The last few years have seen serious advancements in the soundbar world, most notable of which was the rise of the Dolby Atmos soundbar. Kicked off by Yamaha’s own YAS-5600, the Dolby Atmos soundbar segment has exploded as of late, with an impressive array of sleek and stylish choices for those who want to go big, without actually getting big.
Meanwhile, as the priciest bars reach higher and higher (literally and figuratively), the entry-level tier has benefited from this fight for supremacy, offering a flurry of affordable new options loaded with trickle-down tech and impressive performance. Yamaha’s $300 YAS-207 is the latest benefactor of the soundbar revolution, offering great sound and plenty of features at a killer price. While the company touts the 207’s DTS Virtual:X technology as the selling point, as our review reveals, it’s everything else you get with the 207 that makes this the next soundbar to buy.
Out of the box
The YAS-207’s design impresses from the start with its rounded form factor and slick, vinyl cover.
Yamaha has never been the most stylish brand when it comes to soundbars, though, to be fair, there’s only so much you can do with a piece of gear designed to stay out of the way. For its part, the YAS-207 impresses from the start with its rounded form factor topped with slick vinyl and wrapped in taut acoustic mesh. The accompanying wireless sub is surprisingly stout for a budget soundbar duo, sized like a hardcore desktop PC with a honking front-side bass port and a side-firing driver.
Accessories in the package include a pair of power cables for the two components, an optical digital audio cable, and a slim and light remote with battery included — just pull the plastic contact strip on the back and you’re good to go. If you want to connect via HDMI – the preferred method – you’ll need to buy your own HDMI cables.
Setting up the YAS-207 couldn’t be simpler, especially if you use the included optical cable — just plug all your sources into the TV and run the optical audio cable down to the soundbar. If you have a newer TV with HDMI ARC connection, however, we recommend connecting via the ARC HDMI ports on both devices, which will not only provide the best sound signal to and from your TV, but will also allow most TV remotes to control the soundbar’s power and volume.
You’ll need an HDMI cable for that (obviously), and you also may need to engage ARC, or HDMI-CEC, in your TV’s settings menu, as well as change the sound output to External Speaker or Receiver. Since the YAS-207 has a spare HDMI input, you can also connect your primary video component (be it Blu-ray player or gaming console) to the bar, which generally allows for better audio decoding than your TV, including support for both Dolby Digital and DTS Digital Surround.
To get sound from the TV in this configuration, you’ll choose (you guessed it) the soundbar’s TV input. For Blu-ray or game console video and audio in this setup, you’ll click the HDMI input, which also allows for 4K/HDR passthrough at up to 60 frames per second.
Features and design
Like a lot of technology — smartphones aside — soundbars just keep getting smaller (and better). While the YAS-207 doesn’t match the diminutive profile of its primary rival in the entry tier, Polk’s Magnifi Mini, it’s as low-slung as just about anything else in its class at just over 3 feet long and less than 3 inches tall. At the back of the bar are dual notches for mounting screws, and at a mere six pounds, it shouldn’t be hard to get it secured to the wall.
The bar’s exterior design has some subtle, yet impressive touches that give it an air of quality, including easy-access touch controls on the front panel. You’ll also find Yamaha’s usual display system of LEDs to indicate multiple settings, from source and surround sound codecs to volume and subwoofer level, all in a relatively intuitive — if not altogether ideal — configuration.
Along with the HDMI and optical input, there’s also a 3.5mm analog input for just about any device with a headphone jack and Bluetooth connection for music streaming from your phone. Those looking to opt into Yamaha’s Wi-Fi-based multiroom audio system, MusicCast, will need to step up to pricier soundbar options like Yamaha’s YAS-706, as this budget option isn’t part of that universe.
Prominent buttons on the micro remote make things simple, with source keys along the top, accessible control keys for DSP effects and EQ settings like Clear Voice and Bass Extension, and buttons for quick volume and subwoofer level adjustments on the fly.
Located just below the source keys, the surround sound key switches between the system’s basic surround sound mode DSP (digital signal processing) and the new DTS Virtual:X mode, which is designed to emulate the wider and more vertical surround sound image provided by 3D surround sound systems like those Dolby Atmos bars mentioned above. (There’s more on that below.) You can also go further into DSP modes like TV and Sports through Yamaha’s Home Theater Controller app, but we preferred sticking with just basic surround.
Inside the cabinet, the YAS-207 hosts an ample collection of mini drivers, including four 1¾-inch drivers, and two 1-inch tweeters pushed by a claimed 100 watts. The wireless sub’s side-firing driver measures 6¾ inches and is also pushed by 100 watts.
When it comes to delivering high performance at a crazy-low price, the YAS-207 is one of the best in the business. This soundbar provides a smooth cocktail of impressive detail, bombastic bass, and an expansive soundstage that zips up your TV’s sound, while also doubling as a solid Bluetooth streamer to cruise through your Spotify playlists. The two-piece YAS-207 can’t provide fully immersive surround sound — DSP has its limits — but the soundstage spreads well beyond the bar itself to curl toward the sides of your room and occasionally creep further back.
The YAS-207 provides a smooth cocktail of impressive power, clean detail, and bombastic bass.
With the basic surround mode engaged (our favorite), the system gets big and bold in fine fashion for action scenes, and is especially impressive with well-mixed films like Sam Mendes’ 007 magnum opus Skyfall. The foot chase, in which Javier Bardem’s Silva explodes a tunnel to send a tube train hurtling straight at Bond, blasts off the screen as the booming subwoofer melds nicely into the soundbar’s lower midrange. Details like the clatter of broken subway tiles strewn across the soundstage in the crash’s aftermath are clearly defined and well-placed.
Perhaps just as important, the YAS-207 does an excellent job exposing subtler moments in quieter, more dialogue-driven scenes. Engaging the Clear Voice mode doesn’t just bring dialogue front and center, it adds presence across the midrange and treble to aid the bar as it reveals intricate sound effects like the slide of metal on leather as Bond pulls his Walther PPK from its leather holster in the film’s intro, or the beautifully exposed lip movements as Q and Bond discuss art and espionage in their first meeting. That precision unearths similar moments across genres; minute effects like the many chirps and zings from the heroes’ starship and all of Rocket’s gadgets in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II are crystal clear, drawing you deeper in.
When matched up against top competitors like the aforementioned Magnifi Mini, the YAS-207 stands tall. While Polk’s mini machine offers a smoother balance between sub and soundbar, and perhaps a bit more clarity in the middle frequencies, the Yamaha counters with deeper growl in the bass, clearer treble, and a more expansive soundstage. We also really enjoy the warmer touch to the mids the Yamaha provides, though we did need to ride the subwoofer key when switching between sources to strike the right balance.
Speaking of balance, the YAS-207’s most high-profile feature, DTS Virtual:X technology, is somewhat ironically its least impressive attribute and our least favorite sound mode.
There’s no doubt the DTS Virtual:X tech used here expands the 207’s soundstage impressively, offering more open space both horizontally and vertically while also packing a bit more presence and clarity into the upper registers. The problem is that it does so by sacrificing balance in the sound signature, creating a sharp touch to upper register instruments in music playback, while pumping up ambient sound effects in movies to the point of distraction.
The cicadas in the Mexican desert scenes from Breaking Bad, for example, seem to crowd the entire soundstage with Virtual:X engaged, while moving to the basic surround mode brings them down to a dull roar in the distance.
We realize our ears are only two in a vast sea of billions, and we’re sure many listeners may enjoy the sharp focus and larger sound field Virtual:X affords here. But for us, the basic surround mode is where the soundbar hits its sweet spot.Our Take
While we’re not yet sold on the virtues of DTS Virtual:X, Yamaha’s YAS-207 offers rich, clear, and powerful sound for a pittance, and is` primed to be your TV room’s audio workhorse of choice.
Is there a better alternative?
As you might guess, our first and second suggestion is the Polk Magnifi Mini, which offers similar performance for the money from a decidedly smaller package. That said, while not as compact, the Yamaha does its own good job of staying out of the way, and throws in an extra HDMI input for high-quality audio decoding from video components.
How long will it last?
With a solid design, one of the biggest and most respected audio manufacturers on the planet behind it, and advanced features like ARC and 4K/HDR passthrough, the YAS-207 should last as your TV room’s audio hub as long as you want it to.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you’re looking for a great soundbar at the $300 line, you’ll be hard pressed to outdo Yamaha’s YAS-207.
Updated September 7, 2018: After reviewing the competition, we’ve decided to raise the score for the YAS-207, as it really does offer what we consider to be the best value at its price point over multiple categories.