AV Systems Guide

Yamaha YHT-S401 Sound Bar review

Yamaha YHT-S401 Sound Bar - A Cut Above the Rest

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Overall rating 9/10
Design:
8
Performance:
9.5
Features:
8.5
Value:
9
THE GOOD
Excellent performance - neutral/natural tone
4 HDMI ports provided
Option to add extra surround speakers
THE BAD
No wireless capabilities
Receiver unit is heavy and a bit bulky
Lacks cinema feel when playing movies


Performance - I

Standard Fare

Without mincing any words, we had high expectations of the YHT-S401. Not only should it live up to the lofty standards set by the previous YHT-S400 model but it should surpass them. After all, Yamaha has had almost a year to improve upon the original design. Furthermore, the Yamaha sound bar also boasts a number of features designed to make it perform a cut above the rest of the recently reviewed sound bars.

Starting out, we plugged in our USB stick that held our standard MP3 tracks and we were glad that the AV receiver unit was able to detect the tracks without any problems. However, without a TV serving as a display for the menu, it was hard to navigate the list on the receiver’s tiny display.

 

MP3 Tracks

Apart from the menu navigation concern, the letdowns stopped as soon as we started our listening session. Sail on Soothsayer is one of the hardest tracks to reproduce for speakers of any type. With its hard distortion and chiming guitar parts, it offers a stern test that the Yamaha sound bar handled deftly. The overall reproduction had few flaws other than bass being slightly flat. This was fixed easily by bumping up the woofer EQ settings to +1. The Yamaha projected the track with a strong central channel which brought out the impact of the song, but did cause listening fatigue after repeated plays.

For Elements Of Life by Tiesto, the beat bounced along and the overall feel of the song was preserved. The Yamaha YHT-S401 had to be commended for its handling of the mix as both the peaks and the lows of the song were dutifully represented, which is no mean feat. Particular high points were the excellent reproduction of the distortion bass synth and the transition of the song around the 2-minute mark.

To test out the mids and the trebles, we played Adele’s Melt My Heart To Stone. Clarity and crispness of sound have always been Yamaha’s forte and these were again true for this sound bar. Since the song does not have a lot of bass, it played right into the strengths of the YHT-S401. Adele’s voice soared over the rest of the instruments and the dynamics of the song were immensely pleasurable.

The last track from our selections was the evergreen classic from The Eagles' Hotel California. Once again clear and crisp performance brought the acoustic guitar work of the track to life. Good transient response from the Yamaha YHT-S401 also meant that the shakers and alternate percussion used on the live recording were wonderfully reproduced.

From our listening, we can conclude that the Compressed Music Enhancer feature helps slightly with playback for file formats such as MP3. A greater level of detail was heard with our test tracks when compared to other sound bars. And while there is no sure fire way of pinpointing the reason behind the success, the higher fidelity of sound points to the Music Enhancer pulling its weight.

Yamaha YHT-S401  - MP3 Performance Report Card
MP3 Testing Score
Hotel California - The Eagles 9.5
Sail on Soothsayer - Buckethead 9.0
Melt My Heart to Stone - Adele 9.5
Elements of Life - Tiesto 9.5