Yamaha YSP-4000 Digital Sound Projector

Is the age of the traditional loudspeaker almost over? Never before has there been so many alternatives to the typical monolith speaker, from in-walls that disappear into the décor to ultra-tiny speaker enclosures that sit on a shelf. A general aversion to complex and highly visible multichannel audio systems has left a good many consumers with only half the home theater experience. According to a September 2006 article from the Consumer Electronics Association, called "Home Theater Opportunities," 76% of all flat panel TV users are not using a separate audio system. As the article points out there are a good deal of opportunities for audio equipment manufacturers to develop alternate methods for delivering quality audio for high-definition TVs.

The Yamaha YSP-4000 Digital Sound Projector ($1,799) is one of the simplest solutions this speaker-shy demographic could embrace. One could call the YSP-4000 the ultimate HTiB (Home Theater in a Box) because it contains speakers (or what Yamaha calls "sound beams"), amplification and complex signal processing that emulates surround sound, and video switching in a single enclosure.

What It Is
At 40w x 8h x 6d and weighing only 35 pounds, it's essentially the same size as many "sound bar" style speakers that only contain the front left, center, and right speakers. With those types of sound bars you still need rear channel speakers and an A/ V Receiver for surround sound. The YSP-4000 can be placed underneath a cabinet, on a shelf, or on-wall using the optional SPM-K30 bracket ($80).

The YSP-4000 does not use conventional speaker drivers, but is equipped with 40, 1.5-inch "beam" drivers and two 4.25-inch woofers. Each beam driver is precisely directed based on Yamaha's proprietary IntelliBeam auto calibration process, which optimizes the beam angle of each beam driver to match the individual listening room.

The YSP-4000's built-in amplification delivers 2-Watts per beam and an additional 20-Watts per woofer for a system total of 120-Watts. Using the multiple beam arrays to direct sound in specific directions, in conjunction with some fancy digital signal processing, the YSP-4000 is capable of replicating a pretty realistic multichannel surround experience from a single sound bar.

In addition to providing complete amplification for the internal speakers, the YSP-4000 provides all signal processing including surround sound decoding for Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS Neo: 6 compatibility. Seven Cinema DSP settings (three for movies, three for music and one for sports) are also provided, in addition to SRS Labs' TruBass enhancement technology.

Hooking Up
Despite its size, there are quite a few connection options available with the YSP-4000, but nothing like a full-featured A/V Receiver. That, however, is the point. The YSP-4000 is meant for simple systems with fast and easy setup and operation. There are two HDMI inputs with a single HDMI output, which are 1080p/24 and 1080p/60 compatible. Since both audio and video are transmitted via HDMI, it's not necessary to use separate audio hook-ups for your HDMI sources.

For the type of user who would gravitate to the YSP-4000, there is no question that the HDMI hook-up is the easiest way to go and if the system is super basic it might be all a person would ever need. In fact, the HDMI inputs are marked specifically for DVD and Sat/Cable boxes. For additional video sources there are two component inputs along with a set of component outputs. For digital audio inputs, the YSP-4000 provides two optical and two coax connections plus there are two sets of analog audio inputs.

The YSP-4000 does demonstrate some surprising sophistication with unconversion of analog video sources to HDMI. Sources using the composite or component inputs can be output via the single HDMI port, as well as upconverted to your choice of resolution--480p, 720p, or 1080i. As a result, no matter how many video sources you have, all that is needed for an output is a single HDMI cable from the YSP-4000 to the video display.

Sometimes in the quest to simplify it's possible to create greater confusion. And that is the case with the YSP-4000's component inputs, which are assigned specific digital audio inputs. For example, both my DirecTV satellite receiver and Toshiba HD-DVD player have only optical digital audio outputs. Only one of the component inputs on the YSP-4000 accepts an optical input, the other requires a coax input. This could cause frustration for users in the same predicament.

Three composite inputs are provided, along with a single composite output, but there are no S-Video connections. A special jack is provided for using one of Yamaha's recommended subwoofers, though there is a (RCA) LFE output for using a subwoofer of your choice (I used the YSP-400 with my SPB SubSeries 5i throughout this review). Connections for a XM mini-tuner and an iPod dock are also included.

The optional iPod dock [$199] allows access to the iPod's menu via the on-screen display and is controlled with the YSP-4000 remote. I would have liked to see a more interesting GUI interface but it got the job done. All my playlists were there and I could scroll through them with the remote, playing songs at random. Other MP3 devices can be hooked into the YSP-4000 using the 3.5mm mini-jack on the front panel.

Beam Me Up
The YSP-4000's auto-calibration method could not be any easier. A cardboard stand places the supplied microphone at the main seating position. Select Auto Setup and the YSP-4000's proprietary IntelliBeam technology generates a series of test tones to measure speaker distances, levels and set room EQ. In less than three minutes you're ready to begin watching movies.

Yamaha Electronics Corporation, USA
(714) 522-9105