Not everyone has the space (or spousal clearance) for a massive, full-on home cinema rig. So, where does that leave us? The soundbar. But while using a single, surround sound-emulating speaker solves the wiring and speaker-clutter problems, it could still mean hooking up a Blu-ray player, receiver and subwoofer.
Yamaha’s had a fresh think about the whole concept, though, and come up with the YHT-S400 – a soundbar with an separate box housing a receiver, Blu-ray player and, weirdly, a sub.
The soundbar itself, while certainly slim and discreet despite housing two 25mm tweeters and four 75mm drivers, is no groundbreaker. And the need to wire it (six times) to the subwoofer makes it an altogether fiddlier system to integrate into your front room than some rivals.
No, it’s the subwoofer that makes the YHT-S400 stand apart from the herd. It looks like a multichannel receiver (albeit one with a great big reflex port at one end of the fascia) and as well as providing power to the soundbar it features three HDMI inputs, one output, digital optical and stereo RCA analogue inputs, a socket for use with Yamaha’s YDS-11 iPod dock and an FM tuner.
That means it can handle inputs from your Blu-ray or DVD player, set-top box and games console, say, without any groping around to change connections. Of course, a sub configured like this is crying out to be put on an equipment rack (and the hardwiring to the soundbar demands it be close by), but a big speaker vibrating away among your electronics is hardly ideal.
Review continues after the break…
Clear, punchy sound
Receiving audio as multichannel Linear PCM via HDMI (and sending on the video without noticeably affecting picture quality), the Yamaha offers a clean, clear sound with the emphasis on the details.
Dialogue is chunky and distinct, the soundstage is well focused and substantial, and the sub/receiver offers meaningful presence even as it integrates smoothly with the soundbar.
There’s no convincing impression of surround sound here, but the Yamaha does at least manage to project a fair way forward. On occasion you might almost believe sound was delivered from alongside your seated position.
As an improvement on flatscreen sound, the YHT-S400 is pretty much off the scale. It might be on the pricey side, but the elegance of its thinking and (crucially) quality of its sound make it a great soundbar option.