The keenly contested soundbar class has a new and exceptionally capable king
Excellent all-around performance
There's more surround sound on offer than ever these days: all the more reason to invest in a 5.1 sound system. That said, many's the household where the mere suggestion of installing a home cinema system would be about as welcome as snot in your sandwich.
Enter the soundbar – a single speaker, instant-fit audio upgrade for a TV. They're increasingly popular, and small wonder: for neatness and convenience, they're hard to top.
Trouble is, most struggle to deliver proper surround sound. Most, that is, except for Yamaha's Digital Sound Projectors, which employ up to 40 compact speaker drive units that individually 'steer'beams of sound around your room.
The aim is to bounce sound off walls to create an immersive surround effect, and in many ways it works uncannily well, even in our large, acoustically treated listening room.
It works with Panasonic's Viera Link systemThe YSP-40D is the flagship of the range, with two audio-capable HDMI inputs plus assorted analogue video ins, analogue-to-HDMI video upconversion and 1080i upscaling.
More after the break
That's coupled to automatic calibration via a set-up microphone, an input for Yamaha's YDS-10 iPod dock, integral DAB radio and compatibility with Panasonic's Viera Link system, meaning you can operate the YSP-40D from your TV's remote.
The only downside is that the Yamaha's HDMI inputs don't recognise multichannel PCM or other forms of HD audio.
The most convincing sound projector yetSonically this is the most convincing Digital Sound Projector yet. Directly compared to Marantz's similarly priced ES7001, it's a little brighter to listen to, but for room-filling scale (even without adding a subwoofer, which is an option), the Yamaha has the edge.
It takes complex effects pans – the flypast of a flight of fighters in Flags Of Our Fathers, for instance – and places them well beyond the confines of both the speaker and your immediate listening space, stretching the boundaries of your room like the best separates (and better than any rival soundbar).
It's all hugely impressive: if you really can't accept a conventional speaker system in your front room, this is a great alternative.