Yamaha YAS-209 Soundbar under test: minimum expenditure maximum yield


Yamaha has decided to give an older sister to its YAS-109 soundbar, placing it in a market segment dedicated to those who begin to want something more from the soundtracks of video content. The YAS-209 is therefore proposed as a more powerful soundbar (200 W), with two extra front drivers and a more muscular and wireless subwoofer. Support for Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, is also tight.

A battery of fire consisting of 6 speakers

The YAS-209 looks like a 93 cm long, 6.2 cm high and 10.9 cm deep bar surrounded by the fabric that protects the speakers along its entire height – and part of the rounded corners on the surface: two 4.6 cm acoustic suspension cone drivers with a frequency response from 190 Hz to 22 kHz, with a 2.5 cm dome tweeter in the center covering the frequencies from 9 kHz to 22 kHz. The arrangement is the same for the two ends of the soundbar, for a total of 6 front speakers. Cone drivers are not magnetically shielded.

The 100W subwoofer (NS-WSW44) weighs 8 kg, it is of the bass reflex type with 8 cm diameter front connection and 16 cm cone lateral driver not magnetically shielded and protected by black fabric. The frequency response covers the range from 190 Hz to 34 Hz. The subowoofer connects to the wireless soundbar, therefore the audio signals travel wirelessly on the 2.4 GHz band.

Between subwoofer and soundbar, the system therefore covers an overall frequency response without holes which starts from 34 Hz ​​and ends at 22 kHz. The two tweeters overlap part of the frequencies of the 4 main drivers, probably for the Clear Voice function we will talk about.

The upper part of the soundbar houses the touch controls on the right, and on the left the LED lights that illustrate the on / off / standby status and the selected audio sources. At the center appears the LED that gives life to interactions with Alexa. There is also the spy for Wi-Fi connection, given that the YAS-209 has the possibility of connect to your home network with both Wi-Fi 4 and via LAN cable and the RJ45 port on the back of the soundbar. There is also support for Bluetooth in version 4.2 (SBC and AAC codecs).

The back is the place where there are also the two HDMI ports (IN and OUT (ARC)), the digital optical and the USB-A, which however is only used for software updates. It is therefore not possible to connect a USB stick and listen to the music stored on it.

Installation and connection to the network. Everything “automated”

When first switched on, the soundbar and the subowoofer are automatically communicated via the wireless connection between them (which has nothing to do with the Wi-Fi 4 which allows you to connect to the home network). For the user it is a process free of any type of stress or secondary activities. The YAS-209 does it all. The back of the subwoofer still houses a button for manually pairing if you want to pair it with some other compatible Yamaha product.

As for the connection to the home network via Wi-Fi, the free app for iOS and Android called Sound Bar Controller is required. Also in this case it is a completely automated process if you have the network set up with the DHCP protocol, or with the automatic assignment of the network addresses of the connected devices. Once started, the app will search for compatible devices and find the YAS-209 which will be included in the list of controllable products.

The app plays the role of a real regulator of audio traffic from network sources. You can listen music stored on the mobile device, on a NAS, and using the streaming services Tidal, Spotify and QQ Music for which, however, you need to have a premium account. For music from NAS, the app sees only MP3, WMA and AAC songs as Music (by entering Albums). However, the YAS-209 is not compatible with MusicCast, MusicCast Surround and AirPlay 2. It supports i FLAC up to 192 kHz and ALAC up to 96 kHz. In order to see the songs in these formats, you need to browse the NAS from the Folders through the app, on the false line of how to access files from Windows Explorer. However, if we want to listen to FLAC files via HDMI (ARC) or via optical connection, the maximum sampling rate stops at 96 kHz.

The connection via Bluetooth is even easier and follows the practice of any other device that connects to the smartphone through this communication protocol. The soundbar supports AAC and SBC codecs for transmitting audio from your smartphone or other compatible device. The app also acts as software to update the YAS-209, with a red “NEW” icon that appears in the device tab next to the soundbar line, when a new firmware version is online. In general, the connection and interaction procedures with the YAS-209 surprised us for their lack of trouble. The use of various systems or sources has always taken place in the name of ease.

Alexa hisses, but does everything she needs to

Before we get to the actual sound test, the interaction with Alexa deserves a separate paragraph, which has its own LED on the surface of the soundbar and lights up blue when listening to the user. Instead, it turns yellow when there is a notification from Amazon, as is the case for some Echo products.

The Alexa of the YAS-209 is a voice assistant with full powers. So it can control Alexa compatible smarthome devices, if you have them, but it can also adjust the volume of the soundbar or start movies on Amazon’s Fire Stick. You can also start songs from Apple Music or Amazon Music.

The quality of Alexa’s voice – which has nothing to do with the overall quality of the soundbar – has disappointed us a little, but most likely the culprit is the audio compression reserved by Amazon for its assistant’s digital vocal cords. The good quality of the Yamaha speakers in this case is a ruthless judge. Nothing unheard, but the voice appears metallic and a little hissing. On the top touch panel of the soundbar, Alexa also has a dedicated button to mute the microphone, so that the assistant does not activate by mistake while watching a movie. In fact, sometimes it happened that Alexa activated after a simple sneeze: in this case the audio of the video content you are watching is muffled because the system puts itself on hold of the voice command. The touch panel can however be deactivated to prevent children from using it or animals from trampling on it and change sources at the least opportune moment. This can be done using the supplied remote control, by holding down the INFO button which in this case has a secondary function.

A remote control that holds secondary settings

The remote control is IR type with CR2025 button battery. It is not backlit but has a good key layout. There is also a separate volume for the subwoofer. However, we would have preferred the volume rocker on the soundbar on the left. Left-handed users will be happy for once. There is also a button dedicated to Alexa, the four for the sources, the six to activate the corresponding DSPs and the two details for the Clear Voice and 3D Surround.

The remote control is therefore also used to activate or deactivate particular secondary functions. For example, it is possible to define the period of time after which the soundbar goes into standby, if after 10 minutes or after 8 hours that it does not receive commands or does not play audio. You can disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth if you are sure you will never use them. You can also compress the dynamic range of the sound, which of course is set to maximum by default. All these functions can be consulted in the actual manual, which can also be reached by scanning the QR Code on the paper Introductory Guide included in the box. The user is referred to the digital manual in Italian.

No Dolby Vision for pass-through

The connection with the cable sources, therefore TV or external players has never given any problem. Being a soundbar, most users will connect the YAS-209 either with an optical digital cable – supplied in the package – or with an HDMI cable to the HDMI (ARC) port. The HDMI cable is not supplied.

The YAS-209 also allows HDMI 4K HDR pass-through from an external source. Of course, it means that if the soundbar is on standby, you will be able to view the video content from the player that is connected to the soundbar and from this to the TV.

The HDR supported is unfortunately only HDR10 and HLG, so no HDR10 + and above all no Dolby Vision. As already mentioned, it is a problem that occurs only if the YAS-209 is used as a pass-through, which is a rare use, especially for soundbars, which are usually connected directly to smart TVs. The YAS-209 is compatible with Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS. So no direct support for Dolby Atmos. In addition, 3D Surround is entrusted to the DTS Virtual: X algorithm.

Soundtracks and music with a solid body

The audio returned by the YAS-209 is solid and powerful. The system manages to soundlessly sound a room of about 25 square meters with the volume bar in the middle and without showing any distortion.

By being able to adjust the volume of the soundbar and subwoofer separately, it is possible to calibrate the low frequency pressure by ear according to your tastes and the acoustics of the room where the system is positioned. In fact, there is no microphone for automatic calibration.

The FLACs reproduced by the NAS were easily digested, returning a sound that was always convincing and with the frequencies of the entire sound spectrum treated with care. Maybe he would have preferred a few more details in the middle range, on the other hand, the highs are well cuddled and without annoying hissing.

The six DSPs that can be activated by the Movie, TV, Music, Sports, Game and Stereo remote controls appeared well calibrated based on listening to the content. With DSP Music, for example, the overall reverberation is accentuated to give the musical pieces a slightly wider scenario. Unfortunately there is no indication between the LEDs of the soundbar that suggests which DSP is active at that time but, in doubt, simply press the corresponding button on the remote control again.

Listening to the audio of the video contents surprised for a basic identity of the sound that remains so even if the Clear Voice and 3D Surround improvements are activated. Basically, the audio algorithms that are added to the “standard reproduction” they never upset listening, especially if content with well-coded audio is played.

In this case, the YAS-209 does its best with discrete channel audio (Dolby Digital and DTS). Basic listening has a good starting structure. The sound is full and convincing. Sometimes it can happen to ask for something more from the dialogues, and in that case the Clear Voice function comes to the rescue which, most likely, entrusts the frequencies from 9 kHz to 22 kHz to the two dome tweeters.

The dialogues then move forward increasing in volume and collecting more details but still remaining attached to the rest of the sound story. A function that can help a centered channel coded with “weakness” or to better center the films with many dialogues and little action. Clear Voice can be too hissing with stereo-encoded content, for which it is often not even necessary.

All DSPs require the use of 3D Surround, but the dedicated button on the remote control activates the DTS: X which virtualises a wider sound environment. Again, the body of the soundtrack does not undergo artificial upheavals, but the musical commentary and that of the ambient sounds broaden very well on the sides of the scene without having tacky results. Everything is always very well calibrated. Again, 3D Surround DTS: X activated for stereo content can produce hissing sounds that can annoy you.

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