|Yamaha YSP-4100 Digital Sound Projector Review|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Todd Whitesel|
|Tuesday, 27 July 2010|
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Beyond the YSP-4100's auto setup, you can use the supplied demo disc to confirm that digital signals are properly inputted from Blu-ray disc players via the HDMI, coaxial or digital connections. The DVD contains a series of digital programs to verify proper signaling from Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital 5.1.
The YSP-4100's greatest strength is its ability to produce clean, detailed sound quickly and without tinniness or shrill artifacts. You get tight treble and crisp mids. While the Projector projects sound as if it were part of a traditional surround setup, the “center” speaker acts without effect, delivering dialogue with the same clarity and separation as a dedicated center channel speaker. Meanwhile, the 3-plus dozen drivers and woofer pair fill the room with “wide” sound but not what I would call “surround.” I never had the sensation that sound was coming from behind me; rather, it was like a large cloud that emerged and kept filling the room until full. Still, pretty cool.
Other reviewers have suggested that the YSP-4100's bass performance is good enough, but I disagree. You'll get lots of detail, certainly, but listen to the Projector paired with a sub and you'll get the full story. One disc that confirmed this was the Blu-ray version of Invictus. The recent film chronicles President Nelson Mandela's attempt to unite racially divided South Africa through sport, as his country plays host to the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The stadium scenes demand full-range frequency. If you've ever been to a sporting event with tens of thousands of others, you know the hair-raising rumble that can ripple through the crowd as spectators express their joy or frustration. Where the YSP-4100 delivered the sound, the YST-SW315 delivered the experience. Together, and played back in glorious DTS-HD, the sound and the fury of the game.
Many consumers set up home theater systems and use them solely to watch movies. And the Yamaha combo will give many happy returns in that arena, but it's also a killer music machine. Throw on your favorite disc and listen in two channel, then try one of the music “surround” settings. I'm usually not one for such effects, but I really liked the Music Video setting on the YSP-4100. On many two-channel recordings, it added a nice ambience and depth that just made them feel bigger. And when music such as reggae legend Burning Spear's “Tradition,” from Marcus Garvey, is rocking steady through the room while the sub makes the floor dance, you'll understand the power of such a setup.
And if you tune into FM radio, the YSP-4100 has you covered, too. There's a Tivoli Model One FM/AM radio in my kitchen, which is used to listen to news and music in the morning and often baseball in the evening. For a mono radio, it has impressive sound and it also excels at pulling in hard-to-get FM stations. I was curious how the YSP-4100 would fare trying to lock in the same call numbers, but over the period of many weeks that I had the Yamaha gear for review, the tuner never failed to dial it in. And the sound was so superior to the Tivoli that I frequently went into the living room to listen instead.
I don’t listen to compressed on purpose, but many of the Internet radio stations I like stream compressed music by necessity. For that alone, it’s great to have a “booster” feature like Yamaha’s Compressed Music Enhancer, which helps flesh out the sound of compressed audio. Considering that the YSP-4100 is set for wireless iPod or iPhone use, the Enhancer is even handier if your digital codec of choice is AAC. The cool thing about the YSP-4100, unlike wireless streaming from a bluetooth device, is that the data is transmitted as uncompressed linear PCM, so if you have an iPod full of lossless music you won't lose fidelity during streaming. Oh yeah, not only can you stream uncompressed music wirelessly from an iPod or iPhone, you can also use the devices as remotes when listening.
No Screaming Commercials
If you've ever been subject to the unwanted blast of an infomercial or “sudden announcement” between TV programs, you'll appreciate Yamaha's UniVolume feature. This ensures that the volume doesn't change just because a commercial interrupts a program or you decide to change the channel or source input.
I liked the YSP-4100 very much, but it's not perfect. When compared to other soundbars or even complete 5.1 (or more) home theater systems, the YSP-4100 is expensive. The 4100 retails for around $1,700; throw in the subwoofer and you’re looking at another $300, bringing the system in at the $2K mark. And that doesn't include a Blu-ray or DVD player and HDMI cables. Another possible drawback is the absence of 3D video pass-through. If you want to utilize the 3D functionality on a 3D HDTV, you’ll have to connect an HDMI cable directly to your TV and an audio cable back to the YSP-4100.
The YSP-4100 is an impressive, albeit expensive, all-in-one home theater system. It is very easy to use, has very good sound and offers a range of features beyond what most consumers would ever use. It’s no revelation that a true 5.1 system will deliver a better surround experience, but that comes at the expense of space and additional wiring. Though the soundbar/sub combo can project plenty of volume for larger rooms, I particularly like the idea of using the pair in a smaller setting. You’ll get better virtual surround without stuffing the room with a maze of electronics. Paired together, the YSP-4100 and YST-SW315 take the soundbar surround concept to a very high level. Highly recommended.