Yamaha YSP-1 Digital Sound Projector

      Date posted: October 24, 2005

Size: 30 1/2″W x 71/2″H x 4 3/4″D
Sugg. Retail: $1699.00
Manufacturer: Yamaha Canada Music Ltd.,
135 Milner Ave., Toronto, ON M1S 3R1
(416) 298-1311 FAX 292-1732

(Reprinted from the Fall 05 Audio Ideas Guide)

Yamaha YSP-1

      The YSP-1 is an exciting product to contemplate. It is a surround reproduction system in one box, that needs only a digital source, be it DVD player, broadcast audio, or another option. According to the literature from Yamaha’s web site, “The YSP-1 employs multiple small speakers, each with it’s (sic) own digital amplifier, and our unique projection technology to control the orientation of the sound. By focusing the sound into ‘beams’ and controlling the speaker delay times, the listener perceives the sounds to be coming from additional speakers placed throughout the room, when in fact there is only the Yamaha Digital Sound Projector.”

      Inputs include a pair of Toslink digital, an RCA coaxial, and two sets of analog RCAs labelled TV and VCR, adding up to 3 digital and 2 analog inputs, selectable on the remote control, as well as on the front panel; a subwoofer out is provided, as well as RS-232 interactive connection. A Video output is offered (though no input), so that you can follow onscreen instructions for setup and operation; hopefully, most owners will have an available video input somewhere in the system to allow this connection, which will not be used much in normal operation, if at all.

      The YSP-1 can be set up for various room shapes and sizes. USER 1 (13.8′ x 11.2′), which most closely matched our 16′ x 14′ home theatre room was employed for listening tests. Please note that this system needs walls for proper reflection and “projection”. Options for corner placement and other configurations are also discussed in the extensive English and French owner�s manual. This manual provides caveats about where this system may be successfully employed: “The surround effects produced by this unit may not be sufficient when the unit is installed in the following locations: Rooms with surfaces inadequate for reflecting sound beams; rooms with acoustically absorbent surfaces; rooms with measurements outside the range (3.7 to 7m) x (2 to 3.5m) x (3 to 7m) (W x H x D); rooms with less than 2m from the listening position to the speaker positions; rooms where objects such as furniture are likely to distract the path of of sound beams”.

Yamaha YSP-1 in room

      In other words, the YSP-1 is best suited to smaller rooms with symmetrical dimensions. However, its complex Manual setup can allow tuning it to many sizes and shapes of smaller rooms (below the thresholds noted above), and quite a bit of attention is paid to using the various adjustment modes to fine tune the surround effect. A standard noise signal is provided for all channels (including an outboard subwoofer) to set levels and evaluate surround effects. Surround parameters are grouped under the headings, Panorama, Dimension, Centre Width, and Image. There is also an adjustable Night listening mode to reduce dynamic range with 3 settings.

      The unit supports all Dolby and DTS modes, with its own spatial configurations able to customize these to various sizes and shapes of rooms. Both include the newest variants in the generation 6 of these surround modes. Three from the remote control. There is also a “Room Equalizer” with Bass and Treble controls.

      The YSP-1 has 40 drivers, two of them mid-bass at either end, and the rest small ones allocated to the 5 channels of the system after the electronic processing for directivity and tonal characteristics. It is designed to mount either beneath or above the TV, and as the illustration shows, will match well with large screen tube sets, as well as with projection sets, either on top or below in front of the set.

      It was in this latter configuration that I set the YSP-1 up. And here I should note that the supplied audio and video cables (Toslink, coaxial, and a pair of stereo audio) at under a metre each, are all way too short to be used in most configurations, so many users will have to seek longer ones unless the surround source, say a DVD player, is very close to the display.

Yamaha YSP-1 sound beam diagram

      I spent a lot of time playing with the many variables of setup after removing my side-wall absorption panels from the home theatre room. As the diagram shows, the YSP-1 also depends on secondary rear-wall reflections for the full surround effect, and noting this (after some testing) I also removed the room’s rear absorption panel. In listening to a number of movies and, in particular, some IMAX documentaries with exceptional surround effects (visuals on our 64″ Pioneer RPTV), I assessed the surround performance of the YSP-1 with interesting results.

      My first advice to purchasers is to make sure it is professionally installed by someone who understands the product, its capabilities, and, especially, the nature of its room interactions. You can’t just set it up on top of or in front of and below your display device. It must be carefully calibrated, first with the Easy Setup menu, and then fine tuned with Manual Setup, in particular using the Beam Menu to adjust room wall distances, and speaker sound beam orientation.

      The vertical angle of radiation can be adjusted for mounting above or below the TV, and the position of right and left front phantom speakers is set in Image Location. There are manually selectable surround modes for Pro Logic and DTS Neo 6, with discrete Dolby Digital and DTS auto selected by signal sensing, as in other decoders. That way you know when a DVD is in either discrete mode without indication, and the matrix processing can be selected for stereo sources. These are quite convincing, though it seems to take true discrete audio to make the YSP-1 really show its stuff, with certain limitations. For one thing, as the diagram suggests, there is a definite sweet spot for surround, though the system sounds very spacious and literally outside the box from any other listening location in the room.

      I tried a number of DVDs, including IMAX’s The Great Barrier Reef, Super Speedway, The Magic Of Flight, Cosmic Voyage, Stormchasers, and a few others. The movies included Back To The Future (in its remixed package set with the 2 sequels), The Fifth Element, The Arrival, Apollo 13, Lord Of The Rings, Part One, and others. In the cases where the surround effects were powerful, the YSP-1 reproduced them well (after the meticulous tuning to the room), but more subtle effects tended to be less obvious as surround, coming more from the sides.

      The sound was therefore a little less enveloping than a system with speakers all around, though it was very much outside the horizontal plane of the single-box system. However, rocket ships, race cars, or other objects coming from front to back or back to front had a good surround component. If you want to be in the middle of the movie, this may not be the system for you, but many listeners with smaller home theatre spaces may find the YSP-1 perfect.

Yamaha YSP-1 With Grill

      Maybe my room was less ideal than I thought, with a fireplace on the right wall (unused), and corner bass traps. The left wall should have been fine, with no obstructions to its flat surface, but, in general, it took a lot of playing with distances and radiation patterns to make the system work in this space.

      That said, the YSP-1 is an innovative and complex solution to a room full of speakers if it can be suited to your room in terms of surround operation. It had lots of dynamic range and excellent tonal quality, and with an outboard subwoofer will play loud. It presents a powerful home theatre experience, one which will surprise A/V buffs with a room full of speakers. My own view is that this is quite refreshing in a climate of 7+ channel systems.

      With excellent sound quality and surprising dynamics from one box’s small speakers, the Yamaha YSP-1 is an impressive and innovative approach to home theatre audio.

Andrew Marshall

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