Sound bars have now become as common as 5.1 channel surround sound home theatre systems. They basically need no introduction as a consumer knows what exactly he or she is going in for when they are in the market for a sound bar. But for those who are not in the know, a soundbar is a solution for a 5.1 channel speaker set, but has the incredible feature of being extremely compact with no clutter. This reduces those unnecessarily long cables snaking up the walls of one’s home to be attached to the rear channel speakers or for that matter even reducing the need to have a subwoofer as some of the models come with this inbuilt driver.

The meshing hides the 40 beam drivers

The meshing hides the 40 beam drivers

Yamaha has been one of the big brands manufacturing sound bars, for years now and they have been consistently delivering products that do not disappoint. The brand has launched a soundbar, called the YSP-4100, which offers a variety of features that do not essentially fall in this class of speakers. Terming their range of soundbars, ‘Digital Sound Projectors,’ the YSP-4100 boasts of features, such as HD audio decoding, AV receiver functionalities and a host of other attributes. Read on to know more about this high end offering from Yamaha.

Design and Build Quality
The design of the YSP-4100 is not that of a conventional sound bar, although it adopts similar styling. The reason we say that the soundbar is not like a conventional soundbar is because it is a lot larger than others and has features that are not usually found on most others. Usually, one would put this sort of a speaker system in front of the base of an HDTV, but with this model it is advised that it should be placed on a lower shelf, as it would block the bottom of the television’s screen. This soundbar is designed for televisions as large as 46 inches and it would complement those TV sets well. If one has a larger TV, say a 55-inch model, then the YSP-5100 would be more suitable. At first, this digital sound projector appears stylish and looks like it can deliver the performance that is expected of it.

Connectivity options at the back

Connectivity options at the back

The soundbar measures 1030 x 212 x 90mm and is quite heavy weighing at approximately 10 kgs. A majority of its front side features a meshing that covers the forty 4cm drivers and two 11cm subwoofers. The bottom part of this speaker set features a black glossy panel where the matrix LCD display is located. On this display, one can easily view which input mode they are in and other options available on offer. The controls are located at the front and these buttons for them look rich and well designed. There are a number of connectivity options located at the back, making it a lot more than just a mere soundbar. It is very sturdy and even if accidentally dropped, it looks like it will sustain it.

The bundled-up remote control that comes along with the soundbar looks futuristic and its neat design allows for easy handling, without it giving away the impression of being bulky, even though it is on the larger side. Rounding up this bit of the review, the Yamaha YSP-4100 is a good looking speaker set, though quite bulky.

Features
When it comes to the features of the Yamaha YSP-4100, the list lasts a lot longer than many other soundbars that are available in the market. However, it did lack a few needed features that are found in sound bars that are priced a lot cheaper. For one, it does not come with a separate sub woofer. Many brands that manufacture sound bars add a sub woofer as part of the package. Another thing missing here is the lack of any HDMI cables which have been truly useful for the consumer opting for this speaker.

Controls line up at the front

Controls line-up at the front

So starting off the features and moving away from the two negative points mentioned above, the most notable attribute is that on the face of the speaker set there are an array of audio drivers. Unlike most sound bars, there are a total of forty drivers lined up here, which help in providing surround sound experience. These drivers fire at 2W each giving it a total of 80 Watts. Combine this with the two subwoofers that fire at 20W each and we get a total of 120W of power output here.

Features Continued..

The LCD at the front offers an easy solution for switching through the different menus and inputs. This can be navigated through by using the remote control or to a lesser extent by the controls that are featured on the sound bar. Apart from this, one can also view the interface on a television and though it is simple in appearance, very few speaker sets or home theatre sets in the market offer an onscreen television display. Usually one would have to be content with the LCD display on the speaker set itself. This expands the usability options allowing non-professionals to easily set it up without any hassles. Though the layout is simple, it is very intuitive and one can tweak all the possible settings here.

The 40 beam drivers and two subwoofers exposed

The 40 beam drivers and two subwoofers exposed

The connectivity options found here are vast and much more than most sound bars or even regular 5.1 channel home theatre systems available in the market. The most interesting of these is the fact that there are four HDMI inputs, which should be adequate for most consumers while setting up a home theatre system. It is rather strange that the brand did not bundle up a single HDMI cable to complement this feature. The other connectivity options found here are quite vast as well and one can liken it to an AV receiver even though it is essentially a soundbar. Other connectivity options include two analog audio/ video inputs and two digital inputs. These can be used to connect to a range of devices that do not have HDMI capabilities. Another interesting bit of this feature is that one can connect their analog devices to the speaker set and it can upscale it to a television using an HDMI cable, thereby reducing the need for having various connections tapering from the television set and instead just use a single HDMI cable.

The setup process is fairly simple and the onscreen display can help out a lot for this purpose. There is the option to set it up automatically using the calibration mic that comes bundled with it or do a manual set up to get the sound quality of one’s choice. During the automatic setup procedure all one needs to do is connect the calibration mic, hit the automatic set up option and let the speaker do the needful. This takes no more than a few minutes and once complete, the speaker set is good to go. Alternatively there are different modes for the Cinema DSP programmes. These include three for music, five for entertainment and three for movies. These are available only through the surround sound modes.

Futuristic looking remote control

Futuristic looking remote control

One can also connect an iPod or an iPhone to this speaker, as it comes with a wireless dock. This makes the Yamaha YSP-4100, a very versatile speaker set. Another feature worth mentioning is that it has the ability to support high definition audio formats, such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. This is a neat feature and with the speaker set having the ability to support it, it puts it in-line with many 5.1 channel speaker sets available in the market. Apart from this, it has a pre-out option that is found on AV receivers in the market. This can be used to connect to rear, front and centre channel woofers, along with a subwoofer. Another worthy mention is that the speaker set features an FM transmitter, a feature that is not usually found on sound bars.

Performance
The Yamaha YSP-4100 aims to offer a surround sound experience from a single unit. These speakers are designed primarily for those who have a limited amount of space and do not want a home theatre solution. To test the performance of the speaker set, we connected it to a Panasonic HDTV using an HDMI cable followed by connections to an Xbox using analog connections, an iPod, a smartphone by syncing it using the composite inputs and a Philips Blu-ray player using a HDMI input. We also paired it with a Yamaha YST-SW315 subwoofer to enhance our experience with the soundbar.

Slimmer than previous Yamaha sound bars

Slimmer than previous Yamaha sound bars

While connecting it to a smartphone using the composite connection, we played back some instrumental tracks and we found that there is an amount of the surround sound that it claims to possess, but the reach was not far. In the surround sound mode, the highs were good and so were the mids. However, the bass was quite off and we could not feel it. This took away a lot of the listening experience of the speaker set. We changed the mode to stereo and the sound was a lot better, however the tracks were still lacking bass. We switched the music to some dubstep, which is bass heavy and though the bass could be felt a bit more, there was a bit of disturbance felt. The highs were crisp and the mids were accurate; nothing appeared enhanced here, which was great. As the beats changed, so did the surround sound effect. In stereo mode, we observed that the overall audio quality was a lot better, but it lacked the surround sound effect.

While gaming on the Xbox, the voices of the characters in Gears of War sounded great and background noises were well received. Rear gunfire was heard from the sides and not just the front and this did a lot for the surround sound experience that is expected of the YSP-4100. Another thing we liked about it was voices sound natural and not fake as witnessed on some lower end soundbars.

While connecting our test Blu-ray, we noticed that the set-up process was seamless. We switched off the Cinema DSP, to get the true response of the sound during video clips and music videos without the need for any additional enhancements. We observed that acoustic music from the Dave Matthews Band had a distinct clarity to it and the vocals were accurate. The bass was good and so were the mids and highs. In a separate test video clip, we observed that there was surround sound felt, but the reach was not that much – spanning around five feet away from the speakers. The sound does tend to hit the walls, but it cannot be felt from the back, like in traditional 5.1 channel speaker sets.

With the subwoofer connected, the listening pleasure increases dramatically and one wonders why the brand does not add one in the packaging. The speaker set without the subwoofer does a decent job of firing the sound, but it lacks the punch, which a dedicated subwoofer delivers. One has to actually crank up the volume to around 70 percent, with a subwoofer connected to feel the thump. Otherwise, the sound is quite mellow and does not do much for the YSP-4100. When the volume is raised to the above stated level, one can truly enjoy the music or movies as expected from a high-end speaker system.

Fairly large sound bar

Fairly large sound bar

Verdict
The Yamaha YSP-4100 is extremely feature-rich and is available in India at an MOP of Rs.97,500. This may be probably one of the best sound bars available in the market as it delivers performances that can be outmatched by only 5.1 channel speaker systems with their surround sound capabilities. The sound bar is an incredible piece of hardware, but besides the absence of a separate subwoofer, it is very expensive, which may put off people quite a bit. The average cost of a sound bar, nowadays is almost half the YSP-4100’s price, which may prompt potential consumers to opt for an alternative. Another thing one would need to consider is purchasing a good subwoofer, costing them close to Rs. 15,000, which raises the cost further as the bass is not that great as compared to other high-end 5.1 channel home theatre systems. That being said, this delivers well performance-wise and if one has the money to spend, then this would be an attractive option.

Publish date: March 29, 2012 1:32 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 9:56 pm

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