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It's tough to make a good looking gadget, especially when your main aim is to make something that performs well. Unlike companies like LG that are pushing themselves as lifestyle brands first — with the emphasis on style — Yamaha's industrial design has always looked a bit well industrial. It's no surprise, then, that the YSP-600 looks like a tipped-over ammo box.
It's not ugly, though, just functional, with a metal grille front and a curved lip at the edges. The front of the main unit has an LED display in the centre. It is flanked by a port for the calibration microphone on one side, and volume, standby and input buttons on the other.
At 610mm wide, the Yamaha's size is somewhere between a 26-inch and 32-inch television, but as it's not wall-mountable, it's not as important that the unit sits flush with your TV. At 120mm high, it will easily fit on most television shelves or discretely under the TV itself, but its 220mm depth and attendant cables may present some challenges.
Unlike overseas versions, the YSP-600 includes a subwoofer in Australia — the 8-inch YSTSW030 — which is worth about AU$300 on its own. It comes with a volume control and is of the down-firing variety Yamaha is known for.
Lastly, in keeping with the theme, the remote is also a little ugly though easy to use. No backlight, however.
As the baby in the Digital Sound Projector range, you can expect many of the features are cut down from its bigger brothers. However, in many ways it resembles the Yamaha YSP-3000 which is twice the price. What you get is a box full of eighteen speakers which fire independently and bounce the sound around your living space, giving you a surround sound effect. The two main woofers are rated at 15W each, while the smaller "beamers" are rated at 2W each. But don't let the modest power ratings fool you, this system can go plenty loud.
While some competitors use angled speakers, this system uses a calibration system similar to its labelmates; simply place the included mic at ear-level — while you're out of the room of course — and let it work its magic.
Unfortunately, the Yamaha doesn't include a DVD player, but we reckon they're pretty cheap anyway and presumably most people buying this system will already have one.
Connecting your external sources is easy, as everything plugs into the main speaker unit minimising cable tangle. The video connectivity is the same as the YSP-3000 with 2-in/1-out HDMI and a single composite output (which needs to be connected for the on-screen display). Unlike that unit though, it's not designed to be hung on a wall and all of the connections point out of the back instead of downwards. Despite what we've said in our video preview, the YSP-600 misses out on an iPod dock option.
On the audio side, Yamaha has provided two analog inputs, two optical and a digital coaxial port. As a budget model there's no support for the HD versions of DTS or Dolby, though you will find ordinary Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS Neo:6.
Meanwhile, the YSTSW030 subwoofer has a 75W ouput, an 8-inch driver and a surprisingly deep 28Hz - 200Hz frequency response — although this looks like it's measured at -10db and is probably closer to 50Hz.
It's no doubt that with the combined "weight" of the subwoofer that this is an impressive piece of home theatre kit. While it may not have all of the gizmos of competitors, the Yamaha is solid where it needs to be: replaying home cinema. Of course you don't get a true surround effect, but sequences such as the Brontosaurus Stampede from the King Kong disk are quite effective and appear to emanate from around the room.
Though you do get a choice of different modes if you aren't sitting in the "sweet-spot" we found that the effect wasn't as pronounced if you sit elsewhere. It seems that the "lip" surrounding the speaker also acts to direct the sound forward as well, meaning off-axis listeners will find the sound a little phasey and lacking in treble bite.
We were impressed by the Yamaha's performance with music, and here it rivalled our current favourite, the Philips SoundBar HTS8140. With most styles of music, the soundbar disappears and you're left with the musicians. Stereo focus is excellent and this isn't something we expected. Bass can be a little heavy-handed, depending on the music type, so you may want to back it off a little for quieter musical styles. However, as with movies, the sound has a limited sweetspot — while it sounds great face-on it doesn't sound as good from other parts of the room, so it's not the best option if you like having music in the background, then.
The Yamaha YSP-600 is a very good performer and one of the best at providing a simulated surround effect without wiring tangles. It's more comfortable with movies, but paradoxically, it's also good for studied music listening.
The only thing holding it back from a whole-hearted recommendation is that its competitor, the Philips, is so good and offers plenty more features. But if you're looking for class-leading simulated surround, this Yamaha is one to consider.