Over the years I’ve racked up a lot of experience listening to Yamaha Sound Projectors. They’ve steadily improved and this new flagship model, the YSP-4000, is easily the best sounding and most full featured of the breed. The speaker can be used on its own, but since I was interested in maximizing its home theater performance, I teamed it up with Yamaha’s new matching subwoofer, the YST-FSW150. It’s one of those lowprofile, 6.6-inch high subs that hugs the floor. It immediately proved itself to be a synergistic mate to the YSP-4000.
The YSP-4000’s features complement is an embarrassment of riches. First, it’s a self-powered speaker, so it doesn’t need to be hooked up to an A/V receiver. The YSP-4000 boasts two 1080p HDMI inputs and analog video to HDMI digital video up-conversion for your old VCR. You can buy a matching Yamaha iPod dock and the YSP-4000 is XM HD satellite radio compatible. There’s also a built-in FM tuner.
Impressive as those features may be, the YSP-4000’s 40 1.5-inch “beam” drivers are the real stars of the show. Yamaha’s Digital Sound Projection Technology works by reflecting the 40 drivers’ sound off walls, so bare side and rear walls work best, and objects in the room such as chairs, drapes, or furniture may affect the quality of the surround sound. In addition to the 40 micro drivers, there’s a pair of 4.25-inch woofers to supply bass. Total power is rated at 120 watts.
The YSP-4000’s surround processing modes include Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS, DTS Neo:6, Neural Surround, and Yamaha’s proprietary Cinema DSP technology.
The IntelliBeam auto setup and calibration system couldn’t be easier to use. Just bring up the on-screen menu (available over the HDMI connection), plug in the supplied microphone, and the completely automated calibration circuitry takes over. A few minutes later the YSP- 4000 is ready to roll.
Oh, but perhaps I’m getting a little ahead of myself, since prospective owners will want to know the speaker can be wall mounted with the optional SPM-K30 bracket ($80) or positioned on a shelf under or over your TV. It is one of the bulkier single-box surround rigs on the market
So it’s worth pointing out that the YST-FSW150 subwoofer’s low and wide shape is significantly less imposing than your average cube sub (and it can be vertically mounted). The black vinyl finish and just-the-basics features set contrasts with the YSP-4000’s wowie-zowie technological extravaganza. But don’t get the wrong idea; the YST-FSW150 was a superb sonic match to the speaker.
The YSP-4000’s room-filling surround is so convincing you won’t miss not having actual surround speakers. Sound quality is well above average overall, and mostly free of digital processing artifacts. The YST-FSW150 sub is a nuanced performer, and provides just the right balance of oomph and definition.
Vanilla Sky’s opening sequence, where Tom Cruise drives his Ferrari through deserted Manhattan streets and arrives in the middle of Times Square, was truly eerie. The throaty rumble of the V-12 echoing through the canyons, accompanied by world-psychedelic music totally sucked me in. Dialog was natural, without a hint of processing nasties that you sometimes get with DSP-controlled surround systems.
Celine Dion’s Live in Las Vegas: A New Day Blu-ray sounded fabulous. The lush orchestrations were sweet and Dion’s big voice was clear and clean. Audience and ambiance in the surround channels were sharply focused in space. We did detect a slight phasey/swishy character to the audience’s claps and cheers. Ah, but Dion’s duet with a virtual Frank Sinatra on “All the Way” was truly magical.
Surround channels were projected a remarkable eight feet outward from the YSP-4000, well out to the sides of my listening position. I’ve heard Yamaha YSP speakers in other rooms project sound behind the listening position, but my room’s shape, furnishings, and size conspired against that. Still the YSP-4000 did create the best, most precise surround effects I’ve ever heard at home from a single-box surround system.
The YSP-4000 took on the Rolling Stones Shine A Light Blu-ray like a champ. True, dynamics were a tad restrained and maximum volume probably wouldn’t satisfy headbangers. But when set for more moderate volumes the YSP-4000 actually rocked out pretty well.
Bassists Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, and Victor Wooten’s aptly named Thunder CD (Telarc) quickly demonstrated that the Yamaha speaker/subwoofer pairing was spot on. The three bass masters delve deep into the funk, and their workouts remained taut and potent. If you’re into jazz, this disc is a must, and definitely one that’ll reveal speaker/sub matching problems in a hurry. This Yamaha pair made superb music together.