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Yamaha MusicCast YAS-306 review: No subwoofer? No problem

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
291
inc VAT

Excellent sound quality from a standalone soundbar, just don’t expect the full surround effect

Pros 
Decent bass without a subwoofer
Highly flexible wireless connectivity
Infrared passthrough
Cons 
No HDMI connectivity
Sound sometimes lacks subtlety
A touch pricey
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The Yamaha YAS-306 is a standalone soundbar with an unusual twist. It comes without a subwoofer, normally a signal for below-par audio performance, yet it manages to pack a sonic punch far above its station.

Packed into its chunky, understated case is not only a pair of 2.13in drivers and two 0.75in tweeters aimed at producing virtual surround sound, but also a pair of side-ported bass drivers. Yamaha calls these subwoofers, but since they’re only 3in in size, that’s a bit of a stretch.

Yamaha MusicCast YAS-306 review: Sound quality

Nonetheless, the YAS-306 delivers on an impressively large scale for a single-unit soundbar. It goes extremely loud without distorting and delivers everything from classical music to the dramatic soundscapes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens with authority, balance and power.

The bass never extends to the rumbling levels of a soundbar with a separate subwoofer, but what bass there is is reasonably full and certainly loud enough to lend onscreen explosions and impacts suitable levels of grunt. And while the mids and highs lack subtlety, I found dialogue was presented clearly and all types of audio were delivered with a confident swagger.

The soundbar is part of the firm’s "front surround" range and utilises Yamaha’s "Air Surround Xtreme" tech to simulate a fully enveloping sound stage from sources with up to 7.1 channel output. The idea is that, even without the assistance of wall reflections and satellite speakers, the soundbar can give the impression that sounds are coming from behind the listener and to the sides.

Details on how Yamaha achieves this effect are scant, save for the usual technobabble – it's apparently "made possible by applying our unique 24kHz HRTF (head related transfer function) surround technology" – but in my living room it didn’t appear as if sound was coming from the sides or from the rear, no matter what source material I used.

However, that's not to say the sound quality is poor. I found stereo imaging to be decent, with the movement of sound effects clearly discernible from left to right and vice versa, and the soundbar does produce a very wide soundstage (as long as you set it up correctly). The YAS-306 is highly listenable speaker whatever your source material, and it’s easily powerful enough to annoy your neighbours if you turn it right up.

Yamaha MusicCast YAS-306 review: Features, connectivity and design

What’s also impressive about the Yamaha YAS-306 is the design and its all-around flexibility. The YAS-306 is quite a chunky soundbar, but not too wide and would suit a 40in TV or larger. It can be placed on a surface in front or below your TV, where its infrared repeater comes in handy, bouncing the signal from your TV remote control through an infrared transmitter on the rear of the unit. It can be wall-mounted, too, brackets for which are generously provided in the box.

Connections are hidden away in a cutout on the rear of the bar and comprise electrical and optical S/PDIF inputs, a pair of old-fashioned analogue stereo RCA jacks for the connection of CD players and the like, a single subwoofer RCA jack plus an Ethernet port. Disappointingly, there’s no HDMI input and output, but this selection should suffice for most basic setups.

There’s also Bluetooth for playback via mobile devices and even Bluetooth transmission, allowing you to hook up your headphones wirelessly to the soundbar and listen to your TV at top volume late at night. The YAS-306 is also part of Yamaha’s MusicCast family of multiroom speakers, and in conjunction with the MusicCast Controller app (available on both iOS and Android) you can stream audio around the house to other compatible MusicCast speakers.

MusicCast is impressively comprehensive. There's Apple Airplay support here and Spotify Connect, and the easy-to-use app also lets you play music files stored on your phone and from DLNA-compatible network drives and computers. There’s internet radio support via vTuner, and in-app access to the Napster, Juke and Qobuz services. In addition, it’s also possible to stream audio from devices physically connected to the soundbar or via Bluetooth around the house to other speakers. This is one helluva versatile network speaker.

Yamaha MusicCast YAS-306 review: Prices and verdict

To help you make the most of Yamaha's excellent MusicCast tech, the YAS-306 is sold either on its own or in a package. Solo, the price is £291; the “Chorus” package – with the Yamaha MusicCast WX010 and Restio ISX18D included – is £681, although that's no cheaper than buying the speakers separately.

Either way, you’re getting a lot of speaker for your money here. Sound quality is good for a single-unit soundbar with no subwoofer, and the MusicCast connectivity makes it one of the most flexible soundbars on the market. The only snag is that Yamaha’s own YSP-1600, which has noticeably superior sound quality and includes HDMI inputs and outputs, is not much more expensive at around £339.

The YAS-306 is a great soundbar, then, but if you want a great-sounding product with no subwoofer, the YSP-1600 is a better bet.

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