Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 review: A $500 soundbar with multi-room audio, but no Dolby Atmos

The 2-year-old Yamaha BAR 400 is likely one of the least pricey soundbars round to supply high-resolution multi-room audio make stronger, however you’ll wish to sacrifice different options—corresponding to Dolby Atmos and a middle channel—within the discount.

This 2.1-channel type boasts make stronger for Yamaha’s powerful MultiCast multi-room audio platform and Apple’s AirPlay 2, and it serves up forged 2D film audio and top-notch song efficiency. However the $500 MusicCast BAR 400 lacks local make stronger for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X make stronger, the 2 main three-D audio codecs which are speedy turning into de rigueur on this worth vary, and its DTS Digital:X mode sounds too harsh to be a viable change.

Configuration

With its $500 price ticket and make stronger for Yamaha’s high-resolution MusicCast multi-room audio device, the two-year-old Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 is one thing of a throwback in Yamaha’s soundbar lineup. Previously couple of years, Yamaha has centered extra on budget-priced DTS Digital:X soundbars (assume $350 or much less), none of which make stronger MusicCast. Certainly, Yamaha has most effective two different MusicCast-enabled soundbars to be had: the $1,200 YSP-2700Take away non-product hyperlink, a four-year-old soundbar with an outstanding 16 drivers however no three-D audio modes, and the five-year-old, $1,600 YSP-5600Take away non-product hyperlink, a 46-driver (!) speaker that’s the one Yamaha soundbar to make stronger Dolby Atmos and/or DTS:X. (A fourth Yamaha MusicCast soundbar, the YAS-706, has been discontinued.)

This evaluation is a part of TechHive’s protection of the most efficient soundbars, the place you’ll to find opinions of competing merchandise, plus a purchaser’s information to the options you will have to believe when buying groceries on this class.

The Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 is a 2.1-channel soundbar, with the left and proper channels (the “2” within the BAR 400’s “2.1” designation) each and every powered by way of twin 1.25-inch woofers and a 1-inch tweeter, whilst the subwoofer (the “.1”) comes provided with a 6.Five-inch cone.

As a result of no drivers are dedicated to the middle channel, which is the place conversation in most cases directed, the BAR 400 mixes audio from the left and proper channels to create a “phantom” heart channel. The issue with so-called phantom heart channels is that voices from time to time leak into the left or proper channels, inflicting a unnaturally echo-y sound that may develop tiring over the years. I’ll duvet the BAR 400’s real-world audio efficiency a bit of later on this evaluation.

yamaha bar 400 detail Ben Patterson/IDG

The Yamama MusicCast BAR 400 comes with drivers for the left and proper channels however none dedicated to the middle channel.

Due to MusicCast, you’ll improve the BAR 400 by way of including both a couple of wi-fi MusicCast 20Take away non-product hyperlink ($230 each and every) or MusicCast 50Take away non-product hyperlink audio system ($500 each and every, ouch) as encompass audio system, or you might want to team the BAR 400 with different MusicCast audio system in your house for multi-room audio goodness (extra on that later). Yamaha equipped me with a couple of MusicCast 20 audio system for checking out.

The MusicCast BAR 400 does now not make stronger local three-D audio codecs corresponding to Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, nevertheless it does make stronger DTS Digital:X, DTS’s virtualized three-D mode that makes use of subtle audio trickery to idiot your ears into considering they’re listening to immersive sound, entire with top results and with out the desire for upfiring drivers. Yamaha has been a pioneer relating to DTS Digital:X, with the $300 YAS-207 being the first actual soundbar (which we rather appreciated, by way of the way in which) to make stronger the layout. However whilst DTS Digital:X does an efficient process at growing a resounding three-D soundstage with as low as two speaker channels, it could actually additionally upload a nasty harshness to the sound.

Measuring 38.6 x 2.four x four.four inches and weighing an affordable six kilos, the MusicCast BAR 400’s major soundbar unit are compatible effectively in entrance of my 55-inch LG C9 OLED, a 4K TV with a in particular low-slung stand. (You’ll be able to additionally mount the BAR 400 on a wall, as we’ll talk about in a while.) The 16.6 x 16 x 7.1-inch wi-fi subwoofer, in the meantime, is large, cumbersome, and heavy (21 kilos), which is par for the route relating to soundbar-bundled subwoofers.

Integrated with the soundbar is its faraway keep an eye on (with batteries), an optical audio cable, energy cords for the principle soundbar unit and the subwoofer, and a template for mounting the BAR 400 on a wall. Lacking from the field: an HDMI cable (which will have to actually be incorporated with a $500 soundbar) and mounting screws.

Setup

Getting the Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 up and operating was once a relatively easy procedure. I elected to easily plunk the BAR 400 in entrance of my TV, however you’ll additionally mount it beneath your TV. As I simply discussed, a mounting template is incorporated, however you’ll wish to provide your individual mounting screws.

While you plug the soundbar into an influence outlet (the kind of five-foot energy wire is fortunately freed from an outlet-blocking wall wart), you’ll then position the subwoofer close by, preferably fairly at the back of the principle soundbar unit and a couple of toes clear of partitions or room corners. As with the soundbar, the subwoofer has its personal energy wire (so no, the wi-fi subwoofer isn’t actually wi-fi), and as soon as each the soundbar and subwoofer are powered up, they will have to attach to one another robotically. If there are any hiccups within the pairing procedure (I didn’t enjoy any), you’ll attach the elements manually.

yamaha bar 400 musiccast app wi fi Ben Patterson/IDG

Yamaha’s MusicCast app makes it simple to glue the BAR 400 to your house wi-fi community.

Subsequent, it’s time to glue the MusicCast BAR 400 (which comes provided with an built-in dual-band Wi-Fi antenna) to your house wi-fi community, a doubtlessly painful procedure that was once (thank goodness) reasonably simple for this actual unit. While you’ve put in the MusicCast cellular app for your iPhone or Android telephone, you’ll use it to find the BAR 400 by means of Bluetooth (urgent and retaining the Attach button at the soundbar initiates the pairing procedure); then you attach your telephone to the soundbar’s native Wi-Fi community, make a selection your house Wi-Fi router, and input your community password. Following the entire steps, I controlled to get the MusicCast BAR 400 hooked up to my mesh Wi-Fi community at the first check out, a refreshing exchange from different soundbars I’ve examined that put me during the wringer whilst seeking to get them hooked up to Wi-Fi.

Inputs and outputs

The Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 comes with two HDMI ports: an HDMI enter that helps 4K HDR passthrough (together with HDR10, Dolby Imaginative and prescient, and HLG) and an HDMI-ARC (Audio Go back Channel) port. That provides you with two choices for connecting the BAR 400 for your TV: both by way of connecting a video supply to the HDMI enter after which connecting the soundbar to the TV by means of the HDMI-ARC port (which, on this case, would merely function an HDMI output that passes each video and audio alongside to the TV), or by way of connecting your video assets for your TV’s HDMI inputs after which sending simply the audio to the BAR 400 the usage of the HDMI-ARC ports at the soundbar and the tv.

yamaha bar 400 inputs Ben Patterson/IDG

The Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 comes equiped with an HDMI-ARC port, an HDMI enter, an optical (Toslink) port, a three.5mm analog jack, and an ethernet port, plus a USB connector for firmware updates.

The usage of the latter way method you’ll have the ability to use a couple of video assets (or as many as your TV’s array of HDMI inputs will permit) with the MusicCast BAR 400 with no need to change cables. If in case you have a sensible TV, you’ll have the ability to ship audio from its integrated video streaming apps to the soundbar, as smartly. The drawback, on the other hand, is that the BAR 400—like nearly every other soundbar that’s greater than a 12 months previous—does now not make stronger eARC, an “enhanced” model of ARC that permits for lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Grasp Audio soundtracks on Blu-ray discs. (You’ll be able to learn extra about eARC by way of clicking right here.) It’s price noting that 2020 has been a tipping level for eARC make stronger on soundbars and TVs (each ends of the relationship will have to be eARC like minded), so in the event you’re set on eARC and also you care about lossless Blu-ray audio, you will have to believe any other—more recent—soundbar.

Another choice is to glue a video supply to the MusicCast BAR 400’s lone HDMI enter after which cross each the video and audio as much as the TV, the usage of the HDMI-ARC port as an output. This fashion, you might want to attach a Blu-ray participant immediately to the soundbar and experience lossless audio with out being worried in regards to the eARC factor. With just one HDMI enter at the BAR 400, on the other hand, you’d wish to change cables (or else use a third-party HDMI splitter, which comes with its personal complications) to make use of different video assets (corresponding to a recreation console or a streaming TV set-box) with the soundbar, and also you wouldn’t have the ability to pipe in audio from integrated sensible TV apps.

But even so its HDMI ports, the MusicCast BAR 400 comes with an optical (Toslink) enter, an analog three.5mm jack, and a quick (10/100) ethernet port. A USB Sort-A port lets in for firmware updates however can’t be used to flow media information to the speaker.

Signs, buttons, and faraway

The Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 has neither a show nor indicator lighting fixtures at the entrance at the major soundbar unit; as a substitute, the indicator lighting fixtures sit down at the height of the principle housing. At the plus facet, this association method the indicator LEDs gained’t worm you when you’re staring at motion pictures or TV presentations; at the problem, the indications are difficult to peer, duration, and that’s an issue in the case of figuring out (as an example) the present quantity stage. Subsequent to the highest indicator lighting fixtures at the BAR 400 are touch-sensitive buttons for enter make a choice, quantity up/down, mute, and gear.

The MusicCast BAR 400’s quick, squat faraway boasts an intuitive format that makes it simple to make use of in the dead of night despite the fact that it’s now not backlit. A couple of central and outstanding rockers for major and subwoofer quantity flank the mute button, whilst a large three-D Encompass button immediately above the rockers engages DTS Digital:X processing. Underneath the rockers sit down buttons for the dialog-boosting Transparent Voice mode and the bass-boosting Bass Extension characteristic (we’ll talk about the ones in additional element momentarily). Briefly, lots of the buttons you’d wish to press whilst staring at a video are inside simple achieve, even with the lighting fixtures off.

yamaha bar 400 remote Ben Patterson/IDG

The Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400’s intuitive faraway is simple to determine in the dead of night.

You’ll be able to additionally acquire restricted get right of entry to to the BAR 400’s settings the usage of the MusicCast cellular app, which helps you to exchange sound modes (Sports activities, Recreation, Song, TV Program, Film, or Stereo); toggle the Transparent Voice, Bass Extension, and three-D encompass (i.e. DTS Digital:X) modes; and alter the subwoofer quantity. If you wish to keep an eye on the BAR 400 with voice instructions, you’ll accomplish that by means of Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, even though the implementation (“OK Google, ask MusicCast to set quantity to 30 for Dwelling Room Soundbar”) is lovely clunky.

MusicCast audio streaming and AirPlay 2

But even so letting you mess around with the soundbar’s settings, the MusicCast app additionally permits you to profit from some of the BAR 400’s key options: MusicCast audio streaming.

yamaha bar 400 musiccast app Ben Patterson/IDG

The MusicCast cellular app permits you to flow song from Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, and extra immediately to the BAR 400.

The app permits you to signal into such widespread music-streaming products and services as Amazon Song, Spotify, Pandora, Qobuz, Tidal, Deezer, SiriusXM, and Napster (no Apple Song or YouTube Song, on the other hand). In case your song subscription helps it, you’ll flow FLAC information with decision as much as 24-bit decision and at sampling charges as excessive as 96kHz. The MusicCast interface for streaming song products and services appears to be like clunky in comparison to the local song apps from Spotify, Qobuz, and Tidal, on the other hand.

The MusicCast app additionally includes a listing for ratings of web radio stations, and it permits you to flow song from NAS bins. In spite of everything, the app permits you to keep an eye on different MusicCast audio system and team them in combination. If in case you have a couple of MusicCast 20 audio system along with the BAR 400, as an example, the app permits you to hyperlink the more than a few audio system for multi-room audio playback (streaming the similar or other song to each and every speaker), or you might want to use the app to create a four.1 setup with the smaller MusicCast audio system appearing as encompass audio system for the BAR 400.

In spite of everything, the BAR 500 helps AirPlay 2 audio casting (you may wish to replace the soundbar’s firmware first), taking into account direct song streaming from a Mac or iOS instrument, in addition to multi-room audio keep an eye on with different AirPlay 2-compatible audio system. You’ll be able to additionally flow tunes to the soundbar by means of Bluetooth four.2, however there’s no Chromecast Audio make stronger, sadly.

This in-depth evaluation continues at the subsequent web page.

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