Yamaha YSP-2500 Sound Bar Review

Yamaha sets their high-end sound bars apart from the competition with their Digital Sound Projection technology. Using an array of drivers and measuring the reflections of the room lets it create virtual surround sound. The Yamaha YSP-2500 is their cheapest sound bar with full Digital Sound Projection technology and IntelliBeam calibration at $1,000. It provides an immersive listening experience for a sound bar with no physical surrounds. If you want the surround sound experience without using extra speakers, the Yamaha YSP-2500 does it better than anyone for the price.

Faux-Surround

Specs
Manufacturer: Yamaha
Model: YSP-2500
Outputs: 1x HDMI 1.4a with ARC
Inputs: 3x HDMI 1.4a, 1x Analog, 1x Coaxial
Subwoofer: Yes
Bluetooth: Yes
Airplay: No
Review Date: November 20, 2014
Price: Out of stock
Company Website

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Usually when you see faux-anything you want to avoid it. Faux-leather. Faux-turkey. Faux-flu vaccine. When it comes to faux-surround that is almost always the case. There have been countless attempts to make a fake surround sound using stereo speakers in the past and it never lives up to expectations. You get some DSP effects that make things sound hollow up front, to provide the illusion of space, but nothing move out beyond the front speakers. Digital Sound Projection from Yamaha is a bit of faux-surround, but done differently.

More than likely, the room you watch movies in has walls. When it comes to sound walls are often a disadvantage. They can create echoes and make things seem a bit out of place. It’s why people use room treatments and other things in their listening room to try to correct for the problems that walls can cause. To Yamaha, walls are a benefit because they can reflect sound. Digital Sound Projection takes advantage of this by figuring out how sounds reflect off your walls. Once it learns how sounds move around your room, it uses that to its advantage by bouncing audio off the walls to create the effect of surround speakers. Your ears don’t realize that the surround audio is coming from the front but bouncing off the walls first. You hear the sounds coming from behind you because they actually are.

The Yamaha YSP-2500 has an array of sixteen 1 1/8” drivers for using Digital Sound Projection . These drivers combined with dual 4” drivers in the subwoofer combine to make a full-range sound bar that is capable of also creating a surround environment. Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoding let you play back the lossless audio soundtracks from Blu-ray discs with Digital Sound Projection. Three HDMI inputs allow you to get that lossless audio into Yamaha YSP-2500 easily. It also has Bluetooth with AptX support for streaming audio, an analog input, and a three digital inputs (one coaxial, two optical). It lacks WiFi so there is no AirPlay but Bluetooth is much more compatible with devices.

Yamaha Intellibeam Image

200 Degree Immersion

Digital Sound Projection looks awesome on paper, but paper and reality don’t always meet up. Here, the real world performance is good and much better than I thought possible from this little sound bar. Starting up Fight Club, the opening sequence shows off what the YSP-2500 is capable of. As the virtual camera pulls out of the narrators body, the surround mix is immersive. It isn’t a full 360 degree immersion, but it is close to 200 degrees or so. I look to my left and right to try to pinpoint where the sound is coming from. I know there are not speakers there, but if I didn’t know that I would think there are. Even with drivers being used for these surround effects the dialogue remains well anchored to the front of the room. Most faux-surround systems would make the dialogue sound empty and hollow instead.

To see what Digital Sound Projection is capable of, Yamaha offers a Target mode in the YSP-2500. You can aim the audio anywhere from center to 90 degrees left or 90 degrees right. Sitting in the center seat, I can hear the sounds move left to right as I adjust the target. If I move to the right seat in my home theater seating I can shift the audio over to my seat to hear it better. Unfortunately everything in target mode sounds much worse than in any of the other modes, but it does show off what the Yamaha can do. It will only be used if you’re trying to watch something in a room that no one else wants to hear, but it shows how effective the Digital Sound Projection technology is.

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Listening to music the Yamaha YSP-2500 is usually good but does have an issue. The two main modes I listen to for two channel music are Stereo and Stereo+3 Beam. Stereo offers a bit more richness to the midrange, but Stereo+3 Beam has a larger soundstage. While I can see people having a person preference for one of the other, mine leans towards the larger soundstage of the Stereo+3 Beam mode. No matter which you choose, the Yamaha YSP-2500 does a good job with stereo music.

In Rainbows from Radiohead is a great album with a mix that is often harsh and almost unbearable. Through the YSP-2500, like the YSP-4300 before it, Radiohead sounds fantastic. “Reckoner” isn’t hard to listen to at all but just sounds fantastic. “Drive” from REM sounds much wider than the 37” of the YSP-2500. The opening countdown to start the track is audible and the sound quality is excellent.

The main issue with music on the Yahama YSP-2500 comes up with Kind of Blue from Miles Davis. The crossover between the subwoofer and the sound bar is too high to make the bass non-directional. When the double bass plays during “So What” it seems to come from two different spots in the room. I have the subwoofer to the right of my home theater seats, around 5’ away, while the sound bar is 7’ in front of me. Most sounds are coming from the sound bar but those lower octaves can come from both places at once. This takes you out of the music and while I notice it with stereo audio, I cannot hear it with tracks mixed for surround.

If I play the 5.1 channel SACD of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, there is little localization of the bass. The opening notes of the titular track come from the right surround just like in my normal 5.1 system. Even though you would expect the extra drivers from IntelliBeam to have a negative effect on detail or something else, it isn’t the case. Wish You Were Here sounds detailed on the SACD and the subwoofer is impressive for its size. The bass notes that open “Have a Cigar” are much deeper than I expect from two 4” drivers. It doesn’t hit like a 12” subwoofer does but most people will not be disappointed at all.

Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City sounds good through the Yamaha YSP-2500 but has a bit of a flaw in the midrange. Guitars lack the snap and attack of systems with a larger midrange driver and sound a bit thin. The surround sound effects are good, but the guitars are not as natural as they are with other sound bars.

When you first connect over Bluetooth to the Yamaha YSP-2500 from an iOS device it prompts you to install an app for control. The app allows you to do everything the remote control can do: change sound modes, adjust volume and levels, and switch between inputs. Bluetooth streaming works as expected, with my iPhone 6 and MacBook Pro controlling the YSP-2500 just fine.

No USB Input?

Surprisingly the YSP-2500 has no USB input for a flash drive or hard drive full of music. With no WiFi or Ethernet built-in, it means the only way to stream music to the YSP-2500 is with Bluetooth. Having a way to get full CD-quality audio or better to the YSP-2500 without relying on an external device would be nice as it has good sound quality.

The DSP modes on the Yamaha seem to be the same as on the Yamaha Receiver my Dad owned 20 years ago. Concert Hall effects and everything else make the sound different, but I don’t think it makes it better at all. It just sounds hollow or like there is a large echo most of the time. As good as the Digital Sound Projection technology is, the DSP technology in the Yamaha sounds much more ancient by comparison.

Measurements

Measurements are done using the analog input of the YSP-2500, a UMIK-1 Calibrated USB microphone from MiniDSP, and RoomEQ software. Measurements are done in-room using multiple positions, with multiple measurements at each position, to minimize room gain.

The bass in the YSP-2500 is a bit loud, even with the subwoofer set to minimum. Doing the measurements for the YSP-2500 it seems that the bar runs out of headroom well before the subwoofer does. If you listen at lower volume levels, this won’t be noticed at all, but if you try to really crank the volume at some point only the subwoofer is going to increase in volume. You can get 90-95 dB out of the YSP-2500 but a 1?” driver does have its limits.

The high-frequencies have a slight roll-off past 3kHz. It hits around -3dB relative to 1kHz at around 11-12kHz. Many speakers do this at the risk of sounding too bright, or brittle, with high frequency content. The subwoofer is good down to around 55Hz in my room so it isn’t a truly deep sub. Since it has to cover up to almost 500Hz it really isn’t possible to have a pair of driver extend down to 20Hz and also reach up to 500Hz without issues.

yamaha ysp-2500 in room average corrected sub

The subwoofer handles all duties up to 450Hz or 500Hz, at which point the beam array drivers take over. Once the Beam Array takes over we see a frequency response that is +/- 3dB from 500Hz to 10kHz, at which point a gentle treble roll-off starts. The roll-off gets very steep at 16kHz and I would classify the frequency response as between 30Hz and 16kHz on the YSP-2500.

I also measured some of the various sound modes for a comparison. Below we see Stereo compared to 3Beam+Stereo mode. I’ve changed from the usual 1/12th octave smoothing to 1/3rd octave to make the difference here easier to see. Stereo mode has a flat frequency response while the 3Beam+Stereo mode has a steady roll-off all the way from 500Hz. It produces a larger soundstage, but it is not as neutral and accurate as the Stereo mode.

yamaha sound more comparison 1-3 octave smoothing

Target mode also provided an interesting measurement. For this I placed the microphone directly in the center of the bar approximately 1 meter away. I then measured using Target mode in the center, and right 90 degrees. The response from the subwoofer is the same up to 500Hz, as it cannot be adjusted using the Beam Forming technology, but the response after that is very different. From 500Hz to 11kHz the Target mode causes a reduction in noise level from 5 to 20dB, depending on the frequency. This is a signal that is 45% to 90% quieter for the center seat once target mode faces away from it. You can still hear something, but it is much quieter than before and provides some proof in how effective the Beam Forming technology is as moving the sound waves around.

yamaha ysp-2500 target mode measures

Surround without Surrounds

When I reviewed the Yamaha YSP-4300 I was very impressed by the Digital Sound Projection technology but at $1,700 is expensive. It also is a taller soundbar and so it can block the IR sensor on most TVs. The Yamaha YSP-2500 has the same Digital Sound Projection technology, and it works almost as well, but in a much more affordable and smaller package. Stereo sound quality suffers a bit as the YSP-4300 has midrange drivers that the YSP-2500 lacks, but it sounds good.

Many people want surround sound at home but don’t want to run the wires or speakers for it. The Yamaha YSP-2500 brings you surround sound that will please most listeners. If you listen to stereo music, then a sound bar with just left and right channels will provide you a better experience in clarity and midrange but not in soundstage size. If you listen to more movies and TV that use surround sound and you don’t want to run surround speakers, there isn’t anything cheaper than the Yamaha YSP-2500 that can do what it does. For what it aims to do, the Yamaha YSP-2500 does it better than anything else for the price.

Review Summary
Product: Yamaha YSP-2500
Reviewer:
Pros: True surround sound from a single sound bar, very good experience with movies and TV
Cons: Music suffers without larger drivers on the sound bar, subwoofer really more of a mid-woofer
Summary: If you want surround sound and don't want to use surround speakers, the Yamaha YSP-2500 can give you most of the surround sound experience. The slim design is easy to integrate into a room and Bluetooth makes it easy to stream music.
Value: 4/5
Performance: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

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