Let's get one thing straight from the get-go - most simulated surround sound "bars" (each manufacturer has a different name for this type of product) will not sound as good as a floorstanding surround sound 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system. Therefore, we will not judge them against the latter but against other competing sound bar products. All-in-one simulated surround sound solutions, such as the Yamaha YSP-4000, serve a very specific market: those who don't want to deal with the wires of a full 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound speakers or simply don't have the real estate in their media room to devote to the same, but who still want to enjoy compelling surround sound. These sound bars are a great match aesthetically to flat-panel sets, and offer a vast improvement over your TV's built-in speakers.
Yamaha's Digital Sound Projectors were the first to market in this product category. The YSP-4000 ($1,800) is the company's top-end model, and offers a surprising amount of features in what looks like just a simple, long, skinny speaker. For example, it has 1080p/720p HDMI switching--which means users that don't have a lot of HD sources can use the YSP-4000 in lieu of a receiver, if they so desire, which makes sense, as multiple speakers usually dictate the need for a receiver. (If you have more than three HD sources, consider getting a receiver and separate surround sound system or external video switcher.) The unit is XM-ready, includes an FM tuner, and upscales video to HDMI.
Audio performance from the YSP-4000 is really up there for this product category, offering believable simulated surround sound, thanks to 120 Watts of power to 40 different drivers and two 4.25-inch woofers. The technology works by reflecting sound off the room's walls, so irregular walls, excessive furnishings, and wall hangings can and will affect the quality of the sound from room to room. Yamaha helps account for these inconsistencies through the intuitive IntelliBeam auto setup calibration system. You just plug in the included microphone, call up the feature on the menu, and the YSP-4000 will tweak the sound to better suit your room.
The unit also offers seven DSP modes, including three for music, three for movies, and one for sports. You can even choose a "My Beam" surround mode to direct the sound toward a specific listening position, which is really cool when you are watching movies or listening to music by your lonesome. With a built-in iPod dock, you can listen to all your digital audio tunes, which sound very good due to the YSP-4000 Compressed Music Enhancer.
Read more about the YSP-4000 on Page 2.