As multiroom audio options have increased in recent years, the soundbar has become the hub of the audio ecosystem for many people. Serving double duty as the main speaker for video and music means the expectations are high for these units — as are the prices.
Yamaha's $800 YAS-706 soundbar joins models from Sonos, Sony, Polk and others in competition to be your audio system's flagship. The YAS-706 comes with almost all the features you need in a home-theater audio centerpiece, such as HDMI, 4K support and plenty of ways to connect. But can it supplant Sonos as the best multiroom audio choice for most people?
The black, rectangular YAS-706 doesn't stand out visually, but the mesh and plastic exterior looks and feels well-made. At 37.8 x 5.1 x 2.9 inches, the soundbar is a bit longer than the $700 Sonos Playbar.
Inside, the unit has four three-quarter-inch tweeters, two 2-and-one-eighth-inch woofers and two 3-inch subwoofers, which help the soundbar deliver a wide sound. In addition, it comes with a hefty 12.1 x 11.8 x 11.6 wireless subwoofer — something the Playbar doesn't ship with.
The YAS-706 offers more ways to connect to video and music sources than most soundbars do. It has an HDMI output and two HDMI inputs, as well as digital-optical, digital-coaxial and analog inputs. You can connect wirelessly via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, or use an Ethernet cable for wired connectivity. The YAS-706 also supports AirPlay for streaming music. The Playbar connects to your TV only by digital optical.
The black, rectangular YAS-706 doesn't stand out visually, but the mesh and plastic exterior looks and feels well-made.
LED lights along the top back of the unit indicate the current input and sound mode; however, the labels for the inputs are very small and difficult to read from across the room. I found myself turning to the free iOS and Android app to help me figure out which sound modes were active.
The YAS-706 produces full audio with robust bass, and it easily fills a large room with sound. While this soundbar matches the Sonos Playbar in video sound performance, it falls a bit short when used for music.
During the opening scene to Baby Driver, the YAS-706 deftly handled the mix of gunshots and tire squeals that pepper the scenes while Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "Bellbottoms" plays. Gal Gadot's voice-over at the beginning of Wonder Woman was clear and resonant, thanks to the bass from both the soundbar and the wireless subwoofer.
The YAS-706 produces full audio with robust bass, and it easily fills a large room with sound.
Music lovers may find the bass and treble balance of the YAS-706 wanting. While the vocals were easy to hear on Justin Timberlake's "Filthy" and SZA's "The Weekend," the bass on both songs was less detailed on the YAS-706 than on the Playbar — even though the Playbar doesn't have a subwoofer. The acoustic guitars on Big Star's "Thirteen" were crisp but lacked brightness. As a result, the overall music performance felt flat.
Even with all this soundbar's features, setting up the YAS-706 was simple. I connected an HDMI cable from the soundbar to my TV and a Roku Ultra to the soundbar's HDMI input, and I quickly had sound and video. The wireless subwoofer came paired with the soundbar, so no additional steps were needed.
To unlock the YAS-706's additional features — including multiroom audio; access to internet radio; and integration with music services including Pandora, Tidal and SiriusXM — you need the free MusicCast app for iOS or Android. The app connects to your Wi-Fi network and walks you through setup. Once that process is complete, you can use the app to change inputs and sound modes (you can also do this through the remote) and play music.
MORE: Best Soundbars 2018
The YAS-706 includes Yamaha's Clear Voice and Bass Extension modes, both of which improve the sound. You can also pick from virtual surround-sound modes, including Movie, Music and TV Program.
Music lovers may find the bass and treble balance of the YAS-706 wanting.
Unlike Sonos devices, the YAS-706 lacks automated room correction, which would help the unit sound its best in your environment. You can't adjust treble or midrange manually, either, though you can change the subwoofer volume.
The YAS-706 is a robust soundbar that can challenge Sonos as a unit around which you can build a multiroom system. It features 4K support and a bevy of inputs, which the Sonos Playbar lacks. The YAS-706 creates a full sound and is especially good at dialog and vocals; it shines when used for movies and TV shows.
However, if music is your main interest, the Playbar delivers a better overall sound. Sonos remains the champ of multiroom audio, especially if you don't need a soundbar with 4K support or HDMI inputs.