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HomeYAMAHAYamaha SR-C30A Review: Compact Yet Full-Range Sound

Yamaha SR-C30A Review: Compact Yet Full-Range Sound

7.9 Yamaha SR-C30A $280 at Amazon You’re receiving price alerts for Yamaha SR-C30A Like Subwoofer is great for gaming and movies
Subwoofer is great for gaming and movies Enjoyable sound quality
Enjoyable sound quality Plenty of connectivity
Plenty of connectivity Compact Don’t like 3D Movie and dialogue mode are disappointing
3D Movie and dialogue mode are disappointing Not as convincing with music
Not as convincing with music No streaming
Yamaha offers a range of compact soundbars that culminates in the SR-C30A, a likable, easy-to-use speaker that has some real home theater chops. Its main speaker is less than two feet wide, which — with the inclusion of the slim yet capable subwoofer — makes it suitable for smaller TVs or a gaming setup.
For a $100 premium, the C30A fills in the gaps of the cheaper C20A, namely by adding the sub, giving it extra power for everything from extended Fortnite sessions to a blockbuster movie binge. The C30A’s connectivity is also a highlight for a soundbar under $300 with an unusually generous two optical ports, HDMI and Bluetooth.
The C30A is an accomplished soundbar combo, with sound particularly suited to movies and TV. But it’s eclipsed by more talented contenders, including Yamaha’s own YAS-209, currently on sale for $230, which also boasts a voice assistant and music streaming. Then there’s the soundbar to beat at this price: the Klipsch Cinema 400. If you don’t mind its larger size, the stylish Klipsch is a better performer. If space is a concern, however, then the talented Yamaha SR-C30A offers a lot in an attractive, compact package.
What is it?
Ty Pendlebury/CNET
The SR-C30A is a 2.1-channel soundbar, which includes Bluetooth connectivity and a wireless subwoofer. The main soundbar is compact at 23.6 inches wide and 3.8 inches deep, plus at only 2.5 inches high it shouldn’t get in the way of your TV’s IR control port. While the soundbar is quite petite, the wireless subwoofer is a little larger at 13.3 inches high and 14.4 inches deep. Yet as it’s only 6.3 inches wide, it will slot easily next to a couch or TV unit.
Though the C30 shares a lot of similarities with the C20, there is one main difference. Since the C30 has a wireless subwoofer there’s no need for the 3-inch “on-board” sub in the C20. Instead, the main ‘bar consists of a stereo pair of 1.8-inch cone drivers. The ported subwoofer includes a larger 5.1-inch woofer mounted on the side of the box.
The top panel of the SR-C30A. Ty Pendlebury/CNET
The front of the main unit is covered in an attractive cloth grill and displays the current mode and input via a set of LEDs. Meanwhile, the controls on top include an input selector, volume and power. The sub is clad unobtrusively in a black vinyl wrap.
Despite its compactness, the C30 manages to pack in an HDMI ARC port, two optical connections, 3.5mm analog and Bluetooth.
The inputs include two optical digital and HDMI. Ty Pendlebury/CNET
For the price, you shouldn’t expect any kind of immersive audio and you don’t get that here, either, just vanilla Dolby Digital. Unlike with the SR-B20A, there isn’t even DTS Virtual:X onboard. Instead, the system offers a mode called 3D Movie (which is not on the C20A) in addition to presets such as Stereo, Game, Movie and the dialog-improving Clear Voice.
The remote is pleasingly tactile, offers both main volume and subwoofer volume controls and also access to the many sound processing modes.
Performance
As the Yamaha SR-C30A is essentially a C20 with a subwoofer thrown in, it was no surprise to find that the C30 is able to make up for some of the shortcomings of the earlier model. I compared the Yamaha against the current under-$300 pick, the Klipsch Cinema 400, using both music and movies.
Viewing Blade Runner 2049 on 4K Blu-ray, I was immediately impressed by the subwoofer’s low-end control. The opening scenes feature a prominent deep bass drone — because the future is both ominous and scary — and the C30A was able to communicate the menacing soundtrack convincingly. In addition, the soundbar was able to fill the room with the buzz of flying cars and the electronic crackle of communicators.
Playing the opening scenes through the Klipsch, I found the Cinema 400 to be more insightful with even bigger sound. Having a larger subwoofer — one of the largest I’ve ever seen on a soundbar — meant the Klipsch’s bass was even more effortless. It also offered more levels of subwoofer control when I was trying to adjust its volume to fit the CNET test room.
Switching to the opening scenes of Mad Max: Fury Road, the Yamaha’s impressive, room-filling power continued in both Standard and Stereo mode. Switching to 3D Movie, however, sounded a little too disjointed as the soundstage split into extreme right and left and the middle seemed to drop out. The addition of the sub didn’t help the scene dynamically; both the kinetic jump cuts that lead to the roar of the charger’s engine, and the car’s explosive end at the hands of marauding War Boys, were left a little muted.
On the other hand, the Klipsch’s easy yet dynamic nature continued. The scene burst to life, and I’m certain my colleagues on the other side of the testing room’s wall did not appreciate the muscle car’s growl as much as I did.
If you need a soundbar suited to enhancing dialogue, then the $179 Yamaha SR-C20A is one of the best for the money. So I was intrigued to hear how the C30A fared. In comparison with the Klipsch, it was harder to tell when the C30A’s Clear Voice mode was on. Perhaps it has to do with the sub? Bass tends to muddy intelligibility. The Klipsch was able to give an instant lift to understandability when dialogue control was enabled, however.
When I was listening to music, the Yamaha missed a little bit of the top end and favored a warmer sonic profile. While the soundbar was enjoyable with the corrugated bass of Gorillaz’s Cracker Island, it sounded subdued compared to the exuberant Klipsch.
Should you buy it?
The Klipsch Cinema 400 clearly bests the Yamaha at this price. The main advantage of the Yamaha SR-C30A is its smaller — much smaller — size. The Klipsch is huge and would do well paired with a 65-inch or larger TV. For watching movies and TV or gaming on a smaller screen, the Yamaha is enjoyable and its talented subwoofer manages to do a lot with such a small box. It’s fun, easy to set up and a no-nonsense performer. Yet when you compare the Yamaha directly against the best at the price, it simply lacks a little sparkle.

web-interns@dakdan.com

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