Yamaha SR-C30A soundbar review: Cheap and compact soundbar & sub combo
Good option for buyers on a shoestring, but lack of upgrade path means it’s not for petrolheads.
⊕ Well-priced 'bar and sub package
⊕ Will easily sit underneath most TVs
⊖ No Dolby Atmos or DTS:X support
⊖ No upgrade path
While there’s no support for the Dolby Atmos or DTS:X immersive sound standards, the Yamaha SR-C30A conforms to the Dolby Digital standard. And the 2.1 configuration – two front-facing speakers in the soundbar plus the subwoofer’s speaker – means you’re promised a wider soundstage beyond what your TV’s integrated speakers can produce.
Likewise, there’s no support for any music streaming platforms like Apple AirPlay or Spotify Connect, and you can’t stream music from your phone over Wi-Fi, but, you can at least stream music to the soundbar via Bluetooth. A 3.5mm port lets the SR-C30A double as a music centre.
The low price ($280/£300) makes this a very tempting proposition, but how does the Yamaha SR-C30A compare with its competition?
Design and dimensions
Yamaha’s SR-C30A is one of the smallest soundbars available; maybe not super-small like the Panasonic SoundSlayer SC-HTB01, but at just 64mm high, you should be able to fit it underneath most TV sets and stands. Alternatively, it can be wall mounted.
Available in black and red versions, the SR-C30A’s body is plastic with a matt finish. The top, front, and sides are coated in stretchy fabric mesh that hides the two speakers from view. A simple control panel – source, volume down/up, power – sits front and centre on the top of the soundbar, and a strip of LEDs sits underneath at the base. These light up when you adjust volume or bass levels, or active one of the many sound modes. On the back all of the ports – USB for updates, 3.5mm, two digital optical ports, HDMI ARC, and power – sit in a recessed area.
The subwoofer stands at 160mm when set on its side, with the speaker facing towards the floor. While some adhesive pads are included in the box to help anchor the sub, there’s not much ground clearance, so if you’re setting this up on a carpeted floor, you might want to reposition things to that the low-end noises can actually travel, otherwise you’ll risk those sounds being muffled and muted.
As the Yamaha SR-C30A features an HDMI port with ARC (audio return channel), setting it up on a compatible TV is a piece of cake – connect it to the relevant HDMI port, power it on, and you’re good to go. There are also optical connections for older TV sets without HDMI ports. Once the soundbar is connected, power on the subwoofer, and it should pair instantly. The whole set-up process is very quick.
If your TV supports HDMI ARC, you can use your TV or set-top box remote to control the volume. If not, you can use the supplied remote or the Yamaha SB Remote app (iOS, Android) to alter volume, and enable various sound modes.
The supplied remote control features separate volume rockers for the subwoofer and the master volume. The sub can be set at a neutral level, or raised or lowered by four increments, while the master volume level runs from 0-50. There’s also a Bass Extension mode, if you want to enhance low end noise further, as well as a Clear Voice dialogue booster setting. While there’s no virtual EQ on the app, you can tinker with sound levels to some degree.
Sound quality and speakers
Despite there being just two speakers, the Yamaha SR-C30A does a fine job of boosting dialogue, whether that’s speech between characters in a movie, or people speaking on news programmes.
Toggling the ClearVoice mode raises the level of speech further still, accentuating trebly sounds of voices, which, depending on the content you’re viewing, can give voices extra sibilance in a way that’s not always pleasing – BBC News in particular seemed to suffer from this. You’ll want this mode on if you’re watching TV late at night, so as not to disturb your fellow occupants and/or neighbours.
The soundstage generated is also wider than you might expect, with movies and games sounding nice and expansive with either the 3D Movie or Game modes on – both of these create the impression of wider sound fields. While the sense of immersion is nowhere near as convincing as it would be via a Dolby Atmos-supporting soundbar with more drivers, it’s still pretty effective.
When listening to the volcanic eruption and thunderclaps from the opening moments of Katla, and the sound of the helicopter approaching in an episode of Stranger Things on Netflix sounded particularly pleasing. In both instances, the low rumbling noises were given extra weight by the sub, and made the scenes feel more immersive.
Stereo mode is best used for music playback, and most tracks sound pleasing enough through the SR-C30A. Again, vocals really shine here, with the subtle vocal inflections of Peter Murphy and Billie Eilish’s vocals on She’s In Parties and I Didn’t Change My Number sounding pristine amid quite busy mixes.
At extreme volumes, there is some tell-tale distortion, particularly in the lower frequencies, with the sub starting to rattle unpleasantly whenever the master volume was pushed over 40, even with the sub on 0 and Bass Extension turned off. The bassline and kick drums of Dead Prez’s Hip-Hop sound virtually indistinguishable at this level, and even the bass notes and snare hits on Dave Brubeck’s Take Five – a much clearer mix than Hip-Hop – exhibited obvious distortion.
Even at moderate volumes, there’s also not a lot of mid-range punch here, which is largely forgivable considering the speaker set up. But it just means that music can occasionally sound flat. When you realise that the Denon DHT-S517 is an extra £80-£100 if you shop around, this makes the SR-C30A look like a less valuable option.
Likewise, while the Polk React soundbar is cheaper still at £249; the subwoofer costs an extra £179 – academic if your budget can’t stretch beyond £300.
All things considered, the Yamaha SR-C30A is a strong proposition for buyers who want a soundbar and sub primarily for giving TV dialogue a clear boost, and aren’t bothered about upgrade paths or immersive sound standards.
- Power: 20W per speaker
- Speakers: 2 x 1.8” (4.6 cm) cone speakers
- Six modes: Clear Voice, Bass Extension, 3D Movie, Stereo, Standard, Game
- Inputs/Outputs: HDMI ARC, optical (x2), USB (for updates/servicing)
- Dimensions: 64 x 600 x 94 mm
- Weight: 1.3 kg
- Power: 50W
- 5.1” (13cm) speaker
- Ported cabinet
- Dimensions: 160 x 335 x 364 mm
- Weight: 5.7 kg
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