It's an indisputable fact that most TVs offer lacklustre sound quality. It's just not possible to squeeze sufficiently sized speakers into these skinny screens, and even sets like Sony's KDL-46HX853 with its clever in-stand speakers can't match the majesty of a decent cinema system in full flow.
But that doesn't mean you have to clutter up your living room with a full 5.1 system either - soundbars like this one provide a way of upping your audio power with a single discreet unit.
But Yamaha's YSP-2200 isn't your average soundbar. It's a digital sound projector, using technology developed almost a decade ago by Cambridge-based 1-Limited (now Cambridge Mechatronics), which beams sound off the walls to create a more convincing surround sound presence than many soundbars can muster (a fact reflected by its lofty price tag).
Design and connections
The YSP-2200 is a beautifully built unit with a rigid aluminium enclosure that quells detrimental vibrations. It's weighty, with not a single part that feels cheap or flimsy.
Black is to Yamaha what red is to Manchester United, so naturally we find the YSP-2200 dressed in a sleek black finish, lifted by a hairline texture on the top panel, a glossy trim and curved edges. Lurking behind the black mesh that runs along the entire 435mm width of the unit are 16 drivers that shoot sound beams out into the ether.
Only a few buttons are dotted about on the top panel, keeping everything nice and minimal. You also get an LED display, which comes in handy when configuring the system (although there's an onscreen GUI too).
Its relatively large dimensions mean it's not really designed for wall-mounting but for placement in front of your TV, and with such a slim height it won't obstruct the screen. The bar itself measures 50mm high, but there are removable feet that can be adjusted between 29 and 39mm high, resulting in a total height of between 79mm and 89mm.
The YSP-2200 is the first in this range of sound projectors to be supplied with a compact passive subwoofer, which gives you a choice of horizontal or vertical mounting. The thinking is that you can slide it into your AV rack, or flip it upright and slot it beside the sofa. The living room's your oyster.
Connections-wise, there's a generous selection, but for the money we're not surprised. Three 3D-ready HDMI inputs allow you to enjoy games consoles, digital TV receivers and other HD kit through the YSP-2200, while the output's ARC compatibility makes it easy to boost sound quality from a suitably equipped TV.
Three digital audio ports (two optical, one coaxial) and analogue stereo sockets provide further input options, while a composite video output lets you view the onscreen GUI (not available over HDMI). Helpfully, there's a port for an infrared extender, in case you want to install the YSP-2200 out of sight.
Completing the line-up is a port for connecting Yamaha's optional peripherals, such as the YDS-12 iPod dock, YBA-10 Bluetooth audio receiver and the YID-W10 wireless iPod/iPhone dock system.
The YSP-2200 offers more features than your average soundbar. For starters, it decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio, which is a rare talent. You also get 11 DSP modes that add sonic characteristics to suit different types of material - these are divided into Movie, Music and Entertainment.
You also get a choice of how the sound beams are projected into the room, ranging from stereo to a 7-channel '5 BeamPlus2' mode, which is best for movies. It's worth having a play to find which one suits your room layout and the content you're watching.
Don't forget that the YSP-2200 can also be used to play music, and those who listen to a lot of MP3s or WMAs can use the Music Enhancer mode to boost the clarity of those compressed formats. UniVolume automatically keeps different sources at a consistent level.
Finally, power output is quoted as 132W in total, which is a decent amount of oomph for such a streamlined enclosure.
The remarkably simple installation procedure involves running the supplied cable between the springclips on the sub and soundbar, then activating the IntelliBeam auto calibration system, which judges the best beam angles, volumes and frequency response settings for your room. To carry this out, Yamaha provides a microphone in the box.
The blue-on-white onscreen menu may look rudimentary but it's remarkably detailed, allowing you to deep-dive into the audio settings and tailor the sound to your liking, should IntelliBeam not hit the spot. The menus are logically laid out and respond speedily to remote commands.
But to be honest, it's just as easy to use the front panel display. No stone is left unturned. The remote helps maintain this sense of user-friendliness, with a sensible button layout and good labelling. Buttons dedicated to the sound modes and subwoofer controls are useful.
Most soundbars that try to mimic a 5.1 system using virtual surround technology fall flat on their faces. But because the YSP-2200 bounces its sound beams off the walls, you're actually getting 'real' 7.1-channel sound - and that puts it in a different league to the majority of its rivals.
I loaded up Thor on Blu-ray - fed directly into the Yamaha as an HD audio bitstream - and I was bowled over by the immersive quality of the soundstage. During the epic battle between Thor and the Frost Giants, his hammer swishes around the room convincingly, while crunching effects ping from every angle. It genuinely felt as though the sound was being wrapped around me.
Sure, it lacks that absolute precision and fullness of a real 5.1 system but considering this soundstage is being whipped up by a box sat at the front of the room, it's much better than it has any right to be.
I tried out a range of other material, and the YSP-2200 impressed every time. It's at its most convincing with non-directional effects such as rain and wind, which swirled and hissed all around my head.
But its surround performance isn't the only string to its bow. The sound is generally punchy and powerful, with beautifully detailed high frequencies and clear dialogue reproduction.
Including a separate sub is also a masterstroke, bringing more bass weight than the soundbar would have done on its own, plus it integrates seamlessly with the beam drivers. Yes, it's a passive design, but it sounds surprisingly tight and keeps boom to a minimum.
The only discernible weakness is that the YSP-2200 can't quite translate this techno-trickery into a wholly satisfying music performance. It's enjoyable enough, yet lacks the focus and sparkle to make audiophiles prick up their ears.
If you think soundbars can't match the experience of a true 5.1 system, think again. The YSP-2200's sound beam trickery generates a convincing surround soundstage, but backs it up with the sort of detail, power and polish that brings out the best in Blu-ray discs. The only issue is that this fancy technology comes at a fairly hefty price - but if you want proper surround sound without clutter then it could be worth splashing out.
Manufacturer and Model
Component video output
Composite video output
Digital audio inputs
3 (2 x optical, 1 x coaxial)
3.5mm minijack input
Dolby True HD decoding
DTS HD Master Audio decoding
DLNA media streaming
Supported media formats
Dimensions (main unit) W x H x D
944 x 79-89 x 145mm
Dimensions (subwoofer) W x H x D
435 x 137 x 350mm
Audio Return Channel support
11 DSP modes