Editors' note: The rating of the Yamaha YSP-4000 has been changed since publication to better reflect its value compared to competing home theater systems.
If you're one of those people who don't want to "live with wires and boxes all over my living room," Yamaha's Digital Sound Projector series of single-speaker surround systems may be exactly what you're looking for. Building on the success of earlier models, the company's 2007 lineup comes in three flavors: the YSP-900 ($900), the YSP-3000 ($1,200), and the subject of this review, the YSP-4000 ($1,800). The top model is the first to offer 1080p/720p HDMI switching, analog video upscaling to HDMI, XM surround compatibility, and an FM tuner. The long, sleek YSP-4000 speaker has built-in power amplifiers, proprietary signal processing, plentiful connectivity, and uses 40 "beam" drivers to create a convincing illusion of multichannel sound. Just add a disc player and a TV and you're set.
The YSP-4000 is expensive, but it obviates the need to buy an AV receiver. The YSP-4000 delivered the best, most convincing surround sound we've ever heard from just one speaker. We only wish Yamaha invested more time in making the setup routine fully user-friendly: the surround calibration is a snap, but assigning inputs for multiple sources is likely to induce headaches for all but the most experienced users.
A large perforated metal grille dominates the YSP-4000's front panel; the LED display relates volume level and processing status (there's also a volume control and input selector). We mostly used the remote control to handle those functions and execute the setup routines. It's not backlit, but we found the remote fairly easy to use in our dimly lit home theater. The speaker is 40.5 inches wide, 7.6 high, and 5.75 deep, and it weighs 34.6 pounds. It can be wall mounted with the optional SPM-K30 bracket ($80) or positioned on a shelf above or below your TV.
Yamaha's Digital Sound Projection Technology works by reflecting sound off walls, so bare walls work best, and objects in the room such as chairs, drapes, or furniture may have an adverse effect on the quality of the surround sound. Yamaha's IntelliBeam autosetup and calibration system couldn't be easier to use. Just bring up the onscreen menu (available over the HDMI connection), plug in the supplied microphone, and the completely automated procedure takes just a few minutes to complete. (Setting up multiple AV sources is considerably more challenging; see below.)
Yamaha now offers two matching subwoofers for use with the YSP speakers--the YST-FSW150 ($280) and the YST-FSW050 ($200)--they're slim, rack-mountable designs. It's also worth mentioning that the YSP-4000 is available in either black or silver.
The YSP-4000 is more than just a speaker--it has built-in power amplifiers and the switching capabilities of an entry-level AV receiver. The speaker's 40 1.5-inch microdrivers project the front-left, front-right and surround channels' sound to reflect off your room's walls; the center channel's sound is projected directly from the YSP-4000 to the listening position. SRS Lab's TruBass technology is said to enhance the two 4.25-inch woofers bass response (the microdrivers and woofers are each powered by their own digital amplifier). Total power is rated at 120 watts.
Surround processing modes include Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS, DTS Neo:6, Neural Surround and Yamaha's proprietary Cinema DSP technology. The only thing missing is the latest Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD formats found on Blu-ray and HD DVD discs.
Most of the speaker's connectors are recessed into the rear panel: there are two sets of stereo analog inputs; two optical and two coaxial digital inputs (for surround sources); a dock terminal for Yamaha's YDS-10 iPod dock; an XM antenna jack for use with XM's Mini-Tuner Home Dock; and a subwoofer output. The two HDMI inputs (and one output) can handle video and audio. Video-only connectors include two sets of component-video and three composite-video inputs; and one set of component and composite-video outputs. Annoyingly, S-Video connections are completely absent. The RS-232C interface and IR input and output jacks are provided for use in custom installation systems. The front panel has a 3.5mm jack for handy connection with portable players.