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Yamaha YSP-1000 Digital Sound Projector | $1999 | 

For: Impressive recreation of surround sound given a suitable environment

Against: None, if you have the space and the money

Verdict: Provides uncluttered surround sound for minimalist designer-styled living rooms

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Yamaha’s range of ‘audio projectors’ aim to do what no other product has been able to; to create acceptable surround sound from a single unit. Oh yes, we’ve all heard pseudo-surround systems, mainly built into TVs, and been underwhelmed by their echoey effects. But the YSP range, developed from the groundbreaking YSP-1, really seems to have something.

The basic idea is audacious in its simplicity. The YSP-1000’s 40 inch-long cabinet contains not one, not five, but 42 separate digital amplifiers, driving 40 ‘sound beam’ drivers and two subwoofers. By conforming itself to the shape of the surroundings and applying complex delay algorithms to the signals coming from the drivers, the YSP-1000 can truly give a surround effect. So is it time to say goodbye to traditional room-filling 5.1 speaker systems?

Design and Construction:

Sleekly designed to be the ideal companion for any 40 inch display, the YSP-1000 is almost featureless from the front; all you see is an LED display, standby button, input source button, and volume buttons. Peeking through the black mesh are suggestions of the drivers beneath.
 
Around the back it’s more complicated, with the sort of connections you would expect to find on an amplifier; stereo audio inputs for TV and VCR; composite video inputs for VCR, DVD and satellite; component video inputs for DVD and satellite; composite and component video outputs; optical and coaxial audio inputs for DVD, TV and satellite; an RS-232 connection, wired remote socket and mono subwoofer output. The IR signal received by the remote control sensor on the front panel is directly output through the IR OUT terminal, and the RS-232C interface, though not currently implemented, will be used to implement integration with system controllers from the likes of Crestron and AMX. This is the third version of the product, and differs from what has gone before with improvements to its connectivity.

So how does it all work? Having positioned the unit, presumably on or under your big TV (a wall bracket is an optional extra), you connect the provided cabled ‘optimiser’ microphone to a jack socket on the side of the unit. The microphone is set up in the listening position, and you activate the unit’s ‘IntelliBeam’ auto setup function. The system runs through a series of test tones and adjusts itself according to what it ‘hears’ through the microphone, saving you all the tedious business of adjusting speaker delays manually. You can save more than one set of system settings for different situations, such as whether curtains are open or closed.

If for any reason you can’t run the auto-install, there are manual functions which help you to define room size, shape, speaker position, beam angle, listening position and so on. 

You are then pretty much ready to go, selecting an input source and mode and adjusting volume to suit.

Sound’s Good:
 
Basically, the YSP-100 generates real centre and subwoofer sound, and ‘virtual’ front left/right and rear left/right sound, created by bouncing sound beams off the walls.

Of course, there are situations in which the YSP-1000’s sound beam technology simply wouldn’t work; in a vast empty space, or in a room with sound-deadening material on all the walls, for instance. The recommended room sizes are 3-7m wide, 2-3.5m high, and 3-7m deep; the listening position needs to be at least 2m from the speakers, and there’s a warning in the manual about furniture likely to obstruct the path of the sound beams. Say goodbye to the coffee-table, then.

The unit should ideally be installed equidistant from side walls, but can be in a corner, though this precludes use of some of its operating modes.


Click to enlarge
There are five basic modes. In 5-beam, all five real and virtual channels are used, so this is the one for movie viewing. In stereo+3-beam mode, all five channels are used, but aimed more directly at the listening position rather than being bounced off the walls; this mode is for live music recordings. 3-beam mode deletes the rear channels so the effective listening position is widened, better for a number of people viewing movies. In Stereo mode, you get just the front left/right channels aimed directly at the listening position, so this is for stereo music; lastly, Target mode outputs sound in a single channel, the horizontal angle of which can be altered to direct sound to a more distant listening position; so for instance you can listen to the sound output while you’re making a cuppa without disturbing the whole house.

The system is compatible with Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS Neo: 6, and also features a number of the brand’s highly evolved tri-field Cinema DSP modes adapted from Yamaha’s home cinema amplifiers, so you can choose Sports, Movie, Music, Concert Hall, Jazz Club or other modes to add surround effects to mono or stereo source material. There are also dynamic range reduction modes, SRS TruBass enhancement, and a sleep timer.

The remote control handset included is capable of handling a TV, DVD, VCR and satellite tuner in addition to the YSP-1000 itself, and has a macro function so you can program chains of commands.

So does it work? Well, yes; because we’ve heard it demoed in ideal conditions. The sense of surround is remarkable, though it has to be said that it will never recapture the punchy, full-bodied effect that can be created by a brace of individual speakers. The question is, how many of us live in the ideal conditions necessary for this sort of performance? We would venture to say, not many of us.

The YSP-1000 can be configured to cope with asymmetrical rooms, but not the sort of odd shapes many people have to live with; the concept may be ingenious, but only allow yourself to be sucked into the idea if you have an environment that complements the technology. In use, in ideal conditions, the sonic surround effect is genuinely surprising. Front-stage imaging is crisp and involving. And yes, you really do look over your shoulder, wondering where the sound is coming from. The soundfield is on the light side, though, but the good news is the RRP includes a matching YST-SW225B subwoofer to do the job.
 
Conclusion

If you have the sort of spacious, minimalist living area typically seen in lifestyle magazines, this system may well be a way into uncluttered surround sound. For the rest of us, I suspect the network of cables and pile of separate speakers will continue to be the better option.

SmartHouse Handy Hint:

Yamaha’s YSP-1000 doesn’t do any video processing; the video inputs are only there so it can superimpose its onscreen display on the image you are watching. Once you have completed setup, you could dispense with the cables and bypass the video inputs completely, relying on the remote control handset and the YSP-1000’s built-in display.

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