Reviewer: Anthony Fordham
Anyone who has tried to install a surround sound system in a trendy renovated terrace where all the internal walls have been ripped out to create a ‘flowing space for your existence’ will know how impossible it is to hide every single unsightly wire.
It’s reasonable to expect the clever boffins in R&D to have come up with something that can utilise the power of acoustics and high energy sound waves to somehow simulate the experience of rear speakers without actually needing the things in your room. Well, they have, and this is it: the YSP-1100 Digital Sound Projector.
The YSP-1100 has little in common with traditional speaker packages. Instead of each of the five channels of a surround setup being serviced by a single – or at most a few individual drivers – this Digital Sound Projector has an incredible 42 individual drivers nestling behind its minimalist grille.
Forty of them are 4 cm two watt tweeters, while two others are 11 cm 20 watt woofers. The projector itself doesn’t pump the bass, you still need a separate subwoofer for that, and a very decent 150 watt unit is included in the price.
The unit works by beaming sound waves from its 42 individual speakers so they bounce off surrounding walls and converge at your pre-determined listening point. There are four modes, from simple stereo, through an upmixed 3-Beam+stereo (using the centre channel), plain 3-Beam and full-surround 5-Beam. There’s also a mode called My Beam, where all sound is projected directly to the listener’s position when the relevant button on the remote is pushed.
A quick note on the form-factor. Not only is the YSP-1100 slimline and discreet, it’s actually designed to ‘fit up’ beneath a 42 inch (or bigger) flat panel TV. If you have a smaller display, there’s a little brother unit called the YSP-900S, which is designed for 32 inch displays. This has a lower total power output because it only has 21 two watt tweeters (instead of 40) and comes with a 130 watt sub. You can also wall mount the unit with brackets, which are sold separately for $129.
Like many of the higher-end AV receivers, the YSP-1100 comes with a microphone that you place in your preferred listening position. There’s even a cardboard stand you can rig up to ensure the mic is at ear-level. The system then runs through an auto configuration procedure, trying different angles and beam strengths until it thinks it’s arrived at an optimum mix.
If you live in a boring house with rectangular rooms and you don’t have much furniture, setup completes without a hitch. The system makes all its measurements and you have a perfect, almost magical, surround configuration.
On the other hand, if you live in an architect-designed converted barn with suspended walkways and curved walls (or even just in a split-level semi with few internal walls and lots of lovely afghan rugs hung up, or heavy curtains) things perhaps won’t go so smoothly, and you may find yourself ‘losing’ one or more channels as the beams just shoot off into space or bounce around randomly in the architecture.
In the correct setting, though, the YSP-1100 is little short of amazing. The device seems to be a kind of ventriloquist, throwing its voice into all four corners of the room. Detail is good even in very challenging soundtracks, and it’s hard to tell the difference between the YSP-1100 and a traditional five-speaker setup.
If you have the right kind of room, the YSP-1100 gives nearly identical performance to a multi-speaker setup at a similar price-point. With a bit of planning, you can integrate it into your entertainment rack in such a way that it’s almost invisible (especially the all-black version we tested).
Audiophiles who really want that no-compromise positional audio experience won’t be impressed, but for the rest of us, the simplicity of installation and quality of the sound make the YSP-1100 not just an alternative, but almost a preference to conventional speaker systems.