Smart choice for the aesthetically-conscious
Sep 10, 2011
Review by thegsrguy
Rated a Very Helpful Review
For a very long time there seemed to be two approaches to hearing TV and movie sound at home: buy a bunch of speakers and an amplifier, or use the built-in TV speaker.
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Movie-buffs and audiophiles will of course opt for building and installing their own system. Those who are more technologically-challenged won't touch it with a ten-foot pole or instead opt for a "home theatre in a box" solution that limits their choices aesthetically or sonically.
99% of people just live with the built-in TV speaker, missing out on all of the hard-work that goes into audio mixing. The experience of watching a movie is far more dull, in short.
Lately the big speaker manufacturers have decided to offer a middle-ground that can please a wider audience and avoid all the nuances and hassles of constructing a true home theatre. Yamaha, Sony, JBL, Bose, Denon, and others all offer similar "sound bar" products that claim to emulate a true 5.1 or even 7.1 speaker setup in a single box. Being a long-time fan of Yamaha, and having a really nice coupon, we went for the YSP-3050 for my parents' family rooom.
The YSP-3050 is a simple black box about 32" wide, 6" tall, and 6" deep. It is designed to be placed directly underneath your TV, or wall-mounted (via an optional bracket). The finish and aesthetics match that of most flat-panel TVs and it won't look terribly out-of-place. Is it a work of art? No. A casual observer would barely notice it. The sound bar is quite hefty, coming in at 25 pounds and change, a nod to it's solid construction and vibration-resistant housing. There is a very discrete LCD display below. It is not overly bright or distracting, though it is very difficult to read from more than a few feet away.
I won't go into the technical details of connections since you can read that elsewhere. Suffice to say it offers a variety of inputs and outputs that allow it to act as a psuedo-A/V receiver. You can use it to manage a Blu-ray player, game console, iPod, TiVo, cable box, satellite receiver, and so on. You will run a single HDMI cable up to your TV (or component or composite video) to keep things simple.
The YSP-3050 uses 21 tweeters aimed in various directions to project a huge soundstage that no TV speaker could ever match. These are called "beam drivers" and are supposed to help fill your room with sound. Accompanying that are 2 woofers for producing bass. Yamaha offers many different modes much like an A/V receiver; everything from a simple stereo mode up to a full 5.1-channel mode is possible, including tweaked modes for "live" music listening and such.
For movies, my parents typically opt for the 5-beam mode which is supposed to faithfully reproduce a 5.1 surround system. The YSP-3050 has on-board DTS and Dolby decoding for this purpose. For movies, the sound bar largely succeeds at filling their large family room with sound. It is definitely loud enough despite the unimpressive 82W RMS total power. The soundstage is quite wide and immersive and should impress most casual users. Remember that this is not truly 5.1 so the localized surround effects are sometimes imperfect. In my opinion, you have to be paying very close attention to notice this.
Avatar was the first film we watched after connecting and configuring the sound bar and it was a much better experience than using their Aquos LCD's built-in speakers. The soundtrack was appropriately balanced and dialogue was very clear (their biggest complaint up until now). Action sequences were very lively but again the surround artifacts were occasionally there; as an audiophile, and a person who has seen the movie at home on a real "theatre" setup, I have a far more trained ear than my parents. My parents were very impressed with what was possible from a single box, for sure.
For normal TV viewing, the soundbar offers improvements but not as drastic as a well-mixed movie. Dialogue is generally more crisp and intelligible, though you may wish to switch to a different listening mode than that of a movie (3-beam or 2-channel stereo perhaps).
For music, the soundbar is adequate. You will not wake the neighbors with floor-rattling bass, but it is definitely appropriate for background noise at a casual party. If you leave the TV on, the song and artist information is displayed. With the TV off, the small front display will scroll the information as well. I never used the live/theatre audio modes since I feel they distort music with strange echos or accentuate certain frequencies.
Lastly, you can expect a nice improvement to any gaming experience. I had a PlayStation 3 connected to this system for a while and found it to make most games more exciting. Like movies, a great deal of work goes into the mixing of a game's soundtrack and effects. Subtle noises in Little Big Planet are often missed on TV speakers but easily detected on a proper speaker setup. Action games like Fallout 3 and HAWX come to life with good surround effects. In-game dialogue is improved as well. Older game systems may benefit from the sound bar's built-in video upscaling, too.
One thing I must reinforce is the importance of the initial setup. The calibration sequence is very simple but crucial to getting the best sound. It is very similar to the Audyssey technologies used on home theatre receivers. In essence, a microphone will "measure" the room's acoustics and adjust the speakers to compensate for any echos or standing-waves. The setup can be re-run if you are dissatisfied, or if you later move furniture.
Overall I would describe the YSP-3050 as a nice addition to almost any TV setup. It is never a replacement for a proper speaker and amplifier system and you should not expect it to blow you away with theatre-like sound. What it can do is greatly expand the sound quality of your TV and movie experiences with minimal hassle. The YSP-3050 offers a balanced sound that will please the casual viewer during movies, TV, gaming, and music listening.
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Amount Paid (US$): 399
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