Yamaha's YSP-1400 Digital Sound Projector takes an unusual approach to the task of delivering surround sound from one end of the room. It features a pair of 85mm bass drivers — downwards firing in the legs of the unit (they are perforated to allow the sound to emerge). But for higher frequencies, it uses eight 28mm tweeters.
That's where the "Digital Sound Projector" name comes in. Each of those little speakers is independently powered (with 2 watts), and each receives a unique signal processed by a digital signal processor so that together they can work to steer sound in different directions.
The small speakers (Yamaha calls them an array) are grouped together near the middle of the soundbar. It is a metre wide and bass-reflex loaded. There are coaxial and optical digital audio inputs, two sets of analog audio (one with a 3.5mm socket) and Bluetooth. There's also a subwoofer output in case you want to enhance the bass beyond what the soundbar can provide.
It can be wall mounted or sit in front of the TV. It has the ability to repeat infrared remote-control signals through an emitter strip at its back, so you don't have to worry about it blocking your TV's IR sensor.
A small remote provides control over it, and there are apps for Android and iOS devices to also control the unit, via Bluetooth.
Yamaha is one of those companies that seems able to pull surprising performance out of what would seem to be a rather limiting set of speaker drivers. That said, the tonal balance was somewhat different to the lower-cost Yamaha YAS-152, with a forward upper treble that really pushed out the cymbals, and if there was any sibilance in vocals, it gave that quite a bit of prominence. Playing, for example, "Rock Lobster" by the B-52s, the cymbals had a huge amount of bite, but it was accompanied by a slightly quavering quality, as though a bit of the DSP processing was coming through. Joanna Newsom's voice on "Have One on Me" was hitting occasionally harsh peaks and rather surprisingly accompanied by discernible tape hiss.
On the other hand, the system was excellent at producing fine detail, with little left out of the music. And it produced an interesting stereo effect that, while not quite as wide as the bar, created a real sense of depth in the sound field. That's in stereo mode, mind you. The mid bass was strong and clean, offsetting the treble peakiness a bit. It went strongly down to about 62 hertz and dropped away very sharply below that.
Still, if you want a natural, musical sound, go for the much cheaper YAS-152.
This unit sounded rather better with surround sound than music, primarily because my ears, at least, are rather more critical about the latter than the former. There are three keys on the remote to allow you to pick your position with respect to the speaker. Settings on the remote apps allow this to be fine-tuned, with you able to tell the system where your room boundaries are in order to optimise performance.
Choosing "Movie" mode for playing back surround content, the results were very powerful and surprisingly encompassing with surround material. But paying closer attention, it wasn't so much that sound was coming from behind me, as from a large area in front, with just an occasional hint of back-of-room stuff. The tonal balance was pretty much the same as with music, which is to say detailed and bright, occasionally so bright as to be a bit too penetrating. The bass gave a good sense of foreboding when required by the sound track. Even the LFE track in Dolby Digital or DTS was captured and decoded, with the YSP-1400 doing the best it could to reproduce it.
Using test material to clarify what was happening to the surround signal, it was clear that Yamaha has layered on a massive amount of processing so that anything that wasn't purely stereo was reverbed intensively, giving it a very wide and deep apparent origin. There was occasionally a slight but discernible echo on the right side of content that was supposed to be purely in the centre. Perhaps that was due to over-enthusiastic processing.
So for material designed to demonstrate surround performance, not so good. But for regular movies where surround tends to add ambience rather than precise directional information, it was quite adequate.
The Bluetooth feature was certainly convenient. While you are supposed to be able to pair up to nine devices, I could not get an iPad mini to connect if a Samsung Tab 3 was already connected and vice versa. Perhaps their legal battles continue in the Bluetooth space of my office. I had started with the Samsung and used it with Yamaha's HT Controller app successfully, but once I'd unpaired the Samsung from the unit so I could use the iPad mini (also with the HT Controller app), I could not get the app to work again on the Samsung. Even when the Music Player app was connected and feeding music to the soundbar, the Controller just couldn't find it.
But that's not going to trouble most people. Just use whichever portable device is your favourite, both as a music source and as a controller. It's a nice app.
The Yamaha YSP-1400 Digital Sound Projector is a good unit, able to deliver content with power and some sense of surround sound and with respectable bass, all at a decent price. The nifty control app adds to the Bluetooth capabilities to make it very convenient in use