Sound+Picture magazine evaluation
This evaluation initially appeared in Sound+Picture journal, certainly one of What Hello-Fi?’s Australian sister publications. Click here for more information on Sound+Image, together with digital editions and particulars on how one can subscribe.
Yamaha describes each its two newest ‘entry-level’ soundbars as upgrades in your TV sound. That is one thing very a lot required in today when flat TV screens typically imply weedy built-in TV sound. And in contrast to some rivals at this worth, there may be mercifully little pretence from Yamaha that the bars will ship ‘encompass’ sound, aside from choices labelled ‘3D Encompass’ and a few relatively optimistic claims for the inclusion of DTS Digital:X.
These advertising and marketing extravagances apart, what’s promised is just strong sound with which to get pleasure from your shiny new flatscreen.
And what we significantly like in regards to the SR-B20 on evaluation right here (£249, $200, AU$329) is that it goals to carry out with out the standard wi-fi subwoofer. This not solely retains the worth down, it makes the entire bundle way more handy to website and to make use of.
The query, then, is whether or not a protracted flat bar of a speaker like this could create strong sufficient sound with out that subwoofer in assist. And fortunately the reply right here is a reasonably resounding sure.
Construct & unboxing
In contrast to many soundbar packages today, unboxing the SR-B20 is pleasingly straight-forward. With no hefty subwoofer inside, the field is small and light-weight sufficient to sit down in your knee as you unseal the carton, take away the surprisingly massive distant management, and carry the neatly wrapped SR-B20 from the polystyrene.
Regardless of the entry-level worth right here, the soundbar feels solidly constructed, and appears fashionable too, with black material wrap and curving ends – under no circumstances a budget-looking bar. It stretches a good 91cm large, a very good match for 55-inch TVs, however with nothing to cease its use with TVs smaller or bigger.
Literature within the field features a mounting template which reveals that the bar will be caught flat to the wall with the provided foam spacers and a few sturdily fastened screws. There’s additionally the obligatory ‘security information’ leaflet to warn in opposition to stupidities corresponding to standing on the bar, putting “burning gadgets” close by, unplugging it with moist fingers, or “being close to it throughout a catastrophe, corresponding to an earthquake” (for which the wonderful recommendation is to “rapidly transfer away from the unit and go to a secure place”).
The “fast begin” information is relatively extra sensible, detailing the positioning and connection selections. You may, as famous, cling it on the wall, by which case the controls, the indicator lights and a lot of the drivers usefully face the listener. Or you possibly can bench it in entrance of your TV, by which case the controls and lights are much less usefully hidden.
The bar can get sound out of your TV in two (or probably three) methods. High possibility is an HDMI cable from the bar to an ARC (Audio Return Channel)-equipped HDMI socket in your TV, assuming it has one. If it doesn’t, or if you happen to don’t want to quit one of many HDMI sockets in your TV, second most suitable choice is an optical digital connection, for which a cable comes within the field; there is no such thing as a HDMI cable included.
Unusually there is no such thing as a analogue minijack fall-back enter right here (but one does function on the smaller SR-C20A at £219, $179.95, AU$299), and there’s no networking of any form. However there may be Bluetooth which helps each SBC and AAC codecs, primarily meant for music streaming from a wise machine, we think about, though TVs that may output audio through Bluetooth may additionally ship their audio to the bar on this manner (on the peril of potential transmission delay, relying on the system, see beneath).
Yamaha SR-B20 soundbar specs
Inputs: 1 x HDMI ARC, 2 x optical digital, Bluetooth (SBC, AAC), USB-A (replace solely)
Outputs: subwoofer out
Drivers: 2 x 25mm tweeter, 2 x 55m midrange, 2 x 75mm woofer (see textual content notes on sizes)
Quoted energy: 30W x 2, 60W x 1 (10% THD)
Dimensions: 910 × 53 × 131mm (benched)
There are a few different connections, apart from the mains cable – a second optical enter for any appropriate machine, and a coaxial digital output which you may run to a subwoofer, must you want to add one. Provided that including a separate subwoofer of high quality will greater than double the worth after which some, you’d do higher to purchase one in a bundle if you happen to’re after that backside octave of movie-style bass: Yamaha has numerous such combos. But as we’ll hear, the B20A does a outstanding job with out extra assist.
We initially cabled the Yamaha bar to the ARC-equipped enter of a 2020-model Samsung TV, however regardless of an assault on the numerous related menus of the TV, no sound ever emerged through ARC. This was not fully a shock; we discover ARC to be lower than dependable.
We quickly plugged within the provided optical cable, which labored instantly into both socket, and we ran with that for the size of the evaluation, besides that first we tried pairing the bar by Bluetooth to the Samsung TV. This labored extraordinarily nicely.
Whereas the sound was barely softer than through optical and barely extra delayed, it was nonetheless an fulfilling, clear and impressively-sized sound, and the delay fell inside even our specific hyper-sensitivity to lip-sync delay. For wall-mounting, in fact, Bluetooth additionally has the good thing about eradicating all wires besides the mains cable.
Bluetooth will ship solely stereo indicators, in fact, however then the B20A is a stereo soundbar, with six drivers in all. 4 of those hearth upwards if the unit is benched (ahead if on the wall) – based on the specs these are 55mm mid-rangers close to every finish and 75cm bass drivers midway from every finish to the centre, porting by way of side-firing ports within the curves of the bar, though utilizing a pencil torch to shine by way of the grille, each units appear relatively smaller than specified when measured throughout their roll encompass.
The quoted energy rankings additionally recommend (and Yamaha confirms) that the woofers are working in a dual-mono configuration relatively than stereo. Lastly there are two 25mm (specification) tweeters on the entrance edge (benched) or firing down (wall-mounted); no quantity of torchlight may reveal their location by way of the grille material!
We had the unit benched in entrance of the TV, the place its 56mm top stored it nicely beneath the display screen of the TV, and we questioned how the upfiring drivers may have an effect on the readability of efficiency. In no way, it might appear; certainly presumably the upfiring impact assisted the way in which by which the sound appears to come back from the TV display screen relatively than the bar – although the mind will help in that phantasm anyway.
Actually from the very outset the bar delivered a big full sound with an actual sense of dimension, whereas holding dialogue crisp and clear. Watching Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s Lengthy Method Up electrical bike tour on AppleTV+, voices have been resonant and clearly edged, whereas the featured music – at all times a problem for price range soundbars – sounded musical, spacious and well-balanced. There was moderately large guidance of the electrical bike whines as they sped from left to proper throughout the display screen.
The factor we preserve noting down was the fullness of the bass. We additionally tried the impact of the little button on the distant management marked ‘Bass Ext.’ Once we pressed it, the underside octave of bass simply disappeared, so take into account it required, and go away it on (it appears to be a default) except you intentionally wish to lower the underside finish for, say, night-time listening.
As is Yamaha’s customized, the distant additionally has two separate quantity up/down pairs – one for the primary quantity, one for the ‘subwoofer’. However there’s no subwoofer right here, so as a substitute these controls change the output of the bass drivers within the bar. This makes it straightforward to additional tweak the bass based on completely different materials.
As well as Yamaha features a few sound modes – the 4 fundamental ones being ‘stereo’, ‘commonplace’, ‘film’ and ‘sport’. With any of those besides stereo, you too can add ‘3D Encompass’. Indicator lights on the bar (that are dimmable) present what’s taking place, although you probably have the bar flat on a bench, you possibly can’t see these. However impressively at this worth you possibly can obtain Yamaha’s Soundbar Distant app (proven beneath), which lays out the choices extra clearly, whereas additionally providing enter choice and ‘Clear Voice’ (an possibility which we by no means wanted).
The ‘3D Encompass’ possibility invariably had the impact of beefing issues up in degree and thickness, whereas making voices slightly boxy and sibilant; not as soon as did we want the general audio high quality with this selection engaged. And with out it there appeared little distinction between the 4 modes anyway… in order that makes your selections fairly straightforward!
We performed by way of Hamilton The Musical on Disney+ to test the bar’s musical efficiency; in fact it gained’t match an amp and a very good pair of bookshelf audio system, however you gained’t be discovering these for AU$319, whereas we’ve heard soundbars at double this worth sounding unable to match the readability right here. Bass can generally barely bloat, and it doesn’t absolutely attain right down to the bottom few notes of a bass guitar, however the total steadiness prevented this seeming like a sound that was lower off on the knees, and once more we have been impressed by this lone bar sounding musical, fulfilling, and well-balanced. We may go away songs streaming from an iPhone through Bluetooth to the SR-B20 and take enjoyment relatively than offence from the expertise.
“Digital 3D encompass and DTS Digital:X know-how come collectively to envelop your complete physique in sound”, says Yamaha’s web site for the SR-B20. Er, no. There’s no encompass right here in anyway. Such claims take away from what the SR-B20 does obtain – remarkably massive and pure sound from a handy and enticing bar, no subwoofer required, working nicely in both orientation, and simply the factor for kicking up the extent of TVs in any room.
In fact you will get extra – together with networking and streaming companies – by paying considerably extra, however it is a nice entry-level soundbar which focuses on sound high quality, which is the explanation for purchasing a soundbar within the first place. Glorious worth.