The system also lacks support for DTS audio formats, including DTS:X, Dolby Atmos’ biggest 3D audio rival. That’s something you’ll find in many pricier soundbars from Samsung, LG, and Sony, though brands like Sonos and Bose offer limited or no DTS support as the format is becoming less common.
The 50A offers a good sound profile that often stretches to great. There’s plenty of detail up top and a nice heap of brawn in the midrange and bass that brings delightful heft to everything from bombastic explosions to gunshots and roaring engines.
The buzzing motorcycles in the multi-vehicle chase scene that kicks off Sam Mendes’ Skyfall are rendered with just the right growl, while the gunshots between Bond’s Walther PPK and the assassin’s submachine gun come through with thrilling pops.
You’ll find plenty to smile about in chaotic action scenes like the sister duel in Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy Volume II. As Nebula pilots her gunship toward a kamikaze collision with Gamora, the battery of bullets, roaring turbines, and thundering crash are thoroughly captivating. The capable subwoofer blends fluently with dual woofers inside the bar in such scenes to rake up some low-frequency gold, going above and beyond both standalone soundbar setups and the dinkier subwoofers that ride along with many budget soundbars.
The sound does come off boxier than bars that push closer to the $1,000 line. This can occasionally lead to some shoutiness in sharp effects and dialog or particularly bright instruments when streaming music. That’s countered by a nuanced touch to quieter moments in sitcoms and dramas. Subtle dialog is smooth yet present, with detail that approaches premium quality. Michael Scott’s comical mispronunciations and literal paper-pushing in The Office are eloquently delivered, going far beyond what you’ll hear from your TV alone.
Up Not Out
Upward firing and angled drivers at the Bar 50A’s flanks assure notable sonic expansion for Dolby Atmos content, especially for overhead effects. Raindrops, buzzing insects, and strafing starships in Atmos films and demo reels burst to life with appropriate awe, bringing much more gravitas to such scenes than cheaper bars with virtual Dolby Atmos systems.
The lack of side-firing drivers or virtualization software like room calibration keeps the soundstage short of the mesmerizing surround sound expansion you’ll hear from systems like the Sonos Arc and Bose’s Soundbar 900. While Yamaha’s bar certainly extends beyond its frame, curling around toward the listening position at times, it can’t quite capture the same brain-tingling “dome of sound.”
The Bar 50A can’t serve as an anchor to a multiroom audio system like those bars, either, but you can add Yamaha’s new True X Speaker 1A satellite speakers ($300) to create a true surround system. It takes some finagling to set these up, mainly because they’re not just surrounds, but also act as separate Bluetooth speakers you can take around the house or out into the world.
It’s an intriguing concept we’re starting to see more often, but I’m not sure how useful that flexibility is. The speakers provide excellent upper register clarity that’s great for podcasts, but there’s no shortage of Bluetooth speakers on the market and they’re lacking bass when compared to something like JBL’s rugged portables. One can also imagine scenes like Dad yelling from the basement on movie night, “Who took the left surround speaker?!”