After having gone through an entire month of floorstanders, satellites and receivers; each wrapped in their own box, it was refreshing to find the entire package in one box. That’s the fun of HtiBs (Home Theatre In A Box), something that plenty of manufacturers who care about the masses love to build. Yamaha is no new kid in this 5.1 entertainment market segment and they are here this time with their YHT-196 HTiB. 

Out of the Box

There is something to be said about the design efforts required to get five satellites, a full-size AV receiver and a subwoofer, all in one cardboard box. In this case, Yamaha did the compartmentalizing so tightly that once we saw it, we didn’t want to remove the speakers from their place. Nevertheless, once we started unveiling the satellites, we realized after removing the first two speakers that they were all identical with curvy boxes and no sharp edges on them. The bottom edge of the satellites has been given bass reflex slots, to allow them some bass extension probably. 

Dimensions of the Yamaha YHT-196 AV Receiver

Dimensions of the Yamaha YHT-196 AV Receiver

The centre looks like its part of the same set primarily because of its black gloss finish. It is long, like any conventional centre channel, although its length doesn’t support that bottom reflex slot. As for the subwoofer, it has been kept with the same plastic built quality as the other drivers in its family. Its size looks to be a lot larger than what might be needed to help support the rest of the smaller five channels. Thankfully, Yamaha hasn’t fallen for that horizontal subwoofer that most HTiB manufacturers are putting out. As for the AV receiver, it looks to be about as solid as any Yamaha standalone receiver. Its back panel does look a lot emptier than other receivers because its speaker terminals aren’t built to support any speaker types other than ones powered by strip wire. 

Technology

If you were to look at the specsheet’s collective figures, which are basically what the YHT-196 can do in tandem, you’ll find the frequency range it can deliver is between 30Hz to 25kHz. Although the subwoofer is a little larger than expected, it only comes sporting a passive 6.4” driver. So that 30Hz lower end might be a bit of a stretch when we look at the literal performance of this system. At the same time, the power this subwoofer gets is entirely from the AV receiver, which has been stated to deliver 100W of power when just one channel is driven. This would be about 30-40W per channel when all six channels are driven, which would seem sufficient for the satellites but probably not quite enough for the subwoofer to pump 30Hz out of its driver with sufficient push. Then again, this system isn’t aimed to satisfy the strict listeners who demand specsheet results; it is for the simple man looking to expand their sound entertainment experience. Sometimes that could just mean getting surprised at having sound come from behind you! 

Dimensions of the Yamaha YHT-196 Front speakers

Dimensions of the Yamaha YHT-196 Front speakers

All the satellites come sporting a 3” full-range driver, that’s including the centre channel, although I believe that would mean the centre channel’s entire length is being wasted. Usually there’s an extra driver in there to give the dialogue channel that much more power and spread. But for serving as fronts and the surrounds, this should be sufficient to make any HTiB well worth the money. The heart of this system is its AV receiver and it’s capable of doing a lot more than you’d expect from a six channel amplifier that’s been boxed in with six speakers and the price tag is still under Rs 25,000. It has all the features of any mid-level receiver, such as HDMI 3D pass-through, all the Dolby and DTS surround decoders (including their HD versions found on blu-rays) and several more DSP related options that help with your stereo sound stream. As for connectivity, it doesn’t have all the new Apple connectivity options like support for AirPort and so on, but it does have enough HDMI inputs and digital audio inputs to make you happy. It would’ve been nice to see a USB port on it, primarily because any person buying an HTiB in this price bracket would also be a fan of watching DivX films off their pendrive.

Dimensions of the Yamaha YHT-196 Centre Speaker

Dimensions of the Yamaha YHT-196 Centre Speaker

This has to be one of the simplest AV receiver remotes I’ve had the pleasure of using. Everything is in its right place, which means that you don’t have to keep hunting for relevant buttons. This is a boon when you are engrossed in the movie and don’t watch to shift your eyes from the screen or turn on the lights and disturb the atmosphere. Things have been slotted into categories with enough real estate to let your fingers feel the separation between the categories. The volume and the navigation buttons have been kept at the bottom end of the remote, again, a very easy place to find them. Its performance is flawless and it gave us no reason to complain.

AV MAX is a special interest audiophile magazine that focuses on reviewing high-end AV equipment like amplifiers, stereos, floorstanding speakers and related news

AV MAX is a special interest audiophile magazine that focuses on reviewing high-end AV equipment like amplifiers, stereos, floorstanding speakers and related news

Performance

The hardest, most tedious part, about this setup was the wiring. Yamaha doesn’t provide this system with separate wires for each channel, but has, instead, provided a lengthy bundle of strip wire that needs to be cut and stripped by you. Now the good part about this is that you can cut the wire as per the distance you need, so you won’t have a lot of wire slack tripping people’s feet. The downside is that this process requires certain tools, time and technique (quite minimal to be fair) which will only make a simple buyer spend a little more money calling over the electrician to do the needful. After a good 30 minutes, I was ready to roll the Blu-rays in the PS3 and let the video and audio signals run down the HDMI pipeline. 

Dimensions of the Yamaha YHT-196 Subwoofer

Dimensions of the Yamaha YHT-196 Subwoofer

The first in the list was the first instalment of ‘Transformers’. During the opening sequence about the All Spark, I could already tell that this setup had something to offer that plenty of other HTiBs haven’t given us–sonic size. They still do sound small when put in comparison to even bookshelves, but with that well-timed and sufficiently powered subwoofer, they could hold up a powerful soundstage. As the fronts started vibrating however, they started to move around on our steel stands due to a lack of friction. This is the problem with speakers that weigh 500 grams. I had to resort to surrounding it with books to prevent it from moving.

Front and rear views of the Yamaha YHT-196 AV Receiver

Front and rear views of the Yamaha YHT-196 AV Receiver

With our DVD of ‘Shutter Island’, I got to hear the darkness of this film’s tone come out through the brass chords that stab all through the soundtrack. The soundstage was wider than I’d expected with the surrounds doing plenty of work in keeping the atmosphere of the insane asylum as creepy as possible. There is a terrific moment in this film when DiCaprio’s character first walks down the pathway leading up to the asylum. He sees a bald, old, insane lady gardening who looks at him and gestures a ‘Shh’ to him. The sound during this moment fades out, leaving nothing but the sound of a long bird chirping a whistle. The Yamaha YHT-196 played this subtle sequence with a delicacy we’ve found on only much larger and expensive 5.1 systems. The whistle was kept perfectly in the background, sort of underneath the silence rather than over it, which in itself is a very difficult feat to achieve. There are moments during the dialogues when you do hear the mid-range spike in the speakers’ frequency response. It almost crunches this mids because of the driver size each of these satellites possess. This is not a feature that will fade over time because it is a limitation of the physical material and has nothing to do with burning-in the speakers.

Full function remote control

Full function remote control

Verdict and Price in India

Yamaha’s YHT-196 is an HTiB that will surprise you in every way you can imagine. The subwoofer is especially splendid with fantastic control on its frequencies that are both quick and powerful. This setup does suffer from the standard shortcomings of any small speaker 5.1 system like mid-frequency notching and a sense of smallness especially when it comes to large action sequences that need vertical soundstaging along with horizontal. But when you see its Rs. 25,000 price tag, everything comes into perspective beautifully. For this price, it sure as hell is worth it.

Specifications
Fronts/Centre/Surrounds

Design:                              Acoustic Suspension

Drivers:                              1×3” Full-range Cone

Nominal Impedadance: 6Ω

Power Handling:              30-100W 

Sensitivity:                         84dB

Weight Fronts:                  0.5kg  

Weight Centre:                 0.7kg

Subwoofer

Drivers:  6.4” Bass Refl ex

Weight:  5.2kg

AV Receiver

Power Output:                                         100Wx1

Total Harmonic Distortion(THD):        0.06%

Signal-To-Noise RaRatio (SNRNR): 98dB

Weight:                                                     9.7kg

AV MAX is a special interest audiophile magazine that focuses on reviewing high-end AV equipment like amplifiers, stereos, floorstanding speakers and related news

AV MAX is a special interest audiophile magazine that focuses on reviewing high-end AV equipment like amplifiers, stereos, floorstanding speakers and related news

Publish date: July 6, 2012 9:28 am| Modified date: December 18, 2013 10:41 pm

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