Yamaha YAS-108 Sound Bar
The basic concept behind a sound bar is to provide a noticeable upgrade to your HDTV's sound without the hassle or inconvenience of setting up a receiver box and a cluster of satellite speakers. Yamaha's YAS-108 fits this description perfectly, packaging ample sound quality into a compact, user-friendly case designed to be easy on the eyes. The cloth-covered front face houses the woofers, tweeters, and built-in subwoofers, eliminating the need to install a separate box for full functionality. There's a small glossy panel for status and volume lights; these can be set to dim or turn off completely if you find them too distracting in a dark room. Yamaha states the YAS-108 includes a built-in gyroscope to support both flat-laying and wall-mounted installation options, and the YAS-108 sounds great either way.
Easily the best aspect of the YAS-108 is its sound quality - overall performance belies its small size and integrated subwoofers. Midrange and treble performance is strong without getting shrill, and the relatively small 3-inch ported subwoofers are capable of adding a decent amount of punch in a way built-in TV speakers simply can't. The YAS-108 offers multiple listening modes designed to accommodate various content: Stereo is designed to work best with audio tracks while Surround pairs better with multimedia content. 3D Surround is best suited for watching movies, and allows the YAS-108 to project frequencies throughout the room to create a more distinct movie theater-style sound stage. Further customization is available via the "Clear Voice" and "Bass Extension" functions; the former boosts higher frequencies to make spoken dialogue easier to understand, while the latter fills out lower frequencies to add more of an impact to action scenes. While it won't challenge a dedicated audio system, the YAS-108 performs admirably and will have most listeners second-guessing the expense and complexity of a multi-speaker system. If you're still not convinced, the YAS-108 offers a coaxial subwoofer output to use with any number of powered external subwoofers.
Aside from the mandatory digital optical audio input and 3.5mm audio jack, the Yamaha YAS-108 is one of the few budget-friendly sound bars to offer an HDMI input and output. Both HDMI CEC and ARC are supported and can simplify installation with HDTVs that support these features, and allow your TV's remote to control the sound bar directly. The cable cutout for the ports can get somewhat crowded if every single connector is utilized, but most users will find that the YAS-108 works best when the HDMI ports are prioritized in order to keep things simple. Bluetooth connectivity on the YAS-108 is capable of supporting two devices at the same time, and pairing is as simple as putting the unit in discoverable mode and linking to it from the desired device.
All things considered, it's astounding that the YAS-108 can typically be found for well under $200. At that price, it's practically a no-brainer and is an easy way to expand your home theater setup with very little commitment. Even if your future plans involve further expansion, the subwoofer output port found on the YAS-108 makes it extremely easy to boost bass levels without spending thousands on a dedicated setup. We recommend it without reservation; the Yamaha YAS-108 is just that good as an all-around package.
Note: The Yamaha YAS-108 is also sold as the Yamaha ATS-1080 at several warehouse/outlet stores.