|Yamaha YSP-4000 Digital Sound Projector|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Jim Swantko|
|Sunday, 01 June 2008|
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It should come to no surprise that flat panel televisions are all the rage these days, and rightly so. They look great, can be hung on the wall for mega-wow factor and are the reason for marital bliss in countless homes nationwide. The fact that flat screens are as much a fashion item as they are a source of entertainment has done wonders to ease the age-old conflict between a man’s desire for a huge video screen for watching football and a woman’s desire to have an orderly living room. It is my belief that this conflict was a primary motivation for manufacturers to create televisions thin enough to hang on the wall in the first place. I can hear the meetings now: “Make it look nice, so wives will like it and will let their husbands go crazy and spring for a huge, expensive TV – it’s a foolproof plan.” Guess what? The plan worked.
The first attempts had surround speakers so small that they were unnoticeable. This seemed like a great idea, except for one problem: the speaker wires. Hmm, how about wireless speakers? That too has been tried, but you still need to power them, which means either an ugly AC adaptor or batteries that die and need constant replacement.
The latest solution is a deceptively simple idea: manipulate the audio signals in such a way that they bounce the surround information from the front of the room, off the side walls, then into your ears. Voila, instant surround. In theory, the concept works just like banking a pool ball off the rail and into the corner pocket. Anyone who has ever played pool can tell you this looks much easier than it is. Bank shots require a nearly perfect angle to make the shot. If you failed geometry in school, stick to pinball.
Yamaha has adopted this strategy with the YSP-4000, which is their top of the line digital sound projector, with a retail price of $1,799. It uses an array of fourty, one-and-five-eighths-inch “beam” drivers, which steer the surround information to the correct angle so it bounces off the wall and to your ear. It also has two, four-and-three-eighths-inch woofers to handle the low frequencies. Each beam driver receives two watts of power and the woofers receive 20 watts apiece.
Bouncing sounds off walls may seem elementary, but when you consider the fact that most living rooms are filled with a variety of surfaces at odd angles and of differing materials, it quickly becomes an overwhelming feat to do so with control. The Yamaha YSP-4000 uses a microphone to monitor test tones generated from the beam drivers. The units’ processors adjust the source signals until the microphone tells it that the surround information sounds correct. Thankfully, this is a fully automated process that takes only a few minutes to complete.
The unit is fairly large, measuring a little over 40 inches wide, nearly six inches high and approximately five inches deep, weighing a solid 34 pounds. It can be ordered in either black or silver to blend in easily with nearly all televisions (mine was black). It can be wall-mounted or simply placed on a rack. The front has a small center display that provides lots of useful information, such as volume level, surround decoding algorithm, input and more. There is also a large alpha-numeric display that is used for the all the remaining information that the user may ever need. Buttons for power, volume and input are also located on the front of the unit, should you misplace the remote. The front panel is rounded out by an auxiliary input for audio devices like your iPod and the input for the included set-up microphone.
The back of the unit has plenty of inputs and video outputs for the average user. For video sources, it has two HDMI inputs, two component video inputs and a single composite video input. For audio, it has two sets of analog inputs and accepts digital sources via its two coax and two optical Toslink connectors. There is also an XM mini-tuner jack, as well as an iPod dock port. The XM tuner and iPod dock are sold separately, but adding them will make the integration of these devices much simpler.
The YSP-4000 arrived at my house very well packaged and included a host of cables (video, digital optical and coax, analog audio and an FM antenna) and a very thorough instruction manual, which I was pleasantly surprised to see. I am one of those people who still uses a stand rather than hanging the television on the wall. I am fortunate that my stand is deep enough to hold my television and provide enough space for the YSP-4000 to be placed in front of it. It happens to blend in perfectly with my Sony 60-inch rear-projection set and is all but invisible until you look for it.
With the unit in place, I began connecting it to my other devices. I used both of the HDMI inputs for my DirecTV box and my VuDu media server. I also used a pair of analog inputs from my Esoteric DV-50 universal player. I connected the optional iPod docking station and XM tuner as well. While making the connections, I noticed that the rear panel is nicely labeled. Some of the connectors are oriented down towards the floor, but the labeling makes this a non-issue. The connectors are deeply recessed to allow for cables to be run between the television and the wall, should you mount it there.
Once all the connections were made, I connected the auto set-up microphone to the front of the unit. This is the first time that I have seen a microphone stand included with a product, and it’s a great idea. Sections of the cardboard packaging have been perforated so that you can pop out two pieces that interlock to form the stand. The holder stands a few feet high and is remarkably sturdy. It’s an idea so simple that it begs the question of why everyone doesn’t do this. I guess Yamaha just has more creative engineers than everyone else.
With the mic installed, I pressed start and left the room as instructed. In about two minutes, the auto set-up was complete and I was ready to start listening.