Amazon Review by Dr. Ace Farley
252 people found the following review helpful
Mediocrity at its best
Mediocrity at its best sums up this Yamaha YAS-203 system for me. It is very well reviewed and quite popular among many users and pro reviewers from cnet, so figured I would be very pleased. After reading over a hundred reviews on amazon for this product and the glowing review from cnet, I was expecting this to be "the" soundbar and subwoofer system to have. Well, once again cnet got me to bite on a mediocre product at best and left me wondering what the cnet reviewer was hearing in this system. Got this on a lightning deal for 236, so felt like I had hit the jackpot for sure. I didn't. This product is super easy to set up, program to your tv remote, and hook up to your tv and blu ray player. As for the sound, I was extremely underwhelmed ever after a couple hours of fine tuning and listening to various content, ranging from blu rays, music via blu ray player and bluetooth, and hdtv watching. Everything sounds canned, meaning the highs and upper mids sound veiled or like they are covered with a blanket. I tried the optical and digital coax inputs, as well as bluetooth and results were the same. Unimpressive to say the least. The subwoofer is also a source of great disappointment. It is relatively powerful within a select bass range, but every other range drops off or isn't there with any authority at all. Disappointing because a $100 powered subwoofer hooked to my older Yamaha YAS-101 sounded excellent. I think this system is actually much worse sounding that the older model soundbar itself, the YAS-101. The highs and upper mids on the new YAS-203 sound so restrained that even with the clear voice feature activated, dialogue is way too quiet and any sounds in that range have zero impact (such as gunshots, breaking glass, metallic sounds, treble in music, etc). I adjusted everything on the soundbar various times with no luck, and there are no treble adjustments so that doesn't help either. The bass extension button on the remote makes the sub sound boomy for most content and reminds me a of a crappy micro 2.1 system from the last 90's with the hollow sounding wired subwoofer and the effect of the loudness button on old speaker systems. Really couldn't disagree more with the cnet review in that the bass is not sufficient at all from the wireless subwoofer, sound is not spacious at all from the soundbar, and upper mid/high detail is non-existent and is much too recessed to sound good at all. Dialogue is not forward sounding at all, even with clear voice activated. It does get quite loud overall, and when tuned in properly will be sufficient for some people in smaller rooms, but other than that I cannot recommend this system at all. I really enjoyed my Yamaha YAS-101 soundbar that is a couple years old now. That system did not have bluetooth and aesthetically isn't quite as nice to look at this newer system, and also had dual mini subwoofers built in to the soundbar which could be turned off in order to use the subwoofer output on back. Both ways, with and without a seperate powered subwoofer the older YAS-101 sounds better to me. There is simply more mid/high detail and impact. Dialogue also sounded better to me on the older YAS-101, and with a decent 100 dollar powered subwoofer, the YAS-101 destroys the YAS-203 for movies and music. I was really hoping to be floored by the sound of this YAS-203 system, but am left feeling very underwhelmed and wanting more with all content played through this system. I returned this system and have purchased an open box Zvox 670 instead. I have three older Zvox units (575 and 2x 550hsd models) and cannot say enough great things about them. The Zvox 670 unit was a bit more than this Yamaha 2.1 system, but since I plan to add my own powered subwoofer anyway and love the sound of the Zvox units, I feel this setup will blow the Yamaha away on all levels. Compared head to head with my older Zvox 550hsd unit with no external subwoofer, the Yamaha was badly outperformed on movies, music, and tv watching. That's pretty embarrassing considering I purchased the Zvox 550 about 2 years ago right from Zvox direct for about $129, and it simply sounds better and more powerful than this new Yamaha YAS-203 system in every way. Dialogue clarity and volume, powerful sound, mid/high/low detail all are superior on all of my Zvox units when compared directly to this Yamaha YAS-203 system.
In summary, I have liked Yamaha soundbar systems in the past, but am absolutely disappointed with this new YAS-203 system. I cannot recommend it when there are many better options out there at similar prices. Better sounding options in this price range include: Klipsch SB1 and SB3 systems, Zvox 550, 575, 555, 580, 570, 670 systems, Boston Acoustics XS cinema 2.1, Yamaha YAS-101 and YAS-152 soundbars if you add your own powered subwoofer, and the Polk 5500.