Yamaha digital sound processor
Here’s just the ticket for AV enthusiasts who want surround sound but have little space.
HOME theatre enthusiasts have experienced a tremendous leap forward in quality over the past five years. This is thanks to the availability of high-definition audio and video in the form of Blu-ray (and now-defunct HD-DVD) discs, not to mention access to HD satellite broadcasts.
Getting great video performance is easy, as full-HD TVs abound and at prices that won’t break the bank. Audio, however, is a different proposition – surround sound necessitates the use of multiple speakers (up to seven!) and not many have the space or the inclination to incorporate these into their living rooms.
Hence, the reason for a product like the Yamaha YSP-4100 Digital Sound Processor – a device that gives multi-channel surround sound from a single box. Yamaha pioneered the concept with the release of the YSP-1 about five years ago, and the latest incarnation promises to impress as much as its predecessor did then.
All in the box
The YSP-4100 is basically a long box measuring 212 x 1,030 x 90mm (h/w/d) which houses 42 drivers, comprising two 11cm woofers and 40 4cm beam drivers, each with its own digital amplifier (20W and 2W respectively).
Its black-themed aesthetic is simple yet attractive, and size not overly obtrusive – it has similar width as a typical 42-inch flatpanel. However, where you place it matters. There are no issues if wall-mounted, but the height of the unit will obscure the bottom of the TV if placed on the same shelf. The solution is to place it on a lower shelf or raise the TV itself (I had some planks which did the trick).
Placement considerations aside, the setting-up of the unit is a cinch. There are no messy speaker wires to speak of, and all you have to do is connect the power cord, source components and display. Provided are four HDMI inputs and multiple audio inputs – three digital (two optical, one coaxial) and two stereo RCA analogue inputs, so it will never be caught short.
Thankfully, you do not have to turn on the unit every time you want to watch the telly, as it passes through all HDMI signals even when turned off. It also has component video inputs (which up-converts signals to 1080p) and 7.1-channel preamp outputs. The latter provision baffles me as connection to an external AV amplifier and speakers completely negates the benefit of a one-box system ... but I digress.
In terms of format compatibility, it truly has everything, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio included!
Calibration is made simple with the IntelliBeam system – connect the microphone and place it on a cardboard stand (both provided) in the listening position, hit the button on the remote and high-tail yourself out of the room. After about a minute and a series of beeps, sweeps and clicks later, the YSP-4100 is optimised.
The YSP-4100 was paired with a now-geriatric JVC XV-N412S DVD player, Western Digital WD TV and TViX Slim S1 media players, with a Philips 42PFL9703 for display duties.
Let’s get one important thing clear first – the YSP-4100 needs side and back walls (in relatively close proximity to the unit) to get a proper surround-sound field. I heard an earlier incarnation of the YSP at the CES some years ago. Housed in a plexi-glass room, with hard surfaces for the sound beams to bounce off, it gave a very convincing surround experience – and yes, rear sound effects did appear to come from the rear.
However, things were not as convincing in my living room. The unit was placed where there is a wall (with windows) on the left, but an open space to the right. No sounds appeared to come from the rear, but the boundaries of the sound field appeared to be extended by a few feet to the side and beyond the back of the unit.
There were some effects coming from the left of the room, but little from the right – you could say that it gave a wide rather than a surround sound stage. That said, the sound field was never unbalanced as the centre channel anchored the sound tracks well.
While its surround sound did not work for my listening environment, I had little to complain about in sonic terms. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was quite outstanding.
It shone with its excellent clarity in the midrange, and superb detail came through. The tonal balance was fairly neutral, but there was a slight enrichment of midrange tones, something that presented itself playing music on the unit.
It also had considerable authority and weight, and seemed to sound much bigger than it actually is. In this regard, it bettered most products based on the “soundbar” concept I’ve heard so far.
However, bass performance left a bit to be desired, and understandably so, since the YSP-4100 has only two 11cm woofers. Although the unit can go very loud, movies with explosive soundtracks (such as the two Transformer movies) lacked visceral impact. However, this is easily remedied with the addition of a subwoofer (Yamaha has good matching options).
The Yamaha YSP-4100 is not the ultimate solution for those with large rooms, but it is a very good sonic performer. Looking beyond the lack of bass, and the fact it needs walls to perform properly, it is a step above most mass-market soundbar systems.
Those who want improved sonics but are not able to spare the space should have a good listen to the YSP-4100.
WHAT IT IS: Digital sound processor soundbar
LUST FACTOR: All you need in an AV receiver, including HD surround audio compatibility. Four HDMI inputs and pass-through. Excellent clarity.
REALITY CHECK: Pricey. No deep bass. Needs side and back walls for proper surround sound.
PRICE: RM5,390 DISTRIBUTOR: YAMAHAMUSIC(MALAYSIA) SDNBHD(%03-78030900) In a tight spot: The Yamaha YSP-4100 digital sound projector, works optimally when space is a premium.