The sound quality of most TVs lags behind the picture quality quite noticeably: a huge diagonal, high-resolution support, many useful functions – everything can be fine. The sound is, to put it mildly, mediocre. Unsurprisingly, many users are keen to improve it. At the same time, not everyone is ready to acquire, configure, and most importantly place full-fledged acoustics in their room. That is why soundbars remain very popular devices. On the one hand, they allow you to make, albeit not the biggest, but still a tangible step towards high-quality sound. On the other hand, they are as compact as possible, and also easy to connect and place. Today we will talk about a very small soundbar Yamaha SR-C20A: its length is only 60cm, and its mass is less than 300g. At the same time, it is equipped with three speakers and three more passive emitters, can be controlled from a smartphone, supports various types of connection and is generally full-bodied a representative of the class of devices in question.
- Design and construction
- Connection and settings
- Operation and software
- Sound and frequency response measurements
- Mid/Treble drivers: 2×4.6cm (plus 2 passive radiators) LF: 7.5cm (plus 1 passive radiator)
- Total maximum power: 100W. LF section: 60W. MF/HF section: 40 (2×20)W.
- Control: remote control, keys on the central unit of the soundbar, Sound Bar Remote software
- Interfaces HDMI output (ARC, CEC), 2 optical S/PDIF, Bluetooth
- Bluetooth version: 5.0; Supported codecs: SBC, AAC
- Dolby Audio Surround Technologies
- Sound Modes: Stereo, Standard, Cinema, Game
- Dimensions 600×64×94mm
- Weight 280g
- Black color
In addition to the soundbar itself, the Yamaha SR-C20A kit includes a power supply with a total cable length of just over 3 meters, an optical cable length of 1.5 meters, a remote control, documentation, soft spacers for mounting and a template for the correct placement of holes when mounting the device on the wall.
The power adapter is small, it is quite possible to hide it somewhere behind the equipment rack and even behind the TV hanging on the wall.
The control panel is simple and unpretentious, but the buttons are conveniently located, pressed easily and with a pleasant click – and this is the main thing.
The remote control is powered by a preinstalled CR 2025 element, before starting operation, you must remember to remove the “tongue” that protects it from premature discharge.
The Yamaha SR-C20A looks stylish and laconic. Build quality and finish are high – quite on par with what we’d expect from Yamaha. Despite the fact that this is clearly the youngest model in the lineup, we did not notice any compromises in terms of the quality of performance.
As mentioned above, the dimensions of the device are very small – only 600×64×94mm. In practice, this means that when placed on top of each other, the soundbar will not protrude beyond the frame of even a small TV with a diagonal of about 23 inches.
A touch panel is located on the top of the case, allowing you to control power, volume and input selection. The manufacturer’s logo is located on the left side of it.
There are no other decorative elements – the main part of the Yamaha SR-C20A is simply covered with fabric. In this case, this is good: buying such devices, users clearly do not expect to make them a dominant feature in the interior of their rooms.
At the bottom of the case there is a row of LED indicators for the selected connection type, which are also used to display the volume level.
There is nothing particularly interesting on the ends of the case, the outlines of this part are as smooth as possible – no corners.
On the back there is a cooling grill, a connection panel and holes for mounting the soundbar on the wall.
On the connection panel, we see a USB port, used exclusively for updating the firmware, followed by an analog 3.5mm mini-jack input, followed by two optical S/PDIF.
The HDMI output is located on a separate sloping surface, followed by a power supply connector.
At the bottom of the case, there are small rubber feet that allow you to put the soundbar on a horizontal surface: a table, shelf, cabinet, and so on. There is also a cooling grill and a small sticker with basic information about the device.
Getting the Yamaha SR-C20A ready for use is very easy, especially if you do not place it on the wall, but put it on something. All that remains is to connect the power cable and decide on the type of connection to the sound source. The first thing that comes to mind is, of course, HDMI. But there are a number of nuances here. Thanks to HDMI ARC support, sound can flow in both directions – from TV to soundbar and vice versa. But this does not always happen – for example, when connected via HDMI to a PC, the Yamaha SR-C20A is not detected as an audio device.
The TV in the mode of playing TV programs “gives off” sound and everything works correctly, but when choosing other inputs or using the built-in player, nuances may arise. Fortunately, an optical input is provided, the capabilities of which are more than enough for the class of devices under consideration. And, of course, no one canceled the analog input – it’s also quite an option. Multichannel sound cannot be transmitted with its help, but in this situation there is no special need for this again, although a Dolby Audio decoder is present.
And then there is a wireless connection via Bluetooth, which definitely should not be neglected. First, it allows you to quickly and easily launch a couple of tracks or a podcast from some Spotify. And secondly, it provides the Sound Bar Remote application. After activating the Bluetooth connection, the soundbar for some time tries to connect with “familiar” devices, if it does not find them, it activates the pairing mode, which is indicated by the blinking of the Bluetooth indicator on the front panel. On and then everything, as always, is simple: we find, click, connect… If everything worked out, the indicator turns blue.
There are two codecs supported: SBC and AAC – their capabilities in this case will certainly be enough with a margin. A complete list of supported modes has traditionally been obtained using the Bluetooth Tweaker utility.
The Yamaha SR-C20A does not have an output for connecting a subwoofer, which is a bit of a pity. But, on the other hand, since the device is compact and designed for those who want to save space as much as possible, there is no question of placing a subwoofer. The older model, which we will talk about in the future, already has a way out. And, finally, to complete the preparation for work, it is worth installing the Sound Bar Remote application on your smartphone, which we will talk about in more detail below.
The Yamaha SR-C20A is controlled in three ways. You can use the touchpad on the device itself, which allows you to do the most basic things: turn the device on and off, adjust the volume, and activate various connection methods. The sensors work quite correctly, register all clicks and are generally easy to use.
For full control, there is a remote control, which adds the ability to activate various sound modes, change the volume of the built-in “subwoofer” and even change the brightness of the LED indicators for the input and volume level involved.
Of course, the Sound Bar Remote app provides the most possibilities. For it to work, you must first connect your smartphone and soundbar via Bluetooth. If this is done, after starting the program is in search mode for a few seconds, after which it finds the Yamaha SR-C20A. All controls are collected on one screen of the application – without division into tabs.
The power button is located in the upper right corner, followed by the input selection line. Below, the Clear Voice and Bass Extension modes are activated – we will talk about them in detail in the chapter on the sound of the device. Next we have buttons for activating various sound profiles, as well as a menu for adjusting the brightness of the LED indicators – if you wish, you can turn them off altogether, which is very important when placing the soundbar in the bedroom.
After a short scrolling, information about the device is available: name, software version, and so on. At the bottom of the screen there is a volume control for the device as a whole and for the bass speaker, conventionally called a “subwoofer”.
It’s hard to expect much from the sound of such a compact device with a plastic casing, so we were pleasantly surprised by the capabilities of the Yamaha SR-C20A. To begin with, it copes well with the reproduction of the low frequency range. Of course, it does not give out the so-called “deep bass”. But it copes with frequencies from about 60 Hz, which is already very good. Due to the fact that this is achieved with the help of passive radiators, the low frequency range is fed unevenly and sounds rather boomy. For the reproduction of special effects in games and movies, this is not a particular problem, but the fact that the Yamaha SR-C20A is not very suitable for thoughtful listening to music was clear from the very beginning.
At the same time, you can listen to music as a whole and even with pleasure – the middle sounds more or less balanced, without noticeable defects. Sometimes it’s a little annoying to have too much emphasis on the upper middle, but it’s pretty easy to overlook. The high-frequency range is reproduced very contour, which in this case, perhaps even for the best. Sharp-sounding high frequencies, troubles with sibilants and so on are a much bigger problem than even a thoroughly “failed” HF register.
Well, as they say, from words to deeds. Let’s move on to measurements. To begin with, let’s take a look at the frequency response graph obtained in the traditional way for our reviews: when placing the measuring microphone normal to the front surface of the speaker at a distance of 60cm.
The graph clearly illustrates everything that was said about the sound just above. Good peaks in low frequencies, which are responsible for the boomy sound. You can see them more clearly on the graph of the cumulative decay of the spectrum (waterfall). Frequencies in the region of 60 Hz decay the longest – probably, one of the passive emitters resonates at this frequency. Other peaks are also visible, we will return to them later.
In the meantime, let’s look at the dependence of the frequency response on the selected type of connection. There is a difference, but it can hardly be called significant, although a slightly less deep “dip” in the HF range with analog and wireless connections was somewhat surprising. However, when choosing the type of connection, you should mainly be guided by your own comfort, and not the sound quality. For all other measurements, we have chosen the S/PDIF connection as the most commonly used one.
Let’s try to tilt the microphone a little in the horizontal plane – at 30 and 60 degrees. As you can see, changes in sound appear almost immediately, and the mid-frequency range suffers. Which tells us that the listening point should be chosen somewhere opposite the speaker. There is nothing particularly terrible in this – hardly anyone is trying to watch TV, sitting on the side of it.
Next we have two sound enhancers: Clear Voice and Bass Extension. The first, as you might guess from the title, is designed to emphasize dialogues. Subjectively, there is a sense from it, but it practically does not affect the frequency response – perhaps the system simply does not react to the sweep-tone that sounds when building the graph. Well, the bass booster works like a bass booster – everything is clear and clearly visible here.
Let’s try another way to “pump up the bass” – this time, by increasing the volume of the subwoofer, for which a separate regulator is provided.
Everything works, but there is a nuance – the hum in the low-frequency range is also predictably growing. Let’s look at the “waterfall” again, this time let’s take the maximum value of the subwoofer volume.
It can be seen that we have two very noticeable peaks – around 60 and 90Hz. Apparently, somewhere in these frequencies passive emitters work. Well, finally, we will look at the graphs when various sound modes are activated. All measurements earlier, by the way, were carried out in the first mode – Stereo.
It can be seen that the change of modes affects the sound, but not too noticeably. But when listening, the difference between the modes is more obvious due to the fact that in addition to changing the equalizer settings, reverb is added to the sound. At the same time, the soundbar in question does not have surround sound emulation, it appears in older models, one of which we will definitely talk about.
As stated in the introduction, the key advantage of the Yamaha SR-C20A soundbar is its compactness. At the same time, for its size, it can do a lot – in particular, albeit not without reservations, but copes with the reproduction of the low-frequency range. In addition, it has a basic set of different sound profiles and even its own control and configuration software. For those who count every inch of available space, the Yamaha SR-C20A is a great way to dramatically improve the sound of your TV. But if absolutely minimal dimensions are not needed, it makes sense to take a closer look at the devices a little more, in particular, to the “older brothers” of the hero of today’s review in the lineup.