Yamaha’s YSP-1 is a marvel of technology, it’s about 42 inches long by 4 inches high and about 4 inches deep but can produce 5.1 audio that really does sounds like a conventional set-up with speakers in-front and behind you.
The magic is all done inside the box using clever electronics and the 40 speakers in the front-panel (there are actually 42, but the two at the end just add a bit of mid-range). It works by cleverly combining the channels and then playing various bits out of various speakers which make the channels come out as “beams” which can then be steered to various parts of the room.
The system does lack the punch and heavy bass of a conventional system as the speakers are so small, but there’s a sub-woofer output to drive an active external unit which adds the missing low frequencies.
There are analogue (stereo) and three digital inputs to connect to TV, DVD and AUX systems, two being optical connections and the 3rd digital co-ax. The digital input supports both Dolby Digital and DTS encoding.
Before Yamaha came out with the YSP-1, the only equivalent system was the Pioneer DSP-1 which cost around £25,000 (~$46k, ~e36k). The YSP-1 is much more affordable with a retail price of around £800 (~$1500, ~e1171) .
The system supports stereo, 3.1 and 5.1 output configurations.
A box is a box without careful set-up
Though Yamaha provide some sensible defaults, the system really needs a good tweak in order to get the most out of it. This means taking the video output and plugging it into your TV and going through the set-up screens (video output is via standard definition composite video).
Unfortunately it isn’t easy. You have to put in the room dimensions then listen to where the test sounds are and steer the beams. The YSP-1 is meant to sit just under the TV/Plasma and there isn’t a way to tell it that it’s on the floor while the screen is six feet higher.
Tuning the YSP-1 is very fiddly and complicated, going through several screens of settings. It will take a while to get right.
However once it is set-up (which will probably take a few goes), viewing a DVD with either Dolby or DTS 5.1 multi-channel output does work, sounds really do appear to be coming from behind and sweep through the room.
The YSP-1 really needs to be mounted as close to the TV as possible so that sounds eminate from the picture. It does still work mounting below (i.e. on the floor), but there’s a bit of spatial distortion as sounds come from below the screen and the YSP-1 doesn’t seem to have any compensation for that, it probably could be tuned manually, but that gets more complicated again and you’re really on your own.
It’s likely you can get get a better sound from a system with real speakers mounted behind you, but it’s probably going to cost more than the 800 quid that that YSP-1 costs. There’s also the hassle of what to do with all the wires that have to trail all over the room.
Though the YSP-1 does save on speaker wiring, it does still require cables to it for the digital sources, power and video out – but they can generally be hidden behind the unit if carefully mounted, especially if under a plasma then all the video/audio wires can be concealed together.