Yamaha's Flagship YSP-4000 Soundbar...In My House (Verdict: Sounds Great, Hard to Place)

IMG_3082.jpgIn Yamaha's CEDIA booth, their flagship surround sound bar, was audio magnificence amidst the din. In my house, the sound was big and lively, but I ran into some problems, too.

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The Skinny: The YSP uses forty 1-inch drivers individually powered and controlled to steer sound beams. This is based off the same tech that subs use to steer radar.There are two midbass speakers, too. Secondly, this unit has 2 HDMI inputs and one output, as well as the usual connections. It also upscales standard def to HD, and new to this model are concert hall modes developed from acoustics from real performance venues all over the world. There's an XM and iPod dock port, too. Calibration is done via an included microphone in less than 5 minutes. Sound is big and clear and I almost can forgo the sub. Voices were convincingly strong and even, and only above the din of the Tom Cats in the Top Gun HD-DVD pumped full volume did the speaker crackle.

The Problems: The soundbar can be table or wall mounted, but as with previous generations, if you table mount, you block part of most TVs (see shot in galleries). Speaker won't fit in most cabinets (too long) and doesn't correctly throw surround when placed on the ground (center channel too low to throw believable voices in movies). Here's another placement catch: I put my TVs on a wide wall. Most people put the TV where they have a lot of width, yes? Well the right and left channels grow increasingly weak as the room gets wider: The manual asks for a room no more than 23 feet wide. I have a room like this, so the discreetness of the channels was greatly diminished. Interestingly enough: when I stood to one side, those beams became much more intense.

The Verdict: Loud and clear and highly directional under the right conditions. The best soundbar I've ever tested. Great for a room within the recommended dimensions of 23 feet on each side, but still difficult to place under a TV unless you are wall mounting. But expensive at $1799, too. I'd get one simply because I hate wires just that much.

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