Saving Private Ryan, piped from a DVD player via the optical digital audio input, sounds fantastic with the unit set to 5 Beam mode. During the Omaha Beach landing scene, bullets ping round the room just like they would using real rear speakers, and surround effects are projected adjacent to and occasionally behind the listening position, which in this case was a good 9ft from the unit.
But it's not just busy action-packed scenes that show off the YSP-500's prodigious talents. Subtle effects and gentle ambience are also convincingly reproduced, with the driving rain during some of Ryan's tense battle scenes almost completely enveloping the listening position.
The different beam modes are very effective. My Beam is much more direct and audible, but you lose the expansive soundstage offered by 5 Beam, while My Surround works well when you're close to the unit. But what's most impressive is the system's flexibility - there are enough modes and adjustments on board for everyone to find the perfect sound for their room.
Aside from its surround capabilities, the YSP-500's sound quality is highly impressive. John Williams' score sounds rich and captivating, dialogue remains prominent despite the movie's cluttered sound design and the two on-board woofers muster a satisfying amount of bass that removes the need to connect an external sub. The power it generates is a real surprise considering its compact size.
On the downside, you still don't get the directness that real rear speakers offer, and the effect is better with more obvious surround material like action movies - give it a rom-com and the effect is harder to discern.
Yamaha's pioneering work in the field of digital sound projection is really coming to fruition, as the YSP-500 offers arguably the most convincing surround effect of any soundbar we've come across. Its sophisticated sound beam system works really well, producing an expansive soundstage that can't quite match the directness and power of a real 5.1 speaker system but comes damn close.