(Pocket-lint) - The Yamaha YAS-209 is the latest 2.1-channel soundbar-and-subwoofer combo from the company that largely pioneered the concept of the soundbar.

There's DTS Virtual:X processing as part of the feature set, in order to create a more immersive experience from two speaker outputs. There's even Amazon Alexa built-in, turning this soundbar into a fully-functioning smart speaker.

The absence of Yamaha's MusicCast multi-room system is about the only absence, but then the YAS-209 is so competitively priced that it could be an ideal choice to boost your TV's audio.

Elegantly understated

  • Soundbar: 930 x 62 x 109mm; 2.7kg
  • Sub: 191 x 420 x 406mm; 7.9kg
  • Available in black

The Yamaha YAS-209 is elegant but understated, with curved edges and a black wrap-around fabric grille. The top is finished in matte black, which avoids reflections from the screen, and the overall design is intended to be attractive without drawing excess attention to itself. The idea is for the soundbar to sit unnoticed under your TV, while expanding your sonic experience.

Yamaha

Yamaha has extended its minimalist approach to the display, which is composed of a series of small LED lights on the top panel. These LEDs indicate the selected input - HDMI, TV (ARC), Bluetooth and Net - along with whether surround mode or clear voice has been chosen. There's also an indicator for the Wi-Fi connection, plus one that shows Amazon Alexa is working.

The YAS-209 is extremely well made and wide enough to complement TVs with screen sizes of 55 to 65 inches. You can choose between stand-positioning or wall-mounting the soundbar - and with a height of 62mm it shouldn't block the screen if you go for the former. If you choose the latter, Yamaha includes screw holes and a template to make mounting easier.

Virtual surround and built-in smarts

  • Dolby Digital, DTS, DTS Virtual:X
  • 2.1-channel configuration
  • Built-in Amazon Alexa

The Yamaha YAS-209 is primarily designed to quickly and easily beef-up the audio from your TV, so it doesn't go mad in terms of features.

The separate wireless subwoofer handles the low frequencies using a driver and a bass port at its front. It's constructed from MDF, and styled to match the soundbar itself.

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The YAS-209 supports the Dolby Digital and DTS lossy surround formats, but also includes DTS Virtual:X. This applies psychoacoustic processing to a two-channel system to produce greater width, depth and height - thus creating the illusion there are more than two channels.

There are also a number of self-explanatory sound modes: Music, TV Program, Movie, Sports, and Game. In addition there's a stereo mode, a bass extension mode, and a clear voice feature designed to boost the clarity of dialogue in TV shows and movies.

The inclusion of Alexa not only allows you to stream from Spotify and Amazon Music, but also turns this soundbar into a smart speaker, with full interaction and voice control.

Connections and controls

  • Physical remote included in the box
  • App for Apple iOS & Google Android
  • HDMI input; HDMI output w/ ARC
  • Wi-Fi (2.4GHz); Bluetooth 4.2
  • Optical digital inout

The Yamaha YAS-209 houses all its connections in a recessed area at the left rear of the soundbar. Here you'll find an HDMI input and output, with both passing 4K resolution and high dynamic range (HDR10), while the latter supports ARC (audio return channel) for quick connecting to a TV without fuss. There's also an optical digital input, an Ethernet port for a wired connection, or Wi-Fi (2.4GHz) and Bluetooth (Ver 4.2) if you want wire-free connections.

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On the soundbar itself there are some basic touch-sensitive controls for source selection, volume up/down, and power on/off. There's also a button to wake up the built-in Amazon Alexa assistant, and another to mute the far-field microphones. There are two of the latter, both located on the top of the soundbar, and they work extremely well when interacting with Alexa.

Yamaha includes a physical remote control, which is rather small and slightly fiddly, but does at least have all the controls you'll need to setup and operate the soundbar. Along with another Alexa wake-up button, there are keys for selecting the surround modes, and clear voice feature. As an alternative to the remote, there's also the Soundbar Controller app, which is available for iOS and Android.

Accomplished performer

  • Supports: Flac (to 192kHz), ALAC (to 96kHz), MP3/WMA/MPEG-4 AAC (to 48kHz)
  • Soundbar: 50W power per speaker; 46mm woofers, 25mm tweeters
  • Sub: 100W amplification; side-firing 6.5-inch woofer

The Yamaha YAS-209 is incredibly easy to setup, simply place it in front of your TV - stand or wall, the choice is yours - and then position the subwoofer somewhere at the front of the room. It might be wireless but don't forget you'll still have to plug it in, and avoid corners unless you want the boomy bass.

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Once installed connect your available sources, and if you need more than one HDMI input, simply connect any additional devices directly to your TV and send the audio back via HDMI-ARC. This approach will also allow you to take advantage of the CEC feature in HDMI, and operate the soundbar using your TV remote.

Pairing Bluetooth devices is painless, and you can add the soundbar to your network using either a wired or wireless connection. For the latter you will need to use the Soundbar Controller app, but it's straightforward. Once that's done, it's easy to setup Amazon Alexa by simply selecting the YAS-209 as a device in the Alexa app.

This soundbar is surprisingly adept as a smart speaker, too, with the built-in far-field microphones proving suitably sensitive, and allowing for hassle-free interaction with Alexa. Feedback is clear and precise, and the ability to easily stream music is useful in the absence of MusicCast. There's even limited voice control, which is handy when the remote isn't within reach.

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In terms of sound quality the YAS-209 is an accomplished performer, with a wide and detailed presentation. The inclusion of decent speakers and powerful amplification undoubtedly helps, while the sub provides a solid layer of bass that gives the soundbar an added percussive kick. The two are also nicely integrated, ensuring a smooth crossover.

The Yamaha is excellent with music. The mid-range is clear and un-congested, while the treble is clean and free of any harshness. The stereo imaging is impressive, the placement of effects pleasingly precise, and thanks to the integrated sub the bass is well-timed and responsive

When it comes to TV shows this soundbar continues to impress and, despite the lack of a dedicated centre speaker, dialogue, voice-overs and commentaries are all well-defined and focused. Clear Voice can be useful if you're struggling to understand what someone is saying, but you shouldn't need it. Music, effects and low frequencies are also very effectively rendered.

Yamaha

The YAS-209 has sufficient size and power to create plenty of presence at the front of the room, allowing it to capably handle movies. The sub adds serious impact to low frequency effects, and the system combines to create a big and compelling soundstage that delivers an impressive sense of scale when watching modern blockbusters.

The only thing lacking is any real surround envelopment, with the delivery obviously focused at the front of the room. However, you can give the audio more presence by engaging the DTS Virtual:X mode. This uses psychoacoustic precessing to give multi-channel audio a greater sense of immersion, and works surprisingly well, adding dimensionality to the soundstage. If you want more surround sound complexity then you'll ultimately need to spend more money on something with more channel outputs.

Verdict

The Yamaha YAS-209 is an accomplished performer that does exactly what it was designed to do – upgrade the sound of your TV without drawing excess attention itself. The understated design contains high-quality speakers and powerful amplification, and when combined with the wireless sub, the results have width and depth. The sonic performance is clear and precise, while the inclusion of DTS Virtual:X adds a greater sense of surround presence.

The absence of the MusicCast multiroom system is disappointing, but was clearly sacrificed to reach a lower price point. Yamaha makes up for this by including Amazon Alexa, turning this soundbar into a fully-functioning smart speaker. The YAS-209 is designed to cost-effectively enhance your sonic experience with the minimum of fuss, and in that sense succeeds admirably.

If you're looking for a capable soundbar and sub combo that won't break the bank, Yamaha's YAS-209 is a stellar option.

Also consider

Sonos

Sonos Beam

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is an obvious alternative, and costs about the same. Those already invested in the Sonos ecosystem will doubtless get the most out of the Beam, but it’s a decent soundbar that’s easy setup. It works with Alexa and Google, has an HDMI connection with ARC, and supports AirPlay 2. There’s no separate subwoofer, so the bass isn’t as deep as the YAS-209, but the Beam delivers an expansive soundstage, making it a great all-rounder.

Writing by Steve Withers.