$2799 USD (black), $2899 (champagne)
Dimensions: 17.5"W x 8.5"H x
Weight: 62 pounds
Warranty: Two years
- Audio inputs: four sets
- A/V inputs: Eight sets of audio inputs each with composite
and S-Video video inputs
- Component inputs: Three sets
- Digital inputs: Seven sets, three with optical and coax
- Phono stage input
- Two independent monitor outputs
- RS 232 Interface
- Dolby Digital Matrix 6.1 and DTS ES decoding
- Yamahas exclusive Tri-Field Processing
- Burr-Brown 1705 24/96 DACs for eight channels
- 6-channel inputs for external decoder
- Pre/Main Coupling
- 40-station Direct-Access Tuning
- Pre-outs for all channels
I dont think Ive ever seen a
product garner more universal praise than the Yamaha DSP-A1 audio/video integrated
amp/surround-sound processor. And for probably the first time in history, all the critics
were right: The Yamaha DSP-A1 was a fabulous unit. I should know. After a rather
exhaustive search, I bought one almost two years ago. Well, time stands still for no man
or flagship product, and the DSP-A1 is now yesterdays news. Yamaha has replaced its
respected DSP-A1 with the RX-V1. When I say that Yamaha went back to the drawing board
with this piece, Im not just spouting rhetoric.
The addition of a tuner, to create a full-fledged
audio/video receiver, was one change. To be honest, I dont listen to much FM and
dont judge myself to be the last word on tuner performance appraisal, but I found
the FM tuner to be quite good. It easily picked up all the usual suspects in my receiving
area and delivered generally clean and enjoyable sound.
The tuner, along with larger dimensions and greater heft,
are the obvious changes to the V1. You have to look a little harder to find the
less-obvious changes. The new RX-V1 features Yamahas Dolby Digital/Matrix 6.1
processing, which provides a center-surround channel from DVDs encoded with Dolby Extended
Surround (ES) and DTS-ES 6.1 soundtracks. There are now 54 surround options available. But
the real story is about changes designed to be heard, and thats the best news yet.
Right out of the box I could tell that the RX-V1 was a worthy successor to the DSP-A1, but
Ill get to that in a moment.
During the review period I used three different speaker
systems: Tyler Acoustics, Polk Audio, and NHT. These are three very different-sounding
systems. The very neutral RX-V1 allowed each speaker system to sing with its own voice.
Even when playing two-channel stereo over the very refined Tyler Acoustic 7U, the sound
left surprisingly little to be desired. Highs are remarkably smooth and airy, the midrange
is crisp and natural, and soundstage portrayal is very satisfying. Bass performance,
particularly when the RX-V1 was used with the NHT VT2.4, was startlingly robust, deep, and
solid. NHT claims that no subwoofer is needed with the VT2.4, and I would agree provided
that a high-quality amplifier capable of real dynamics, speed, and control is used."
The Yamaha RX-V1 is more than capable enough for the VT2.4.
Im not a huge fan of surround sound for two-channel
CDs. For my tastes, most processors just lay too heavy a hand on the music. Changes in
instrumental timbre and the all-too-common collapsing of the soundstage are too difficult
for me to accept in exchange for what is admittedly a larger, more enveloping, exciting
soundfield. Two things about the RX-V1 have taken me a step closer to the other side. The
first was the more subtle and better executed surround modes. Of course, if you like this
sort of thing, you can still overdo it! You can turn your home into an echo chamber if you
like. But stick close to the presets with the RX-V1 and you cant go too far wrong.
The second and third things that really
were appealing, and things I believe are totally unique to the Yamaha piece, are the
"Silent Cinema" and "Virtual Cinema" DSP features. These allow you to
play multichannel sources on headphones using Head-Related Transfer Function (HRTF)
technology. In other words, the new Yamaha allows DSP processing of the signal sent to the
headphone output. This is cool! If Im not a fan of DSP on music, Im
definitely a fan of using it to liven up both music CDs and movie soundtracks over
headphones! Gone is the everything-grouped-in-the-center-of-the-head phenomenon, which is
the bane of the headphone-using world. DSP processing is able to simulate a real
environment within the confines of headphones. And if this cool feature werent
enough, the 'phones I used were the Sennheiser HD 580s, widely known to require a good
outboard headphone amp to drive effectively. Well, the RX-V1 did an excellent job
driving my Sennheisers, and thats no small feat. Headphone listening may not become
your format of choice, but those late-night sessions that force their use are definitely
going to be a lot more fun with the RX-V1.
Getting back to the way most people will use the RX-V1
(with speakers), I watched a lot of concert DVDs in surround and thoroughly enjoyed the
experience. Without question, with an image on the TV, I enjoy the surround experience.
Rather than stick with the straight Dolby Digital or DTS soundtracks, I usually preferred
Yamahas Enhanced mode. It did a great job of expanding the soundfield and creating
an added sense of excitement, space, and depth to the concert. As we are redoing the
family room, I even spent some time with no rear speakers at all. I still enjoyed using
Yamahas Enhanced version of Dolby Pro Logic for the same reason.
Ive watched Armageddon at least two dozen
times, and you would think that Id heard it all where the soundtrack is concerned.
But the Yamaha receiver expanded the movies horizons -- literally. This movie
provides a variety of acoustic environments, and the RX-V1 did a super job of
differentiating between them. The first confrontation between A.J. and Harry takes place
on the offshore-drilling platform. It just about made me seasick! More than ever, I was
made aware of the expansive, encompassing, and convincing sounds of the ocean all around.
The underwater training sessions cause some serious concerns over getting up to the
surface for air! The hanger scenes sounded so cavernous that those suffering from
agoraphobia may want to step out of the room! OK, I exaggerate slightly, but I want to
make clear that the RX-V1 concocted the best and most realistic sense of space Ive
ever heard in my room, and did so without resorting to exaggerated levels of phony-baloney
reverb. This was one of the two most defining characteristics of the Yamaha RX-V1: the
ability to redefine the size, shape, and characteristics of my listening room.
The second most defining characteristic would be just what
you would demand of a receiver in the RX-V1s price class: fundamentally excellent
sound. In the area of dynamics, the RX-V1 is surprisingly robust. In this day and age of
super-powerful amplifiers, you may have the tendency to underestimate the potency of 110
watts. Dont. Coupling the RX-V1 to the NHT VT2.4 towers and without the use of a
powered subwoofer, even I was surprised at the driving force of this receiver. Bass was
deep, tight, and powerful, and even in my largish listening room I was never at a loss for
power or system dynamics. Beyond brute force, the sound was extraordinarily smooth and
fundamentally correct. At the end of the note-taking sessions, I replaced the RX-V1 with
my DSP-A1, and Id be a liar if I told you that I didnt miss the RX-V1. The
sound of the DSP-A1 is distinctly dryer and less involving. Rendering of acoustic space
was no longer on par with the best I've had in my home, that honor now belongs to the
Yamaha RX-V1. The DSP-A1 just doesnt have the ring of truth that the RX-V1 does.
I found the most profound differences between my DSP-A1 and
the RX-V1 in their surround processors. Right out of the box I was faced with
Yamahas new factory-preset surround modes, and to my great surprise, I found
them extraordinarily well executed. When I installed the RX-V1, I found the factory
presets to work superbly. I suspect that the vast majority of users could happily use the
V1 and never touch the factory presets. Furthermore, the RX-V1 frequently sounded better
-- more natural than my tweaked settings on the DSP-A1.
Put on a well-recorded concert video such as James
Taylors Live At The Beacon Theater and prepare for as musical an audio/video
presentation as youve ever heard. This recording is presented, as it should be, with
the musicians up on stage where they belong, the surround channels being restricted to
reproducing hall effects and the cheering of the audience. One day all music will be
recorded like this and we can forget all about digitally synthesized ambiance re-creation
(as well as listening to musicians placed all around us while we look at them in front of
us). I settled on Yamahas enhanced version of Dolby Digital as it was the subtlest
of the modes available, and it sounded just right to me. Through the Yamaha and NHT
VT2.4/VS2.4 system, the music was even, detailed, and engrossing.
A comment is in order regarding Yamahas Dolby Digital
ES surround modes. When I first heard of the RX-V1, I assumed that this advancement was
the driving force behind the new product. Its a nice enhancement, but it will not
revolutionize the surround experience. Admittedly, I have few ES encoded DVDs. As more
come out, however, I would guess that this could change. I was curious as to the effect
the ES decoding would have on non-ES-encoded material. With such program material, the
information, matrixed out of the two rear channels and sent to the rear-center speaker is,
more or less, random. But after living with the system for several months, I have
concluded that the effect is not as potentially deleterious as the word "random"
would indicate. As the ear does not locate sounds coming directly from behind nearly as
easily as it does sounds coming from directly in front, I found that quite often what I
experienced coming from the rear channel offered an additional degree of envelopment
compared to regular Dolby Digital or DTS. I cant say that I had the feeling of being
surrounded from behind as much as I experienced an effect not all that different from
headphone listening. When listening to headphones, you do not experience the feeling of
being surrounded by speakers, but you do feel saturated with the sound. Thats
what I experienced with EX processing engaged. Certainly there are and will continue to be
more Dolby Digital ES and DTS ES-encoded DVDs coming out that will make use of the
rear-center channel, but even now with non-ES encoded discs, I found the effect beneficial
much of the time and rarely distracting.
I judge the Yamaha RX-V1 to be not only an excellent
product, but also a great step forward from the DSP-A1. Its new and improved enhanced
versions of DTS and Dolby Digital put it in a class by itself. If the RX-V1 came with
these surround modes only, and the ability to bypass them for two-channel listening, it
would still get a hearty recommendation from me. But by no means should anybody be bashful
about enjoying the multitude of other modes Yamaha has made available. Whats good
for the goose doesnt have to be good for the gander where home theater and music
enjoyment are concerned. There are no rules regarding what is enjoyable, and no other
product I know of offers as versatile an assortment of DSP venues as Yamaha has here.
While the RX-V1 is not cheap, when you compare its cost to that of a good processor and
the required amplification, its hardly expensive. As a matter of fact, in that light
and considering its fundamentally excellent sound as well as its ease of use and minimum
space requirements, its a real bargain.
|Speakers - NHT VT 2.4
(mains) and VS 2.4 (center and surrounds); Polk Audio RT1000i (main), RT25i (surrounds),
CS275I (center); Tyler Acoustics Taylo Reference Monitors
- Sony DVP S500D
|Monitor - Proscan 35"