Maximum Output Power: 2W (1 kHz, 10% THD, 4 Ω) x 40
Small dia. speakers: 1.25″ x 40
Woofers: 4.5″ x 2
Audio VCR, TV/STB (analog) – 2 analog pairs
Audio AUX, TV/STB (optical) – 2 digital
Audio DVD (coaxial) – 1 digital
Composite Video, VCR, DVD/AUX, STB – 3
Component Video, DVD/AUX, STB – 2 pairs
Subwoofer (1.5v, less than 120 Hz) – 1 subwoofer
Video (75 Ω) – 1 composite
Component Video (Y/Pb/Pr, 75 Ω each)
System Connector Jacks:
Optimizer Mic – 1 mic input
RS-232C – 1 system control
Remote In – 1 system control
IR-Out – 1 system control
Power Consumption: 50W
Standby Consumption: .1W or less
Dimensions: 40.6″ x 7.6″ x 4.6″
Weight: 28.7 lbs.
No one would disagree that the home theater and surround sound areas of home electronics have become 100% more complicated and confusing than two-channel audio ever was. The average Joe may be impressed by a store home theater demonstration, but is probably not going to go to the trouble of purchasing six separate speaker enclosures, setting them up properly and wiring them to his receiver or amplifiers. Then there are the space and decor criteria which many small homes and apartment cannot spare to have invaded by a large family of loudspeakers and all their wiring. There have been a number of circuit technologies which are designed to process both two-channel audio and multichannel options such as Dolby Digital and DTS, giving them a surround effect when sitting directly in front of a pair of closely-spaced stereo speakers. Some have been used in the built-in audio systems of TV sets and displays. But most suffer from phasiness in some planes, and seldom can image sounds actually behind the listener.
What the Digital Sound Projector Does
Yamaha has succeeded in offering a single-box surround speaker system of quite high performance, designed to easily integrate with a home video display – especially flat screens mounted on the wall or in a corner of a room. The clean industrial design of the “sound bar” fits well into many different situations – its 40-inch length looking especially smart directly under a 50 or 60-inch wall-mounted flat screen. The Digital Sound Projector is an audio preamp and processor which handles both analog and digital inputs. It uses a total of 40 small speakers, each with its own 2.5 watt digital amp, plus 2 larger woofers powered by 20 watt amps. [See illustration] All the speakers are used for all the different “beam steering” options processed by the proprietary processing technology. The user has the option, using the remote, of selecting several different delivery patterns: plain stereo, three channel, three channel combined with front & back surround and 5-beam surround.
The rear panel sports a variety of jacks but is simplicity itself compared to the overwhelming layout on all AV preamps and receivers. All the jacks are RCA except for the two digital optical inputs. The Digital Sound Projector is supplied with a digital cable and a component cable as well as analog patch cords, so you don’t have go out and purchase those. All the audio switching will be done at the Sound Projector using its remote. There is also a jack for connection to a powered mono subwoofer, which is vital to achieve full-range reproduction from this system. It does include SRS TruBass, but even turning that up to maximum will not bring about miracles since the small enclosure and power cannot be expected to deliver that important bottom octave. The settings are displayed on a large and very readable flouroscan dot-matrix display on the front bottom edge of the Sound Projector.
There are some preliminary suggestions in the owner’s manual as to the best locations for the Sound Projector and the best shape of room to install it in. It became clear that my L-shaped 33 ft. long listening room was not perfect, being much larger than the largest recommended room. The best environment is a square or rectangular room with evenly-spaced walls on the sides for the directional transducers to bounce their signals. The Sound Projector should be installed in the exact center between the two walls, and if one or both walls includes a window with drapes or blinds, they should be raised so that the sound can properly bounce off the reflective surface. Furniture should not be in the way between the sides of the speaker system and the walls or your sweet spot. If the unit is placed on a shelf in a rack under your display, it should have at least 5 cm of space directly above it. If your room as very acoustically absorbent surface the Sound Projector may not work properly. While corner placement is suggested if the proper rectangular orientation isn’t possible, it puts the walls at the incorrect angles to the Sound Projector and probably doesn’t work as well.
I placed the Sound Projector on a piano bench just below my 50-inch display. At the same distance on the right side where a large picture window was on the left side I placed a folding table on its side against a chair to provide a reflective surface. The next step is to set up the optimizer microphone and run the Auto Setup. This feature is also called IntelliBeam and is offering on this model of the Sound Projector, which is the latest version, as well on a smaller 31.5-inch long model designed for small flat panel displays and called the YSP-800, which retails for $899.95. The original model, YSP-1 at an SRP of $1499.95, lacks the IntelliBeam auto setup.
A clever little cardboard mic stand is provided for the optimizer mic, but I set mine on a small side table sitting on the sofa at my sweet spot, so that the mic was facing up at roughly the position of my head when seated. The location should be directly in front of the Sound Projector on an imaginary center line and at least 2 meters from the speaker system. The Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer technology is started by displaying the Set Menu for the Sound Projector on your display screen. You select the type of beaming you want (I selected 5-Beam) and then press to start the Auto Setup procedure. It takes several minutes, emitting a variety of hisses and test tones in the process. The manual suggests you remove any pets or children from the general area, and then you should “evacuate the room.” You can tweak the automatic settings afterwards using a manual process, and increase or decrease the level of the various surround channels to more accurately give a balanced surround soundfield. The Manual Setup allows adjustments of a long list of parameters: Tone control, Beam level, Subwoofer, Mute, Delay, Room EQ, the dynamic range of DD and DTS sources, assigning the various inputs, and adjusting the Sound Projector’s built-in display.
This flagship of the Sound Projector family features more DSP “sound field programs” than the other two. The YSP-1 decodes only Dolby Digital and DTS, the shorter YSP-800 adds three Cinema DSP Programs and this model has seven Cinema DSP Programs. For music playback the choices are the expected Concert Hall, Jazz Club, and Music Video. There is a special one for Sports. The three movies options seem to me the height of silliness: Sci-Fi, Spectacle and Adventure. (Yamaha has long been partial to this sort of DSP-ing, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.) There are also compressor and limiter settings for late night listening, and each can be adjusted for minimum, mid and maximum compression. I’ve already mentioned the SRS TruBass option , and there is a Sleep Timer. (Of course it doesn’t also turn off the TV.)
The main surround modes which will be of interest to the average user are three: Dolby Digital and DTS – for which there are no special adjustments (DD 5.1 EX and DTS-ES will be played back as normal DD or DTS) – and Dolby ProLogic II for adding a surround effect to any two-channel source. You are given choices between old-fashioned ProLogic, PL II Movie, PL II Music, PL II Game, Neo:6 Cinema and Neo:6 Music. The latter two are DTS’ version of ambiance recovery but I prefer ProLogic II Music for everything. In ProLogic II you can also optimize the usual three settings: Panorama, Dimension (front to back channels), and Center Width.
[Bear in mind that the YSP-1000 does not decode either of the multichannel hi-res formats and has no six-channel analog input to process SACD or DVD-A signals. On DVD-As you would have to select the Dolby 5.1 option and on SACDs the CD layer.]
In the first pages of the 100-page owner’s manual it refers to how well the Sound Projector bypasses the “troublesome wiring” of a typical home theater system. Well, I found hooking up the unit to be slightly troublesome, and I feel the manual and controls on the remote could be made simpler and less confusing. The need to go in and out of the Cinema DSP mode is a hassle, and it seems the YSP button – required to go into Operation Mode – should be given a more prominent position on the remote since it is frequently used.
Listening to the Sound Projector
My first impression was one of some amazement at the convincing surround soundfield the unit produced, in spite of my listening room not being perfectly rectangular and the back wall being some 20 feet away, making it impossible for the Sound Projector to bounce the rear surround signals off it. I had to do some manual adjustments both in the room and with the options of the YSP-1000 in order to get a balanced surround field. I was surprised at the different channel level settings that the automated setup procedure had established. The center level seem way too low so I raised it somewhat. I had to move the unit forward a bit because my right and left tower speakers were in the way of the side beams. In the process I discovered that you can beam the sound in almost any horizontal direction, so that if I wanted I could beam a strong signal mono signal at 90 degrees to the right when I was in my dining room and kitchen. I could imagine using that frequently instead of the table radio which is the only source in that area!
I tried first a couple of feature and music DVDs which I had reviewed recently with my six matched Von Schweikert speakers around the listening area. It sounded as though the front three speakers were in operation. The clarity and dynamic levels possible also impressed me; I hadn’t expected anything like that considering the size of the speakers and their low power. I didn’t hook up my powered subwoofer to the YSP-1000, but to properly reproduce the deep low end of both movie tracks and music a subwoofer would be definitely required.
Next I got out some of my DTS music CDs and DVDs. One of DTS’ own Music Demo CDs had Telarc’s famous “A Touch of Surround Madness” in 5.1 surround. It seemed just about as ferociously surrounding as I recall from playing on my multi-speaker system. There was a track on the same test disc of part of Delos’ 1812 Overture with the Dallas Symphony. Delos leaned toward a rather subtle surround channel ambient presentation, and that was just the way this track sounded. The last section of the disc had channel ID and room EQ test tones. I used them in conjunction with the Sound Projector’s Manual Setup to further refine the level settings of the different channels. It also provided a quick example of the differences between the three Beam Modes and plain Stereo. Boy, did Stereo mode ever sound boring when switching to it from one of the three Beams!
I tried one of the Classic Records Everest three-channel reissues, using the Dolby Digital option. Sure enough, switching back and forth between the two and the three-channel options on the Sound Projector produced about as much of a difference as when I had done it with my three matched speakers. The addition of the center channel provided more depth, richness, and a wider soundstage.
Going back to my DTS-only discs, I next tried one of the reissues from the EMI series recorded in the 1970s for quadraphonic release – Debussy’s Petite Suite, conducted by Jean Martinon. These also had rather subtle ambiance on the surround channels and I couldn’t say listening on the Sound Projector with the 5-Beam setting gave me a serious impression of the concert hall acoustics. But even with my five-speaker system I often have to raise the level on the surround channels above the 0 point (balanced with the front) in order to get a better feeling of the space when auditioning classical surround SACDs. Going to the DMP label’s DTS “Big Band Potpourri” I got a much-improved feeling of sounds reflected from the area behind me. Shiny Stockings really rocked and the only thing I was missing was a bit more extension in the deep bass since no sub was attached.
The last DTS CD I tried was The Moody Blues’ Seventh Sojourn. I once had several of the Moody Blues surround albums on open reel quad tapes. They made more creative use of the surround format than any other pop or jazz material at the time, and were the only tapes I missed when I sold my collection along with my four-channel Tascam deck. Well, now they’re back on imported SACDs, but DTS issued a couple some years ago and I have them. Isn’t Life Strange starts out as a single voice with rather simple guitar accompaniment up front, and might as well be plain stereo. Then at an appropriate moment in the lyrics everything blossoms out into an enveloping all-over soundfield. This effect worked just as well as when heard on my normal multi-speaker setup.
I followed up the made-for-surround material with a number of classical and jazz standard CDs, as well as PCM Stereo tracks of music video DVDs – all using ProLogic II. The results were uniformly impressive – often the equal of feeding the YSP-1000 an actual Dolby or DTS surround bitstream. When there was a vocal soloist or an instrumental soloist as in a violin or piano concerto, there was never an unnatural sonic “pointing up” of their sound (unless the recording was made that way). And inversely, adding the ProLogic II processing seldom reduced the clarity of the singer’s lyrics or the instrumental soloist’s tone – it just widened the soundstage and brought one more into the musical experience rather than sitting on the outside looking in.
And speaking of looking, the Sound Projector seemed to put on a disappearing act. The sounds didn’t appear for the most part to be coming from the speakers. It was even better at this than my reference frontal speakers, which I have adjusted carefully to reduce the pinpointing of sound when I’m seated in my sweet spot. Clearly the reason must be the effectiveness of the Sound Projector in beaming the various channels around the room, fooling the not only the eyes for the ears as well! The sweet spot, by the way, is not at all limited. One can move around quite freely and there is never a hint of phasiness or change of timbre as usually occurs with most of the circuits designed to squeeze a surround field out of only a pair of speakers.
It works. It would please the average home theater user who would never set up five or six speakers with all their wiring. Especially if the user already has or is considering purchase of a wall-hanging flat screen in a balanced rectangular room. The cost is roughly the same as an entry-level AV receiver plus a good home-theater-in-a-box speaker system, and it probably sounds better. I’m sorry it doesn’t have six-channel analog inputs or FireWire for SACD but I’m not your typical user. I cannot say whether someone whose main interest is classical music in surround would be unhappy with the Sound Projector’s effort to transmit the subtle but vital side and rear reflections in a venue where the music is performed. I probably have not given it a full account of itself due to not having a handy rear wall that could be moved much closer to furnish a suitable reflective surface for recreating the rear-channel soundfield. The Sound Projector seems that it could be the key to effortlessly bringing a whole segment of the population into home theater with surround, and possibly even to music in surround, without home theater!
– John Sunier