I run the Apple TV box wirelessly from Comcast hi-speed internet. The sound from the YAS101 is not as good as I expected based on the many reviews. I run movies or TV shows selected via the Apple TV, so of course the signal arrives wireless.

I also have a cable box, but the cable is not connected to the TV because there is no cable wired to the room where my TV sits.

I've messed with getting the Dolby DTS light to come on, and it does not seem to make a difference.

I have the optical cable running from the TV to the YAS101. I have also tried running the optical cable from the Apple TV box to the YAS 101. The main difference is a strange delay so that the lips are out of sync from the sound. I've tried adjusting this with the YAS101 remote (it has a feature where you can adjust the sound delay positive and negative) but I have not found a spot where it comes into sync. This does not seem to be a big problem when I run the optical cable from the TV to the YAS101.

If anyone else has used the YAS101 with AppleTV, i'd appreciate hearing your results. Thank you!

Posted on Oct 2, 2013 8:33:18 AM PDT
JHP says:
If you liked the YAS 101 so much, except for the bass, why not get the YAS 201 with the wireless sub-woofer?
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