Yamaha probably doesn't get enough credit as a speaker manufacturer, so let's start with the new NS-700 line with their gleaming black gloss enclosures. I especially like the truncated-pyramid shape of the 300-watt NS-SW700 sub ($800). Other models include a tower ($800/each), monitor ($400/each), and center ($500/each). All have aluminum tweeters and PMD woofers. Sometime I'll have to get Yamaha to tell me what PMD is. Of course Yamaha is also a major power in receivers. New ones include the second from top-line RX-Z7, with 140 watts times seven, Anchor Bay video processing, and web browser for $2700. There's an RX-V3900 with the same power spec and fewer features ($1900), though like its higher-priced sibling, it is Sirius/XM-ready, and boasts both internet radio and free digital over-the-air HD Radio reception. Another notable feature is a new HD-savvy GUI that I'd really like to have a look at -- Yamaha has been stuck in 1980s-style monochrome graphics for too long. There's an RX-V1900 with 130 watts times seven ($1400) and more modest feature set. Yamaha also showed the YAS-71, a 2.1-channel soundbar with 70 watts times two plus a further 70 watts for the sub channel.
Five new sound-bar products from Yamaha include the YSP-4000 ($1800), with 5.1 channels in one convenient box. It does XM, FM, and iPod with optional dock. And it offers a greater range of surround adjustments from the remote than previous products. Whizzing race cars illustrated how well it works.
Yamaha's neoHD media controllers creatively reinvent the audio/video receiver for the new media age. The YMC-700 ($800) adds wi-fi, Rhapsody, internet radio, and iTunes/AAC compatibility to the less full-featured YMC-500 ($600). Notice the distinctive look. These media controllers are designed to make it as easy to pull music or photos off a PC as it is to play a disc. Review of the YMC-700 forthcoming.
Audio Performance Video Performance Features Ergonomics Value
Price: $1,200 At A Glance: Top-flight build quality • Clean and detailed sound • Second-zone HDMI
Sing me a song. Come on, it will cheer me up. Hey, that’s good. Can you sing while juggling? Here’s the fruit bowl, let’s see what you can do. Wow, that was great. Now do the singing and juggling while standing on one foot. That was amazing! Can you sing and juggle while hopping on one foot? Incredible, although I must say the hopping affected your vibrato a little. Now let me see you sing, juggle, and hop on one foot while rotating—hey, where are you going? You were just starting to amuse me.
Price: $1,000 At A Glance: Moderate power and up-front sound • New GUI, Bluetooth, USB input • Proprietary auto setup, room correction, height, low-volume modes
The Brand That Rolls Its Own
At first glance, the Yamaha RX-V1065 A/V receiver seems to be missing several of the latest and greatest features. By that I mean it doesn’t have the licensed goodies and their accompanying logos, the little things that manufacturers use to encourage the feeling that things are getting better all the time. However, when you look closer at the specs—or better yet, page through the manual—some of those features are in fact present, in Yamaha-approved form, under other names.
A receiver that listens to the room sounds better.
Home theater has its sweet spots. In the surround sound arena, the slickest compromise between "in a box" basics and "cost no object" indulgences would have to be the $999 A/V receiver. History tells us that Yamaha has a long track record of hitting this target with one best-selling model after another. So the RX-V2400 comes with a distinguished pedigree—and THX Select certification—even without the ground-breaking addition of automatic equalization. There's nothing new in the concept of using equalization to correct flaws in room acoustics. Custom installers have been using carefully tweaked EQ for years. What's new is that the idea has trickled down from custom home theaters to bleeding-edge preamp/processors to the humble receiver.
Price: $1,900 At A Glance: Dizzying array of music networking features • Superb video processing from Anchor Bay • Eight-point auto setup and room EQ
Of Tea Leaves and Logos
An A/V receiver isn’t just a product. It’s a series of diplomatic handshakes. Sure, manufacturers develop some of the technologies that go into their products, but they also license a lot of the technologies from other outfits—which enhances their products with the fruits of many different R&D labs. The Yamaha RX-V3900 is a beefy powerhouse on paper, rated at 140 watts times seven, but if you check out Yamaha’s Website, you’ll more likely notice the sheer profusion of logos. I counted no fewer than 24 different ones. You can read them like tea leaves.