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Yamaha YSP-1400 Soundbar: Affordable Surround Sound

Full-fledged surround sound used to require a bunch of heavy equipment. You’d need five speakers and a separate, typically enormous subwoofer, along with a receiver to bring it all together.

You would have to add what could seem like miles of cords and cables, plus power strips, and it would all cost a fortune. It made going to the movie theater seem like a bargain.

But things have changed- projectors and LCD panels can offer an HD image at increasingly low costs, and today’s cool piece of gear takes a lot of those speakers and makes them smaller, putting them in a single place and dispensing with most of the hassles.

Soundbars are always compromises, but the new Yamaha YSP-1400 Sound Bar is enough to make just about anyone a believer. Their Digital Sound Projector technology has always been impressive- bouncing sound off walls in order to mimic having speakers placed around the room.

But the price tag alone was enough to make even the most diehard cinema lover pause- typically over $1000. We’ve seen some other solid soundbars in the past- but they would often have to sit under your television. This one sits nicely in front, and to make sure it doesn’t block your TV’s remote signals, it even includes an infrared passthrough, relaying those signals and preventing them from getting blocked.

Pop open the grill and you’ll notice eight separate ‘beam’ drivers, placed in the center of the body. They might seem small- and their specs list them at only two watts each which doesn’t seem like much power- but together they put out a surprising amount of sound.

And the imaging is impressive too- the system definitely can imitate a three-speaker system with ease and does a pretty good job of fooling you into thinking there are rear speakers present. You may wonder where the bass comes in- and we loved the engineering idea of putting the subwoofers into the feet of the unit.

That’s right- the legs themselves are a pair of 30-watt subwoofers, which help boost the low end. There isn’t a separate sub, though you can add your own and an output is provided. We found the bass response to be better than expected for the size of the unit, but with one downside- the subwoofers tended to rattle around, causing vibrations in the TV.

That’s not a huge surprise- you might have seen it from your TV itself when the volume is turned up but it was a bit annoying and took some adjustments to avoid the worst of the shaking.

There are typical RCA and optical inputs, along with co-axial and 3.5mm mini-jack. One thing we would have liked to see is handling for HDMI inputs, and additionally an HDMI pass-through.

It’s a feature we loved on Sherwood’s S-9, along with the built-in FM radio. Granted, the wireless Bluetooth support on the YSP-1400 is a great addition and a worthy trade.

We definitely appreciate being able to connect our phones and throw on some music in a pinch. But to really achieve all the Yamaha is capable of, you’ll have to find a way to separate your audio and video inputs properly, as most televisions will output the only stereo regardless of the quality of the source.

That means that even if you pop on your Blu-ray Avatar disk, which offers an excellent Dolby Digital audio track, run through your TV it will lose most of the fidelity and lack the multi-speaker support that the YSP-1400 can handle (and turn into magic).

Yamaha’s YSP-1400 offers a compelling value for a soundbar, capable of simulating surround sound quite well and doing so in a classy unit that won’t hurt your wallet.

Even the remote control is nicer than many we’ve seen, and the low-profile design means it blends in nicely, looking a bit like a wider Kinect. Expect to spend around $400, online and in stores, and prepare to wow visitors with your invisible sound system.

Truly Gadgets