Yamaha has just announced its latest cheap and affordable soundbar, and it looks like a seriously tempting package – especially compared to the Sonos Ray, which aims to be the budget bar to beat on our list of the best soundbars.
The Yamaha SR-C30A will launch in October and will cost $279/£299/AU$399. This is basically identical to the official Sonos Ray pricing, except with the Yamaha SR-C30A you get three features the Sonos Ray doesn’t have : HDMI-ARC connectivity, Bluetooth wireless streaming and – most importantly – a wireless subwoofer to handle bass.
The Yamaha SR-C30A is very compact: the soundbar is 600 X 64 X 94 mm / 23-5/8 x 2-1/2 x 3-3/4 inches, while the subwoofer is only 160 X 335 X 364 mm / 6-1/4 x 13-1/4 x 14-3/8 inches. That means it will work with the best 32-inch TVs and larger, while the subwoofer is small enough to fit into even the smallest of spaces, as demonstrated by this handy image from Yamaha.
In terms of speakers, you’re getting a very simple setup here: there are two 4.6cm drivers on the soundbar and a 13cm bass driver on the subwoofer. It’s fewer drivers than you get on the Sonos Ray (which has four), which could mean less dynamic and clear sound… which could go a long way toward balancing this downside on paper.
Yamaha is promising some sort of virtual surround support here, which can be controlled via an app, but we’re skeptical about the effectiveness of just two drivers – we’ll find out how much it’s worth when we get our hands on it for review later in the year. .
You don’t get any Wi-Fi connectivity or streaming, which is a downside compared to the Sonos Ray, but you do get multi-point Bluetooth connectivity, so you can switch at will between playing music from your phone and something like an Amazon Echo Dot. And being a Yamaha bar, the sound quality for music is likely to be pretty good, unlike many cheaper soundbars.
Our reviewers tried out the equally economical Yamaha SR-B20A and Yamaha SR-C20A and were seriously impressed with both, so we have high hopes for the C30A.
Analysis: It’s All About That Bass
With small soundbars out of a box, like the Sonos Ray or Yamaha’s own budget options, what you tend to miss out on in the overall sound is the bass.
We’re not talking about wanting explosions to rock the house and shake the pictures off the wall – but if you don’t have a system with good bass, you’ll be surprised what you miss.
The example I always use is when I watch a movie with people surfing in a storm. Without a subwoofer, you hear the waves crashing in detail, no problem. But with a subwoofer, you’re much more aware of the danger and weight of those deeper impact waves. It sounds more realistic, as well as adding a threat that should be in the sound but isn’t on a system with weaker bass.
So getting a package for that price with a subwoofer isn’t just a great deal for people who want full sound from their TV but don’t have a lot of space – it’s also from a company you can feel reasonably confident they’ll do well. work smoothly integrating the sound between the two speakers (which can be a problem with cheap soundbar/sub combinations).
The main soundbar is designed to handle high and mid-range sounds from 22kHz to 210Hz (which covers most of the sound range, including speech and effects), while the subwoofer handles sound from 210Hz to 40Hz. As mentioned above, having the subwoofer handle the bass can really help free up the soundbar itself to deliver better audio on the higher end.
However, we’re a little concerned about the Yamaha SR-C30A’s lack of a center channel for speech – it has a speech mode for clarity, but we’ll have to see how it performs in practice. The big danger for this soundbar is that nowadays you can find the Sony HT-G700 soundbar and subpack for the same price, and that includes a second HDMI port and Dolby Atmos support.
However, as our review unfolds, one thing is for sure: there has never been a better time to buy a soundbar on a lower budget.