Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Soundbar Review

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A solid bar/sub combo

by Steve Withers Jan 6, 2019 at 3:39 PM

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    Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Soundbar Review
    SRP: £499.00

    What is the Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400?

    The Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400, which is also known as the YAS-408, is the company's latest two-channel soundbar and wireless subwoofer combination. It doesn’t support any of the immersive audio formats, but does include DTS Virtual:X which is designed to add more depth to a 2.1-channel system.

    As the name suggests, the BAR 400 also supports Yamaha’s MusicCast multiroom technology, and other key features include support for Hi-Res Audio, various built-in music streaming services, and voice control via Amazon Alexa. In addition, there's HDMI, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, and a Clear Voice feature.

    The BAR 400 retails for around £499, which is fairly expensive for a simple 2.1-channel soundbar. However, there is the option to buy the Yamaha MusicCast BAR 40, which is essentially the same soundbar but doesn’t come with the sub, and will only set you back £329. You can also add a pair of MusicCast 20 or MusicCast 50 wireless speakers to the BAR 400 and create a full multi-channel system, if you wish.

    Design

    Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Design
    The Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 is almost identical to the BAR 40, with one exception that I'll mention later. However in terms of its design it is identical, with exactly the same simple but elegant appearance, curved leading edge and metal grille. It's well made, uses a brushed metal finish along the top, and comes in black. There are screw holes at the rear, with a template included if you want to wall mount, and the BAR 400 measures 980 x 60 x 111mm (WxHxD) and weighs 2.7kg.
    Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Design
    Just like the BAR 40, the only display on the BAR 400 is a series of small LEDs on the top panel, which are located to the left of centre and towards the rear. They register which input you have selected: HDMI, TV (ARC), Analogue, and Bluetooth/Net; and show if a surround mode is selected, or if there’s a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection. Located to the right of these display LEDs are some basic touch-sensitive controls for source selection, mute, volume up/down, and also power/connect.

    The BAR 400 soundbar itself is virtually identical to the cheaper BAR 40

    Connections & Control

    Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Connections & Control
    The Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 has a recessed area on its underside, where you’ll find all the physical connections. These include an HDMI input and an HDMI output that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel). All the HDMI ports support Ultra HD 4K at 50/60p, 4:4:4, Rec.2020, HDCP2.2, and High Dynamic Range (HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Hybrid Log Gamma). At this price point I'd expect more than one HDMI input, but since the BAR 400 doesn't support lossless audio, simply using ARC makes sense.

    There’s also an optical digital audio input, a 3.5mm analogue audio input, and an Ethernet port for a wired connection. The soundbar has built-in Wi-Fi (2.4/5GHz), although if you don’t want to use MusicCast, you also have the option of connecting to the sound bar using Bluetooth (Ver. 4.2+EDR/A2DP, AVRCP) or Apple AirPlay. The only difference between the BAR 40 and BAR 400 is that the latter doesn't include a subwoofer output, for the obvious reason that it comes with its own wireless sub.
    Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Connections & Control
    The BAR 400 has the same remote control included and, while it remains rather small and fiddly, it does at least get the job done. It includes all the necessary controls, and is highly effective in operation. You can use the remote to adjust the volume and subwoofer level, change inputs, select favourites, and choose features like Stereo, Surround, 3D Surround, Bass Extension and Clear Voice. Aside from the controls on the soundbar and the provided remote, you also have the option of controlling the BAR 400 using the excellent MusicCast Controller app: more on that later.

    A single HDMI input seems a bit stingy at this price point

    Yamaha BAR 400 Features & Specs

    Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Yamaha BAR 400 Features & Specs
    Since the two soundbars are almost identical, the Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 has the same features as cheaper BAR 40. That means the soundbar contains two front-firing speakers, each composed of two 4.6cm woofers and a 2.5cm tweeter, and all powered by 100W of amplification (50W per a speaker).

    The BAR 400 also includes DTS Virtual:X, a 3D surround sound processor that applies psychoacoustic processing to two-channel sources. The processing is designed to create the illusion of a more immersive surround experience.

    There is support for the main lossy formats such as Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, and DTS Digital Surround. However, there's no support for lossless formats like Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, and as a result the BAR 400 doesn’t support object-based formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

    Surround sound is all well and good but it's important to ensure that dialogue remains clear, especially when the BAR 400 doesn't have a dedicated centre speaker. Thankfully, Yamaha has developed the Clear Voice feature which is designed to boost the clarity of dialogue in TV shows and movies.
    Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Yamaha BAR 400 Features & Specs
    The main difference between the BAR 40 and the BAR 400 is that the latter comes with a wireless active subwoofer included. The soundbar is tuned to perform with the provided sub, which uses a slimline cabinet and is ported at the front. There's a sideways-firing 6.5-inch cone woofer with a 100W amplifier, and the sub measures 180 x 417 x 405mm (WxHxD) and weighs 9.4kg.

    MusicCast is Yamaha's multi-room system, and is a major feature in the BAR 400. It has been built into most of Yamaha's products, and allows you to seamlessly stream music from one MusicCast device to another. One of the other benefits of MusicCast is that you can use it to create a genuine surround system using a pair of MusicCast 20 or 50 wireless speakers.

    The entire system is controlled using a dedicated app that is freely available for iOS and Android. The MusicCast Controller app is well-designed and intuitive to use. It also includes a number of streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, and Qobuz. The BAR 400 also supports High-Resolution Audio up to 24bit/192kHz, for MP3, WAV, AAC, AIFF, WMA, Apple Lossless, and FLAC file types.

    Yamaha has recently added Amazon Alexa voice control to many of its products, and the BAR 400 is no exception. You can set up the Yamaha to work with an Amazon Alexa speaker, and although it's not the easiest process (for a start you have to create a Yamaha account), it does work to a degree. You can use voice control to change volume, mute, or select a different source, but the success largely depended on how you phrase an instruction, and you might find the remote or the control app is quicker and easier.

    MusicCast is the main feature, but there's also Hi-Res Audio and Alexa voice control

    Setup & Operation

    Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Setup & Operation
    The Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 is easy to set up, you simply place it in front of or under your TV – either on a stand or by wall mounting. The soundbar and sub should connect automatically, but if they don't there is a manual option for setting up the connection. The sub is fairly flexible in terms of placement, but I’d recommend at the front of the room and slightly away from the wall.

    Since the soundbar doesn’t support lossless audio, the fact there is only one HDMI input isn't that big a deal and you can simply connect everything to your TV and then send the audio back via ARC. If you want to use Bluetooth, all you need to do is pair the Yamaha with your device. The MusicCast Controller app is very intuitive, and takes you through the process of connecting the BAR 400 to your Wi-Fi network.
    Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Setup & Operation
    The MusicCast Controller app is superb, and makes setting up and operating the BAR 400 incredibly easy. The app offers extensive options for fine tuning the performance that simply aren't accessible from the controls on the unit itself or using the provided remote.

    There's a main page on the app that provides access to various music streaming services (Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, and Deezer) and all the inputs (Bluetooth, AirPlay, Server, Net Radio, HDMI, ARC, and Analogue). You can also use the app to add more MusicCast devices, create MusicCast surround and stereo systems, setup Amazon Alexa, and change your account settings.

    Set-up is a doddle, and the MusicCast remote app provides plenty of options

    Performance

    Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Performance
    The BAR 400 proved very capable when it came to TV shows, especially those with less complex sound designs. The 2.1-channel configuration allowed for decent stereo separation, resulting in precise imaging and good localisation with effects and music across the front. Despite the absence of a centre speaker, dialogue sounded clear, although if you feel that dialogue needs enhancing, then the Clear Voice feature can be very useful at focusing peoples' voices and bringing them out of the mix.

    On more demanding soundtracks, such as TV dramas like Daredevil or a movie like Ant-Man and the Wasp, the performance remained very good, but was ultimately limited by the inherently 2.1-channel nature of the system itself. However, the 200W of built-in amplification means the sound can go loud without becoming strained or fatiguing. The audio was focused at the front of the room, but dialogue remained clear, while effects and music were effectively spread across the front soundstage.

    Despite the limitations of a 2.1-channel soundbar, an interesting mix like The Incredibles 2 sounded very dynamic, with aggressive steering of effects and plenty of movement across the front two speakers. The dialogue remained clear, music retained a pleasing sense of clarity, and the subwoofer was also effective, adding plenty of low-end presence that was well-integrated with the rest of the soundstage. The BAR 400 is certainly a solid performer when it comes to movies.
    Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Performance
    There are a number of surround options available, each of which is designed to deliver a specific experience depending on the content you are watching: Music, TV programme, Movie, Sport, and Game. The titles are self-explanatory but in testing I found that none of the modes were particularly effective, with each of them sounding rather flat and echoey, and not really adding any feeling of a surround presence.

    The exception is ‘3D Surround’, which enables the DTS Virtual:X processing. This was a lot more successful, and the processing created a greater sense of three-dimensional space. Sounds felt as though they were emanating from within the room, and watching Atomic Blonde, which has a DTS:X soundtrack, revealed that the processing could add more dimensionality. This sense of depth was more obvious when compared to the normal 2.1-channel mode, making DTS Virtual:X great for movies and TV dramas.

    The BAR 400's strengths as a 2.1-channel system meant that this soundbar also proved to be very adept when it came to music. So the new release of David Bowie's superb Glastonbury set from 2000 sounded fantastic. Songs were rendered with detail and clarity, while instrumentation and vocals were reproduced with precision. There was a sense of scale to the crowd (which actually included me) and The Dame's asides between songs sounded suitably natural, or at least as natural as Bowie could ever sound.

    The is a solid all-rounder that sounds great with movies and music

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Excellent performer with movies & music
    • MusicCast multiroom audio
    • Option to add rear speakers
    • Nice design & solid build quality
    • Easy to setup

    Cons

    • No Dolby Atmos or DTS:X
    • Only one HDMI input
    You own this Total 0
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Soundbar Review

    Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Verdict

    The Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 is a great all-round soundbar and subwoofer system that delivers a solid performance with movies and music. It's well made and attractively designed, with a pair of highly effective speakers. The soundbar is tuned to perform with the included subwoofer and, as a result, the two are well integrated. There's a decent selection of features that includes MusicCast multi-room, Alexa voice control, AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Hi-Res Audio support.

    There are a number of surround modes, although only the DTS Virtual:X is really effective at creating a more dimensional experience. Yamaha's Clear Voice feature is helpful at enhancing dialogue, although the BAR 400 is good in this area despite the lack of a centre speaker. The pricing is reasonably competitive, although I'd like to see more than one HDMI input. However, since the Yamaha doesn't support lossless audio, it's largely a moot point. Ultimately, the BAR 400 is worthy of recommendation.

    What are my alternatives?

    If you only need the soundbar and aren't too concerned about the subwoofer, then the obvious choice is the Yamaha MusicCast BAR 40, which is identical but only costs £329. So you can save £170 and always add a subwoofer at a later date. Although, I should point out that if you do decide to buy the SUB 100, it's £399 and that will bring the total cost to over £700. That makes the BAR 400 the cheaper option as a 2.1-channel system, but the SUB 100 is the better subwoofer.

    If you're looking for a 2.1-channel soundbar/sub combo, and you like the idea of psychoacoustic immersive audio, then the Sony HT-ZF9 is a definite alternative. This 2.1-channel system costs a bit more at £629, but it not only includes psychoacoustic processing, it also supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Other features include Hi-Res Audio support, a second HDMI input, built-in Chromecast, and Google Assistant, making the Sony very competitive in this price range.

    MORE: Read All Soundbar Reviews



    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £499.00

    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    9

    Connectivity

    7

    Sound Quality

    8

    Ease of Use

    9

    Features

    8

    Value for Money

    8

    Verdict

    8

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