What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Mon, 21 May 2012, 3:09pm

Yamaha YHT-S401

Tested at £500
60100
3

Quality build and controlled bass, but this is not Yamaha’s best by a long stretch

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For

  • Weighty bass
  • lots of control and precision
  • good build

Against

  • Thin vocals
  • compressed treble
  • not wholly intuitive to use

Yamaha has been producing some stellar soundbars, and this is its new offering, a replacement for the well-liked YHT-S400.

Yamaha has been producing some stellar soundbars, and this is its new offering, a replacement for the well-liked YHT-S400. 
The YHT-S401 consists of left, centre and right front speakers housed in a slim and elegant bar that will easily share shelf space with your flatscreen TV. The hole in the front of the main unit is the reflex port for the subwoofer that’s integrated with the receiver. This does mean you need an equipment rack under the TV, as both the bar and sub need to be TV-centred due to their hardwiring, and for the best sound performance.
The main unit has enough connections to ensure that you won’t need to keep changing cables and the S401 switches between inputs when it detects a change of source. Along with an FM tuner and headphone jack, it has a USB port that lets you play music from your iPod/iPhone or USB drive. You can also connect rear speakers to get surround sound. 
In use, the bass is weighty and authoritative, and controlled well. Explosions and sound effects in The Dark Knight are punchy, with gunshots precise and taut. The sub integrates well with the speakers, and they go loud easily. 
There’s a good amount of detail, but vocals sound thin and mildly compressed, and the higher frequencies lack air and extension. There’s a Clear Voice option that raises the dialogue level – but it also emphasises the slight brightness of the top end. While the S401 doesn’t aim to offer surround sound, it still feels small scale, and lacks the sonic width and scale we’d like.
Considering Yamaha’s run of great soundbars, the S401 is a bit disappointing. We love its build and precise bass, but the narrow soundfield and thin dialogue leave it trailing behind its predecessors. 

The Yamaha YHT-S401 consists of left, centre and right front speakers housed in a slim and elegant bar that will easily share shelf space with your flatscreen TV. 

The hole in the front of the main unit is the reflex port for the subwoofer that’s integrated with the receiver, which can handle both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD soundtracks. There are also six surround modes (movies, music, sport, games, TV and standard) to choose from, depending on what you're viewing.

Yamaha YHT-S401

Yamaha YHT-S401: Installation
You will need an equipment rack under the TV, as both the bar and sub need to be TV-centred due to their hardwiring, and for the best sound performance.

The main unit has enough connections to ensure that you won’t need to keep changing cables and the YHT-S401 switches between inputs when it detects a change of source. 

Along with an FM tuner and headphone jack, it has a USB port that lets you play music from your iPod/iPhone or USB drive. You can also connect rear speakers to get 5.1 surround sound. 

If you use the system without rear speakers, you'll benefit from Yamaha's Air Surround Xtreme technology that creates 'virtual' surround sound by bouncing sound off the walls around you (see diagram below)

Yamaha YHT-S401: Sound quality
In use, the bass is weighty and authoritative, and controlled well. Explosions and sound effects in The Dark Knight are punchy, with gunshots precise and taut. 

The sub integrates well with the speakers, and they go loud easily. There’s a good amount of detail, but vocals sound thin and mildly compressed, and the higher frequencies lack air and extension. 

There’s a Clear Voice option that raises the dialogue level – but it also emphasises the slight brightness of the top end. UniVolume maintains a consistent volume level between sources, while the Music Enhancer mode is designed to make compressed MP3 music sound better.

Verdict
While the S401 doesn’t aim to offer true surround sound, it still feels small scale, and lacks the sonic width and scale we’d like.

Considering Yamaha’s run of great soundbars, the S401 is a bit disappointing. 

We love its build and precise bass, but the narrow soundfield and thin dialogue leave it trailing behind its predecessors. 

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