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Yamaha YSP-4000 Digital Sound Projector Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 June 2008
Article Index
Yamaha YSP-4000 Digital Sound Projector
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Music and Movies
The YSP-4000 is designed to be the heart of the entertainment system and is extremely user-friendly and flexible. The number of devices that you can play with it was a little overwhelming, considering that 99 percent of the time I listen to my system, it’s only with CD/SACDs. 

I decided I would start with the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ CD Mother’s Milk (Capitol). I cued up one of my favorite songs, “Knock Me Down,” and set the YSP-4000 to stereo mode. Immediately, I noticed Flea’s bass licks had plenty of snap and speed and Anthony Kiedis’ voice was front and center.  The kick drums didn’t have enough output to rattle any windows but, considering the fact that the woofers were less than five inches in diameter, they really did a nice job keeping up with the music. I decided that I wanted a little more oomph in the bass department, so I connected the subwoofer output of the YSP to my Boston Acoustic 12-inch sub. As expected, it was quite a bit better for my tastes. For the average consumer who is considering a product like this, the YSP’s internal woofers will be more than adequate.

My MP3 listening is typically relegated to gym use only, but since Yamaha was kind enough to include their iPod docking station, I decided to give it a try and see how it sounded with something other than earphones. The docking station is a must for anyone who has a large library of music on the iPod. It allows you to control your iPod with the YSP’s remote and I quickly realized how convenient music servers really are. I sampled lots of the music that I keep on my iPod and was quite impressed with the sound. 

Guns N’ Roses’ controversial song “One in a Million,” from the G N’ R Lies album (Geffen), sounded great. Slash’s acoustic guitar sounded clear and nicely detailed. Axl Rose’s voice came through with all the gravelly texture that he is known for. The problem, however, was that the soundstage was flat as a pancake. Luckily, I noticed a feature labeled “enhancer” and read that it was designed to help bring the soundstage back to MP3 music. It has three settings: high, low and off. When it was activated, the difference was staggering. On the high setting (which I preferred), the soundstage easily doubled in width and probably tripled in depth. As with many good things, however, there is a trade-off and in this case it was a sacrifice of a tiny bit of clarity and detail when using the enhancer. To my ears, the benefits vastly outweighed the sacrifice and I left the enhancer on for the remainder of the listening.

The next song after GNR is from Hank Williams, Jr. “A Country Boy Can Survive” is from the 1981 album The Pressure Is On (Curb records). The pedal steel guitar had plenty of twang and the kick drum was tight and quick.  Hank’s voice, like Axl’s, had plenty of texture and gruffness, which came through so clearly you could almost see the tobacco in his cheek. This song made me proud to be a hillbilly. The YSP kept my toe tapping all the way through the tune. 

I decided to continue living in the 1980s and played some old-school hair metal. Don Dokken and the rest of the boys of Dokken kicked ass through the Yamaha. George Lynch’s guitar thrashing in “It’s Not Love” off Under Lock and Key (Elektra) took me back to my high-school weekends searching for someone to buy me some beer and for a hottie to get drunk (among other things) with.  Sometimes I really miss the good old days, and the Yamaha was able to deliver me a suitable flashback to that pleasant past.
This system was a blast with music and would be perfectly happy providing background music or serving as a jukebox for your next party, when everyone wants to hear their favorite Jimmy Buffett song between shots of tequila.

With the easy stuff complete, it was time to get serious and see how the YSP did with its primary mission as a surround system. According to the user’s manual, my room is fairly optimal for reflecting sounds, since it’s basically a rectangle with very little clutter to absorb or diffract sounds.  My seating location is three-quarters of the way back from the TV, with very little between it and the rear wall. I have to be honest and say that even with an optimal room, I was skeptical about this whole thing working. I did not expect it to be able to convincingly offer surround effects. I was wrong, because it did.

The film The Prestige (Warner Home Video) is a tale of two magicians constantly trying to upstage the other. Many of the scenes take place in bars, where the magicians perform their magic in front of drunken crowds of disbelievers. The YSP was able to convincingly immerse me in that bar, while using the 5 Beam setting. Beer bottles were being dropped on the floor and breaking over my right shoulder. To the left, there were yells calling the magician a cheat and a fake. I was impressed. The three front channels were also impressive, as the Yamaha threw a wide soundstage, with voices and effects nicely placed. The biggest complaint I had was that the surround effects didn’t have the dynamics and punch that dedicated speakers do, especially for action scenes.

In Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), the racecar engines behind Ricky (Will Ferrell) didn’t have the bass growl that I had heard with my dedicated surround speakers, which is not a surprise, considering that it was generated from small drivers and reflected off a wall. This is a small quibble, considering that this product is not designed as a reference surround system. Rest assured, however, that Ricky Bobby’s baby Jesus rendition of grace, along with the rest of the film, sounded great.

Again, I was impressed. I decided to try some of the other beam-steering effects that the YSP offers and found some of them to be not only cool, but also really useful. One setting called My Beam creates a focused beam of audio, which can be directed up to 45 degrees off-center of the YSP-4000.  I’m sure we all know what it’s like to try to watch TV in a noisy environment, where someone else is running the vacuum cleaner in the other room or talking loudly on the phone. Usually, you just turn up the volume until you can hear it or the person on the phone mouths a few expletives your way to turn it down. At this point, I typically leave the room for the garage. However, the Yamaha created a small cocoon of sound that I could control as I wished. I used this feature all the time and will really miss it.


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