Editors' note: The rating of the Yamaha YSP-900 has been changed since publication to better reflect its value compared to competing home theater systems.
The YSP-900 may be the entry-level model in Yamaha's YSP single-speaker surround lineup for 2008, but it sounds largely the same as its immediate step-up model, the YSP-3000, with which it shares the same basic design. Yamaha's single-speaker surround systems all use advanced technology to project sound into the room to create the illusion of 5.1 channel sound (the ".1" comes with the addition of Yamaha's optional YST-FSW100 subwoofer) without all the messy satellite speakers and wires. Yes, the no-frills YSP-900 lacks the pricier YSP models' 1080p HDMI switching, FM and XM radio compatibility, and optional iPod dock, but that lets it sport a consumer-friendly $700 list price--and it's available for even less online. Like all Yamaha YSP systems, the YSP-900 is self-powered, so you don't necessarily need an AV receiver--but you may still need one if your TV can't handle the video switching duties between your various AV sources (games consoles, DVD players, DVRs, and the like).
A perforated metal grille covers most of the YSP-900's front panel; below the grille, the LCD shows volume level and processing status, and further to the right there's a volume control and input selector. The speaker feels solidly constructed, and measures 31.5 inches wide by 6.1 inches tall by 4.5 inches deep; it weighs 19.8 pounds. The speakers size may make it difficult to fit under your TV, but it can be wall mounted with the optional SPM-K30 bracket.
The included remote control is pretty good for enthusiasts, but its numerous buttons and functions may intimidate those who are less tech savvy. We liked that we could directly adjust individual channel volume levels and that the remote could also control a TV. On the downside, the input buttons are small, the remote isn't backlit, and there's little differentiation of button size within each section, making it difficult to navigate by feel. Of course, you can always upgrade to a quality universal remote.
The YSP-900's 21 1.5-inch microdrivers create surround sound by bouncing the front-left, front-right, and surround channels' sound off your room's walls; the center channel's sound is projected directly from the YSP-900 to the listening position. Your room's acoustics can play a significant role in the sound you hear; bare walls work best, and objects in the room such as chairs, drapes, or furniture may adversely affect the quality of the surround sound. If your room is fairly cluttered with stuff, you may want to opt for a sound bar that doesn't use sound reflection technology, such as the Polk SurroundBar 50 or Definitive Technology SSA-50. A pair of 4-inch woofers (the microdrivers and woofers are each powered by their own digital amplifier) supplies the YSP-900's bass. Total power of the YSP-900 system is rated at 82 watts.
Yamaha's IntelliBeam auto setup and calibration system couldn't be easier to use. Just bring up the onscreen menu, plug in the supplied microphone, and the automated procedure takes just a few minutes to complete. Yamaha's auto setup worked quite well, but we managed to improve the sound by tweaking the manual setup adjustments. If your dealer has qualified technicians they might be able to eke out better performance than you'll get with the auto setup. Surround processing modes include Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS, DTS Neo:6, and Yamaha's proprietary Cinema DSP technology.