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Yamaha YSP-1 Sound Projector Produces Virtual Surround Sound with One Speaker Enclosure

Part II

October, 2005

Sumit Chawla


Set-up

The YSP-1 provides three set-up options. The first option contains three preset listening room types. The user simply has to select one of these three options based on the size of their room. The second option is a wizard driven process called Easy Set-up. The user is asked a series of multiple choice questions. The third set-up option is for the user to manually set up all the YSP-1 parameters. Set-up can be done using the single line YSP-1 display, although exercising the OSD (connecting the composite video output of the YSP-1 to your TV) functionality makes GUI navigation easier. I recommend skipping the preset configurations in favor of the other two set-up options. If you use the easy method and feel that you cannot specify your listening configuration adequately, use the Manual setup.

The manual set-up menu is quite extensive, and it does give you fine control over several parameters. The set of parameters that are most relevant to controlling the location of the virtual speakers are grouped under the Beam menu. Both the horizontal and vertical beam angles (variable between -900 to +900 in 50 increments) can be adjusted independently for all the speakers. A test tone is automatically generated as you adjust these angles. The test tone is extremely useful in positioning the virtual speakers. In addition to adjusting the angles, one can specify the YSP-1 location (corner, center, etc.) and its distance from the floor/left wall/listener. Much like a conventional SSP, the YSP-1 time aligns these speakers using the distance each beam travels to the listener. This distance, if incorrect, can be manually altered in 0.5 ft increments.

As has been mentioned previously, the front left/right virtual speakers are positioned at the reflection points on the side-walls. This is where the listener perceives the sound for these speakers to emanate from. If you are in a relatively large room, or the size of the television is small compared to the width of the room, the soundstage across the front might be too wide. If the listener/speaker distances are not equidistant from the side-walls, one speaker would be closer than the other. In both cases the presentation would sound unnatural. The YSP-1 provides a clever control to move the image towards the center speaker. This is done by mixing a specified amount of the signal (adjustable between 0%-95% in 5% increments) from the respective channel to the center speaker. The mixing amount can be set independently for the left and right speakers.

A Room EQ option is provided with three fixed settings: Standard, Live, and Wall Mount. The manual mentions room reflectivity in association with the first two controls. I am guessing that the first option leaves the treble untouched, while the second option attenuates it. The Live option was very useful in taming the high frequencies when I heard the YSP-1 in rooms with bare walls. I did at times wish for an option that was perhaps a little less aggressive. The third option probably applies an upper-bass/lower-midrange attenuation filter to compensate for boundary coupling when the speaker is wall-mounted. Only one option can be selected, so if you have your speaker wall mounted and have a live room, you have to decide which EQ option to use. It would have been nicer to group these in different categories and to add further controls for different placements. What would perhaps be even better would be incorporate Yamaha’s automatic room EQ (YPAO) system. For the market that this product is targeted at, some kind of auto-setup will be very useful.

Listening

The first time I set up the YSP-1, was in my bedroom which is a small sized room with a narrow hall in the front left of the room leading to a door. The back and side walls are bare. I don’t spend much time listening to music or watching movies in my bedroom, but I chose it primarily because in my house I thought that this location would be best suited for the YSP-1.

To get started, I used the Easy Set-up method, and within a few minutes I was ready to go. The first DVD to go in was Avia Pro, and I played the channel identification track to see how the voice and test tone would move from speaker to speaker. For the front L/C/R speakers, the voice moved across the front of the room with the test tone; however, for the surround speakers, the voice kind of came from the front while the test tone appeared to originate from a location on the side wall that was slightly in front of me. So why could I not get the feeling that the surround speakers were behind me? Two aspects probably resulted in this not being the case. First of all, I was seated pretty close to the back wall. Secondly, the Easy Set-up was less than ideal. I was hearing the side wall reflection directly, which meant that the horizontal beam angle was not quite right.

So, I moved away from the back wall and started to fiddle with the beam settings in Manual mode. Tweaking the settings manually resulted in a big improvement. Replaying the channel identification track this time around, I could hear the test tone for the surrounds coming mostly from my side with a faint sound coming from behind my back. The voice, however, always appeared to come from the front. This was the best I was able to achieve. Moving on to the pink-noise pan, the steering from speaker to speaker was not as smooth as what one would get with five discrete speakers, but the sound definitely moved around the room.

On actual material, the YSP-1 performed better. While watching American Beauty, there was one scene where my wife and I looked at each other and said, "That was cool". The reference here was not to the movie, but to a particular sound effect. In chapter 7, Ricky walks into the room while his parents are watching a movie. You can hear the door open to the right and then hear his footsteps as he walks across the room. The front virtual speakers sounded very real. The part that was a bit distracting however, was the width of the front soundstage. The sound panned from the right wall to the center of the speaker, which works well with a wide screen where there is only a short space between the screen and the side walls. Since I was using a smaller television, I found the menu items to move the virtual speakers closer to the side of the television to be very useful.

Next up was the "The Echo Game", chapter in The House of Flying Daggers. Towards the end of the scene, I can hear the jingling of beads. There was definitely a very good sense of envelopment here, and I could briefly hear some sound coming from behind me as well.

In terms of its sonic performance, taking into account the fact that all the sound was coming from a single enclosure, I would say that the YSP-1 performed quite well. Midrange reproduction was good, but what was missing here was the smoothness and fullness, particularly on male voices, that I am accustomed to hearing. The treble was crisp, with a slight hint of brightness when there was a fair bit of activity with the surround channels. I was able to cure the brightness through the acoustic controls available on the YSP-1.

While watching movies, the 5 Beam Mode was my favorite amongst the different options. When listening to music, however, I found myself switching between the 5 Beam Mode” and the Stereo+3 Beam Mode. The former mode sounded more spacious, while the latter mode produced a slightly better focused front soundstage.

I also tried the YSP-1 in my dedicated room which is rectangular in shape. The only opening is through a door in the rear corner. There is plenty of absorptive acoustical treatment on the walls. The experience in this room was not as positive as it was in the bedroom with reflective walls. This is to be expected given that the YSP-1 needs reflective walls to bounce sound off of. In fact the manual does have a section talking about its limited effectiveness is such rooms.

Other spaces that are not ideal for the YSP-1 include rooms with large openings on one or more sides. Although my living room is like this, I set up the YSP-1 in there briefly just to see the effect. Of the various beam modes, the Stereo+3 Beam Mode was the one mode that worked well for the front L/C/R channels, but due to the asymmetry (large opening on one side), the effectiveness of the surround channels was diminished. No surprise here. The bottom line is that to maximize the YSP-1's potential, it must be installed in an environment that complements it.

Conclusions

With the YSP-1, Yamaha has drawn upon their extensive experience in digital signal processing to offer a unique surround sound solution. Its slim profile and simple yet stylish look will be a good match for flat-panel displays. Hook-up is easy, and there are few wires to run. All this should translate into a product with a high spouse acceptance factor.

When it comes to performance, the YSP-1 works respectably well. The envelopment, of course, is not as convincing as what one can get from a conventional discrete speaker installation, but the YSP-1 could be the next best thing if you cannot accommodate a conventional setup. My only word of caution here has to do with the environment that the YSP-1 is placed in. You must have reflective surfaces for it to work or else you will be limiting its effectiveness. An in-home audition of this product is highly recommended unless you can hear it in an environment that is similar to yours. Once it is installed in a proper room, however, you might be surprised at the surround sound you are getting from places where there are no speakers.

 

- Sumit Chawla -

© Copyright 2005 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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