Yamaha SR-C30A review: compact soundbar, wideband sound
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The subwoofer is ideal for games and movies
Pleasant sound quality
Lots of connectivity
Do not like
3D movie and dialogue mode are disappointing
Not as convincing with music
Yamaha offers a range of compact soundbars that culminates in the SR-C30A, a friendly, easy-to-use speaker that has true home cinema qualities. Its main speaker is under two feet wide, which together with the inclusion of the slim but 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, including 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 strong point for a soundbar under $300 with two exceptionally generous optical ports, HDMI and Bluetooth.
The C30A is an accomplished soundbar combo, with sound particularly suited to movies and TV. But it is overshadowed by more talented competitors, including Yamaha’s own YAS-209, currently on sale for $230, which also has 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 sleek Klipsch performs better. If space is an issue, however, the talented Yamaha SR-C30A offers plenty in an attractive, compact package.
What is this?
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, and at just 2.5 inches high it shouldn’t get in the way of your TV’s IR control port. While the soundbar is quite small, the wireless subwoofer is a bit larger at 13.3 inches high and 14.4 inches deep. Yet, since it’s only 6.3 inches wide, it’ll fit easily next to a sofa or TV stand.
Although the C30 shares many similarities with the C20, there is one main difference. Since the C30 has a wireless subwoofer, there’s no need for the ‘built-in’ 3-inch sub in the C20. Instead, the main bar consists of a stereo pair of 1.8-inch cone speakers. The vented subwoofer features a larger 5.1-inch woofer mounted to the side of the enclosure.
The front of the main unit is covered with an attractive fabric grille and displays the current mode and input via an array of LEDs. Meanwhile, controls on the top include an input selector, volume and power. The submarine is discreetly covered with a black vinyl wrap.
Despite its compactness, the C30 manages to board an HDMI ARC port, two optical connections, 3.5mm analog and Bluetooth.
For the price, you shouldn’t expect immersive sound and you don’t get that here either, just vanilla Dolby Digital. Unlike the SR-B20A, there’s not even DTS Virtual:X onboard. Instead, the system offers a mode called 3D Movie (which isn’t on the C20A) in addition to presets such as Stereo, Game, Movie and Clear Voice enhancing dialogue.
The remote is pleasantly tactile, offers both master and subwoofer volume controls and also access to the many sound processing modes.
Since the Yamaha SR-C30A is essentially a C20 with a built-in subwoofer, it was no surprise to find that the C30 is able to compensate for some of the shortcomings of the previous model. I compared the Yamaha to the current sub-$300 pick, the Klipsch Cinema 400, using both music and movies.
Watching Blade Runner 2049 on 4K Blu-ray, I was immediately impressed with the low-end control of the subwoofer. The opening scenes feature a prominent deep bass drone – because the future is both ominous and frightening – and the C30A was able to communicate the menacing soundtrack convincingly. Plus, the soundbar was able to fill the room with the hum 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 bigger subwoofer – one of the biggest I’ve ever seen on a soundbar – meant that bass from the Klipsch was even easier. It also offered more levels of subwoofer control when I tried to adjust its volume to suit the CNET test room.
Moving on to the opening scenes of Mad Max: Fury Road, the Yamaha’s impressive fill power continued in Standard and Stereo mode. The switch to the 3D movie, however, felt a bit too disjointed as the soundstage split into far right and left and the middle seemed to give up. Adding the sub didn’t help the scene dynamically; both the kinetic jumps that lead to the roar of the loader engine, and the explosive end of the car at the hands of the marauding War Boys, have been left somewhat muted.
On the other hand, the easy but dynamic nature of the Klipsch continued. The scene came to life, and I’m sure my colleagues on the other side of the test room wall didn’t enjoy the muscle car’s rumble as much as I did.
If you need a soundbar suitable for dialogue enhancement, the $179 Yamaha SR-C20A is one of the best for the price. So I was intrigued to hear how the C30A fared. Compared to the Klipsch, it was harder to tell when the C30A’s Clear Voice mode was on. Maybe it’s related to the submarine? Bass tends to blur intelligibility. However, the Klipsch was able to give an instant boost in comprehensibility when the dialogue control was activated.
When listening to music, the Yamaha lacked a bit of high end and favored a warmer sound profile. While the soundbar was pleasing with Gorillaz’ Cracker Island wavy bass, it sounded subdued compared to the exuberant Klipsch.
Should I buy it?
The Klipsch Cinema 400 clearly outperforms the Yamaha at this price point. The main advantage of the Yamaha SR-C30A is its smaller, much smaller size. The Klipsch is huge and would do well with a 65-inch or larger TV. For watching movies and TV or gaming on a smaller screen, the Yamaha is nice and its talented subwoofer manages to do a lot with such a small enclosure. It’s fun, easy to set up, and a no-frills entertainer. Yet when comparing the Yamaha directly to the best at the price, it just lacks a bit of sparkle.