Yamaha's original YSP-1 single speaker surround sound system took the flatpanel TV market by storm last year by being the first of its genre that actually worked. It wasn't cheap at £800 and, at a metre wide, only looked right in tandem with 42in (and above).
Enter its smaller brother, the YSP-800. Not only is this sibling only 800mm wide and ideal for pairing with any of the swathe of 32in LCD screens available, it has gained a pared-down version of Yamaha Parametric room EQ software complete with setup microphone.
As room-based sonic anomalies can be quite severe when the speaker is positioned on the wall, as the YSP-800 is most likely to find itself, this could be handy indeed.
Under the metal grille are 21 x 2cm drivers each powered by its own digital (class D) amplifier packing a not-so-spectacular 2W per driver. Using clever DSP these drivers physically steer the sound from each channel. The system uses wall boundaries to make the main left/right channels sound well spaced, and the side and rear walls to bounce effects around the room.
To back this up with some bass you also get two 100mm bass/midrange drivers in the cabinet. All this represents a shaving of 20cm, 20 or so drivers and £200 off of the YSP-1, and the addition of a Room EQ and remote control.
This loudspeaker has a composite video output so as you can access the onscreen menus. These are fairly straightforward and you have a superb auto-setup feature using the microphone, the YPAO system and the most whacky series of sonic chirps heard on a home cinema system since R2-D2's DVD debut. There is also the ability to add a subwoofer to the system and integrate this in the setup and EQ analysis.
The YSP-800 is quite a revelation in the way sound behaves in a domestic living room. Given fairly even placement from walls and a relatively symmetrical room there is a surprising amount of rear-channel information and steering.
The system is very susceptible to odd shaped rooms or non-symmetrical placement so it is difficult to give an absolute description of how effective it will be, but in the right situation it eclipses even the Polk's ability to craft a 3D sonic illusion from a single box.
Tonally, however, it bears a congested sound with a very thin and lightweight balance - unless you have a sub attached. Even then there is not the clarity and timbre of a serious 5.1 or even 2.1 system and dialogue hasn't got the projection of the rival Polk.
The YSP-800 offers a lot for your £600 - this is an instant, compact home cinema solution to which you simply add a DVD player and go.
Of the two on-wall single speaker designs here, the Yamaha offers greatest value for money, superb Room EQ and, unusually, surround sound that improves the higher the reverb and reflection characteristics of your listening environment. This device is just asking to be installed in a warehouse-style apartment with bare painted walls, laminate floor and an LCD TV on the wall.