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As you might expect from such an audio-centric product, there's a wide selection of sound modes on board. The most significant is the choice of beam modes that govern how the sound is dispersed around the room. My Surround generates surround sound without relying on reflecting beams off the walls, which is better for awkwardly shaped rooms that don't reflect sound well, or if the listening position is close to the unit. My Beam focuses all of the sound towards a specific location, while the 5 Beam, 3 Beam, 3 Beam + Stereo and 2ch Stereo modes all offer different configurations depending on your room setup, the source material and your personal tastes.
The unit decodes raw Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams from a DVD player or Sky+ box, and if you want to transform stereo material into pseudo surround sound, then Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS Neo:6 are on hand to do so. The unit also features TruBass, which serves to make bass output sound richer and deeper, while the Night Listening Enhancer makes sound more audible at low volumes.
Setting up the unit is a simple process thanks to the IntelliBeam Automated System Calibration. Plug the supplied microphone into the jack on the front panel, place it on the cardboard stand, activate auto setup and the unit emits a series of test tones which are analysed by the YSP-500, allowing it to select the appropriate audio settings for your room, including the levels, angles and frequency response of each beam. But if you're feeling adventurous, there's an astoundingly detailed set of manual adjustments covering every parameter you could possible think of, and you can check your settings with a built-in test tone.
The unit is supplied with a remote, which is fairly large but comfortable to hold, with big chunky buttons laid out in a user-friendly way. You can also programme it to control other components in your system.
The mixed results we've achieved with soundbars and 2.1 systems in the past have left us feeling slightly sceptical about the idea, but the YSP-500 completely restores our faith. This is one of the most convincing digital sound projectors we've encountered, producing a surround effect that genuinely sounds like a real 5.1 speaker system.