“Does what no other soundbar can do”

FOR Truly im­mer­sive sound­field from a soundbar AGAINST Hefty size makes place­ment dif­fi­cult

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - First Test -

Yamaha, meet Dolby At­mos – the sur­round sound tech­nol­ogy that adds over­head sound to cre­ate an im­mer­sive cinema ex­pe­ri­ence. Dolby At­mos, meet the Yamaha YSP 5600 – which, for a hefty £1600, aims to pro­vide a truly en­velop­ing sound­field from above, with­out speak­ers in your ceil­ing.

So how does Yamaha do it? The same way its YSP range of sound­bars have al­ways done sur­round sound: us­ing mul­ti­ple ar­ray speak­ers and pro­pri­etary In­tel­libeam tech­nol­ogy to pre­cisely aim dis­crete chan­nels of sound around the room. The YSP 5600 sim­ply adds up­ward-fir­ing driv­ers into the mix to sup­port Dolby At­mos sound­tracks.

There are 46 speak­ers in to­tal un­der the YSP 5600’s grille: 44 ar­ray speak­ers and two woofers. Of the ar­rays, 12 are used as ‘height’ chan­nels – six up­ward-fir­ing driv­ers on each side bounce sound off the ceil­ing at just the right an­gle to make it sound like sound is com­ing from above.

Yamaha claims that the YSP 5600 pro­duces the same ef­fect as a 7.1.2 sys­tem. That's seven sur­round speak­ers with one sub­woofer and two up­ward-fir­ing speak­ers. All from one sin­gle bar. That's a bold claim.

Rain­drops keep fall­ing

You’ll have to cal­i­brate the soundbar to your room, so that it knows where to an­gle and bounce the out­put of those 44 speak­ers – a cru­cial step for this soundbar to work prop­erly. A set-up mic is in­cluded, and the process takes roughly a minute.

Play the Blu-ray of John Wick (one of the few discs with an At­mos sound­track) and the Yamaha spreads sound across the room with re­mark­able ac­cu­racy. The sound­field is mas­sive. You can hear sur­round-sound ef­fects – the sharp ping of gun­shots, the chirp­ing of early morn­ing crit­ters, the club mu­sic – com­ing from be­side you and be­hind you in a con­vinc­ing man­ner.

Does it re­ally give you sound from above? Yes, it does. A Dolby At­mos demo track of rain­drops fall­ing is more in front of you rather than di­rectly above your head – but the height re­mains. The fi­nal sound will be af­fected by how re­flec­tive your room is, but there’s scope to delve into the soundbar’s menu and tweak the pa­ram­e­ters.

The YSP 5600 will never fully repli­cate the ef­fect of hav­ing phys­i­cal speak­ers in the ceil­ing for At­mos, but de­liv­er­ing such a con­vinc­ing sense of height and at­mos­phere from a sin­gle chas­sis is truly im­pres­sive.

No need to add a sub­woofer

We can’t fault the YSP 5600’s sur­round pre­ci­sion, but we do wish it was a bit more re­veal­ing of a film’s sound­track. Voices could be fleshed out a bit more clearly to con­vey nu­ances. We also want a touch more sub­tlety to shift­ing dy­nam­ics – as the film flits be­tween quiet, con­ver­sa­tional mo­ments to tense fight scenes, we want a touch more build-up and ex­cite­ment to the pro­ceed­ings. A lit­tle more sub­tlety too would make the Yamaha soundbar just that bit more cap­ti­vat­ing to lis­ten to.

Yamaha YSP-5600



“Not ev­ery­one can in­stall a speaker pack­age in their liv­ing room, let alone put speak­ers into the ceil­ing. For those peo­ple, the YSP-5600 is an el­e­gant so­lu­tion with a gen­uinely im­mer­sive ef­fect”

Even with those rel­a­tively small nig­gles, the Yamaha de­liv­ers a solid per­for­mance packed with de­tail and power. The low-end per­for­mance has am­ple weight, lend­ing au­thor­ity to the thwack of flesh hit­ting flesh as the fights get hairy. No mat­ter how high we turn the soundbar’s vol­ume up – and it can go pretty loud – the sound never hard­ens up at the top.

The same can be said for stereo mu­sic when stream­ing over Blue­tooth or in­ter­net ra­dio. It could do with more trans­parency, but the sense of ex­cite­ment and punch is still there.

Yamaha also makes a part­ner­ing wire­less sub­woofer, but choos­ing that op­tion hikes the price up to £1900 and, quite hon­estly, the bar doesn’t need it. The low-end is hefty enough on its own.

Ob­structed view

We can’t ig­nore the ob­vi­ous ele­phant in the room any longer: this soundbar is huge. We had ex­pected it to be fairly wide to ac­com­mo­date that num­ber of speak­ers in­side, but it's the height that smacks us with sur­prise. Mea­sur­ing 12cm, it’s tall enough to ob­struct the bot­tom of the vast ma­jor­ity of mod­ern tele­vi­sions.

That height will pose a prob­lem for many, as you’ll want to po­si­tion the soundbar di­rectly below your TV so the sound matches what’s on screen. So un­less you have a TV that stands on stilts, you’re look­ing at wall-mount­ing the TV at least. We wouldn’t place it on the shelf un­der your TV ei­ther, as that will block the up­ward-fir­ing speak­ers from do­ing their job.

Place­ment is­sues aside, the soundbar it­self is a sturdy, well built ob­ject. It’s fairly slim, con­sid­er­ing there are 46 speak­ers in­side. There’s a re­as­sur­ing weight to the metal chas­sis, the all-black fin­ish is spot­less and the sim­ple con­trol but­tons all look neat and or­derly. It doesn’t quite have the lux­u­ri­ous fin­ish of the Dali Ku­bik One, but no other soundbar we’ve tested looks as

stylish as the Dali. We do ap­pre­ci­ate the dis­creet look of the Yamaha – it’s not likely to stick out sorely in your liv­ing room.

Our only ma­jor griev­ance is that the front dis­play is too small and dif­fi­cult to read be­hind the grille. We had to squint ev­ery time to read the scrolling text.

You do get your money’s-worth in terms of fea­tures, though. The YSP"5600 comes with all the lat­est stream­ing tech you’d find in any of Yamaha’s top AV re­ceivers. Along with stan­dard Blue­tooth and Air­play stream­ing, you also get ac­cess to thou­sands of songs thanks to Spo­tify Con­nect in­te­gra­tion and in­ter­net ra­dio.

Stream­ing from your smart­phone is swift and sim­ple, es­pe­cially when you use Yamaha’s Mu­siccast app (see panel, p6). Even if you won’t be us­ing Yamaha’s new multi-room fea­ture (which streams mu­sic across Mu­siccast-sup­port­ing prod­ucts), the app makes set­ting up the soundbar with your home net­work and stream­ing from your smart de­vice that bit eas­ier. The re­mote con­trol is nice though – it is laid out log­i­cally, the big but­tons re­spond in­stantly and it’s a more prac­ti­cal de­sign than we’ve pre­vi­ously seen from Yamaha.

Is At­mos re­ally worth it?

It’s not all about stream­ing. You get a good se­lec­tion of phys­i­cal con­nec­tions, all neatly tucked away at the back of the soundbar. There are four HDMI in­puts with 4K/60p pass-through, and one HDMI out­put. There are also two op­ti­cals, one coax­ial and a pair of ana­logue in­puts.

As well as Dolby At­mos, the YSP"5600 sup­ports DTS:X, the other 3D sound for­mat, but you’ll need to up­date the firmware at a fu­ture date for the full sup­port.

The YSP"5600 suc­cess­fully does what it sets out to do: de­liver over­head sur­round sound from a sin­gle soundbar. It’s a hugely im­pres­sive tech­no­log­i­cal feat, but here’s the dilemma: is that Dolby At­mos sup­port worth the pre­mium price?

There aren't many At­mos films out on Blu-ray right now, and it looks that way for the fore­see­able fu­ture. How­ever, the ones we have heard are worth in­vest­ing in, and it makes us ex­cited for the fu­ture of sur­round sound. But we ap­pre­ci­ate not ev­ery­one can in­stall a fully sep­a­rate speaker pack­age in their liv­ing room, let alone add more into the ceil­ing. For those peo­ple, the YSP"5600 is an el­e­gant so­lu­tion with a gen­uinely im­mer­sive ef­fect. Yes, it’s ex­pen­sive. But there is no other soundbar on the mar­ket that does what the Yamaha YSP"5600 does.

The YSP-5600 has

to ac­com­mo­date 44

speak­ers, and is tall

enough to ob­struct

your view of the TV




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