Hands On: Yamaha YAS-103 Soundbar

Bluetooth and integrated subwoofers make this soundbar a nice package.

Let’s face it; soundbars are now part of the AV space. In the past, they were these cheapie little things that you squeezed under a flat panel to boost the poor sound that plagues so many HDTVs. Now, the category has expanded to the point where every manufacturer has one — and a lot of them can really rock the room.

The Yamaha YAS-103 is one of those units. It’s designed for people who don’t want too many frills when it comes to home audio. However, it absolutely gets the job done. Measuring 35-by-3.62-by-4.5 inches without any stands or brackets, the YAS-103 soundbar is a perfect match for both medium and small HDTVs.

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The Unboxing
Honestly, I can’t really remember ever seeing less product packaging on an electronic device. The YAS-103 was packed snuggly in the box, with the power cord permanently attached. Otherwise, there are instructions, a pair of spacers for mounting the soundbar to the wall, and a remote control. Of course, if you prefer not to have another remote in the mix, the YAS-103 is compatible with Yamaha’s free Home Theater Controller app for iOS and Android devices.

Speaking of iOS devices, the YAS-103 does feature the “Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad” logo on the outside of the box. This doesn’t mean that it has any type of AirPlay features. I’m not even sure what it means. It doesn’t really matter though, because the soundbar does have Bluetooth wireless support.

Out of the box, the YAS-103 is surprisingly slick looking with a piano black finish. On the front, there are small separate buttons for the input, volume controls and power. There are also several LEDs to indicate Status, TV, BD/DVD, Coaxial, Analog, Bluetooth, Surround, Dolby Digital/DTS, and Dolby/PLII. Around the back, there are two optical inputs, a pair of RCA analog inputs, and a coaxial input. That’s it!

Inside, the YAS-103 has two 2.5-inch cone woofers and a pair of 3-inch down-firing subwoofers. This basically means that the subwoofer is built into the soundbar — and it actually sounds pretty good! (More on that in a minute.) Promising up to 120 watts of audio goodness, the YAS-103 also boasts a 50 Hz–22 kHz frequency response, Clear Voice technology for dialogue, and Advanced Bass Extension Processing (surround mode only). Yes, there’s also Yamaha’s Air Surround Xtreme feature, which promises faux 7.1 surround sound.

Also worth noting is that this unit has a TV repeater function, since there’s a good chance that the soundbar will block your TV’s remote sensor. Another remote-related option is a learning function, if you’re partial to your existing remote.


A peek at the back of the Yamaha YAS-103 soundbar.

The Setup
The lack of inputs makes for an insanely easy setup. As with a lot of soundbars, the YAS-103 doesn’t have an HDMI option (those are out there), but should fit in with a lot of sets, especially the ones that you’d typically find in a game room, bedroom, basement or other smaller area. Since Yamaha was nice enough to include an optical cable, you should be able to rock out in seconds. Connecting to Bluetooth is even easier. I opened up my iPad’s settings, tapped the Bluetooth button on the soundbar’s remote, and the YAS-103 appeared in the iPad’s menu. From, there, I immediately started streaming from Spotify.

The Sound
Although the YAS-103 has a sturdy build, I wasn’t sure what to expect with the sound. I mean, how can it sound lifelike without a separate subwoofer? Well, it can — and it does. I’m not going to get crazy and say that I am ready to throw away my home theater setup, but I was surprised at how well this thing rocked my living room and my bedroom. Mostly, I used it on Spotify, but I also tested out a variety of TV content as well.

Those subwoofer effects were the most surprising thing about this unit. Not only were those sounds present, but they were easily adjustable, using the included remote. That was huge. I say this because when watching an action flick, I was slightly disappointed in the lack of oomph, until I did a little tweaking.

I was extremely pleased at how the YAS-103 handled a variety of music, from Motorhead and the Beastie Boys to Genesis and Eminem. Everything sounded very nice streaming from Spotify. Of course, as I increased the volume, the music didn’t sound as great, but that was at some seriously loud levels — like the kind that cause family members to come up and inspect the situation.


Yamaha’s YAS-103 soundbar.

When connected to my DISH Hopper, the news and sitcoms sounded fine, but sports and movies packed a little something special. If you’re currently living with the sound that comes out of the TV in any room, adding in the YAS-103 is certainly a major step up.

Once I hooked the soundbar up to our PlayStation 3, the Surround mode became crucial. This is what can give your movie-watching a much fuller overall sound, especially when it comes to action movies.

To test things out, I popped in the “Here Kitty” chapter from the original KickAss. The chase scene has a lot of forceful whooshing sounds that the YAS-103 reproduced quite nicely. However, it never overpowered the street noises and crowd chatter in the background. The music was also pretty bold, but never drowned out the punches. When the scene moves to one of Hit Girl’s uber-violent moments, the music, the glass breaking and the slashes all sounded just as graphic as the content.

Next up was chapter 20 of The Dark Knight.The pounding of that first gunshot, the helicopters and the crunching of metal all came through very nicely. In my opinion, the bazooka could have packed more of a punch. After all, it is a bazooka. However, there is so much other detailed sound to enjoy in this scene, it’s hardly noticeable. The Batmobile, the Batcycle and the Bat-action are plenty.

Finally, I checked out The Lego Movie, which displayed crystal-clear dialogue and nice atmospheric effects. Also, the techno beat of “Everything I Awesome” was awesome indeed. I was really impressed by the range of sound that the YAS-103 delivered, as well as the subwoofer effects.


The YAS-103′s remote is easy to use and provides access to a lot of functions.

The Remote
As previously mentioned, the YAS-103 does have a remote control learning function. This is nice for people that don’t want another remote in the mix. If you prefer to use a smartphone or tablet, this unit also works with the free Yamaha Home Theater Controller app for iOS and Android devices. However, either option means that you’ll be missing out on some of the features available on the remote.

The top of the remote has separate power and Bluetooth Standby buttons, as well as individual buttons for each of the input sources. Just below that are the Surround and Stereo keys. This allows you to flip between two-channel playback and Yamaha’s Air Surround Xtreme format. Right in the middle of the remote is the option for Clear Voice to pump up dialogue, UniVolume for balanced volume between content and things like commercials, and Audio Delay for synchronizing the sound with the image (if needed). There are also options for adjusting volume and subwoofer levels, as well as separate buttons for the remote learning function and to enable/disable the TV Remote Repeater.

Yamaha has certainly put a lot into this little remote, but the pint-sized unit is well laid out and doesn’t require any sort of learning curve. What you see is what you’ll get.

The Bottom Line
The Yamaha YAS-103 packs a nice little punch, especially considering its $299 MSRP. (And especially since it can be had for $50 cheaper on Amazon!) It’s never going to replace a full speaker complement and it shouldn’t. It’s really for smaller rooms or the people still using (gasp!) the TV for sound. The lack of a subwoofer or the possibility of adding one may turn some people off, but it shouldn’t; this unit sounds just fine all on its own.

Also Check Out:
Yamaha Puts Bluetooth and App Support into YAS-103 Soundbar
Yamaha to Release 5 AVENTAGE Receivers This Summer

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