"The SR-C20A is the bar that Yamaha wanted, but it lacks the low-end sound."

  • Compact, stylish design

  • Easy adjustment

  • Exceptionally clear sound

This year we've seen a lot of sound bars that made it big. The LG SN11RG was a cinema giant, and the Samsung HW-Q800T was a big, powerful device in itself. However, some selected bars went in the opposite direction, such as the Panasonic SoundSlayer and the Zvox AV157. These little bars still charge full size pricing, with both retailing for $ 300.

Yamaha is breaking that mold with its $ 180 SR-C20A. The C20A is wider than the competing soundbars, but not much taller and significantly cheaper. The compact bar is designed to produce a big sound in the smallest of spaces, which leads Yamaha to promote it as a soundbar that extends beyond the living room.

design

The Yamaha experts told me that while they were working on their latest line of soundbars, they obtained information from current Yamaha soundbar owners. According to Yamaha, they found that many owners of these bars were not using them as part of a traditional living room theater setup. Instead, Yamaha bars were found all over the home, from the bedroom to the office, and often placed in narrow spaces that were sometimes unsuitable for larger bars.

Yamaha C20A soundbarNick Woodard / Digital Trends

With that information, Yamaha made the C20A, which is a little over 23 inches wide by approximately 2.5 inches and weighs only 3.9 pounds. In comparison, the company's SR-B20A is 35 inches long and 7.1 pounds, with the older YAS-109 having similar dimensions. However, this isn't the smallest bar out there. Both the Panasonic SoundSlayer and the Zvox AV157 are only 17 inches wide, with the latter weighing just 2.8 pounds.

While the C20A looks petite and undersized with a 65-inch television – or perhaps a 100-inch projection screen – its remarkably compact footprint offers the bar a great deal of versatility in terms of uses. Since the bar is getting the same sleek redesign as the larger B20A, I have to say I'm a fan of the way it's built.

Since the bar is getting the same sleek redesign as the larger B20A, I have to say I'm a fan of the way it's built.

Under the hood of the C20A are two drivers for the front left and right channels, a built-in subwoofer driver, and two passive coolers. The goal here, Yamaha told me, was to put the greatest possible sound in the smallest possible bar. I'll break it down completely later, but if you think there's no way you can build such a small soundbar without making audio concessions, you wouldn't be wrong.

configuration

WLAN cannot be configured with the C20A and a wireless subwoofer cannot be supplied. The device is very simple. It contains a remote control supplied as well as an optical cable to connect the bar to your display. Because of this simplicity, there are no hidden complications or problems with setting up. Most all-in-one bars offer this simplicity, so this is nothing new. However, instantly improving your TV's sound in less than five minutes is always a nice benefit.

Yamaha C20A soundbar with remote controlNick Woodard / Digital Trends

As a not entirely critical but very helpful additional step in the setup process, I would recommend downloading the Yamaha Soundbar Remote App. The physical remote works just fine and the remote app generally has no other functionality. However, there is a volume slider that will tell you exactly how loud your bar is. It's also easier to tell when to use the soundbar's ClearVoice and bass enhancement features.

links

The C20A has an interesting number of connections. It only has one HDMI-ARC port, and I have conflicting thoughts about it. Since this bar was built to be compatible with several different setups, I can understand why it doesn't have the extra ports that could be beneficial for a theater-facing soundbar.

If part of the utility of this bar includes integration with a gaming station, as Yamaha suggests, an additional HDMI port would be just as necessary, if not more, than if the C20A was primarily intended for a living room. The Panasonic SoundSlayer, which unlike the Yamaha, outwardly calls itself a gaming soundbar, has a corresponding HDMI input and output to better support combat stations, although it is priced at $ 300.

Yamaha C20A soundbarNick Woodard / Digital Trends

In addition to the HDMI connection, there are two digital optical inputs, an analog audio connection and a USB input, which are only intended for firmware updates. In particular, the C20A lacks the subwoofer output found in the larger Yamaha B20A. This means that you don't have the option of adding a separate powered sub and that the output of the beam itself gets stuck.

The B20A has a bluetooth multipoint that allows you to connect to two different devices at the same time.

The B20A has bluetooth multipoint so you can connect to two devices at the same time. For example, this could mean two different phones that multiple members of the same household can use to play their own music. Or it could be your phone and an Amazon Alexa device, giving your Dot, Flex, or other Echo device the ability to broadcast through the C20A's far more powerful drivers. I've reported that I'd prefer the Yamaha YAS-109's built-in Alexa compatibility, but I don't think Alexa over Bluetooth is a bad way to go.

Sound quality

In order to properly characterize the sound of the C20A, I think it is important to consider the environment for which it was designed. In contrast to the DTS Virtual: X-capable B20A, it was not specially developed as a home theater solution. There's no rule that says you can't incorporate the C20A into your living room, and I imagine some people will just do it because of its minimalist aesthetic. In all of the press materials provided by the company, however, Yamaha is not afraid to emphasize that the C20A is a bar that can go beyond normal living space.

Yamaha C20A soundbarNick Woodard / Digital Trends

I actually agree with the marketing and outside of the living room I think the audio profile of the C20A makes the most sense. It produces a very clear sound and is ideal for acoustically oriented music. Basically, I really enjoyed hearing the C20A when a song didn't need a substantial bass backbone to sound like it should.

I think it works in a smaller space like a bedroom too, where Yamaha's ClearVoice technology can help you hear every clever line from New Girl, even at a lower volume. The company also markets the C20A as small enough to slide under a monitor, enhancing gaming audio. The gaming preset of the C20A provided a more intense sound experience during the game.

When a song didn't need a solid bass backbone to sound like it should, I really enjoyed hearing the C20A.

In these applications – in a bedroom, as part of a gaming setup, or in a smaller room where you want to hear more detailed music – I think the C20A is excellent.

However, if you expect the C20A to effectively fill a living room, the limitations of this bar show up.

The sound is still clear, to be fair, and it gets loud for the package it comes in. But as much as Yamaha has tried to pack bass in the tightest of spaces with passive radiators, the C20A just can't fill the low end of the frequency range enough to provide a great movie viewing experience. As a Marvel nut, I tried the original Avengers (2012) with the C20A. The most challenging scenes, from Bruce Banner slamming his fists against a table to intimidate Natasha Romanoff (and the audience), to the epic Iron Man versus Thor clash in the woods, lacked the power that normally drives them.

While the remote's bass expansion button makes a difference, the C20A is too low on bass to correct things completely. That doesn't mean that I think less about this bar. It effectively serves its mission of being smaller, and it sounds great in small spaces. But I can't help but believe it's in some strange soundbar limbo. For a small soundbar, it is significantly cheaper than the US $ 300 Panasonic SoundSlayer or the US $ 300 Zvox AV157. However, each of these soundbars has been designed to achieve specific goals. The SoundSlayer has positioned itself as a game-specific solution, and Zvox has mainly designed its bar to make dialog easier to hear.

The C20A didn't choose a lane of its own to stay on and instead does several things well instead of doing one thing great. While that's not necessarily a bad way to go, the main thing that sets this soundbar apart from the better-sounding B20A is its size. Unless you really need something that small and are paying an extra $ 20 for enhanced bass, DTS Virtual: X and a subwoofer out seems like a natural way to go.

Our opinion

The SR-C20A is the soundbar Yamaha designed it for – a compact bar that fits into tons of nooks and crannies of a modern home – and it deserves praise for it. At the same time, it comes at the expense of the low-end range needed as a compelling solution for movies, while the costs and features too closely mimic their more powerful cousins.

Are there any better alternatives?

At $ 200, the Yamaha SR-B20A is a better option for larger spaces, but it doesn't offer the luxury of compact versatility that the C20A prides itself on. Off-brand, Vizio's V-Series 2.1 bar costs the identical $ 180 and comes with a wireless subwoofer that will almost certainly solve any problems you've had with the C20A. With a compact size and clear audio. along with a better balance for music. Important to you, you must be willing to spend $ 300 on the Zvox AV157 which is a significant price hike.

How long it will take?

The SR-C20A is light enough to throw around, but I wouldn't recommend doing so. It feels like a sturdy product, however, with connections that aren't exactly state of the art but don't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Should you buy it?

That is a difficult question. If you need clear sound and strong vocals in a smaller space in your house, the C20A is a solid, somewhat expensive option. However, if you're hoping to find an all-in-one bar for movies and TV in your more cavernous living room, I'd spend the extra cash on the B20A.

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