657 of 695 people found the following review helpful
Lengthy but in-depth review; read first paragraph for synopsis
, December 1, 2012
This review is from: Yamaha YAS-101BL Soundbar, Piano Black (Discontinued by Manufacturer) (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.
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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