|Yamaha RX-V1 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Saturday, 01 July 2000|
Features, features and more features accurately describes Yamaha’s latest top of the line home theater centerpiece, the RX-V1. The $3,199 (in black) RX-V1 does much more than any other AV receiver that I know of. The not-so-short description of the features below is not exhaustive and if it is missing a feature you are looking for, don’t worry: the RX-V1 probably has it, I just ran out of space here. The Yamaha has an eight-channel amplifier; six channels at 110 watts and two effects channels at 35 watts each. The sixth channel is not for the LFE, but rather for 6.1 Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES, making this one of the first processors on the market to decode these new formats.
The digital decoding circuitry in the RX-V1 is also the first to utilize Yamaha’s new 44-bit DSP, allowing for numerous sound field settings that can be used on their own or in conjunction with the Dolby Digital / DTS decoding. Unlike many of the cheesy processing features of the past, these allow one to change many parameters to suit the particular system and room. The adjustable parameters include delay, reverb, liveness, and various EQ functions. One of these is parametric equalization, a very powerful tool in the hands of a capable tuner.
A look at the back of the RX-V1 reveals an unbelievable array of input and output options. The RX-V1 has connections for seven video and four audio source components. The video source inputs include the component video and an AC-3 RF input, which means no outboard demodulator is necessary for Laserdisc owners. The audio inputs include a phono input, a rare find on modern A/V receivers. According to Yamaha, the digital inputs accept a 96khz/24-bit data stream, which is then converted to analog by 96khz/24-bit Burr-Brown DACs on all channels. The back panel also notably includes a six-channel input to maintain flexibility for new formats, second zone outputs, a RS232 jack, and remote in and out for external remote emitters and receivers. My only complaint as to inputs is that the RX-V1 has only three coaxial digital inputs. While there are many optical inputs, I have found that utilizing the optical inputs generally results in poorer sound quality than coaxial.
The RX-V1 comes with a full feature remote that is preprogrammed with many codes and is capable of learning the rest. The remote has a small LCD screen to indicate the source being controlled and a small number of backlit buttons. I found the remote a bit difficult to use in the dark, as only a few buttons are backlit and the shape and placement of the buttons on the crowded remote are not intuitive. The supplied manual is very well written and comprehensive. The manual explains all the different features and settings the unit provides in an easy-to-understand manner.
I first listened to the RX-V1 in my two-channel reference system. The system as used in the review consisted of a Rotel CD Transport, Theta TLC and Cobalt DAC, Sunfire True Subwoofer Jr. and Martin Logan Scenarios, all connected with Audio Analysis silver cables. I found the two-channel sound quality to be far better than Yamaha products of the past. I did most of my listening in the processor direct mode, bypassing the tone controls, for slightly better sound. Marc Cohn’s eponymously titled CD (Atlantic Records) was well portrayed on this system. While listening to "Walking in Memphis," I noted that the brightness and thinness of past Yamaha receivers was greatly reduced. The sound was smooth and solid with well-placed images. Listening to the Fairfield Four’s rendition of "Roll Jordan Roll" on their album ‘Standing in the Safety Zone’ (Warner Alliance), I noted the RX-V1’s imaging capabilities were able to resolve the different positions of the singers and portray a majority of the spatial cues that are contained on the disc. The positioning and the soundstaging capabilities were not quite up to that of my reference unit, but they were still capable of providing very pleasurable listening. The RX-V1 portrayed the individual voices with sufficient detail to render them easily identifiable, even when accompanied by a large number of backup singers. I also spent a good deal of time listening to the tuner, which I found better able to pick up weak radio stations than Yamaha’s last top of the line stand-alone tuner, the TX-950. My listening impressions remained fairly consistent throughout. While listening to Bill Berry’s ‘For Duke,’ I noted a slight bit of glare on the brass instruments and a slightly compressed soundstage. The sound, while usually solid, was bit thin at times. At extremely high volumes, there was a slight increase of graininess and the thinness was more pronounced.
Moving the RX-V1 over to my multi-channel system, I hooked it up to the Athena S3/P3 speaker system and utilized a Toshiba SD2108 DVD player and a Pioneer CLD-704 Laserdisc player as my main sources. I connected the CLD-704 to both the RX-V1’s RF and optical inputs. I kept the RX-V1 in its auto detect mode, wherein the input signal is automatically decoded in the proper format (Dolby Digital, DTS, etc.). One can also superimpose numerous soundfield settings in addition to, or instead of, the DTS or Dolby Digital decoding. While I find many of the soundfields to be cheesy in nature, the flexibility in setting of the soundfields may allow the eqiupment to make some normally difficult rooms sound better.
Before starting the movies, I listened to my current favorite surround music disc, Lyle Lovett’s ‘Joshua Judges Ruth’ (HDS Miller Nevada). Once again, the sound remained pretty consistent with a touch of brightness and thinness compared to my B & R Reference 20. The RX-V1 retained its smooth composure at all but the highest of listening levels, at which point my neighbors were preparing to lynch me. The Yamaha, helped out by the Athena’s easy to drive load and powered subwoofers, produced detailed, deep bass. The sound produced was enveloping and consistent from channel to channel.
While watching ‘Strange Days’ (DTS) on Laserdisc I noted the RX-V1 reproduced all of the film’s sonic subtleties that allow the viewer to differentiate between "normal" sound in conventional scenes and the point-of-view footage seen and heard through the story’s (fictional) sensory reproduction device. ‘Strange Days’ is great for checking out a system’s ability to properly reproduce imaging and spatial cues. Switching to ‘Last Man Standing’ (DTS) and ‘Top Gun’ (Paramount), both on Laserdisc, I noted the RX-V1 was more than able to keep up with complex action scenes. From the gun fights in ‘Last Man Standing’ to the venerable but still thrilling dog fights in ‘Top Gun,’ the DTS and Dolby Digital decoding was involving and detailed. The soundstage was consistent from channel to channel and there was no compression or congestion at any normal listening level. When switching from DTS to Dolby Digital Laserdiscs, the RX-V1 automatically changed to the appropriate input without a hitch.
I viewed several DVDs through the RX-V1-based system, including ‘The Matrix’ (Warner Home Video) and ‘Air Force One’ (Columbia/TriStar). As with the Laserdiscs, the DVDs presented no decoding problems, with the RX-V1 properly and automatically selecting the proper format. Throughout my viewing, the dynamic range was extended, except when I decided to utilize yet another feature, the adjustable dynamic compression. The Yamaha was consistent in its ability to reproduce soundtracks without compression or congestion. The video switching of the RX-V1 did not noticeably degrade the signal through either the composite or s-video signal paths.
I have no complaints as to the sound reproduction capabilities of the RX-V1. With properly matched speakers, it’s easy to compensate for the slight brightness and thinness exhibited. There should be no problems, so long as you do not use the RX-V1 with overly bright and forward speakers. I would have liked to see more coaxial digital outputs, but I realize the back panel real estate had no vacancies. I did not find the remote to be up to the high level set by the RX-V1 itself. The remote was not intuitive and proved hard to use in the dark. At this price range, I expect a better remote, but for $400, Phillip's Pronto overcomes this objection nicely.
The RX-V1 is an excellent choice for those seeking a state of the art receiver. It has more features and flexibility than any other I have seen. The amplifiers are capable of driving most speaker loads and should be sufficiently powerful for all but hard to drive speakers in large rooms. The unit’s Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES decoding, six-channel and component video inputs ensure that the buyer of this unit will not be left with outdated equipment in the near future. While the $3,199 price tag is high for a receiver, it would be difficult to find a separate processor, amplifier and cabling at this price with all of the features of the RX-V1, not to mention the convenience of fewer boxes and less cables. The RX-V1 is more than capable as serving as the centerpiece for nearly any theater system.