Yamaha has been a significant player in the audio equipment market for decades, renowned for producing high-quality sound equipment that caters to a range of consumers. Soundbars, a more recent addition to Yamaha’s audio lineup, are designed to enhance the television viewing experience, offering superior sound quality over traditional built-in TV speakers.
The Yamaha SR-B20A is the successor to the well-regarded Yamaha YAS-107 soundbar, which was launched in late 2017. It brings both minor upgrades and noticeable changes that aim to deliver improved audio performance in a compact and affordable package.
With a familiar matte black rectangular design standing just 2.2 inches tall, the SR-B20A maintains the understated aesthetic and minimalist style of previous generation models. However, Yamaha has opted for a plastic build rather than aluminum this time around, perhaps as a cost-saving measure that helps keep the SR-B20A priced below $200.
- Nuanced midrange performance for clear dialogue
- Surprisingly immersive surround sound with 3D mode
- Stylish and solidly built
- Can't reach very high volumes
- Lacks features for the price
Design and Build Quality
Sporting a minimalist matte black rectangular design that’s quite compact at just 2.2 inches tall, the Yamaha SR-B20A is designed to discretely blend in when placed in front of a TV rather than draw attention to itself. The soundbar feels relatively lightweight at just 4.9 pounds, though Yamaha has sadly opted for an all-plastic construction rather than the aluminum unibody of previous generation models.
While the plastic build helps keep costs down, it does raise some minor concerns about long-term durability and susceptibility to scratches. However, the workmanship feels solid with no creaking or flexing, and the geometric grille covering the drivers fits flush with no gaps. Rubber pads on the bottom keep the soundbar stable when placed on a media console.
Overall, while the SR-B20A may not have the premium metallic construction of pricier Yamaha offerings, the plastics used feel thick and sturdy. The minimalist aesthetic allows it to seamlessly match modern decor, and the compact size and standalone nature means it won’t dominate a living room set-up.
Connectivity and Setup
In this section, we’ll explore the various connectivity options the Yamaha SR-B20A soundbar offers and guide you on how to set it up efficiently.
Wireless and Wired Options
The SR-B20A supports both wireless and wired connections, ensuring compatibility with a variety of devices. Equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, the SR-B20A allows for a stable and high-quality audio streaming experience from your Bluetooth-enabled devices. This feature sets the stage for a clutter-free and flexible listening environment.
For a more traditional connection, the soundbar provides multiple inputs including an HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) port, which allows for a single cable connection to your TV, sending audio and video signals to the TV with the simplicity of one cable. Additionally, there’s a Digital Optical input for devices without ARC capability, offering an easy optical connection.
Ease of Setup
Our focus on user convenience shines through in the SR-B20A’s setup process. HDMI ARC enables a seamless setup with compatible TVs, often allowing you to use your TV’s remote to control the soundbar’s volume. The sound bar’s HDMI connections facilitate this streamlined setup.
For TVs without HDMI ports, you can utilize the Optical Input for audio transmission. It’s as simple as connecting the included optical cable from your TV to the soundbar. You won’t need to fiddle with multiple remotes either, as the Sound Bar Remote App available for iOS and Android provides easy access to settings and adjustments. This ensures that right out of the box, our sound bar integrates effortlessly into your home entertainment system.
Thanks to its upgraded internal hardware with dual 2.1-inch cone woofers and a wireless 6.5-inch subwoofer, the Yamaha SR-B20A delivers audio performance that belies its compact size. It projects bass that you can feel during action movies or when listening to bass-heavy music genres like hip-hop or EDM.
However, it lacks expression and variation in low-end sounds, which can become monotonal and slightly wearying to listen to. When there are multiple bass instruments, it can be difficult to discern them individually. Also, it doesn’t get very loud, so it’s best-suited for small to medium-sized rooms.
Dialogue from TV shows and movies comes through with excellent clarity and definition. The soundstage feels wide for such a compact bar, with noticeable channel separation between left and right. Tonal balance favors lower frequencies but there’s no notable distortion even at high volumes.
Treble is crisp and clean, allowing you to hear subtle details like raindrops or chirping birds in the surround mix. The SR-B20A supports HD audio formats for increased resolution, though the differences are hard to discern without A/B testing against a non-HD source. Overall, it delivers dynamic, powerful audio that easily outperforms built-in TV speakers.
Sound Enhancement Technologies
In terms of sound enhancement, the most immersive 3D sound codec is DTS Virtual:X, which is fairly typical of soundbar models in its budget. It doesn’t support Dolby Atmos, which is generally considered best and more widely available than DTS:X, especially on streaming platforms. When DTS:X is unavailable, DTS Digital Surround and Dolby Audio can be used as fallbacks.
Meanwhile, Clear Voice technology significantly improves vocal sound quality, particularly for spoken-word content, like news or podcasts.
Features and Functionality
The Yamaha SR-B20A soundbar offers a collection of features aimed at delivering convenience and enhanced audio quality.
In terms of control, we appreciate the included remote control as a standard accessory for the Yamaha SR-B20A. Bluetooth connectivity is also present; allowing you to stream audio wirelessly from compatible devices.
The SR-B20A features several EQ presets. Whether you are listening to music, watching a movie, or seeking clearer dialogue, the soundbar accommodates with tailored audio settings. Clear Voice mode is particularly beneficial for understanding speech in complex soundtracks. The Virtual Surround Sound feature, powered by DTS Virtual, gives us the sensation of a multi-dimensional experience, despite the absence of an external subwoofer. The unit’s 6 drivers ensure a broad and direct sound field, enhancing our listening pleasure across different media types.
Who’s It For?
The Yamaha SR-B20A soundbar positions it as a solid entry-level option for those seeking enhanced audio at home. Boasting features like DTS Virtual 3D sound, users can get an expansive soundscape that enhances the viewing experience, in an affordable and compact package.
At an affordable price point, this soundbar sits comfortably in the budget-friendly range. We find its value lies in its simplicity and performance, offering straightforward functionality that appeals to first-time soundbar owners or those with cost constraints. It should be noted that while the SR-B20A offers good specs, one might encounter limitations such as a one-note bass, which impacts the overall experience for discerning ears.
Finally, alternative options within the Yamaha family or from other brands should be considered if features such as Wi-Fi streaming or more dynamic bass are top priorities.
Overall, we found the Yamaha’s performance solid for its class. Its strengths lie in its ability to deliver an expansive sound field in a usefully compact size. For those prioritizing ease of setup, this soundbar meets the requirement with its simple installation process.
Moreover, the soundbar presents a decent bass response, and despite its one-note bass reproduction, it generally maintains a clean and balanced audio profile. It sounds as good as more expensive options like the Bose TV Speaker, though it lacks the same level of brand prestige.
Would we recommend the Yamaha SR-B20A? Yes, for those in need of a cost-effective, space-conscious option that still offers a breadth of sound. It’s suitable for movie enthusiasts and casual listeners who seek an upgrade from their TV’s built-in speakers. However, with Yamaha discounting the older YAS-209 to the same price, from a value perspective the SR-B20A isn’t a no-brainer, unlike its previous generation.