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Yamaha YMC-500 neoHD Media Controller Review  Print E-mail
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Written by Todd Whitesel   
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Article Index
Yamaha YMC-500 neoHD Media Controller Review 
Listening

Design Quirks

1. The USB input is on the back of the unit, which means you have to turn it around every time you want to swap a drive in or out. This port should be on the front for quick access and so you know what drive is in the unit.
2. The YMC-500 is compatible with iPods and Bluetooth devices, but you need to purchase an external dock or adapter to play and/or charge a unit. And you can listen to music only; pictures stored on an iPod are not accessible.
3. Speaker terminals are cheap, plastic spring-clips and accept bare-wire only.
4. No indication of the unit's power?!! If you want to move up from 2.1 to 5.1 surround, your choices are to purchase the matching center and surround speakers from Yamaha, or use speakers with 6 ohms or higher impedance. 

Listening

For such a spartan system, the YMC-500 delivered surprisingly good surround-like sound. Thin Lizzy's Are You Ready?is a terrific DVD of the band's 1981 performance at the Rockpalast in Loreley, Germany. Phil Lynott's voice and bass were presented with suitable bombast and drummer Brian Downey's kit sounded full and live.

Two-channel music played through the neoHD had good detail – I would describe the sound of the  supplied front speakers as bright and tight. The sub really helps to broaden and fill out the audio. With just three speakers in a setup, the neoHD is necessarily limited to the swath of sound it can produce, but like many of the better soundbars it does a convincing job of dispersing audio to the front and sides. In a smaller environment, I believe most listeners would be satisfied with the 2.1 setup.

Neo HD Input Panel

Conventional A/V receivers come loaded with dozens of sound-enhancing settings to make action films more exciting and to expand two-channel sources into various guises of surround. The YMC-500 sports just a handful of DSP programs – or sound fields – to enhance the A/V experience, but they cover all bases including movie contents, video games and a music enhancer to boost compressed files like MP3s.

Sunday means NFL football, so I set the receiver for entertainment and watched my Green Bay Packers crush the Dallas Cowboys. The roar of a Lambeau Field crowd is like no other, and the Yamaha brought out the energy and sound of a collective 50,000+ strong fanbase during the game's most thrilling moments. I won't say I could hear the faithful slurping beers and belching after too many pre-game bratwursts, but for a simple and engaging football experience the neoHD is the ticket.

Is there a better movie for home theater than Peter Jackson's account of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers? The incredible opening scene follows Gandalf as he battles the Balrog downward through a chasm that seems to go forever. A torrent of sound and fire ripple throughout as the melee unfolds, heightened by Howard Shore's mesmerizing score. Though this film screams out for 5.1 or more, the neoHD was no slouch at delivering the drama.

Final Thoughts

When I first received the neoHD system for review, I didn't know what to make of it. Was it an A/V receiver? Controller? Player? Ita's all of the above and an excellent solution for those wanting to keep it simple or bring an A/V system into a second room. If I went the neoHD route, I'd opt for the YMC-500's wi-fi capable sibling, the YMC-700, so I could network with music stored on my computer and access Internet radio as well. Others will find the 500 plenty of machine. Although it's not perfect, the YMC-500 does a lot right and is likely the first curl of a bigger wave of like-designed A/V equipment to come. I look forward to Yamaha's next ideas.





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