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Yamaha YMC-500 neoHD Media Controller Review Print E-mail
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
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Yamaha YMC-500 neoHD Media Controller Review

ImageI think there will come a time at Halloween when I could hand out the remote controls scattered about my house along with candy corn and gum, and satisfy the string of trick-or-treaters that canvass my neighborhood. Honestly, in each room where I listen to music, watch TV or movies I have a minimum of six remotes. It gets tricky, particularly for a reviewer, when one remote will turn on an unwanted component during use of another. I'm not lazy, but it's maddening to leave the chair to turn off a piece of equipment you didn't want to engage in the first place. The universal remote is not a new idea, but most are far more complicated than the originals they intend to replace. If I have a choice between spending an evening listening to music, watching a DVD or reprogramming a half-dozen remotes to do either of the former, the choice is easy. Yamaha offers a couple solutions to corral your electronic devices together under one roof and shed the excess remote baggage.

One Remote To Rule Them All?

At first glance, the YMC-500's remote, with barely a dozen buttons and diminutive size, looks under-equipped to manage an entire A/V system. But Yamaha realizes that most folks just want to play or listen to their devices, and that's what this remote does.

Setup & Features

The YMC-500 neoHD system comes with a pair of 2-way acoustic suspension front speakers (NS-AP7900MBL) and a 50-watt powered subwoofer (YST-FSW050). The fronts sport two 2.5-inch white paper woofers, one 3/4-inch silk dome tweeter, and are rated for 30 to 100 watts input. They can be set or screwed on stands or wall-mounted using the preset mounting brackets. The sub can be placed horizontally on four padded feet or vertically if space is an issue. This 2.1 “surround” system is boosted by Yamaha's AIR SURROUND EXTREME technology, which simulates 5.1 sound using just two fronts a sub. The option to add a center and surround speakers exists, and with ASE, Yamaha asserts that 5.1 can be boosted to mimic 7.1 surround.

The heart of the unit is the YMC-500 Media Controller – a 10-pound black box with a front volume knob and a top control panel whose buttons function like the corresponding buttons on the remote. The controller has an appealing sloped dual-slope design and sports a neoHD graphic on the top panel. The YMC-500 is equipped with 3 HDMI ins and 1 out, a USB port, dock for iPod or Bluetooth wireless audio receiver, coaxial digital audio in, optical digital audio in, analog audio in, component video in and composite video in.  

I've always liked Yamaha's approach to user guides. Along with the standard 58-page owner's manual, detailing the ins-and-outs of the neoHD, a fold-out quick-start guide is included to get visually oriented consumers up and running. System setup, for me, is rarely an enjoyable process, but I actually liked connecting all the pieces to the YMC-500 because Yamaha has made setup akin to a child's game of “match this with that.” As I was hooking up the front speakers – each with its own colored set of wires – to the respective terminals, I thought about my mother and how much she typically struggles to just make the proper connections with A/V equipment. This system would be perfect for her or anyone challenged just to make a TV work with a DVD or Blu-ray player, etc. The color-coded, step-by-intuitive-step setup is nearly foolproof.

Neo HD Closeup

After connecting a TV, source player, FM antenna and speakers, the next step is attaching the IR flashers to the remote control sensors of the TV and any components connected to the receiver. The flasher heads are covered with wax paper, which you peel off to uncover a sticky layer that binds the heads to the sensors. It's a bit like playing doctor with a heart patient. Power up the system and connected components and follow the directions on the TV screen to calibrate the speakers, integrate the remote control and setup source devices. The YMC-500 breaks each step down to basics. If you have a DVD player in the system, you're asked how the player will be used and then incorporated into one of three main menus: Watch (TV/Movies), Listen (Music/Radio) or Play (Photos/Games). It's that simple. From these respective menus you can watch TV, watch a movie, listen to CDs, search for an FM radio station, access music on a USB device or play games.

Design Successes

1. The setup and remote are incredibly intuitive
2. Graphical User Interface boasts large, easy-to-read icons for selecting sources
3. Better than expected “surround” from a 2.1 system
4. All needed speaker cables and wires are included
5. USB port plays MP3, WMA, MPEG-4, AAC and FLAC audio files
6. Compatible with Deep Color and x.v. Color video signals
7. Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS 96/24 and DTS Digital Surround all supported
8. Analog to HDMI video up-conversion


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