Sugg. Retail: $4999 (CAN)
Distributor: Yamaha Canada Music Ltd.,
135 Milner Ave., Scarborough,
ON M1S 3R1
(416) 298-1311 FAX 292-0732
(Reprinted from the Summer/Fall 2000 Audio Ideas Guide)
Yamaha’s statement receiver, the RX-V1 has in it just about everything you could imagine for a home theatre system, and a few more things you might never have thought about at all. As such, it is a very complex component that should be installed and set up by a professional. Once that is done, and the parameters relating to room size and shape with respect to multichannel operation are optimized, it is quite simple to operate.
But where do we start in describing this receiver? Well, I suppose we could throw out some numbers. The RX-V1 contains 10 Burr-Brown PCM1704 96 kHz/24 Bit DACs, one for each channel. Ten channels? It turns out that there are, in addition to the 6 expected Dolby Digital/DTS ones, Yamaha’s typical Front Effect pair (we’re up to 8 now), a centre rear for Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES (9), and for a pair of subwoofer outputs (11?). As the goof in This Is Spinal Tap says, “It’s louder…it goes to 11!” I think the secret is that the rear centre is derived from a matrix of left and right rear, so doesn’t need its own DAC.
The RX-V1 uses a digital volume control for all these channels that has a 99 dB range in .5 dB steps, and eliminates the need for a complex ganged analog potentiometer. There is also a Processor Direct button to bypass all analog control and processing circuits, and directly connect the DACs to the power amplifiers for the cleanest possible sound.
On the other hand, if you want to play with Cinema DSP, there’s lots of that, too. A 44-bit LSI is used to provide 32 possible spatial modes, under the categories of Hall, Church, Jazz Club, Rock Concert, Entertainment, Concert Video, TV, Theater, Movie Theater, and Dolby/DTS Surround. The last category allows enhanced modes for these surround systems, while some of the specific spaces include the cathedral of Freiburg, the Village Vanguard, and the Roxy Theatre.
Inputs are extensive, too, with Phono, CD, MD, DVD, LD, D-TV, CBL/SAT, 3 VCR inputs, and Video/Aux. All composite video inputs are paired with S-Video jacks, as are all outputs. There are also 3 component video inputs, and 1 set of outputs. There are 8 Toslink inputs, with coaxial inputs as well for LD (there is a built-in RF demodulator), CD, DVD, and CD/SAT. Unlike some other receivers, this one has plenty of digital input and output flexibility. There is also a 6-channel analog input in case you just happen to have such a source. The multiple digital inputs are automatically selected depending on source. For example, if you are playing a Dolby Digital laserdisc, the receiver will select the RF input, and will also select the appropriate digital input for Dolby Digital or DTS discs through the DVD inputs.
The front panel of the RX-V1 is amazingly uncluttered for a component this complex, and even when the drop-down door is opened, we don’t find a multitude of controls. The Video/Aux input is there for the camcorder, along with a selector switch for Zone 2 (multiroom) use to its left. There are buttons for Bass Extension, Processor Direct, and at far left, rotary Bass, Treble, and Balance knobs. The headphone jack is also here, the receiver providing virtual surround when a headphone is plugged in; the speakers are automatically disconnected as well in this case.
The tuner section has 40 presets, which may not be enough, given that it brought in 53 FM stations in our tests, using an outdoor double dipole bowtie antenna. This is one of the hottest FM sections in our experience, and a very selective tuner as well. It had no difficulty separating close together stations, of which there were plenty. It was also an excellent sounding tuner, something classical music buffs will appreciate. I fully enjoyed listening to CBC Radio 2 concerts, including an excellent recent performance of the Barber Violin Concerto by Erika Raum and the Saskatoon Symphony.
Power output of the RX-V1 is specified at 110 watts rms for front and rear channels (3 in each case), and 35 watts for the front effect channels. This should be adequate, as they say at Rolls-Royce, though I have to confess that I’ve gotten quite used to my normal 405 wpc from the Sunfire Cinema Grand Signature. Power is addictive, and absolute power is…loud.
If there are relatively few front panel controls on this receiver, you’d think that the remote control would have to be totally (like totally) intimidating. I didn’t really find it so, though the hidden setup part at the bottom confused me somewhat; the panel with the Yamaha logo on it slides down to reveal the buttons that allow you to set levels, delays, and so on. This process is something I’d suggest any purchaser insist be done by the dealer in your home theatre room. It’s complex, tricky, and involves knowing a good deal of cursor button protocol; even I found it frustrating using the on-screen menu system. In other words, it was a little too GUI for me.
But once it’s done, the RX-V1 is as easy to use as most A/V receivers, and the remote can be programmed to control other components, including DVD, CD, and LD players. It will both learn codes and specific instructions, as well as custom macro sequences for turn-on or -off. Many of the remote’s buttons do double duty, depending on input selection, which keeps the number reasonable. A tiny window on the remote shows the input selected and is backlit, but the other buttons are not. I guess I’d have to say that I’m a little underwhelmed by this remote control, though perhaps standards have yet to be set for what you should get with a $5000 receiver.
There are quite a few features that the buyer of this unit may never know about, especially if it properly installed by a professional. For example, EQ can be applied to improve the timbre match of the front and rear centre channels using the concealed Set menu; in all, 18 different areas of adjustment can be selected, ranging from simple Large/Small/None speaker settings to sophisticated sound field adjustments.
The sound of the Yamaha RX-V1 was as expected, following from previous experience with the DSP-A1: vivid, encompassing, and dynamic. It showed excellent Dolby Digital and DTS sound, and the enhanced modes of these made for a truly theatrical experience. The extra-channel capability will work well in larger spaces than ours, the front effect channels able to add height and/or depth up front, and the centre rear able to locate sounds more precisely behind you.
In some sense, the RX-V1 is wasted on me, since neither my preference nor my room lead me to enjoy DSP soundfield re-creation. What I did enjoy was the reproduction of 96/24 audio DVDs, using discretely applied Dolby Pro logic. The PCM1704 DACs are the current state of the art in consumer digital audio, and they sound very good in this receiver, and even better in the Assemblage DAC 2.6 because of the premium parts used.
But the Yamaha RX-V1 is no sonic slouch, possibly the best sounding receiver available, in addition to being just about the most flexible home theatre component available. And then there’s that excellent FM tuner.
To put its cost in perspective, I refer you to the review of the thrice-the-price AudioControl Diva reviewed in our last issue. The Yamaha has much of the Diva’s versatility in EQ and delay setting, as well as being a complete HT receiver. And when you consider that many 5-channel amplifiers of roughly the same power cost close to or even more than the price of the RX-V1, it really starts to look like quite the bargain in high end home theatre.