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Yamaha YSP-1 Digital Sound Projector (silver) review: Yamaha YSP-1 Digital Sound Projector (silver)

Yamaha YSP-1 Digital Sound Projector (silver)

Steve Guttenberg
Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
5 min read
Everybody wants surround sound, but some folks back off when they're confronted with the hassles--and aesthetics--associated with placing five or more speakers in their room. Enter virtual surround speakers, which mimic multichannel sound with just one or two speakers. Yamaha's slim, plasma-friendly "digital sound projector," the single speaker YSP-1, falls into this category, and it generated a lot of buzz at the 2005 Consumer Electronics Show, garnering a Next Big Thing nomination here at CNET and even a best of show nod from G4 TV. So were the early accolades justified? In our real-world listening tests, the YSP-1 revealed impressive surround imaging, but merely good-but-not-great overall sound quality. That said, the YSP-1 still has plenty going for it that will woo less-critical listeners. In addition to its slick, streamlined look, the unit is self-powered and can be directly hooked up to a TV and DVD player, effectively eliminating the need for an A/V receiver (but you will need to match it with a subwoofer to deliver deep bass.) True, it retails for a lofty $1,500 (hundreds less online), but that's a bargain compared to the original $40,000 PDSP-1 on which it's based. The YSP-1 will look cool wall-mounted under a flat-screen TV (Yamaha offers an optional bracket). The speaker is 40.6 inches wide, 7.75 inches high, and 4.5 inches deep and weighs 28.6 pounds. It can be positioned on a shelf under or over the TV, though we did note that the YSP-1's digital amplifiers put out a moderate amount of heat. The front panel has an LED display, volume control, and an input selector; we mostly used the supplied remote control to handle those functions and to execute the setup routines.

If you're installing the YSP-1 yourself, we recommend sticking with the Easy Setup--the Manual routine's complexity will scare off all but the most committed audiophiles or tech-savvy installers. We started our auditions with the Easy option, but once we plowed through the Manual setup routines, the YSP-1's surround effects projected further out into the room, with greater specificity.


Yamaha YSP-1 Digital Sound Projector (silver)

The Good

Stylish single-speaker system; two 4.5-inch woofers, 40 1.5-inch microdrivers; built-in digital power amplifiers eliminate the need for an A/V receiver; generous connectivity options; optional wall-mount bracket.

The Bad

The sound quality is not as good as the surround effects; pricey, and you'll have to shell out more for a subwoofer.

The Bottom Line

With the YSP-1 Digital Sound Projector, Yamaha's bleeding-edge speaker technology creates a convincing surround-sound effect, but the quality won't satisfy audiophiles.

Yamaha's Digital Sound Projection technology works by the focusing the sound into "beams" that are reflected off of your side and rear walls. You'll achieve the best results only when those walls aren't broken up with sound-absorbing chairs, drapes, or bulky furniture. We had to rearrange our room to accommodate the YSP-1's placement requirements. Sparsely furnished rectangular rooms will likely sound better than cluttered, asymmetrical rooms.

In addition to the YSP-1, you will need to purchase a subwoofer to supply the deep bass for the complete home-theater experience. Yamaha is currently developing a sub for use with the YSP-1, but any worthwhile subwoofer should be up to the job.

The YSP-1 features a pair of 4.5-inch woofers and 40 1.5 inch microdrivers--the woofers have 20-watt amplifiers, and each 1.5-inch microspeaker is powered by its own 2-watt amp. That adds up to a total of 120 digital watts. Yamaha claims the 40-driver array, along with a whole lot of digital signal processing, creates five distinct virtual speaker channels: front left, center, and right, and left and right surround.

Connectivity covers a wide range of hookup contingencies: there are two sets of stereo analog jacks (for your TV, VCR, or iPod, for instance); two optical digital inputs and one coaxial digital audio input to accommodate a DVD player, satellite/cable box, and so forth; a video output that delivers the setup menu to your TV; and a subwoofer output. Oh, and there's even an RS-232 interface that can be used with compatible home automation systems.

Use the YSP-1 with an A/V receiver if you like, but since it runs off of built-in digital amplifiers, feel free to hook it up directly to your TV's stereo line output jacks or directly to a DVD player. Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, Dolby Pro Logic II, and DTS Neo 6 round out the YSP-1's surround-processing suite.

We'll start by accentuating the positive: the YSP-1's surround "projection" abilities were impressive, and we were happy to note the placement of surround effects were stable over a range of positions on our listening couch. Under ideal conditions and expert setup, we expect the YSP-1 will provide fully enveloping surround sound. We're less sure about the YSP-1's sound quality; it didn't measure up to what we expect from what (once you add the subwoofer) is a $2,000 speaker package.

The Saw DVD depends on a vivid surround mix to convey much of the film's raw primal fears, and the YSP-1 credibly put us in the midst of the onscreen mayhem. But we found the aggressive tonal character of the YSP-1's sound resulted in ear fatigue over the course of a DVD. When we eased back on the volume, we enjoyed the sound more.

The YSP-1 couldn't do justice to Metallica's St. Anger CD; Lars Ulrich's thundering drums and James Hetfield's screaming guitar and vocals lacked the impact we want from Metallica. Duke Ellington's big-band jazz fared better, but we felt the YSP-1's lightweight sound was comparable to a $500 speaker package (and this was with our NHT SW10 subwoofer pumping out the bass). A brief shoot-out with Niro's 1.1 Pro II single speaker/subwoofer/amplifier system ($990) placed the YSP-1's strengths and weaknesses in perspective. The YSP-1 produced more believable surround effects, with greater imaging precision, but the 1.1 Pro II's richer tonal balance was apparent on DVDs and CDs. The Niro's setup routines require absolutely no technical aptitude; it's a total no-brainer.

We suspect that a well-trained installer could eke out superior performance from the YSP-1, but most buyers will experience something akin to what we heard. That said, a lot of folks will buy the YSP-1 for its plasma-friendly design, advanced technology, and the money and space savings afforded by eliminating the A/V receiver from your home theater. We strongly recommend an in-store audition before buying the YSP-1 so that you can weigh the pros and cons yourself.


Yamaha YSP-1 Digital Sound Projector (silver)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 6
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