The Yamaha YAS-101 won't break the bank, and, more important, it sounds great with TV and movies. Music lovers should look elsewhere, though. The Yamaha YAS-101 includes an integrated subwoofer and an automatic calibration feature that makes setup a breeze, though the sound bar's connection options are limited.
Sounds very good for standard TV and movie watching. Although the Yamaha YAS-101's subwoofer is integrated into the body of the sound bar, reviewers say it nevertheless does an admirable job handling low-end sounds, though it won't thump your chest like a good-quality discrete subwoofer. (The rear of the sound bar includes a sub-out connection if you want to add an external subwoofer.) The mid and high ranges sound crisp and clear, though the audio begins to struggle at high volumes and when you're playing music. Yamaha's Air Surround Xtreme virtual surround-sound mode does a decent job of simulating a 360-degree listening experience, and its area of effect is fairly large, especially for a budget sound bar. However, like most simulated surround-sound solutions, it's not particularly accurate.
The design is sleek and straightforward, but simple. Experts find the thin black bar attractive, and since the subwoofer is built directly into the sound bar, you don't have to worry about setting up additional devices. Connectivity includes one coaxial digital audio input and two optical ones. There's no support for Bluetooth or AirPlay.
Features are few, but potent. The Yamaha YAS-101 lacks most of the bells and whistles found on pricier sound bars, but the ones that it has are very useful. An automatic calibration function takes the hassle out of making your sound bar sound its best, while an infrared emitter on the rear of the unit passes IR signals along to your TV (or other devices) if the sound bar is blocking its sensor. Various sound modes even out volume levels, clarify dialogue and more. Dolby Digital and DTS decoders are also on board.
A great budget sound bar. The Yamaha YAS-101 delivers a fairly big acoustical bang for comparatively few bucks, though more discerning listeners may want to spend a bit more for a discrete subwoofer. However, the Sony HT-CT260 (Est. $250) offers more for roughly the same price. Extras include a wireless discrete subwoofer and Bluetooth support. Sound quality is also well regarded.
The audio experts at CNET put the Yamaha YAS-101 through some intense paces, including an exhaustive examination of the sound bar's build and features and audio testing of movies and music using the device's various listening modes.
Review: Yamaha YAS-101 Review, Matthew Moskovciak and Steve Guttenberg, Jan. 25, 2012
Gizmodo.com's review is especially user-friendly; it breaks down the Yamaha YAS-101's capabilities into several quick-answer subsections, using criteria like Design, This is Weird and The Best Part. It lacks the exhaustive quality of CNET's review, but test notes are provided.
Review: Yamaha YAS-101 Lightning Review: The Best Budget Soundbar for Your First Home Theater, Mario Aguilar, April 23, 2012
DigitalTrends.com's review of the Yamaha YAS-101 is fairly long and detailed, though comparisons are nonexistent. Caleb Denison examines all areas of the sound bar, including the various audio modes. His description of the device's performance is detailed and straightforward, but also highly technical and lacking notes about which media titles were tested.
Review: Yamaha YAS-101 Review, Caleb Denison, Oct. 19, 2011
After more than 475 user reviews, the Yamaha YAS-101 enjoys a good overall rating at Amazon.com. The vast majority leave 4- or 5-star reviews, resulting in an overall score of 4.1 stars. Most users are happy with the sound bar, but some who purchased a refurbished unit clearly are not.
Review: Yamaha YAS-101BL Front Surround System, Piano Black, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of August 2013
More than 50 users also chime in at Crutchfield.com. Most are appreciative of the Yamaha YAS-101, as it earns 4.5 stars. The reviews at Crutchfield are both less numerous and less detailed, however.
Review: Yamaha YAS-101, Contributors to Crutchfield.com, As of August 2013