Looking for a credible alternative to a multi-speaker surround system? Steve May has just the ticket
The Quick Start guide supplied with Yamaha’s YSP-2200 system concludes with a clear message in bold, overlarge type. It reads: ‘Then have fun for playback!’
While the English may be a bit mangled, the sentiment is spot-on. Using this soundbar and subwoofer system is indeed a lot of fun. The two-piece system comprises the main YSP-CU2200 console and a somewhat chunkier passive subwoofer, the NS-SWP600.
The former has a footprint 944mm wide, but stands just 79mm tall on adjustable/removable feet. The woofer, meanwhile, has been designed to sit below the CU2200, rather than in a corner. Being the same width as a typical hi-fi component (435mm) it fits snugly into a regular system rack.
Placing the sub close to the main unit brings a clear benefit: the woofer localises in the right place. Located off to the side its high crossover will draw attention to itself, unravelling the soundstage.
Installing the YSP-2200 system is a doddle. The CU2200 features much the same connectivity that you’d find on an AVR. There are three HDMI inputs and one ouput (with ARC).
All are HDMI v1.4a, which makes the system compatible with 3D source components and TVs. You also get three digital audio inputs (two optical), a pair of stereo phono inputs, composite video and a dedicated iPod dock connector, which partners with the brand’s YDS-12 dock (not supplied for review).
Loudspeaker spring clips (bell wire helpfully supplied) link the CU2200 to the subwoofer. Should you need it, an IR flasher is also thrown in.
Yamaha’s YSP technology is able to create an extended soundfield by bouncing sound beams off the walls of your listening room. Targeted and delayed, these create a multichannel listening experience. There are 16 directional drivers in the CU2200 console. Each of these has its own dedicated digital amplifier and so can be individually controlled. An IntelliBeam auto-calibration system configures the system, performing two key functions: the first is to optimize all 16 beam angles, the second is to balance delay and volume levels. Not only does Yamaha supply a mic for this, but there’s also a curious cardboard tower you can erect to balance it on.
The brand rates the power output of system at 132W all up: the subwoofer enjoys 100W, while the 16 beam drivers inside the CU2200 get 2W a-piece.
I auditioned the YSP2200 with both stereo and multichannel sources, music and movie, subjecting them all to Yamaha’s multiplicity of listening modes. In its most basic stereo guise, the system predictably sounds a little funneled, and you can’t engage any DSP processing while in this mode.
Shifting to a multichannel presentation sees the soundstage widen and here’s where the post-processing fun begins. The CU2200 can decode all the standard lossy and lossless sound formats used on DVD and Blu-ray, and by broadcasters, allocating channels to groups of beam drivers.
The quality of these drivers is impeccable. They are tight, light and deliciously detailed. Ole Bull: Concerto Fantastico, a DTS HD MA 7.1 original mix from 2L, is as sweet as molasses. However, The Pretenders: Live in London, reveals some system limitations. A DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, it seemed heavy-handed against its classical counterpart. This is because the woofer was required to do more work. But easing down the sub’s output level proved the most effective way to constrain its somewhat splashy temperament.
What of the YSP’s surround capabilities, though? Isn’t all this talk of reflected sound just sonic snake oil? I found that with well executed movie soundtracks, such as the CG animation Despicable Me, this Yamaha system is able to create a horseshoe audio pattern that effectively flicks effects left and right. The result is genuinely cinematic.
In smaller rooms where there are hard surfaces for the sound projector to work off, the YSP2200 becomes a viable alternative to more conventional speakers and sound systems. It certainly does a superior job to Samsung’s HT-D670W all-in-one system which employs a pair of front-placed drivers to similarly bounce surround sound-effects off walls.
But there are inevitable compromises. While the system works wonderfully well with toppy FX and string instruments, it struggles with more visceral audio. Ridley Scott’s reworking of Robin Hood has plenty of sequences awash with clanging swords and thudding action. It’s apparent during one such scene that the diminutive NS-SWP600 just doesn’t have slam, usually a prerequisite for any gutty subwoofer. If you’re looking for tight, fast bass you won’t get it from the two 10cm cones employed here.
While there’s no shortage of soundbar products, all of which ostensibly look the same, none of them sound quite like a Yamaha Sound Projector. If you’re looking for a space-saving alternative to conventional speakers and amplification, then the YSP-2200 is a compelling proposition. Of course, the quality of sound it creates and the ingenuity of its approach is reflected in the price tag. But, that said, it is a heck of a lot of fun.
Price: £800 Approx
Highs: Crisp, wide soundstage; surround effect works well in boxy rooms with reflective surfaces
Lows: The passive sub is splashy and lacks slam; not very immersive
Dolby Digital TrueHD: yes DTS-HD Master Audio: yes
Analogue multichannel input: no
Power output: 132W total power: 2W x 16 beam drivers + 100W sub
AV inputs: Composite video, stereo phono, two digital optical inputs, one coaxial digital input
HDMI input/output: yes three inputs, one output all v1.4a
Video upscaling: no
Component input/output: no
Dimensions (YSP-CU2200): 944(w) x 79(h) x 145(d)mm
Dimensions (NS-SWP600): 435(w) x 137(h) x 350(d)mm
Features: 16 x 2.8cm beam drivers; Cinema DSP Music; Movie & Entertainment modes; variable listening modes (5BeamPlus2, 3BeamPLUS2+Stereo, 5 Beam, Stereo+3Beam, 3Beam, Stereo and My Surround); compressed music enhancer; Intellibeam auto calibration system
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