In the days before soundbars were much of a thing, Yamaha had a range of high-end models that beamed sound around the room using large arrays of very small drivers. They were very effective, yet in recent years Yamaha has notably scaled down its soundbars to far lower and more compact models.
Now it seems the Japanese company is raising its bars once again, with the announcement of True X, which it describes as a True Wireless Surround system, and which brings Dolby Atmos performance to a Yamaha bar.
Some markets are getting two soundbars, including an SR-X40A model (see also below); Yamaha Music Australia is announcing only the higher SR-X50A soundbar and wireless subwoofer combo, priced together at A$1299 (£799 / US$599 ex. taxes).
The 101cm-long soundbar includes two upward-firing drivers to deliver the height component of Dolby Atmos soundtracks, together with forward-firing stereo from full-range racetrack-shaped drivers supported by two three-inch woofers on the bar, plus the wireless subwoofer’s 160mm (6.25-inch) driver which Yamaha says extends down to 35Hz, for the truly deep stuff.
But the X-factor in Yamaha’s True X system comes when you add two of Yamaha’s little WS-X1A wireless speakers, priced at A$229 (£149 / US$130) each.
These are neat little speakers 11cm high with a 9cm sure footprint, each using a single 5.5cm driver and twin passive radiators.
Select their ‘Solo’ mode, and each WS-X1A can be used as a standalone mono Bluetooth speaker anywhere in the home – and indeed beyond, thanks to their IP67 dust and water resistance rating. They can play either on battery power or plugged in, via any USB-C connection or using Yamaha’s little CC-T1A charging bases sold separately at A$39 each.
But pop them at the back of your TV room and they will wirelessly link with the soundbar to deliver discrete surround left and surround right channels, making the True X a Dolby Atmos 4.1.2 system (front stereo and height, rear surround, plus subwoofer). No cables required, of course, and Yamaha’s Sound Bar Controller app guides you through the process.
Various sound modes and a ‘Clear Voice’ function are available to tweak the performance for different content types and usage scenarios.
While the audio signal from your TV can plug into the bar via HDMI ARC or optical, the bar can also be used for online music streaming services including Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect and Amazon Music. There’s no full MusicCast here. but Bluetooth is onboard, while Apple users can stream anything to the system via AirPlay 2.
A built-in microphone in the soundbar also enables direct voice control with the Amazon Alexa voice assistant app.
Yamaha says that the resulting performance from the True X system follows the company’s ‘True Sound’ ethos of detailed and accurate timbre, "emotive contrast between stillness and motion", and a "sense of atmosphere as if you’re actually there".
We look forward to seeing how well Yamaha's True X performs in its various permutations, and especially against other soundbars that offer dedicated rears – such as JBL's Bar 1300 and Samsung's higher soundbar packages – when the system lands, expected in September, with Australia ranging the black and carbon grey colourways, but not the lighter grey option available in some markets.
With regard to the X40 bar not coming here, Australia's Product Manager for Home Entertainment Boyd Gill tells us that this decision was taken because the lower bar is sold without the wireless subwoofer.
"Feedback from our retail partners has been that our market is only interested in soundbars that include subwoofers – we love our bass down here!" he says. "Also this being a new home theatre concept, it makes more sense to include a subwoofer for a complete experience."
We also note that this may mark the start of a wider 'True X' ecosystem. Trademark records reveal that Yamaha has trademarked the term True X to cover not only soundbars and subwoofers but also audio amplifiers and audio-video receivers, plus their software and remote controls. Watch this space!