BELLS & WHISTLES
Yamaha's YSP-2500 Digital Sound Projector
Yamaha’s latest Digital Sound Projector is loaded with technologies more common in AV receivers than soundbars. Is this overkill?
Even up at $1000, some soundbars keep things simple, accepting an optical input from your TV and making their movie and music sound with a minimum of set-up and fuss, though also, of course, with a minimum of versatility. This Yamaha is not like that. It’s an HDMI hub as well as your sound system, and it’s loaded with facilities more common to an AV receiver than the soundbar market.
The bar portion of the YSP-2500 uses an aluminium chassis 14cm deep but only 5cm high, usefully low given the shallow stands of TVs from some brands today — even our low-slung Sony 4K TV was left with both its screen and IR receiver visible over the top. Alternatively you can raise the YSP-2500 on two supplied feet and have the IR signals pass underneath, or switch on the unit’s repeater function, which then sends on all received IR signals from the whole length of its rear, an impressive arrangement in itself.
Yamaha doesn’t call this a ‘bar’, of course — it’s a ‘digital sound projector’, and for once in the slogan and jargon rich world of AV, this does actually mean something. Yamaha is one of the longest-standing manufacturers in the soundbar market, which only really took off three years ago, and its Digital Sound Projectors have had far longer to evolve than anything from most rivals.
They use a collection of small drivers — 16 small 28mm drivers are visible along the front of this unit under a sturdy grille. These work together with Yamaha’s proprietary YSP signal processing to steer multichannel audio in various directions that will, if all works according to plan, bounce rear channel sounds off your room’s side and rear walls to immerse you in something approaching surround sound.
The success of this will depend on your room shape — closer walls will work better, as will positioning in a corner with angled walls on either side.
To generate the multichannel signals the YSP-2500 has processing for not only the usual Dolby Digital and DTS, but also for the full Blu-ray DolbyHD and DTS Master Audio formats in up to 7.1 channels. These formats may not make it through many TVs if you plug your gear into the TV and use only the optical output to the Yamaha. So the YSP-2500 is an HDMI hub too, offering a full three HDMI inputs and an ARC-equipped output to your TV — ARC allows the audio from the TV (and anything plugged into it) to play back through the cable to the soundbar. No ARC on your telly? Use one of the two optical connections for that, but keep your other HDMI sources going through the Yamaha, so it can benefit from their genuine multichannel audio streams left untrammelled by the vagaries of passing through your TV circuits.
There is also a coaxial digital input, a RCA analogue stereo pair in, and Bluetooth with aptX if your Android device supports it. We make that a possible eight inputs, which is a pretty impressive selection for a soundbar!
There’s also a headphone output on the front, and a subwoofer output to the rear should you wish to use a sub other than the supplied wireless model, which connected instantly and required no more attention from us, not even rear knob adjustment, since there’s a separate sub level button on the full-sized remote control. Yamaha’s subwoofer stands upright — 44cm high, 15cm wide and 35cm deep; it drives and ports to the front, so it can be placed against walls or in corners without much affecting its performance.
We began our listening to the Yamaha with music via Bluetooth, and on making the Bluetooth connection we were immediately prompted to download a Yamaha control app (not Yamaha’s usual ‘AV Controller’ but another app called ‘Home Theater [sic] Controller’, available for iOS and Android devices). Since the YSP-2500 doesn’t network, your device must be connected by Bluetooth for this to work, but it continues to exert control even when you’re using inputs other than the Bluetooth connection.
Aside from input and audio control, the app leads you through an auto set-up procedure using a supplied microphone on a long cable. Such calibration systems are the norm on AV receivers but a rarity on soundbars other than Yamaha’s, where the procedure is essential so that the unit can judge where your walls are and how best to steer all the sound channels.
We cannot emphasise too strongly how essential this procedure is! We had already listened to a dozen tracks before doing the calibration, and things were sounding pretty bad — too bright to make music friendly, bass dropping off before hitting the depths, vocals suffering from a processed sound.
Then we set those three minutes of calibration tones a-whooping (leave the room, says the app, but it’s not too loud), and after calibration it was a different system entirely. Things remained still bright in terms of delivering high-end detail, but the midrange had become much richer, rounding out vocals, while the opening bass slide of Bjork’s ‘Aeroplane’, which had previously faded into nothing, now slid down delightfully deep.
It wasn’t all perfect — Leonard Cohen’s resonant vocal on the O2 live ‘Tower of Song’ is tricky to render correctly, and here we had midrange coming from the bar in front of us and the lower parts of his voice disembodied off to one side from the subwoofer, even though our crossover test indicated a remarkably hole-free handover from sub to bar.
There’s no doubting that the higher frequencies and the wider presentation here do spread the soundfield beyond the bounds of the box more than from, say, the Denon soundbar at the same price elsewhere in these pages (we had this set up alongside the Yamaha for easy A-B Bluetooth switching); the Yamaha came off as somewhat less musical, a little boxier in the midrange, but also less box-bound; it really does spread the sound.
You can mess with the sonic balance here using Yamaha’s 10 different Cinema DSP modes, though we wouldn’t recommend any of them for regular use; you can, however, usefully switch between stereo and five-beam mode (or stereo plus three beam), and for once we enjoyed the five-beam processing as much as the straight stereo option, though it does defuse the bass imaging. We subsequently tried this unit in a smaller room (a bedroom) where the sub could sit centrally under the soundbar; this helped the integration, while the sound projection concept worked better in this smaller environment.
Movie time! From the start of our favourite scene of ‘Gravity’, the underlying ominous bass was delivered to a suitable depth, while other elements were steered effectively. There was still an occasional indication of the high level of processing going on — percussive surround sounds such as Sandra Bullock’s rattling of a switch could emerge ‘double-tracked’ on both sides of the soundstage instead of clearly in a particular position. In our wide main listening room there was no real ‘behind you’ surround, but certainly a wide soundfield beyond the bounds of the main unit; later in the smaller bedroom there were moments where certain sounds did gain in depth from the closer side walls. Again in that second room, the calibration transformed the YST-2500’s sound from rather messy to solid and enjoyable. For full-on movie entertainment we had the volume up at around 60 of the maximum 70.
So there’s a huge amount of technology in the YSP-2500. There’s app control; there’s 3D and 4K passthrough (though our Oppo refused to assist in checking the latter); there are three useful memory presets on the remote control for saving preferred settings, perhaps for action movies, dialogue-heavy movies and music. The sound projection is effective at creating immersive sound once properly calibrated, while the subwoofer performs and integrates well. We thought the overall sound just a little processed, more noticeably with music than on movies, but still powerful, well resolved (thanks to processing for all those high-res audio formats) and highly enjoyable.
There’s nothing else on the market at this price with these facilities; it is totally top for tech, and very near the top on its sonic delivery. Yamaha’s long experience in delivering such systems is clear here. Jez Ford
Yamaha YSP-2500 Digital Sound Projector
FOR: Wildly well-equipped; DolbyHD and DTS-MA decoding to 7.1; Great auto-calibration
AGAINST: Slight edge to music sound
Drivers: 16 x 2.8cm
Inputs: 3 x HDMI + HDMI ARC, optical digital, coaxial digital, analogue RCA stereo
Outputs: 1 x HDMI (ARC), subwoofer out, headphone out
Dimensions (whd): 944 x 73 (with feet) x 144 mm
Drivers: 2 x 10cm woofers
Dimensions (whd): 147 x 444 x 353mm
Warranty: Two years
Product page: Yamaha Music Australia