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The consumer electronics industry is finally beginning to deliver on the much-ballyhooed concept of convergence. Consider Yamaha’s new RX-V2700: This high-end A/V receiver will accommodate every CE device you can think of. It also features a USB port for MP3 players and 10/100Mbps Ethernet for connecting to a network. Own an iPod? Drop an extra 100 bucks for the custom iPod dock—it’s worth every penny.
Yamaha’s engineers didn’t just slap these features into the RX-V2700’s 38-pound chassis—they conceived of technologies that enhance the media pumping from your PC, streaming box, MP3 player, or iPod. The Compressed Music Enhancer algorithm, for example, re-infuses MP3, WMA, and other audio files with much of the psycho-acoustic vibe that gets stripped out during compression. The analog signals from composite, component, and S-video sources can be upscaled to 480p, 720p, or 1080i and output through an HDMI 1.2a connection.
The receiver has such an abundance of inputs and outputs, settings, and features that setting it up could be intimidating. Fortunately, Yamaha has developed an intuitive GUI (displayed on your TV) and a full-featured remote control that render the basics exceedingly simple. (OK, we’ll fess up to cracking the 150-page user manual to figure out some of the receiver’s more advanced features.)
You also use the GUI and remote to browse and select the contents of a docked iPod, a flash drive plugged into the front USB port, audio from shared folders on a networked PC (via Microsoft’s Windows Media Connect 2.0), and podcasts and Internet radio stations (via an Internet connection to the Vtuner database).
DRM issues do spoil the party somewhat: You can’t stream protected audio files from your PC, and you can’t even access unprotected tunes stored on a connected MP3 player’s media partition—songs must be stored on the data partition. And why can’t you stream video over Ethernet? The remote control, meanwhile, is limited to browsing, starting, and stopping tracks.
None of these restrictions apply to an iPod, because Yamaha’s YDS-10SL feeds remote-control instructions to the player and accesses its analog audio and video outputs via the dock. This deprives you of the receiver’s exquisite 192KHz/24-bit Burr-Brown DAC on the audio side, but we’ve never seen the iPod’s low-res video look so good.
The RX-V2700 features an improved version of Yamaha’s Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer, a tool we first encountered with the company’s YSP-800 Digital Sound Projector. To calibrate the RX-V2700 and your speakers for your specific listening environment, set the omni-directional mic at ear level in your normal sitting position; plug the mic into the receiver’s front panel; and press a couple buttons on the remote. The YPAO takes care of the rest, including testing the polarity of your speakers to ensure they’re wired properly. If you don’t like the results, you can override any of its choices.
The day you run out of inputs to the RX-V2700 is the day you’ve acquired too many toys (or too many Monster cables—the optical jacks on the back are so close together that we couldn’t insert two of these cables next to each other because their oversized plugs wouldn’t fit.) In addition to the aforementioned PC-centric devices, the receiver accommodates everything from old-school turntables to XM satellite radio (the latter requires an optional antenna and a subscription). You’ll find three HDMI inputs and one HDMI output on the back, although none are the HDMI 1.3 connectors needed to carry the new high-definition audio formats Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD in their encoded form. But to be fair, no other A/V receiver on today’s market supports these codecs, either.
Seven discrete amplifiers deliver a pristine 140 watts each. That was more than enough power to blow the doors off our 16x19-foot living-room test environment, but the amp never sounded harsh or overbearing. If that’s not enough power, you can connect an external amp—or amps, if you really want to go nuts—to pre-outs for the front, center, surround, and subwoofer channels, as well as the back-surround (the 7 in “7.1”) and an eighth “Presence” channel that’s unique to Yamaha’s Cinema DSP algorithms.
The RX-V2700 is packed with other features, too. It’s capable of supplying a second zone with independent audio and video content, for example, and a third zone with independent audio. We’re disappointed with the streaming-audio feature and the MP3-player support—they certainly aren’t worth giving up a Sonos system or even a Squeezebox. Sure, we end users can figure out ways around the roadblocks from which our disappointment stems; but we’ll save our Kick Ass award for the manufacturer that takes them out of our path.
Month Reviewed: December 2006
+ IN THE ZONE: Plenty of power, crammed with features, sounds sublime.
- ZONED OUT: The industry still hasn’t figured out how to make DRM make sense for consumers.