Half of the home theater experience is the audio. Lossless soundtracks and immersive surround effects help to place you inside the environment of whatever you are watching. Unfortunately, the hassle of running wires and setting up surround sound is more than many people want to do. A sound bar can do a good job with movies and music, but they can’t put you in the middle of the action without two or four rear speakers.
|Outputs:||1x HDMI 1.4a with ARC|
|Inputs:||4x HDMI 1.4a, 2x Optical, 1x Coaxial, 1x RCA Analog|
|Review Date:||April 10, 2014|
Slim and Trim
With 22 DSP drivers and only two 2 ½” woofers in the YSP-4300 sound bar, it is a lean and trim device. Only 3 3/4” inches tall, it can be sit in front of most TVs even if they aren’t wall mounted without interfering with the screen or IR sensor. Since that small size means you can’t have really deep bass, there is a wireless 6 1/2” subwoofer with 130 watts of power included.
The rear panel has a full array of inputs including four HDMI, two optical, one coaxial and one analog. The HDMI output supports Audio Return Channel (ARC) so the audio from your TVs tuner or integrated apps can be sent over the same HDMI cable you use for an input. The HDMI inputs support current and future technologies, including 4K pass-through, and can utilize all the lossless codecs from Blu-ray. They are not HDMI 2.0 but HDMI 1.4a. Many sound bars that include HDMI cannot process Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, but the YSP-4300 can. What it lacks is any wireless including Bluetooth or AirPlay. There is an optional adapter for Apple devices, but it uses the older 30-pin connector.
The Yamaha YSP-4300 includes a calibration microphone for their IntelliBeam calibration, which is a rare feature on high-end sound bars. Almost every room can benefit from room correction technology, and when $250 receivers have it a sound bar that costs $1,000+ should as well. The room correction microphone on the Yamaha both optimizes the frequency response and the DSP technology. The setup requires the YSP-4300 be hooked up to a TV over HDMI to read the on-screen prompts and runs in around 5-10 minutes.
Good Stereo but Great Surround
Kicking off my usual suite of test tracks, Beck’s “Lost Cause” presents good detail through the YSP-4300. Instruments have good location and space despite the small size of the sound bar. Moving onto Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue,” the difference in sound modes for the YSP-4300 become clear. The stereo mode sounds more natural to me, as I feel it better reproduces the sound of the recording studio. Switching on the surround modes, usually Stereo + 3 Beam, provides a much larger soundstage but not at the expense of detail. The location of the solo sax is very good when it kicks in, placed well to the left of the sound bar and not anchored in the middle of the room. Bass notes have good definition but not a lot of weight behind them.
A track that stands out is “Reckoner” from Radiohead. This track is dynamically limited due to compression and often sounds just awful on many systems, but the YSP-4300 might have the best sound for this song that I’ve ever heard. It projects a massive soundstage with the track and manages to make it sound far more dynamic and less harsh than it typically does. For more compressed tracks you find on many modern recordings, the Yamaha YSP-4300 does a wonderful job.
The real star with the YSP-4300 is movies. Watching Rush, the DSP technology does a wonderful job of putting you in the middle of the action. Surround effects come from all around you, even the back, and make you think you have speakers in the rear. Dialogue remains anchored in in the front of the room as the twenty-two beam drivers allow it to do many things at once. The subwoofer can’t fully reproduce the low-end rumble of the engines as a 6.5” driver can only do so much.
Skyfall shows what the YSP-4300 can do with 5.1 channel soundtracks. During the opening chase scene in the bazaar, motorcycles seem to move all around your head in ways they can’t with other sound bars. The front soundstage is large as well with the DSP technology, extending far beyond the sides of the bar itself.
Listening to Beck’s “Sea Change” in 5.1 surround off the Blu-ray audio version, the YSP-4300 makes the vocals a bit too diffuse for me. Switching from 5 Beam to Stereo+3 Beam pulls the vocals out of the fog there were stuck in. The surround effects during “It’s All In Your Mind” are far beyond what I ever felt a sound bar could do as it comes from beside me and behind me. Unfortunately, the front soundstage just never sounds quite right on the YSP-4300.
The biggest problem with the YSP-4300 comes from its small size. The crossover point for the subwoofer is only 160 Hz. If you place the subwoofer close to the sound bar you will avoid issues with directional bass. Most people want to place the subwoofer out of the way, especially when it’s wireless, so sounds like gunshots may always sound like they are coming from the location of the subwoofer. It also has to reproduce all surround effects below 500 Hz, a frequency that is easy to localize with your ears. High frequency surround effects will sound fine but anything from 500 Hz and below will come from the location of the subwoofer.
The YSP-4300 is a wide unit due to the beam driver array. At 44” wide it is a good match for a 55” or larger TV, but looks a bit wide under something smaller. Yamaha does offer smaller DSP sound bars; but with fewer drivers, they may not perform at the same level as the YSP-4300 does.
I measured the Yamaha YSP-4300 sound bar using a UMIK-1 calibrated microphone and RoomEQ Wizard software. Six different positions are each measured 8 times to reduce any measurement anomalies. I average all 48 measurements to reduce room effects using the method described by Brent Butterworth.
Measuring the YSP-4300 is more challenging due to the DSP technology. There isn’t a single tweeter or midrange to align the microphone to, so you are more likely to have some off-axis response issues. Above 200 Hz, past where the subwoofer fills in, it is flat out to 3 kHz. From 3 kHz to 10 kHz, we have a gradual roll-off with a small peak at 9 kHz. Past that we see a steep roll-off in frequency response. We are at -10 dB, relative to 1 kHz, at 10,500 Hz and -15dB at 16 kHz.
If I only look at the main listening position, it is only at -8dB at 16 kHz. As the room correction is set for this position, it seems you are best served to sit in the main listening location than to the sides of the YSP-4300. The DSP technology is attempting to aim these sound waves, and higher frequencies are more directional that low frequencies. This is likely causing the steep roll-off of frequencies past 10 kHz in the averaged measurements.
For Surround Sound Lovers
If you love surround sound and hate speakers, you’ll love the YSP-4300. It does the best job of emulating a room full of speakers with a single sound bar of anything I’ve heard. It is the only sound bar where I’ve thought sounds were coming from behind me and not just from the side walls which is an impressive feat.
The lack of Bluetooth or Airplay is annoying–I feel all sound bars should include one of those at this point. The roll-off of high frequencies for people not in the main listening position can be a concern as well. I also tested the DSP technology in a room with sidewalls which provides it the best performance, and those with open floor plans may not get the same benefits.
Because of all these factors, the YSP-4300 is a slight niche of a product for those that mostly watch movies or TV, and can’t run wires for surround speakers. If that is you, then the YSP-4300 might be what you’re after. For people after a more balanced approach in a sound bar, or the best stereo audio quality, there are other options on the market that will suit you better.
|Pros:||Best surround without rear speakers you can buy, loaded with features and inputs|
|Cons:||Only OK with stereo music compared to surround, listening sweet spot|
|Summary:||If you want the feeling of having discrete surround speakers but don't want to deal with actually installing them, the Yamaha YSP-4300 produces the best virtual surround of anything I've ever heard.|