Yamaha YSP-1400 Digital Sound Projector Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

 
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post #1 of 1 Old 08-15-14, 11:04 AM Thread Starter
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Yamaha YSP-1400 Digital Sound Projector Review

Introduction
In a perfect world, everyone in search of good quality home theater audio would have the space and budget for a modern receiver, five or more separate speakers, and a big subwoofer (maybe two). Although Yamaha offers all of these things, they also know it can be tricky to get the same effect with a smaller budget and an non-uniform room. The idea of a soundbar is nothing new, but Yamaha has taken its own approach - using what they call Digital Sound Projector technology. It uses a cluster of tiny speakers to send sound beams all around the room, as though five separate speakers were placed in a 5.1 surround configuration. Sound a little too "sci-fi" to be true? Almost. Does it work? Yes. Better than traditional soundbars? That depends, but maybe.


Design, Build Quality, and Aesthetics
Yamaha’s Digital Sound Projectors are similar to other soundbars in the sense that they are shaped like a bar and produce sound. Beyond that, they are quite different. We are used to soundbars that combine left and right (and sometimes center) channels into one box and act mostly like a typical speaker setup, just closer together. In many cases they will also use DSP to produce what our ears think is surround sound. Digital Sound Projectors employ a horizontal array of small drivers working simultaneously with some nifty processing (magic?) to project (yep!) each channel in a different direction. The result is a set of sound beams that reach the listener from different parts of the room, creating a true surround sound experience. It works for two-channel sound also, creating a soundstage that goes beyond the width of the physical speaker.

Eight 1-⅛" array speakers are centered on the front panel, and occupy about a third of the width of the soundbar. These eight little speakers, along with Yamaha’s proprietary digital processing, are responsible for creating the room-filling surround sound, with support from two 3-¼" woofers which handle bass frequencies. The YSP-1400 does not include a separate subwoofer, but it does have a sub output to be used with a typical powered subwoofer.

The general construction of the YSP-1400 is very standard for a powered soundbar in its price range. The enclosure is made from plastics/composites and is given a glossy black finish all-around, except for the grill over the speaker array on the front. It feels sturdy, though not particularly heavy for its size. Judging by the relatively small drivers and 76W internal amplifier, I would not expect it to be a heavyweight. Although the enclosure feels plenty sturdy and well assembled, the seams and edges could have been a bit smoother. Materials are appropriate for this price range - nothing excessive or exotic just for the sake of being exotic or premium.

Although I personally prefer a matte or slightly textured finish, the gloss black finish of the YSP-1400 is well executed and sure to match many flat panel TVs almost perfectly. The low-profile design makes it very inconspicuous and gives it a sleek, modern appearance. The protruding subwoofer enclosures below at both ends of the unit provide a very stable base for the soundbar when surface mounted. These same features make the YSP-1400 look a bit silly to me when wall-mounted however. The LED indicators and labels on the front panel are rather ordinary looking, but intuitively laid out and functional. In general I think Yamaha has done a nice job of giving the YSP-1400 styling that will match a variety of other A/V components and flat-panel TVs.


Setup and Operation
As expected, connecting the YSP-1400 to my system was a piece of cake. In fact, I probably spent more time making the wires look neat than I did actually plugging them in. In fact it probably would have taken me longer to eat an actual piece of cake. At a minimum, this soundbar needs a power outlet and and audio connection to your TV (or other source). It will accept two digital inputs (Coaxial/Optical) and two sets of stereo analog inputs (RCA/3.5mm). Once connected and powered on, the YSP-1400 was intuitive to operate and was perfectly reliable for the entire review. The included remote allowed for control of the essential features and settings and also worked reliably wherever I sat in the room.

For the review, I utilized the optical audio output from my TV as I suspect this would be the most common TV/soundbar configuration. As I've said in the past, this setup may limit the audio formats that can be passed to the soundbar. Some TVs will only send 2.0 channel audio from the HDMI inputs to the optical output. I also chose to make use of the subwoofer output for the duration of my review. This too was very simple to connect, with just a single coaxial cable between the soundbar output and sub input. To change the bass setting from internal sub to external sub, hold the "-" volume button on the remote for 5 seconds with the power off and the sub output will become active. The manual shows this procedure as well. It may be obvious to some, but keep in mind this will only work with a powered subwoofer. This should not be an issue since most consumer subs are powered.

Since the sound beams from the YSP rely on reflections to produce the surround sounds from behind you, your location within the room can potentially degrade performance. For quick compensation, Yamaha has pre-programmed the YSP-1400 with three different seating position settings: left, center, and right. That means if you tell it you are sitting closer to the left or right side of the room, it will adjust the processing to maintain a good quality soundstage for you. It works great too, as I will discuss a bit later.

Just a few other notes about setup... Yamaha realizes soundbar performance can depend very much on the size and shape of the room in which it is placed. Ideally, the YSP-1400 would be mounted directly below (or above) the TV as close to the edge of the display as possible, in a rectangular room with good acoustics and four solid walls - but that rarely happens. To help prevent the common problem of soundbars blocking the IR receivers on TVs, Yamaha has added an IR repeater to the back of the YSP-1400, adding to its placement flexibility. Room shape and acoustics are generally more difficult to combat with a soundbar though, especially when it comes to surround sound. If your room lacks the proper surfaces for reflected surround sound beams, you do have the option of adding one or more of these handy-dandy sound reflection boards developed specifically for this function. I would argue they have pretty low WAF, but at least Yamaha has made the effort to provide users with the means to get the most of their soundbar in less than ideal conditions. Although I did not need to use either of these features during my review, I thought they were both worth mentioning.


General Impressions
I'll start with a brief disclaimer: I tend to think most of the all-in-one, self-powered soundbars sound weak and unnatural, especially when they attempt to do any kind of digital processing or simulated surround sound. I generally have pretty low expectations when it comes to their overall performance. With that out of the way, the YSP-1400 did not blow me away in terms of power or loudness, but I don't think that was Yamaha's goal here. My main gripe was that the bass from the built-in "subwoofer" was pretty weak, and really needed to be compensated with a sub. Sound quality in general was clear enough to make TV/movie dialog focused and understandable, and music was enjoyable. The position settings make it easy to get good imaging from almost any seat in the room, including surround effects. I appreciate the variety of audio inputs on a device like this, though I only used the optical digital input for this review. In theory, one could connect a TV, Blu-ray player, portable media device, and a PC or game console. The Bluetooth feature (including the remote app for mobile phones) was definitely handy, and worked reliably. The ability to use my own powered subwoofer was also a great option, and one I immediately took advantage of. The Cinema DSP Programs seemed to be well matched to their intended content types. Almost without exception, I used the Music program during music and the Movie program during movies. Yep, pretty straightforward there. Speaking of music and movies...


Music Performance
Hans Zimmer - Time (Inception, iTunes)
I like Hans Zimmer's Time for its detail and the overall dynamic from start to finish. It begins with a lush progression of chords, which begin to build tension. The whole piece is a gradual crescendo concluded by an abrupt silence, which is broken only by a few subtle piano and string chords. I like the contrast between the soft and heavy passages. While the YSP-1400 is not what I would call a heavy hitter, it did provide a nice full sound throughout the song. The subtle details of the quiet parts were not lost, and the YSP-1400 produced a pretty full sound as the volume increased. The use of a subwoofer here certainly provided an improved foundation for a big musical score like this, but the soundbar still did a fine job of filling the room with the bulk of the instrumental sounds.

Metric - Clone (Synthetica, CD)
Metric is a great combination of rock music, synthesizers and female vocal. It's easy listening, but still unique and interesting. The overall balance on the YSP-1400 was good and the sound was natural. Again, an added sub was definitely helpful here. Imaging was good from the normal seating position, so I decided to move around the room and try the different position settings. Sitting on the right side of the room, about one to two feet from the wall, I selected the right position setting on the soundbar and instantly noticed the soundstage and imaging adjust itself to my new position. To be honest, it worked shockingly well in my room. Again, I don't know the sorcery behind what makes it work, but it just works. What amazes me the most is that the actual driver array on the front of the soundbar is barely a foot wide. It is pretty remarkable to me that they have such control of the soundstage and imaging from such a small speaker array.


Movie Performance
For both movies, I tested the YSP-1400 connected to my TV's optical out as well as my OPPO BDP-103's optical output. In my opinion, the TV output will be the most common configuration for consumers using a soundbar, but I also wanted to give the YSP-1400 a chance to shine with the best quality input. While I noticed some improvement in terms of imaging and surround effects with the OPPO optical output connected, the overall performance with the TV audio connected was still quite good. Dialog was focused at the center of the soundstage, while music and environmental cues were beamed about the room to create a more enveloping sound.

Days of Thunder (Blu-Ray)
Sure, a 24-year-old movie may not have the best quality soundtrack by today's standards, but it's still a fun one to use for surround sound demos. Not to mention, it is one of the best movies of all time! Either way, I wanted a change of pace from the typical gunshots and explosions of action movie scenes, and this fit the bill. During race scenes, the YSP-1400 did a nice job of creating the big open feel of a speedway, with crowd noises and the echo of the engine roar coming from behind me at times. Dialog was clear, and the wailing 80's electric guitar blended nicely into the background. In-car race action was convincingly realistic, though it did not have quite the impact I enjoy from my personal system. Still, for such a small device, it performed well.

Star Trek (2007) (Blu-Ray)
Ok, now back to the explosions. I skipped to the first "battle" scene, where the U.S.S. Enterprise is attacked upon coming out of warp drive. Here again, the action effects were sharp and clear, but not quite as intense as I would have liked. I kept hoping for a bit more "umph" but it was not quite there for me. The overall balance was ok, making dialog, crashes, and weapon fire all easy to hear - just a bit too laid back for my liking. As I mentioned earlier though, the YSP-1400 was surprisingly capable of creating an expansive soundstage in all directions, including behind me. It was definitely impressive, considering the compact driver arrangement on the front panel.


Overall Value
There are more than a few soundbars in the YSP-1400's price range, all of them offering some special type of digital processing or connectivity feature. Yamaha's Digital Sound Projector is unique in its approach to surround sound, and I would say it is pretty well balanced in terms of features and performance. The sound beam technology is proven, and it works very well in my opinion. They have included a variety of inputs and even a sub output. These would all be critical to me, were I searching for a powered soundbar, but not necessarily found on all of the YSP-1400's competitors. In contrast, it is not uncommon for soundbars in its price range to include a wireless sub. Some may find the Yamaha to be a disappointment due to its lack of a powered sub. If you are ready to see what makes the Digital Sound Projector different than other soundbars, the YSP-1400 is the cheapest way to do it. It is not the most powerful soundbar on the market, but probably one of the best at handling oddly-shaped rooms or less than ideal seating arrangements. Although Yamaha lists the MSRP at $449, it is readily available online for $399 as of this review's publish date. That's not a bad price, considering the competition. Track down a good sale on one and you may have found a bargain.


Conclusions and Recommendations
I'll try to make this short and to the point. The YSP-1400 is not a powerhouse, but the sound beam technology worked very well in my room for both music and movies. The price is reasonable, but remember you'll need to add a sub for decent bass. This is the entry level system in Yamaha's Digital Sound Projector lineup, which has me wanting to hear the higher end models. There is definitely a lot of potential here for a wide range of budgets and room sizes. If I needed to put together a budget system for a compact room that didn't allow for use of conventional speakers, The YSP-1400 would by on my list to consider.


Review Discussion Thread


More About The YSP-1400
Specifications

Product Site
usa.yamaha.com - YSP-1400

MSRP
$449.95 ($399 from Yamaha, Amazon, Best Buy...)

Overview
  • Digital Sound Projector technology delivers real surround sound
  • All-in-one design keeps your room clutter-free
  • Dual built-in subwoofers for deep, rich bass
  • Bluetooth® wireless music streaming from a smartphone or tablet
  • Easy set-up with a single-cable connection
  • Free control app available for Apple® iOS and Android™ devices
  • Learning feature lets you use your TV remote for power on/off and volume control
  • TV Remote Repeater for reliable remote control
  • Clear Voice makes dialogue easy to hear
  • UniVolume™ keeps programs and ads at a consistent volume level

Features

Immerse Yourself in Real Surround Sound
Yamaha Digital Sound Projectors create actual (not virtual) surround sound by producing beams of sound that reflect off the walls in controlled directions, delivering an amazingly immersive experience. The position of the beams can be adjusted for your listening location by using the included remote control or a free downloadable app.

All-in-One Design Keeps Your Room Clutter-Free
No need for a separate subwoofer unit! The YSP-1400 is equipped with eight array speakers on the front and two down-firing subwoofers integrated into the feet of the sound bar. Combined, they deliver sound with exceptional power and presence.

Dual Built-in Subwoofers Deliver Clear, Rich Bass
With large 3-1/4” subwoofer drivers built into the feet of the sound bar combined with high-rigidity bass reflex ducts and a large-volume cabinet, the YSP-1400 delivers clear, rich and deep bass for movie sound effects and music. The independent right and left channel configuration provides superior sound imaging.

Compatible with Various Surround Sound Formats
The YSP-1400 is compatible with popular surround sound formats, such as Dolby® Digital and DTS Digital Surround™, so you get the full effect of multichannel movie sound.

Four CINEMA DSP Programs
Yamaha’s ultra-sophisticated CINEMA DSP technology creates thrillingly realistic soundscapes in any room. You can select four different program, including movie, music, sports and game.

Bluetooth Wireless Music Streaming from Your Smartphone or Tablet
Fill your home with music the quick and easy way! Stream music from Bluetooth-compatible smartphones, tablets and computers. The YSP-1400 can also be set in Bluetooth standby mode, enabling the bar’s power to turn on or off automatically for energy-saving convenience.

Single Cable for Easy Connection
In a typical installation, the YSP-1400 connects to a TV via a single cable, so setup is quick and easy. Two digital inputs types are available, one optical and one coaxial. In addition, the YSP-1400 offers two analog inputs (3.5 mm stereo and a dual RCA) allowing it to accommodate additional audio sources if desired.

Free Control App for Easy Operation
The YSP-1400 is compatible with a Home Theater Control App (HT Controller), available for free download for Apple® iOS and Android™ devices. The app makes it easy to control the sound bar via a Bluetooth connection, including input selection, surround modes and detailed settings for the sound beams.

Single Cable for Easy Connection
The YSP-1400 connects to a TV via a single cable, so setup is quick and easy. It provides two digital input terminals (optical/coaxial).

TV Remote Repeater for Signal Transmission
Even if the YSP-1400 blocks the TV’s remote control signal, the TV Remote Repeater on the back transmits the signal to the TV so operation is not affected.

Learning Function Allows Operation with the TV Remote Control
The YSP-1400 can “learn” the TV remote control operation, so you can use the TV remote control to turn the YSP-1400 on and off and to adjust its volume.

Clear Voice Makes Dialogue and Narrations Easy to Hear
Clear Voice raises the level of dialogue and narrations while maintaining overall sound quality. Movies and TV shows, sports commentary and news broadcasts are more clearly audible.

UniVolume™ Maintains the Same Volume Level
This welcome feature, made possible by Yamaha-developed technology, maintains a consistent volume level between different channels, programs, commercials and input sources. It can be switched on and off.

Slim Design with Beautiful Black Finish
With a rich, glossy-black finish and a slim design, the YSP-1400 complements the look of your flat-screen TV and fits neatly in front of it.

Specifications

General
Output Channel 5.1-channel
Output Power 76 W total power: 2 W x 8 beam drivers + 30 W x 2 subwoofers
Power Consumption 24 W
Standby Power Consumption 0.5 W
Beam Drivers 1-1/8” x 8 beam drivers
Woofers Dual 3-1/4” subwoofers
Dimensions (W x H x D) 39-3/8” x 3-3/4” x 5-1/4” (With brackets: 5-1/2”)
Weight 9.5 lbs.
Input / Output
Digital Optical 1 in
Digital Coaxial 1 in
Analog Audio 2 in (Stereo 3.5 mm, dual RCA)
Sound Technology
Surround Technology Digital Sound Projector
CINEMA DSP Movie 1
CINEMA DSP Music 1
CINEMA DSP Entertainment 2 (Sports, game)
UniVolume Yes
Audio Formats
Dolby Digital Yes
DTS Yes (DTS Digital Surround™)
Connectivity
Wireless Music Streaming Yes (With Bluetooth®)
Other Features
App Control Yes
TV Remote Repeater Yes
Learning Function Yes
Photos
Features






















More About This Review
Features
Reviewer
Peter Loeser (Archive)

Audio Equipment
Soundbar: Yamaha YSP-1400
Subwoofer: Martin Logan Dynamo 1500

Video and Source Equipment
Display: LG PV250 60" Plasma TV
Blu-ray Player: OPPO BDP-103
Media Streaming: Apple TV
Media Server: Mac Mini Server

Room/Environment
The evaluation of this equipment was conducted in a 14"3" x 16'10" (2300ft³) sealed home theater with seating for seven. Moderate broadband acoustic treatment has been applied to the side walls. Critical listening is typically done from the main listening position, however subjective evaluation will also be done from multiple locations to test uniform system response throughout the seating area.




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