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Yamaha YSP-5600 Dolby Atmos Soundbar Review

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It sounds crazy but it actually works

by Steve Withers Mar 21, 2016

  • SRP: £1,599.00

    What is the Yamaha YSP-5600?

    The Yamaha YSP-5600 is a sound projection soundbar designed to support the new immersive Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio formats. When you consider Yamaha's long history of using sound projection technology to make soundbars with a greater sense of surround immersion, the YSP-5600 seems like the ideal combination of technologies. However, creating a 46-speaker configuration soundbar that can accurately recreate a 7.1.2-channel experience from a single source is certainly no easy task and nor is it a cheap one. At the time of writing (March 2016) the YSP-5600 will set you back £1,599, although if you go for the YSP-5600SW which comes with Yamaha's NS-SW300 active subwoofer included, it will cost you a hefty £1,899.

    That makes the YSP-5600 one of the most expensive soundbars we've ever reviewed and clearly at that price point you could buy a very good AV receiver and speaker package that supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. The YSP-5600 has certain advantages of course, the primary one being that you don't need to position speakers around the room and on the ceiling but, having said that, the soundbar itself is hardly unobtrusive. There's no denying that the YSP-5600 comes with a host of features including four HDMI inputs, built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, Airplay and support for Yamaha's MusicCast multiroom system but does it do enough to make it a viable alternative to an AV receiver and speaker combination? Let's find out...

    Design

    Yamaha have been making soundbars for a long time now, in fact they were one of the pioneers, so we would expect the design of the YSP-5600 to combine all those years of experience. Sure enough it's an attractively designed product or, at least, as attractive as a black rectangular soundbar can get. It's probably worth pointing out right at the start that the YSP-5600 isn't small, in fact it measures 1100 x 212 x 93mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 11.7kg. That's big for a product where one of its main selling points is being unobtrusive and does raise the question of where exactly you can install it. Mind you, when you consider how many speakers Yamaha have crammed inside the YSP-5600, it's a wonder it isn't bigger.

    The YSP-5600 is well designed and solidly built but make sure you have enough room to install it!

    Yamaha YSP-5600
    The height will definitely make it hard to put under your TV without blocking the screen and the overall dimensions will preclude many dedicated AV stands. Probably the best solution is to either place the YSP-5600 on a flat surface beneath a wall mounted TV or to wall mount the soundbar itself. Depending on which approach you choose there are included feet for the YSP-5600, which obviously make it slightly higher and wider, as well as an optional dedicated wall bracket (SPM-K30). For our review we actually used a pair of coffee tables, not ideal but sometimes necessity is the mother of invention.
    Yamaha YSP-5600
    Aside from the YSP-5600's dimensions Yamaha have taken a minimalist approach to its design, with all the speakers hidden behind a metal grille and a black finish that reveals little more than the logo. In the middle of the front grille, at the bottom, is a simple display that shows the selected input, the volume and any of the chosen DSP features. To the left of this are some indicator lights that show the status and whether the soundbar is connected to a WiFi network or paired with another Bluetooth device. Whilst to the right of the display there is a connector for the Intellibeam setup microphone. Finally at the top right of the soundbar there are some basic controls for Input (and Connect for MusicCast), Volume Up/Down and the On/Off button.

    Connections & Control

    All the connections for the YSP-5600 are at the rear and on first glance they appear quite comprehensive. There are four HDMI inputs and an HDMI output, all of which face sideways and are are located in a recess at the rear, which means that wall mounting won't be an issue. All the HDMI connections support Ultra HD 4K at 60p, 3D, x.v.Colour, Auto Lip-Sync and CEC, whilst the HDMI output also supports ARC (Audio Return Channel). However first impressions can be deceptive and, when you take a closer look, the HDMI inputs are more limited than they at first appear.

    There are numerous connections but the HDMI inputs and output are limited in terms of future-proofing.

    Yamaha YSP-5600
    For a start only HDMI input 1 and the HDMI output support HDCP 2.2, which means that you are limited to connecting only one HDCP 2.2 compliant source device over HDMI. This seems rather short-sighted of Yamaha because HDCP 2.2 will be a fundamental part of the Ultra HD eco-system going forward. As soon as you need to connect more than one HDCP 2.2 compliant source device you're going to have an issue. The other problem with the HDMI inputs on the YSP-5600 is that they don't support High Dynamic Range (HDR). Whilst it's true that the initial Ultra HD Blu-ray players offer twin HDMI outputs to get around this issue, as soon as you have an HDR source with only one HDMI output, you're gong to have a problem. Whilst you could forgive such limitations on cheaper soundbars, it's harder to ignore them on one that costs nearly £1,900 with a subwoofer. When you consider how feature-packed the YSP-5600 is in other areas, the limitations of the HDMI inputs are difficult to understand.
    Yamaha YSP-5600
    In terms of the other connections there are two digital optical inputs and a digital coaxial input, along with an analogue stereo input using RCA connectors, an IR (infra-red) input, an IR output and an RS-232C connector for serial control. There's also a USB port, although this is only for software updates, and a LAN port for a wired connection; as well as built-in WiFi, Bluetooth and support for AirPlay. Finally there is a subwoofer output for a wired connection with an external active subwoofer and a system connector if the subwoofer in question happens to be made by Yamaha.

    There are a number of different ways of controlling the YSP-5600 including the excellent MusicCast app.

    Yamaha YSP-5600
    The YSP-5600 comes with a well-designed and effective remote control, that has a black finish to match the soundbar. The layout is both clean and intuitive, making it easy to understand and use, although there isn't a backlight. Along with the usual on/off, volume controls, mute button and an Eco function, the controller also allows you to select from the available inputs (HDMI, ARC, Aux, Bluetooth, Server, Internet Radio, Music Streaming, AirPlay and MusicCast). You can select from three System Memories for saving Intellibeam setups and you can separately adjust the subwoofer level. There are navigation controls for moving around the setup menu, as well as Option, Info, Dialogue Lift, Clear Voice, Enhancer and Connect buttons. Finally there are various Cinema DSP functions including Movie, Music and Entertainment, along with 3D Surround, Surround, Stereo and Target modes.
    Yamaha YSP-5600
    If you find a dedicated remote control rather old-fashioned these days, you also have the choice of not one but two different but interconnected remote apps. These are available free for both iOS and Android, allowing you to use your smart device as an alternative controller. The first remote app is Yamaha's Home Theater Controller app, which allows you to control the basic functions or beam adjustments of the YSP-5600; while with the MusicCast Controller app you can control audio streaming to devices connected via MusicCast. These two apps are interconnected, making it simple to operate the YSP-5600 plus any connected devices and, since they are illuminated, they can also be handy to use in the dark. The user interfaces for both apps are well-designed and highly effective, with slick layouts that are a big improvement over the rather basic menu system on the YSP-5600 itself. Using the Home Theatre Controller can be particularly useful for fine tuning the sound beam setup, thanks to an easy to understand graphical representation.

    Yamaha YSP-5600 Unboxing Video


    Features & Specs

    The YSP-5600 is absolutely feature-packed, so let's start with the headline-grabbing feature first, the ability to recreate a 7.1.2-channel configuration with sound projection technology. Inside the unit’s front grille are 44 precisely calculated and positioned speakers, each of which is controlled by an individual delay time and is driven with its own independent amplifier circuit. There are 32 4cm array speakers for the horizontal sound beam and 6 2.8cm array speakers at each end (12 in total) for the vertical sound beams. There are also dual 11cm woofers, making that 46 speakers in all, and a total of 128W of power - 88W for the array speakers and 40W for the woofers. These array speakers create beams that are projected onto the walls and ceiling, to be reflected accurately to the listening position, creating the same sound as real wall and ceiling speakers.

    For reproduction of the latest immersive audio formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, the relationship between the listening position and the height channel locations is very important. So the YSP-5600 adjusts the angle of the sound beam directed at the ceiling allowing the height channel position to be matched to the listening position either manually or automatically. The height channels can be located close to the listening position and by using directed beams reflected just once off the ceiling, they allow the YSP-5600 to obtain a precise position and distinct sound. Often with soundbars positioned below the TV, dialogue and vocals seem to be coming from below the people who are on screen. To prevent this problem the YSP-5600 has a Dialogue Lift function that causes the reflecting beams from its array speakers to raise the apparent height of the dialogue to appropriate levels on the screen.
    Yamaha YSP-5600 Features & Specs
    Yamaha YSP-5600 Features & Specs


    As well as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X (which will be added later in the spring), the YSP-5600 also supports Yamaha’s CINEMA DSP 3D Mode, which adds an expansive height direction to the sound field for a greater sense of space. This feature uses special array speakers to create vertical beams and combines this effect with Dolby Atmos or DTS:X to expand the 3D surround sound. The YSP-5600 is equipped with four listening modes: 3D Surround, which uses five horizontal beams and two vertical beams to recreate the equivalent of up to a 7.1.2-channel three-dimensional sound field; Surround, which uses five horizontal beams to perform normal 5.1-channel surround playback; Stereo, which uses a special vertical beam speaker as a tweeter to produce high sound quality 2-channel stereo from audio sources; and Target, which aims monaural speech clearly to a precise location in the room.

    The YSP-5600 can be used with a third party active subwoofer by simply connecting the two using a provided RCA monaural cable. If the subwoofer is a Yamaha model that is equipped with a system connector then you can also use the provided 3.5mm monaural mini plug cable, which allows the soundbar to turn the subwoofer on and off at the same time as the main unit. If you plan on using a subwoofer, then select 'Wired' in the setup menu. However the YSP-5600 also comes with the SWK-W16 wireless subwoofer kit, which can be used to create a wireless connection with your soundbar. All you need to do is connect the subwoofer to the SWL-W16 using an RCA monaural cable, select 'Front/Wireless' in the setup menu and the soundbar and the wireless kit will automatically connect. If you have a Yamaha model that is equipped with a system connector then again, you can connect it to the wireless kit using a 3.5mm monaural mini plug cable and the soundbar will control the subwoofer. If you buy the YSP-5600SW option then it comes with a Yamaha NS-SW300 subwoofer included.
    Yamaha YSP-5600
    Yamaha YSP-5600

    As with many of Yamaha's products this year, the YSP-5600 supports MusicCast. This multiroom system employs a high performance wireless platform to deliver music to a network of connected devices. It can stream digital music content from your smartphone, PC or NAS to other MusicCast devices in your home. It can also share the music from external devices such as a TV or Blu-ray player connected to the YSP-5600. Audio content from Bluetooth-connected smartphones or tablets can also be streamed to MusicCast devices in multiple rooms. In addition to streaming all content from your smartphone including music applications, you can also distribute audio to other rooms and use Apple's AirPlay. A wide range of audio files are supported including MP3, WMA, AAC, Apple Lossless, WAV, FLAC and AIFF. You can find out more about MusicCast in or dedicated review.

    In terms of other features, the YSP-5600 has a low power consumption of less than 1.6W in Standby power mode. In addition, the Auto Power Standby function automatically turns the power off after a set period of time with no signal. The soundbar provides an IR-OUT terminal as an IR path out function, which means it can detect almost any IR signal at the front to output electrical signals. It also has an IR-IN terminal for receiving remote control signals electrically from other units. In addition, it supports Control4 home automation signals, making it well suited for custom installations. Finally there is a Clear Voice function for enhancing dialogue or narration; a Music Enhancer for improving compressed sources; and Adaptive DRC for volume and dynamic range adjustment when listening at night.

    The YSP-5600 boasts an excellent set of features, whilst setup and operation are straightforward.

    Setup & Operation

    Despite the apparent complexity of the YSP-5600 it is very easy to setup, even when it comes to the sound projection aspects of its performance. If you want to get the most out of the soundbar's ability to bounce sounds around your room, then you really need to position it optimally. For the best results you should place the soundbar at the centre of one wall with solid side walls, a solid rear wall and a solid ceiling. In our tests we used just such a room but obviously not everyone has that option, which is why you can fine-tune the sound beams if necessary.

    You will need to sit in the sweet spot in the centre of the room in order to get the most immersive affect from the sound beams and you need to be at least 1.8m from the soundbar itself. You also need to make sure that obstacles such as furniture aren't blocking the reflection points that the sound beams are using. This might sound fiddly but it's definitely less fuss than installing speakers all over the lounge. We initially tested the YSP-5600 on its own and then added the NS-SW300 subwoofer using the wireless kit to get the most from the system.
    Yamaha YSP-5600 Setup & Operation
    Yamaha YSP-5600 Setup & Operation

    In terms of setting up the WiFi connection, you can do this easily via your iOS device or simply via the menu system. Once connected you can then check for any firmware updates, although the soundbar should do this automatically. Setting up MusicCast was also very straightforward, all you need to do is follow the instructions on the MusicCast app and once again you can update the firmware as part of this process, should there be a need. The menu system is simple but effective, making it easy to navigate and relatively intuitive to use. However like most of Yamaha's menus it looks very dated and could use an overhaul.

    To automatically set up the sound beams all you need to do is place the Intellibeam microphone in the centre of the room, either using a tripod or the provided cardboard stand, and then plug it into the socket at the front. This will activate the auto setup procedure and all you need to do is leave the room and the YSP-5600 will run through a series of test tones that analyse the shape and make-up of the room to optimise the sound beams. This takes about 3 minutes and then they system will show a report confirming that everything is set up correctly or identifying any issues.

    Yamaha YSP-5600 Video Review


    Sound Quality

    We have reviewed a number of Yamaha sound projection soundbars over the years and so we had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the YSP-5600. Needless to say, when it came to normal soundbar duties the Yamaha didn't disappoint, delivering a great all-round performance. The sheer dimensions of the main unit meant that it could immediately deliver a decent sense of stereo separation, without even bringing all 46 speakers into action. The weight of the soundbar and the size of its woofers meant that it could also deliver a decent bass response, so for those who are going to just use it on its own you can expect an excellent overall performance with TV programmes and movies. Naturally once we added the NS-SW300 subwoofer to the proceedings the lower frequencies were far more pronounced and after some careful setup, the bass integrated extremely well with the rest of the sound field.

    The addition of sound projection technology means that once you move on to multi-channel 5.1 and 7.1 soundtracks, the YSP-5600 can immediately distinguish itself from your average soundbar. The use of sound beams creates a genuine sense of surround envelopment with audio effects quite clearly coming from the sides and rear. Just how effective the sound beams are will depend on your room, where the soundbar is positioned and where you're sat but it definitely works. Whilst we would never say that such an approach is superior to an actual multi-speaker layout - you can't bounce the lower frequencies for example, so it's all high frequency information - it's certainly easier and tidier than putting speakers all around the room.

    Since the majority of the content you'll be listening to won't use a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X soundtrack, it's important that the YSP-5600 can handle regular soundtracks and it certainly did, producing an open delivery that filled the front soundstage and moved around to the sides and even the rear on occasion. However despite all these sound beams bouncing around the room the Yamaha managed to retain a sense of cohesion to the overall sound field. It also managed to keep dialogue clear and centred on the screen, whilst integrating the bass and louder affects very effectively. The soundbar could go quite loud without sounding distorted or brittle, so it can definitely handle a larger room. Of course if you play multi-channel test tones through the system then the illusion begins to dissipate but when watching actual content the sense of surround sound is palpable.

    Despite the success of sound projection technology with multi-channel soundtracks, we were initially somewhat sceptical about the YSP-5600's ability to deliver an effective immersive audio experience from a single point; especially as we actually have a full 7.2.4 setup with overhead speakers in our home cinema. However after carefully installing and setting up the soundbar and ensuring we were sat in the optimal position, the results were genuinely impressive. We have a number of demo scenes that we've used with all the various Dolby Atmos AV receivers reviewed so far and so we immediately listened to those on the YSP-5600.

    The results were genuinely surprising, there was a greater sense of immersion and sounds did appear to be coming from overhead when appropriate. We watched various Dolby Atmos trailers that we are intimately familiar with and again they sounded very similar with the YSP-5600. Since Dolby themselves advocate using upward-firing speakers if you don't want to be hanging speakers from the ceiling, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the YSP-5600 actually works but it's still impressive that it can create a 7.1.2-channel experience from a single source. As with other multi-channel soundtracks, the same limitations apply in terms of room shape and dimensions, location of the soundbar itself, the listening position and any furniture, windows, doors or decorations. In addition the sound beams are again largely limited to higher frequencies but, as an alternative to putting nine speakers around your lounge, the YSP-5600 is a winner.

    Since the YSP-5600 is a Yamaha soundbar it boasts a suite of CINEMA DSP processing features that are grouped under Movies, Music and Entertainment headings. The Movie heading includes Sci-Fi, Adventure and Spectacle settings, under Music there's Music Video, Concert and Jazz Club, whilst Entertainment includes Sports, Talk Show, Drama and Game. There is also the option to turn these DSP features off entirely, along with a setting called Target which sends audio to a specific location. Whether you actually use these DSP features is largely a matter of personal choice, we prefer to leave our audio unprocessed but there are others who swear by Yamaha's CINEMA DSP modes.

    Finally, since the YSP-5600 forms part of Yamaha's MusicCast multiroom system, we were extremely interested to hear how it handled stereo sources and overall we were very pleased with the results. The basic size and layout of the soundbar meant that when you by-passed all the processing it was capable of a decent performance with music. This means you can use it for listening to music as part of a MusicCast system and it also means that devices connected to the YSP-5600, such as the TV or Blu-ray player, can also be listened to in other areas of the MusicCast network. The result is a soundbar that is not only a fantastic all-round performer with a cutting edge feature set but also one that is surprisingly flexible, adding a dimension to its performance that goes beyond just sound quality.

    The YSP-5600 actually can deliver an immersive performance, allowing you to benefit from Dolby Atmos soundtracks.

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Great overall sound performance
    • Immersive audio genuinely works
    • Extensive set of features
    • Plenty of connections
    • Attractive design
    • Solid build quality
    • Includes MusicCast

    Cons

    • HDMI inputs limited
    • It's not exactly small
    • Expensive
    You own this Total 2
    You want this Total 7
    You had this Total 0

    Yamaha YSP-5600 Dolby Atmos Soundbar Review

    Should I buy one?


    Well if you're looking for a soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos and, eventually, DTS:X then Yamaha currently have the market to themselves and the YSP-5600 is the only game in town. Whilst there's no denying that it's large and expensive the soundbar certainly works and, using sound beams, it actually does create an immersive audio experience. We were initially sceptical about the ability of the YSP-5600 to produce an effective Dolby Atmos experience from a soundbar, especially as we actually have a full 7.2.4 setup with overhead speakers in our home cinema. However using demo scenes that we're very familiar with, we were surprised at how similar the experience actually was. Whilst a solution like the YSP-5600 can never fully replace an actual immersive audio speaker set up, it's certainly a lot easier to install and far less intrusive in terms of speakers all over your lounge.

    However the majority of the content that you'll be listening to won't be Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, so it's important that the YSP-5600 can also perform well in terms of more normal soundbar duties. Thankfully it doesn't disappoint, with all of Yamaha's experience coming into play and the soundbar producing a lovely open sound field that filled the room. When it came to movies there was a nice sense of envelopment but dialogue always remained clear, especially when it came to TV programmes. The bass performance was also good, with the soundbar's woofers performing effectively and the lower frequencies were well integrated when we added a subwoofer. If you're a fan of Yamaha's DSP processing, there's a decent selection of options but we prefer our audio unprocessed. The YSP-5600 also performed well with music, which is useful since it supports Yamaha's MusicCast multiroom system.

    In fact the YSP-5600 is feature-packed with just about everything you could want from a soundbar, which makes Yamaha's approach to the HDMI connections all the more puzzling. Whilst we can perhaps understand the lack of HDR support, the decision to only include HDCP 2.2 on one input and the output is just bizarre. It may not seem like a big deal now but the lack of HDCP 2.2 on all the HDMI inputs and the lack of HDR support could seriously restrict the YSP-5600's use in the future. If someone is paying almost £1,900 for a soundbar and subwoofer combination we feel that they should expect a better degree of future-proofing. In most respects the Yamaha YSP-5600 delivers a performance worthy of a highly recommended award but the lack of future-proofed HDMI support means that we feel we can only award the YSP-5600 a Recommended badge.

    What are my alternatives?


    Whilst Yamaha currently have the immersive audio soundbar market to themselves, they won't for much longer. There have already been Dolby Atmos capable soundbars announced by both Philips and Samsung, with more undoubtedly on the way. However given the size and cost of the YSP-5600, a genuine AV receiver and sub/sat speaker package is a real alternative. For example you could buy Yamaha's RX-A2050 9-channel AV receiver for £1,149 and still have £750 to spend on a decent sub/sat speaker package. Yes you'll have to put speakers around the room but you still have the option of upward-firing Dolby Atmos speakers, which use a similar approach to Yamaha's sound projection technology. An AVR like the A2050 not only supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X but, crucially, it will also support both HDCP 2.2 and HDR, making it a superior choice in terms of future-proofing. So depending on your priorities, it might well be that an AV receiver and sub/sat speaker package is the better alternative.


    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    9

    Connectivity

    8

    Ease of use

    9

    Sound Quality

    9

    Features

    9

    Value for Money

    7

    Verdict

    8

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