Yamaha dig­i­tal sound pro­ces­sor

Here’s just the ticket for AV en­thu­si­asts who want sur­round sound but have lit­tle space.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - Co­or­di­nated by SUJESH PAVITHRAN afile@thes­tar.com.my By JOSEPH LOH

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.

Be­yond bound­aries

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).

End­ing cred­its

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.

YAMAHA YSP-4100

WHAT IT IS: Dig­i­tal sound pro­ces­sor sound­bar

AV re­ceiver

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.

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