Most soundbars come with all the fancy processing and amplification built-in, but some strip it all out and just include the speakers. Trouble is, these ‘passive’ soundbars need an AV amp to drive them, which can be costly. Yamaha provides a solution with the YHT-S400 system, which comes with the soundbar and amp in a single box. Find out how this unusual pairing performs in our Yamaha YHT-S400 review.
The beauty of the Yamaha YHT-S400’s amp/soundbar arrangement is that all your kit and connections can be hidden away in an AV cabinet, leaving a single speaker cable to link the two components together, as opposed to a rat’s nest of wires trailing down the wall.
At 50mm high, this system boasts the world’s slimmest soundbar, which comes dressed in Yamaha’s customary black finish. It’s not designed to dazzle, but looks perfectly tasteful when perched an AV stand or wall-mounted below a TV between 32 and 50in. Inside are front left/right and centre speakers and on the back are three sets of springclips for the speaker cables.
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Cleverly, the amplifier doubles up as a subwoofer, which explains the gaping hole on the front. While not the prettiest unit ever designed, there’s a decent range of sockets on the back, including three HDMI inputs, optical digital and analogue stereo input. It’s a pity the Yamaha YHT-S400 doesn’t pack extra speaker terminals in case you want to add rear speakers at some point.
On-board tech includes the Air Surround Xtreme, which mimics the effect of rear speakers, and Extended Stereo which widens out the front soundstage. The YHT-S400’s amp can’t decode Blu-ray’s HD audio formats but does handle PCM streams from players via HDMI, as well as Dolby Digital and DTS, blasting out a respectable 50W per channel.
Tweaking the sound would have been easier with an onscreen menu but using the amp’s front display isn’t overly testing. And anyone who thought the soundbar’s slim dimensions would put a ceiling on sound quality, think again.
The YHT-S400 fires out movie sonics with all the breathless energy and brutal power of a ‘proper’ home cinema system. There’s terrific integration between the sub and soundbar, loads of detail and clear dialogue.
The virtual surround widens the soundstage superbly, although it comes nowhere near the sense of immersion offered by physical rears, and despite sounding occasionally boomy the sub offers respectable bass punch.
Overall then, the Yamaha YHT-S400 is a terrific solution for those without the room or budget for a full 5.1 system. Sound quality is spot-on, although the lack of a rear-channel upgrade path is a minor niggle.