There are two kinds of soundbars: those that deliver stereo, and those that at least try to produce a surround effect. Yamaha’s Digital Sound Projector line, which has been around for many years now, belongs in the latter camp. They perform this magic by mixing a bunch of small drivers, individually tailoring signals for each of them, with a fair dose of psycho-acoustic science.

Equipment
The Yamaha YSP-2700 is among the company’s mid-priced units. It comes as two units, plus a remote control. One part is a ‘soundbar’-style unit, while the other is a wireless subwoofer. Wireless, but it has a wired input, just in case. Such a case didn’t arise during our time with the unit, but it’s nice to have the back-up.

So, the soundbar first. You may know that some Yamaha Sound Projectors have more than
40 drivers. As a mid-priced unit, the YSP-2700 gets by with a mere 16. All of them are 28mm units — yes, tweeter-sized. They are in a straight line across the front of the soundbar. You can make them out behind the fixed grille.

Interestingly, even though the soundbar is more than 940mm wide, the drivers aren’t spread evenly across its front. Instead they are gathered into a band that’s only half the width of the soundbar, right in the centre. We expect that there are sound technical reasons for this, to do with Yamaha’s Intellibeam sound steering technology.

Since each driver has to be fed its own tailored signal, each has its own amplifier. They are rated at 1.7W each at 1% THD (2W each at 10% THD). The soundbar covers the frequency range from 500Hz up to 22,000Hz.

The separate subwoofer looks after 40Hz to 500Hz. It uses a 140mm driver and a 75W amplifier (at 10% THD). The sub is compact, almost fitting into a one-cubic-foot cube, but surprisingly weighty for the size, at over 9kg.

Back to the bar. This is a full switching unit in addition to amplifier and speakers. It has three HDMI inputs and one output, plus coaxial and optical digital audio inputs, and one analogue stereo input. The HDMI inputs are rated to support video signals up to 4K at 60Hz with 4:4:4 colour resolution. Also claimed by Yamaha: support for Deep Color, x.v.Color, 3D and HDR. Not mentioned was Dolby Vision.

Also provided is networking and Bluetooth. The latter supports the standard SBC music codec and the Apple-friendly, higher quality AAC codec. Networking is via Ethernet or Wi-Fi (2.4GHz, 802.11b/g/n).

A row of six keys at the top right of the soundbar allow basic control — Input, Mute, Volume and Power. Plus ‘Connect’, which you use when joining the unit to a MusicCast multiroom system (or perhaps just want to use the MusicCast Controller app). There are also a number of illuminated indicators behind the grille at the right-hand end which show things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and power status. And there’s a text display there as well, showing things like input selection and surround mode. You can also use that display for adjusting the unit’s settings.

Like Yamaha’s AV receivers, it comes with a calibration microphone, except in this case it’s called an Intellibeam microphone. And there’s a nifty cardboard stand to hold it. You can put in your usual sitting position and you don’t need to dig around for that old camera tripod to hold the mike. There’s also a fold-out cardboard template to assist in wall-mounting the bar, though the bracket for this is an optional extra.

Also included, according to the manual, are two small stands which can be attached to the bottom at each end. These raise the unit by 19mm, I guess to give it clearance over a protruding part of a TV stand. We didn’t need them, and rather preferred the low profile of the soundbar, standing only 51mm tall. It’s 944mm wide and 154mm deep. The little Wi-Fi/Bluetooth antenna swivels up on the back, standing an additional 40mm higher. Since it’s right in the middle of the soundbar, it may be distracting over or near the bottom of the TV picture. We tried using the unit with the antenna down out of the way, but it made the network performance very spotty for us.

Performance
We plugged our TV into the well-marked HDMI output, our UHD Blu-ray player into one of the HDMI inputs, and both the soundbar and subwoofer into power. It turns out that when you press the set-up key on the (remarkably full-featured) remote control, a set-up menu appears on the left side of your TV screen.

Setting up was rather easy. There’s no wizard to guide you through, but really the main two things you’ll want to do is connect to the network, and set up the sound optimisation. You can do the former manually, or with SSID selection and password, or with WPS (button or PIN) or with details fed from an iOS device. If you’re using the last one, make sure your iDevice is connected to a 2.4GHz or dual band WiFi access point, not a 5GHz one. We just did the SSID thing and it worked fine.

The speaker set-up seems to be a two part thing. First, the soundbar shoots its sound beams around the room (using timing differences between the individual drivers within the array to steer the sound). It was certainly disconcerting to listen to, these weird phase effects. We imagine that was to establish where the virtual speakers were. Then it ran a more or less conventional YMAO optimisation, like that in Yamaha receivers, to set EQ, levels and delays for the channels. It took around three minutes.

Then it was onto a bit of soundtrack listening. We started with some reductionist tests by which we we could hear precisely what the unit was doing with multichannel sound. Along the way we confirmed that the soundbar accepts and decodes Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD (even unto 7.1 channels) and DTS HD Master Audio (again, to 7.1 channels). It doesn’t try to do Atmos or DTS:X, and appears to ignore those extensions in the bitstreams without loss to the core sound.

Also, unlike many stereo soundbars, it accepts and uses the LFE channel in multichannel mixes.
With a voice and tones that walked around the room, the result was far short of what we experience with discrete speakers laid out around the room. But there was nonetheless surprising width that came almost up to our position, if not behind.

However with real program material — we enjoyed Justice League on UltraHD Blu-ray, along with some other discs — the effect was far more impressive, really encompassing us and involving us in the midst of the action. The subwoofer wasn’t floor-shaking, but gave a solid grunt to the action.
On music, the sub was fairly impressive: tight and controlled, and giving a solid impression of nothing being left out. The system went surprisingly loud, especially in view of all the sound from 500Hz up being produced by what are essentially tweeters. It did roughen up a little at louder levels, but was still musical and listenable at quite room-filling volumes.

Oh, before leaving movies entirely, we also confirmed that the HDMI connections passed through Dolby Vision in addition to HDR and the other UHD Blu-ray goodies. Initially the unit would not pass through the video from the Ultra-HD Blu-ray version of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. That movie has Ultra-HD video running at 60 frames per second. Checking the manual revealed that there’s an ‘Advanced Setup’ with various deeper functions. One of those is to set the 4K mode. The default setting limits 60fps 4K/UHD video to a 4:2:0 colour resolution. We figure our player was trying to deliver it at 4:4:4. Changing the setting to the other option fixed that.

Rather to our surprise, the unit has a web page (you just key in the IP address on a browser connected to the network) which allows you to make adjustments. It also provided a firmware update facility where we had to go to Yamaha’s web page on our computer and download the zip file, then select it to load into the unit. (This took the firmware from 2.03 to 2.06.) We later read the manual and found you can do this more easily using the on-screen display.

And, yes, the streaming worked well. As we write this paragraph, we are listening to a little Deep Purple being streamed to the unit from our iPhone via AirPlay. But we also used third-party apps and Yamaha’s own MusicCast app to stream all manner of music to the speaker. We tested FLAC up to 24 bits and 192kHz, and Apple Lossless to 96kHz. Spotify Connect worked perfectly too. Yamaha’s MusicCast app is excellent, not only creating a multiroom platform for your home but also giving full playback control of music to the YSP-2700.

Conclusion
The Yamaha YSP-2700 is an economical way to deliver decent-sounding music and movies into a room via a compact solution. With reasonable surround performance, we reckon it beats much
of the competition on movies.

Yamaha YSP-2700 Digital Sound Projector
Price: $1499

+ Good overall sound quality
+ Good value for money
+ Good network features

- Could probably get better music quality with carefully chosen stereo components

YSP-CU2700 Front Surround System
Tested with firmware: 2.06
Power: 16 x 1.7W (1kHz, 1% THD);
16 x 2W (1kHz, 10% THD)
Frequency response: 500 to 22kHz
Drivers: 16 x 28mm
Inputs: 3 x HDMI, 1 x optical digital, 1 x coaxial digital, 1 x analogue stereo (RCA), Bluetooth, Ethernet, Wi-Fi
Outputs: 1 x HDMI, 1 x subwoofer
Other: Calibration mic, Yamaha system connector, RS-232C, USB (for firmware updates)
Dimensions (whd): 944 x 51 x 154mm
Weight: 4.0kg

NS-WSW121 wireless subwoofer
Power output: 75W (100Hz, 10% THD)
Drivers: 1 x 140mm forwards-facing
Dimensions (whd): 295 x 297 x 307mm
Weight (each): 9.1kg

Contact: Yamaha Music Australia
Telephone: 1300 739 411
Web: au.yamaha.com