Yamaha YSP-4000 Digital Sound Projector Page 2

While most people will probably "set it and forget it" with the auto setting, I had to tweak quite a few settings to create a more pleasing soundstage and frequency response. Fortunately, it's possible to save up to three IntelliBeam settings.

There are also four Beam modes on the YSP-4000 remote control. The performance of the Beam modes will vary depending on your overall settings. 5 Beam outputs sound beams for the front left, center and right array, in addition to the left and right surrounds. This is considered ideal for multichannel sources or playing two-channel sources in surround. Stereo + 3 Beam outputs the front left and right channels normally then uses sound beams to create the center and two surrounds. Yamaha recommends this for live recordings since vocals and instruments appear closer to the center and the surround effects replicate the venue's ambience. 3 Beam only outputs left, right and center without surrounds.

I started out my evaluation with "Nothing At All" from Santana's Shaman album and it was here I made quite a few manual adjustments. I began in the 5 Beam mode, and found it to be very spacious with a remarkably defined center. However, vocals were slightly subdued and lacked a distinctive punch.

Going into the manual setup I changed the focal length and center channel treble gain, which pulled the vocals out a bit more. I them switched to the Stereo + 3 Beam, which gave the vocals the presence and body I wanted.

The Auto Setup calculated the installation height at 3.5 ft., which seemed accurate, but I liked it better at 5 ft. because the sound distribution seemed closer to ear height, which is the most appropriate positioning for the front speaker array. This, in no small way, resulted in a far more satisfying spatial image across the front.

Also, the individual treble gain controls that are available for all five channels were extremely useful in fine-tuning the overall frequency response of the system. I fiddled with the settings for different sources and never found the perfect "leave it alone" setting, so the three IntelliBeam user settings came in handy.

And finally, there was an audible void between my PSB sub and the YSP-4000's midbass frequencies. After some judicious tuning of the bass tone controls and changing the auto-calibrated distance between the subwoofer and the main seating position, I was able to create a smoother, more cohesive blend.

The track "Enchanted Life" from Samantha James' Rise CD has a nice, laidback chill vibe with lots of ambience. However, when I threw it into the Stereo mode the image collapsed and I lost the wide soundfield. For this particular track I preferred the 5 Beam mode, which pulled the vocal back into the mix, creating a more pleasant blend from channel to channel while providing a realistic and immersive surround environment.

While I was in the middle of my evaluation, I received a new Melissa Etheridge DVD called The Awakening Live, which is a concert performance at the New York City Hard Rock. The YSP-4000 recreated a very effective and believable live setting, providing plenty of concert hall ambience. In the 5 Beam position vocals were well placed in the center with an excellent balance between the band and backing vocals.

Moving to movies, during the heavy storm scene from The Perfect Storm on HD DVD, several members of the crew and rescue copter are floundering in the water. During this scene dialog has to be strong or it will get lost among the sound of the thundering wind and crashing waves. I found the 3 Beam mode worked best because voices sounded weak in relation to the rest of the busy soundtrack.

In Quentin Tarantino's quirky Death Proof, there is a bombastic drum soundtrack mingled with the sound of these souped-up muscle cars that totally drives the off-the-charts car chase in the movie's climax. The YSP-4000 delivered the depth to make this scene exciting and yet the dialog was clear and present.

If you object to having your music digitally poked, prodded and generally manipulated this is probably not the right product for you. However, for the MP3 generation, this was surely made for them. Add on the optional iPod dock, and the YSP-4000 turns into the ultimate iPod sound system and yeah, it plays everything else, too.

Between the auto-calibration, the additional manual adjustments and the Beam modes, the YSP-4000 offers plenty of adjustability for fine-tuning the system, more so than most simplified HTiB systems. Just by playing with the three key Beam modes you can find a sound palette that best suits your source. The $1,799 manufacturer's list price is decidedly more than a wide range of available HTiBs, however, the performance capabilities of the YSP-4000 are far superior..

Ultimately, I liked the YSP-4000 probably more for its design and intent than its actual implementation. It didn't have the scale of dynamics or the sheer power of my reference system, but I still found it to be very convincing and I certainly recognize its obvious appeal. I was able to audition the YSP-4000 to several of my friends who I felt would be the right demographic for this product and they all loved the concept and thought it sounded great. And lest we forget, there is zero speaker wire clutter, and that alone will appeal to a lot of consumers

• Contains all electronics, amplification and speakers for complete 5.1 surround system in a single enclosure
• Extremely fast Auto Setup and easy operation
• HDMI Switching, though limited by only two inputs

Yamaha Electronics Corporation, USA
(714) 522-9105