After tweaking the levels to taste, we fed ”Terminator Salvation” into the Blu-ray deck (connected via HDMI to the receiver) and the movie’s decoded DTS HD Master Audio track sounds thrilling.
As soon as it starts hammering out the iconic industrial percussion of the movie’s title sequence, the Yamaha demonstrates the upfront, brutal dynamics for which its amps are famous. When the action kicks in, the drive and aggression left us transfixed, nowhere more so than the scene where Marcus and Kyle are attacked on the bridge in chapter 7.
Roaring jet planes, rattling gunfire and explosions are forceful and edgy, but there’s none of the distortion or brightness at the top-end that so often spoils an otherwise decent performance. Effects dart swiftly between the front channels, and the use of identical speakers in the soundbar ensures a uniform tone across the front soundstage. What’s more, separation is clear and there’s detail by the bucketload.
But it’s not just loud, frenzied scenes that impress – during calmer passages, dialogue is clear through the centre channel (even Christian Bale’s gruff mumbling) and Danny Elfman’s score is suitably rich and atmospheric.
The subwoofer fuses nicely with the front speakers, but it could do with a little more punch and definition – some of the bass work is a bit flabby. And although we won’t pretend that the soundbar’s surround performance is any sort of match for real rear speakers, it’s certainly a cut above most virtual surround modes.
As Marcus and Blair talk in the pouring rain towards the end of chapter 7, the effects sound like they’re coming from a much wider position than the actual speakers, but it certainly doesn’t sound like rain is falling behind you.
It’s worth mentioning that certain room sizes and layouts will garner better results, but it’s this level of uncertainly that’s the main problem. This goes with the territory when buying a soundbar, and in any case you’ll probably be too dazzled by the excellent sound performance elsewhere to worry too much.
The YHT-S400 is a real problem-solver for people who can’t afford or accommodate a full home cinema system, and the superb performance shows that you don’t have to compromise on sound quality just because space is tight.
On the downside, the hit-and-miss surround effects deny you the classic home cinema experience, and it’s a shame you don’t get the option to add rear speakers, but on the whole the YHT-S400’s performance and convenience are to be applauded.
Score in detail
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