Yamaha YSP-800 Sound Projector

The Short Form
$900 / 31.5 x 6 x 4.5 IN / 19.875 LBS / yamaha.com/yec / 800-492-6242
Plus
•Big sound field from a single cabinet. •Easy auto-setup routine. •Good sound quality (with subwoofer added).
Minus
•Surround sound not as immersive as with multispeaker setup. •Subwoofer not included.
Key Features
•21 1.625-inch tweeters and two 4-inch woofers, all separately amplified (rated 2 watts and 20 watts each, respectively) •Auto-setup routine using supplied microphone •Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Pro Logic II, and DTS Neo:6 processing •5 basic operating modes plus Yamaha Cinema DSP enhancements •inputs/outputs analog and digital audio inputs, subwoofer output, composite-video output for menus •Wall-mountable with $80 bracket
Don't let the photo fool you. This single svelte speaker is an entire surround sound speaker system with its own built-in power amps and 5.1-channel surround processor. Inside the cabinet are 21 tweeters and a pair of small woofers, all of which get their own amplifier channels. Simply plug in a DVD player, add a subwoofer, light up your TV, and enjoy.

The YSP-800 is the new little brother to the YSP-1000 ($1,700), which replaces the original award-winning YSP-1 that I reviewed in May 2005 (LINK!!??!!see page 84). Smaller and considerably cheaper than either the YSP-1 or YSP-1000, the YSP-800 is a good match for screen sizes of 42 inches or less.

Along with Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, the YSP systems have five sound-field modes, ranging from simple mono to various levels of surround sound. Digital signal processing creates the surround effect by forming "sound beams" from groups of drivers in the array that are either aimed at the listener or bounced off the walls.

SETUP At 20 pounds, the YSP-800 is a featherweight compared with most surround speaker setups. Of course, its biggest advantage is easy placement. Instead of scouring the room for five speaker positions, I simply shelved this one underneath my TV where my center speaker usually goes. (You can mount it on the wall with an optional $80 bracket.) And instead of connecting a mass of A/V and speaker cables, I ran two wires from the YSP: digital audio to my DVD player and composite video to my TV (for setup menus).

When I reviewed the YSP-1, I spent many hours tweaking the settings for my room's geometry, so I cleared my schedule and rolled up my sleeves. But optimizing the YSP-800 took all of 5 minutes thanks to its auto-setup routine, a new feature added to it and the YSP-1000. I placed the supplied microphone (above right) at my sitting position, ran though a quick onscreen menu, and sat back as the speaker chirped its way through a medley of test tones. Later, using the manual setup, I laboriously fine-tuned those settings but could make only small improvements. A humbling experience.

Operating the YSP-800 is easy. The auto-setup system even lets you store three different acoustic settings so you can optimize the sound based on things like whether your curtains are opened or closed. And if you want the illusion of a larger space, you can choose one of three Cinema DSP modes: Music, Movie, and Sports.

PERFORMANCE I started my listening in Stereo mode with Lenny Kravitz's CD Baptism. The YSP-800 had a natural timbre, with warm-sounding vocals, but piano and guitar lacked a little high-end bite. Still, the mellowness made for easy listening, and the sound field was utterly convincing.

Next I auditioned Master and Commander using the 5-Beam surround mode, which is recommended for DVD movies. Dialogue was crisp, the score was appropriately lush, and battle scenes were reasonably loud and intense. The sound field was realistically wide across the front and wrapped around to either side, but not behind me as it would with true surround speakers. Still, the sound was spacious and engaging. As with music playback, you'll need to add a powered subwoofer.

BOTTOM LINE I am as impressed with the YSP-800 as I was with the YSP-1. It's a minimalist's dream, and in many rooms, particularly those with very "bright" acoustics, the sonic panorama will embrace you as first-time listeners tap distrustfully on your walls, probing for the hidden speakers.

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