Yamaha YSP-800 Digital Sound Projector

  • Share
  • Read Later

In the home theater world, the term used to describe the aesthetic appeal of a system is the "spousal acceptance factor." That is to say, if you pull into the driveway with a particular piece of electronics, would your spouse deny or grant you entry into the house? Thanks to DVD, digital satellite and cable, and the latest game consoles like the Xbox 360, the need for a surround-sound setup is ever greater, and so a lot of thought now goes into minimizing the aesthetic footprint of the required five speakers and subwoofer. Yamaha's compact YSP-800 not only replaces five speakers and provides an amplifier to boot, but it does it at a relatively affordable price.

For surround sound, you normally need either a home theater in a box—combo DVD player/sound system with a bunch of speakers—or a DVD player connected to an audio/video receiver that's in turn connected to the five speakers and subwoofer of your choice. The primary tasks of the receiver are to decode the surround-sound information coming from the DVD player (or cable/satellite set-top box), and to power the speakers to which it routes that sound.

The YSP-800 has 23 "sound beam drivers," little speakers that work in conjunction to bounce sound at different angles all around a room. It also has 23 tiny digital amplifiers providing 82 watts of power. Since it also decodes the surround-sound data coming from the DVD player or set-top box, a separate a/v receiver isn't necessary. You do, however, need to plug in a subwoofer for the full effect. Yamaha sells an affordable matching companion sub, the YST-FSW100 subwoofer ($180).

Connecting the YSP-800 is about five times easier than connecting a standard home-theater receiver. I plugged in my DVD player and cable box; there's room for three digital audio inputs and two stereo analog inputs, like a CD player or iPod. Then I connected the included microphone, placed it on a cardboard tripod on my couch, and selected the menu option called "Auto Setup". After a few minutes of blips and whooshes, the system had aligned itself around the microphone, which had been standing in for me and my ears.

Using a DVD of Constantine (surprisingly watchable, by the way), I compared the YSP-800 to a mid-priced surround-sound setup with Acoustic Research speakers powered by Pioneer's VSX-72TXV receiver (more on the Pioneer receiver in the coming weeks). I was impressed by how well the sound projector could replace the five speakers that are carefully positioned—ugly exposed wiring and all—around my TV room. The speakers give a little more midrange than the sound projector, but when it came to the tinkling of glass or rushing of wind in the surround channel, both rigs gave me a satisfying feeling of immersion.

Fortunately, my TV room is ideal for sound projection: almost perfectly square, with little on the walls that might absorb sound. In that case, I highly recommend the YSP-800. In a more cavernous room, the YSP would have no way to bounce sound and would lose a certain amount of depth. If that's your situation, you might want to try a speaker such as Polk Audio's SurroundBar ($950), which does require an amplifier, but replaces five unsightly speakers in a way that's not dependent on the shape of the room.