This week we’re reviewing the Yamaha YSP-5600 soundbar which, thanks to a sound projection system, is compatible with Dolby Atmos soundtracks. We’ve paired this model up with the Yamaha NS-SW300 subwoofer. Let’s keep in mind that, 10 years ago, Yamaha revolutionized soundbars with the first “Digital Sound Projector.” The Yamaha YSP-1 was modeled after the Pioneer PSD-1 but replaced the 254 drivers with 40 small wideband drivers, supported by two conventional, 4-inch drivers.
Yamaha YSP-5600: what is a sound projector?
Nothing less than a small driver with characteristics similar to those of a midrange driver or tweeter, depending on its diameter.
The Yamaha YSP-5600 soundbar is equipped with thirty-two 1.5” projectors and twelve 1” projectors–dedicated to Atmos sound–for a total of 44 transducers driven by an amplifier rated at 128 Watts.
If these drivers are called projectors, it’s because they have been designed for precise sound placement and are horn-loaded. As such, the sounds produced are “projected” toward the listener as well as toward specific points in the listening area.
Yamaha YSP-5600: what do sound projectors do?
Sound projection makes it possible to target certain zones of the listening room with a great deal of accuracy, notably those behind the listener, in order to create an immersive surround sound experience. The Yamaha YSP-5600 sound projector adds a vertical dimension to the listening experience by projecting the information contained in the Dolby Atmos soundtrack (Blu-ray films) toward the ceiling and above the listener.
Yamaha YSP-5600: what about the influence of the listening room?
To succeed in offering an immersive audio experience in any living room, the Yamaha YSP-5600 takes the acoustic characteristics of the listening area into account. To this end, a microphone is provided to assist with calibration by analyzing the reflections of sound waves and the delay for each frequency, as well as the effects of the room on the overall tonality (amplification and attenuation of frequencies). A system of processors then provides real-time audio correction while taking these measurements into account. This technology is called Yamaha Intellibeam.
Yamaha YSP-5600: is true Dolby Atmos sound possible without an in-ceiling speaker?
Yamaha is not the first manufacturer to add a vertical dimension to the soundstage by reflecting sound waves off the ceiling. However, Yamaha Intellibeam sound projection technology presents an undeniable advantage when it comes to restituting 9 audio channels (2 Atmos). In fact, the restitution of the 2 Atmos channels is entrusted to two groups of six separately driven drivers, which means that they can be adjusted very precisely. In practice, the role of the DSP (Digital Sound Processor) is to implement a series of sound processing techniques, notably adjusting the phase rotation, the delay and the equalization. We’ll come back to this point.
Yamaha YSP-5600: connectivity and possible audio sources
The Yamaha YSP-5600 sound projector features four HDMI inputs and one HDMI output, and compatibility with HDCP 2.2 is ensured, as well as ARC for the output. To get the most out of a Blu-ray player, set-top box or multimedia player, for example, any one of these devices may be directly connected to one of the soundbar’s HDMI inputs, or to the TV which will convey the sound to the soundbar via the ARC (Audio Return Channel). Note that the settings for each source (including the TV in ARC mode) must be adjusted in such a way as to allow the sound to be transmitted in its native format (bitstream). Prior conversion to PCM stereo format would considerably alter the quality of the sound placement.
The Yamaha YSP-5600 soundbar handles all multi-channel audio formats on the market for DVD-Video, Blu-ray, UltraHD Blu-ray, VOD and DTV.
Two digital optical inputs and one S/PDIF coaxial input are available, although these are to be used only when necessary, as they make it impossible to listen to Dolby TrueHD, Atmos and DTS-HD soundtracks (only the Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 core is handled). An assortment of modes (Concert, theater, music, 3D, etc.) is available, as well as a traditional dynamic compression mode (for late-night listening).
In addition to its analog audio inputs, the Yamaha YSP-5600 is equipped with a line-level subwoofer output and a radio receiver. Compatibility is ensured for all subwoofers regardless of the brand. The soundbar transmits the low-frequency channel in digital format to the receiver, where it is decoded and conveyed to the subwoofer via a simple RCA cable. A truly good idea which opens up the possibilities in terms of subwoofer placement.
Yamaha YSP-5600: MusicCast audio streaming
The Yamaha YSP-5600 soundbar is fitted with Bluetooth, WiFi and Ethernet controllers. Using a smartphone, tablet or computer to listen to music is thus possible. The Yamaha MusicCast app for iOS and Android adds support for online radio broadcasts, as well as the possibility to stream files shared by a NAS or via Spotify, for example. The Apple AirPlay protocol is also supported for lossless listening with an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Macbook. The Yamaha YSP-5600 can also be integrated into a MusicCast multiroom system.
Yamaha YSP-5600: test conditions and configuration
We paired the Yamaha YSP-5600 soundbar up with the Yamaha NS-SW300 subwoofer, as well as with the Panasonic DMP-UB900 Ultra HD Blu-ray player and the LG OLED65B6V TV. We used NorStone Arran HDMI, NorStone Jura Optic and NorStone Arran RCA SUB cables to connect the devices.
The user may choose from two solutions when setting up the Yamaha YSP-5600: either rely on the included Intellibeam microphone to automatically calibrate the soundbar, or manually adjust each of its settings. We chose the second method in order to explore the full extent of settings made available. And we were not disappointed…
One push of a button on the remote control brings up the OSD menu on the TV screen, which grants access to all of the soundbar’s settings. It is possible to manually adjust the horizontal and vertical angle by increments of 1 degree … for each of the 9 channels! Pink noise is emitted when setting up the soundbar, and its intensity can be adjusted by turning the volume up or down. The result is surprising, and we clearly heard the signal of the chosen channel as it moved around the room. In ten minutes at most, the setup process was complete.
Note that a Yamaha app for Android and iOS may be used to adjust the Yamaha YSP-5600 soundbar’s settings.
We chose to set the subwoofer’s cut-off frequency at 100 Hz, and we did so directly via the Yamaha YSP-5600’s settings menu. We first set the subwoofer’s active filter to 140 Hz, its maximum value, to avoid any additional phase rotation. The subwoofer’s overall phase setting remained at 0°. We pushed the subwoofer’s volume to the maximum, as the Yamaha YSP-5600’s remote control allowed us to adjust the LFE output.
Yamaha YSP-5600: listening impressions
Let’s begin with the Yamaha YSP-5600 soundbar’s sound signature, which is truly delightful as it is neutral and, thus, balanced. Evidently, without support from the subwoofer, the pair of 4” drivers struggles to produce enough power in the lows to impress the listener, but it must be said that this isn’t its job. The sound remains very even, surprisingly serene for such small drivers, and its sense of presence is unmistakable. The soundbar’s forte is undoubtedly the restitution of human voices, which is on par with that of a very good passive center speaker equipped with much larger drivers. The YSP-5600 soundbar is rather linear, with the exception of the highs which are slightly set back from the rest. This isn’t unintended and it isn’t a drawback either: when highs are skillfully set back from the other registers, the result is a more nuanced sound placement. In short, the listening experience is balanced and calm from the very beginning.
The “structuring” of the soundstage is clear and the center channel seems to be separated from the rest. We found this pleasing as it made it easy to follow on-screen dialogues. Moreover, the soundbar’s capacity for analysis is commendable since–apart from human voices–the sounds captured around the actors during the soundtake are not masked. The sound of fabric, the crackling of leather or of wood, everything seems natural.
Now let’s take a look at the placement of the side, vertical and surround channels. The wideness of the front soundstage surprised us, and the sounds placed to each side of the image were projected far beyond the physical limits of the soundbar (a good 2 meters to the left and right).
The same goes for the surround and Atmos (vertical) effects, positioned far behind and far above the listener.
In practice, the depth of the vertical and rear soundstage is by far superior to that which is offered by true surround speakers (placed close to the listener). The sound is also much softer, which could be perceived either as an advantage or a drawback. While it would not be realistic to expect to hear impacts which seem to come from behind, the sound remains nuanced. In any case, the soundstage is undeniably immersive, and we found its effects to be very convincing.
The Yamaha NS-SW300 subwoofer earns a high score in our book, with its 10” driver placed in bass-reflex enclosure fitted with an enormous side-firing Yamaha YST port. We previously mentioned Yamaha’s expertise when it comes to soundbars, but let’s not forget the success the brand’s subwoofers have enjoyed since the 90s. The fact that the resonator is placed to the right worried us at first, as we assumed that the subwoofer would only function correctly when placed to the right of the listening area. This assumption proved unjustified, as the subwoofer still provided immersive lows even when we placed it on a piece of furniture for a group shot. Even when “cut” at 100 Hz, the Yamaha NS-SW300’s exact location is practically impossible to pinpoint and it continues to deliver generous lows. At low volume, the listener can feel its presence without ever worrying about it becoming excessive. At high volume, the subwoofer’s presence is heightened, but this is once again in perfect harmony with the soundbar’s output.
Yamaha YSP-5600: conclusions
What we liked: the wideness of the soundstage, the neutrality, the softness and the sense of detail, the advanced (and useful) settings, the wireless transmitter for the subwoofer.
What we would have liked: this product succeeds in achieving all the goals it sets for itself.
The Yamaha YSP-5600 soundbar is a model that stands out from its competitors by offering exceptional performance along with the ability to effortlessly replace a multi-channel system composed of passive speakers. Its capacity to restitute a precise soundstage in any living room (rectangular, under rafters, L-shaped…) is indisputable and this is truly an advantage, along with the support it provides for Dolby Atmos. The subwoofer shouldn’t be left out of the equation, as it enables the YSP-5600 to function to its fullest potential, and the listener can find a lot to appreciate. In a small living room, the Yamaha NS-SW200 subwoofer is an option.This post is also available in: French