Yamaha YAS-209 soundbar with Alexa review: DTS Virtual:X 3D surround effects aren’t worth the harsh sound

If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive way to upgrade your TV’s sound while adding Alexa to the mix, the Yamaha YAS-209 makes for an attractive option. Armed with a wireless subwoofer, an easy-to-use remote, and Alexa onboard, the $350 YAS-209 delivers impressive sound given it price, not to mention the convenience of controlling the soundbar’s volume and queuing up tunes with voice commands.

That said, we were less impressed with one of the YAS-209’s signature features: its DTS Virtual:X-powered 3D surround mode, which sounded distractingly harsh to our ears. We could also do without the bass-boosting Bass Extender mode, and we’re bummed Alexa doesn’t have more direct control over the soundbar’s features.

Configuration

The Yamaha YAS-209 is a 2.1 soundbar, which means you get left and right audio channels (delivered by two 1.75-inch drivers per channel) as well as a subwoofer for deep, sometimes booming low-end sound. Because there are no dedicated surround speakers, the YAS-209 relies on its own virtual surround modes as well as DTS Virtual:X technology to simulate surround effects.

The speaker is also missing a dedicated center channel, which means dialog must arrive over the left and right channels. We’ll cover how the lack of a center channel affects dialog in the performance section of our review, but keep in mind that a 2.1-channel configuration is common for soundbars this inexpensive. If you want a soundbar with a dedicated center channel, expect to pay at least a couple hundred bucks more.

Measuring 36.6 x 4.3 x 2.5 inches, the central soundbar unit can sit in front of your TV, or you can mount it on the wall with help from a pair of rear mounting holes and the included mounting template. (Screws aren’t included.) The wireless 16.5 x 16 x 7.5 subwoofer can sit pretty much anywhere in the room; during my tests, I sat it behind and slightly to the left of my TV cabinet.

Yamaha’s pricier soundbars support the manufacturer’s MusicCast multi-room audio platform, which allows you to add wireless surround speakers to the mix in addition to speakers in other rooms. Unfortunately, the YAS-209 doesn’t support MusicCast, which means you won’t be able to upgrade it with wireless surrounds or connect it to other Yamaha MusicCast-enabled speakers.

Inputs and outputs

The YAS-209’s inputs and outputs are pretty typical for a soundbar in this price range. In a nutshell, you get an HDMI input, an HDMI out with ARC (audio return channel), an optical Toslink, an ethernet port, and a USB service port. All five of the ports are located in a rear cavity on the left side of the soundbar, while a port for the detachable power cord is in a matching cavity on the right.

yamaha yas 209 soundbar inputs and outputs Ben Patterson/IDG

The Yamaha YAS-209 features a standard set of inputs and outputs, including an HDMI ARC output, an HDMI input, an optical output, ethernet, and a USB service port.

Speaking of the HDMI ports, the soundbar supports both 4K and HDR10 passthrough, as well as HDCP 2.3 copy protection.