AV RECEIVERS

 

AV RECEIVERS

The multichannel, multi-feature complexity of AV receivers usually goes hand in hand with a hefty price tag. But Yamaha’s 7.2 channel RX-V585 links immersive sonics to an extensive features list – for a lot less than expected …

By Deon Schoeman

AV receivers have always been complex devices, stuffed to the brim with multiple amplifiers, D/A converters, DSP chips, video processors and tuners.

However, that complexity has intensified over time – the current batch of AV receivers now also typically include wired and wireless connectivity, multiroom compatibility, object-based surround formats and network streaming.

As a result, the latest generation of AV receivers are able to offer a lot more than making movie watching memorable. They’ve become multi-faceted entertainment hubs, offering everything from music streaming services access to multiroom playback – and more.

You’d expect all of those features and capabilities to be reflected in an equally daunting price tag. However, that’s not always the case: the newly launched Yamaha RX-V585 proves that affordability, at least in relative terms, can be part of the package, too.

AT FACE VALUE

The RX-V585 reflects Yamaha’s typically clean, no-nonsense approach, with a fascia offering oversightly switchgear and a clearly legible display. The all-black receiver’s front panel places the display above the key switchgear, while also accommodating USB and auxiliary stereo inputs.

While it’s useful to have clearly marked, well laid out front panel controls, the reality is that most users will operate the Yamaha using the supplied remote control handset. In this case, the handset also focuses on ease of use, with contrasting and even colour-coded buttons.

The only shortcoming is the absence of any backlighting which makes finding the correct button difficult in darkened rooms. At least the volume up/down and source buttons are finished in white, which makes them more visible.

An attractive alternative is the Yamaha AV Controller app, which allows intuitive and seamless control of the AVR. It’s Android and iOS compatible and is by far the easiest (and most satisfying) way to access and control the AVR. MusicCast has its own app, which handles the multiroom side of things.

The rear panel keeps things simple by logically grouping the various inputs. Thus, the analogue audio and video inputs are located together, next to all the digital inputs, while the HDMI inputs and sole output are arranged in a row above them.

The RX-V585 makes provision for two line-level subwoofer outputs, designed to be used in conjunction with active subwoofers. The presence of two antennas confirms that the receiver is 802.11 Wi-Fi capable, and can also act as a Bluetooth receiver.

For those who prefer the stability and throughput of wired networking, there’s a 10/100 Ethernet port, too.

The seven speaker binding post sets make provision for either a 7.2 setup with back surround speakers, or for a 5.1 arrangement with two channels then freed up to perform height-based surround duties via Dolby Atmos or DTS:X.

There’s also the option of operating these two channels as a second zone in a different room – although, as we’ll see, the Yamaha offers more convenient ways to achieve multiroom functionality. Or, you can opt to bi-amp the front main channels in a 5.1 configuration.

FUNCTIONS AND FEATURES

As I pointed out at the beginning of this review, the RX-V585 is packed with features.

Some you’d expect of most current AV receivers: Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio compatibility (together with older legacy formats), 4K video pass-through and upscaling with Dolby Vision, a selection of DSP-propagated sound fields, and HDMI with Audio Return Channel functionality.

But despite is low-to-mid pricing, the Yamaha offers a whole lot more. Object-based Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround formats are included, as is full networking capability via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. Add Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay and MusicCast, and the connectivity on offer is comprehensive.

Once connected to a network, the Yamaha can access streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal and Deezer. It will also recognise and access music libraries on network-attached server devices. And you can link a source such as a smart device via Bluetooth, and listen to material from that device.

If it’s an Apple device running iOS, hooking it up to the Yamaha is even simpler using Apple AirPlay. Or, you could choose to listen to any of the literally thousands of Internet radio stations. Of course, conventional terrestrial FM and AM radio is also available via the built-in tuner.

Multiroom is an emerging trend in AV receiver terms. Running a second set of speakers in another room has been an option on many AVRs for some time now, but being able to share content with multiple speakers on the same network is a whole new ball game.

Yamaha’s multiroom technology is called MusicCast, and it allows all compatible devices linked to the same network to communicate. In other words, you could play the same song from a server on the network to some or all MusicCast devices on the same network.

In the home theatre context, an interesting application of MusicCast is using wireless surround speakers and subwoofers. Arriving in SA soon, these speakers allow surround sound speaker configurations without running any speaker cables.

MusicCast is also compatible with Amazon Alexa, a voice control protocol used with a variety of Amazon devices. In other words, you could use Alexa to find and play music via the RX-V585.

While purists may frown at the thought, Yamaha’s AV receivers have become synonymous DSP-generated sound fields, based on actual venues such as clubs, stadiums and concert halls.

The idea is to recreate the ambience and acoustic character of these venues to enhance the music and movie experience. Just how effective these DSP effects are depends on set-up and personal preference.

UNDER THE COVERS

Even a fairly modest AVR such as the RX-V585 features close attention to detail as far as circuit layout, component choice and power regulation are concerned.

Fully discrete power amplifiers are provided for each channel, while the analogue and digital sections each get their own power supplies to prevent interference and ensure signal integrity.

Looking after audio-specific digital-to-analogue conversion is a quartet of Burr-Brown 384 kHz/32-bit D/A converters, while the volume control features a sound quality-focussed IC.

Large internal heat sinks reduce operating temperatures, while the chassis has been designed to address vibration.

Yamaha’s specs credit the RX-V585 with 80 watts per channel, which should be ample for small-to-medium rooms and reasonably efficient loudspeakers.

SETTING UP

The RX-V585 was hooked up to our regular home theatre review system, comprising an Oppo BDP-95 universal disc player, Atlantic Technology 7.1 speaker system, and an Optoma HD80 DLP projector.

Once connected to the office network via Ethernet, the Yamaha also had access to the music library stored on our Synology 214se NAS, and we were able to log into Spotify, Deezer and Tidal.

I experienced an unexpected snag when trying to hook up the Optoma projector, however: the projector recognised but could not display the signal received from the Yamaha. I eventually resorted to hauling out our old Sony Bravia FHD television form the storeroom, which didn’t experience any issues.

The issue here may be one of HDMI version compatibility and the fairly long HDMI cable used to link the Yamaha to the projector. That said, our regular Marantz SR-6011 AVR has no problems relaying video to the Optoma using the same cable.

Network hook-up was as easy as plugging in an Ethernet cable connected to the router: the Yamaha then recognised the network, used DHCP to glean an IP address, and promptly looked for a firmware upgrade – which it found and installed.

Like all Yamaha receivers, the RX-V585 employs Yamaha’s proprietary, automated calibration system. Dubbed YPAO (for Yamaha Parametric Acoustic Optimiser) it uses a small microphone and a pre-programmed series of test tones to quickly and easily set speaker distances and levels.

Other set-up options are accessed via the on-screen set-up menu, which is easy to navigate. No rocket science required!

YPAO has got progressively better over the years, and the results are typically spot on, except where extreme room anomalies make accurate measurement problematic. The AVSA listening room posed no such problems.

The RX-V585 was a brand new unit, and so spent its first 50 hours being run in before I sat down for some movie watching – and music listening.

As we don’t have a 4K projector or television, we didn’t test the video capabilities of the Yamaha beyond 1080p levels. Similarly, we preferred a conventional 7.1 setup to a 3.2.2 Atmos configuration in the absence of Atmos speakers.

INSIDE THE THEATRE …

In practice, the Yamaha is a likeable, versatile and user-friendly AV receiver that goes about its movie and music business with unflustered aplomb. As already intimated, it’s easy to operate, either via the remote control, or better still, using the app.

The latter has the benefit of showing all the pertinent info on the smart device screen, and being easy to use regardless of how dim the ambient light is. The remote is a useful backup, and more than viable on its own, though.

I kicked off my review session with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The opening battle scene showed off the ability of the RX-V585 to make full use of the 7.1 channels to create an immersive and thoroughly engaging movie experience.

The effects were powerful and precisely rendered, creating a believable surround sound environment which placed the viewer in the epicentre of the action.

The gunfire, exploding bombs and fighter flypasts were executed with spatial and temporal accuracy, and while the action remained front-focussed (as it should to match the visuals), the left/right, front/back and cross-channel steering allows for a real sense of dimension.

The sound always closely tracked the action, adding to the overall sense of involvement. During the Fathier escape, the thunderous progress of the beasts was closely followed, but the Yamaha also managed to perfectly reproduce the more subtle effects emerging from the mayhem: tinkling coins, rattling cups, the sound of a piano being played in the background ….

Dialogue was always well projected and sounded clear throughout, despite the spectacular effects.

Moving on to Blade Runner 2049, the apocalyptic landscapes were almost eerily underscored by the movie’s sweeping soundtrack during the opening scenes, as K, the Blade Runner, soars over monochromatic vistas.

The overall sense of dread and tension was almost tangible, emphasised by the sound design, which uses thunderstorm effects and long silences to underpin the growing sense of trepidation.

The hollow sound of K’s footsteps in the replicant’s house, the steaming pot on the stove, the closing of the door as the repliicant walks in, and the dimly lit living room all add to the suspense, which escalates into a physical confrontation.

The Yamaha ably expressed the on-screen spaces and ambience, as well as the brutality and the inhumaneness as the Blade Runner prepares to kill Morton.

The imagery and the sound are closely bound and the Yamaha retained that bond cohesively and convincingly. There was a believable sense of pace and momentum, and again, steering was impactful and effective.

The sparse dialogue remained well-projected, while effects steering was impressively seamless, seemingly unrestrained by the physical position of the speakers.

Movie soundtrack superstar Hans Zimmer’s live concert in Prague is hugely entertaining, but it’s also a tough test of any system – especially in multichannel terms.

The recording captures the electricity of the performance, the ambience of the venue, and the excitement of the audience. It also manages to showcase individual performances, while never losing sight of the music as a whole.

The Yamaha made the most of the expansive, wide-open surround soundscape to recreate the sense of space in the concert hall. However, the sonic viewpoint remains that of the audience listening to the performance, adding to the overall sense of involvement.

Despite the dense and busy arrangements, there was a sense of composure and clarity to the Yamaha’s performance which emphasises just how far it punches above its weight. It captured and projected the full impact of the music, yet always remains cognisant of every voice and instrument by making the most of the lucid, accessible mix.

Switching to the stereo soundtrack robbed the sound of some of its immersive qualities. The delivery lacked the substance and the dimensionality, mainly because much of the ambient information became compressed.

That said, the Yamaha managed to make full use the two channels at its disposal and still spread the music deep and wide. The receiver sounded energetic, and its talent for extracting and projecting detail remained undiminished.

In that sense, the Yamaha acquitted itself well in a stereo role, happily tackling the specific challenges of reproducing stereo music as opposed to a multichannel soundtrack.

SOUNDS LIKE

On that subject, it’s worth mentioning that the Yamaha’s Burr-Brown DACS allow it to handle high-def PCM and DSD music files. It will read PCM data streams at up to 192 kHz/24-bit, as well as DSD up to DSD256.

It supports most popular music file formats, including WAV, MP3, WMA, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and DSD.

The Yamaha had no problem recognising NAS devices on the AVSA network, and was able to play all high-res material I threw at it, including DSD. The sound was competent and pacy, with good rendering of detail and a believable, involving stereo image.

I used the Yamaha’s UPnP functionality to look up and play La Segunda’ Sera Una Noche, a Reference Recordings 176/24 WAV-encoded album.

On ‘Nunca Tuvo Novio’, the power of the female vocalist and the timbre of the accompanying cello the singer were reproduced with a truthfulness of sound and ambience that made for entertaining listening.

Staging was accurate, and the Yamaha managed to project a finely delineated sound image that precisely placed each instrument on the atmospheric soundstage. I sometimes felt that some of the music’s cohesion was glossed over, but that may also be due to the nature of the recording.

Certainly, there was plenty of cohesion when listening to Eva Taylor’s rendition of ‘Everybody Loves My Baby’ off the Opus3 label’s DSD Showcase 3. The DSD128 recording is a real sparkler, and the Yamaha was able to make the most of the atmospherics, with the singer up front, backed by the jazz ensemble, and the sound reflecting the clubby atmosphere to a tee.

Tonally, the RX-V585 can err on the bright side, and as a result can be unforgiving of poorer digital recordings displaying a tendency for glare or bite. However, that’s to be expected, given its penchant for accuracy and pinpoint surround steering in the multichannel context.

ALTERNATIVES

For those on a tight budget seeking something more affordable that the RX-V585, Yamaha also has two more affordable models in this latest line-up.

Yamaha RX-V485 is more affordable, but only offers 5.1 configuration

For about R1 500 less, there’s the RX-485, which offers a 5.1 channel configuration, and does without Dolby Atmos/DTS:X. It’s sonically similar to the RX-V585, and has the same per-channel output, while also offering access to streaming services and MusicCast features.

Need to save more? The RX-V385 5.1 AV receiver is slightly less powerful and doesn’t offer any networking features, but is still 4K compatible, and offers Bluetooth connectivity – all for less than R7k.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Yamaha RX-V585 offers a lot of features and capabilities for its modest asking price. Not only can it do a lot, but it does most of those things really well.

Home theatre fans with larger rooms and less efficient speakers will want more power, and while the Yamaha is competent in a music-only role, its real talents are centred around its treatment of multichannel movies, and its outright versatility.

Add its comprehensive network-based streaming and multiroom capabilities, a slick user interface, keen pricing and a super-easy but effective set-up regimen, and the RX-V585 ticks all the important home entertainment boxes.

VITAL STATS
Channels: 7.2
Power output: 80 watts (20 Hz – 20 kHz, 6 ohms, 0,09% THD)
Surround sound formats: Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD Master Audio and below
Object-based surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X
Audio DACs: 4x Burr-Brown 384 kHz/32-bit
Frequency response: 10 Hz – 100 kHz (+0,-3 dB)
Signal-to-noise ratio: >110 dB
HDMI inputs/outputs: 4/1
AV inputs/outputs: 3/1
Audio inputs: 5 (including stereo minijack on front panel)
Digital inputs: 2x coaxial RCA, 1x Toslink optical, USB Type A (front panel)
Connectivity: Ethernet, 802.11 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apple Airplay, MusicCast
Dimensions (WxDxH): 435 x 327 x 161 mm
Weight: 8,1 kg
PRICE
R10 980
SUPPLIED BY
Balanced Audio

SOFTWARE
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Blu-ray)
Blade Runner 2049 (Blu-ray)
Hans Zimmer – Live in Prague (Blu-ray)
La Segunda – Sera Una Noche (Reference Recordings 176/24 WAV)
Various – Opus3 DSD Showcase (Opus3 DSD)

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT
Marantz SR6011 AV receiver
Oppo BDP-95EU universal player
Atlantic Technologies 7.1 surround speaker system
Sony Bravia FHD LCD television
Optoma HD80 DLP projector
Synology DS-214se NAS

Pioneer’s VSX-LX-302 AV receiver may be some way off the brand’s top-of-the-range models, but it offers a surprising level of features, with performance to match – all at a value-added price.

Given how much circuitry has to be packed into a single enclosure, the modern home theatre receiver has to be considered one of the most complex expressions of the consumer electronics art.

Just think about it: multiple, individually amplified channels, digital signal processing, digital-to-analogue conversion, wired and wireless network connectivity, multiroom capability, video processing … the list goes on and on.

In that context, it stands to reason that acquiring a new AV receiver can represent a sizeable investment. That said, it’s also a highly competitive segment, with top brands vying for the attentions of would-be buyers.

AT FACE VALUE

The Pioneer VSX-LX302 is priced in the sub-R15k AV receiver category, but a closer look at the spec sheet suggests that it’s keen to punch above its weight. The design is smart and ergonomically intuitive, with a well laid out fascia and a large, legible display.

Switchgear is kept to a minimum and well labelled in the interests of ease of use, and the presence of USB, HDMI and stereo minijack inputs, as well as a headphone jack, add further convenience.

The rear panel is a lot busier, as one would expect of a full-featured AV receiver. On offer are  no less than six HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs, with the main HDMI output being ARC compatible.

Both analogue and digital audio are catered for. The revitalised interest in vinyl playback is acknowledged via a MM-compatible phono input set.

Network connectivity is confirmed by the presence of an Ethernet socket (dual-band 802.11 Wi-Fi is also included), while there are two subwoofer outputs, a stereo pre-output set for Zone 2 use. Dual antennas provide the necessary wireless connectivity for W-Fi and Bluetooth.

The nine binding post sets include a pair for height speakers to accommodate Dolby Atmos and DTS:X functionality.

While the supplied remote control handset provides full access to the Pioneer’s feature set, the excellent Pioneer remote app (free on both iOS and Android) is an even better option for set-ups making use of the LX302’s network connectivity.

UNDER THE COVERS

Power output is generous, and surround capability not includes the latest Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, but also object-based Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

The 7.2 receiver offers sophisticated D/A conversion via multiple AKM 4458 chips, operating at a maximum resolution of 384 kHz/32-bit. Digital signal processing is performed by a quad-core Cirrus Logic processor.

The Pioneer will play back PCM-based high-res audio files (WAV, FLAC, AIFF and ALAC) at up to 192 kHz/24-bit, and DSD files at 2,8 and 5,4 MHz from USB and network sources. It stands to reason that the Pioneer is DLNA and UPnP compatible, allowing it to access network sources such as NAS drives.

Versatility is further enhanced via on-board DTS Play-Fi, FireConnect and Apple AirPlay, whil TuneIn provides an extensive, searchable list of Internet radio stations. It also offers integrated support for Tidal, Deezer and Spotify music streaming services.

Video is equally comprehensively catered for: the Pioneer supports Ultra-HD pass-through with HDCP 2.2, as well as HDR10, BT.2020 and 36-b it Deep Colour. It’s compatible with Dolby Vision, and upscales video to 1080p and 4K.

If you want the full run-down on technical features, you can find a comprehensive listing and explanation, plus pertinent downloads, here.

SETTING UP

The Pioneer was hooked up to our resident Atlantic Technology speaker system, with source material provided via an Oppo BDP-95EU and a Synology 214se NAS. The unit was brand new, and thus afforded some time to run in, as well as downloading and installing the latest available firmware.

Video playback was via our usual Optoma HD80 1080p projector, so I didn’t try out the Pioneer’s 4K video pass-through or upscaling capabilities.

The Pioneer offers a proprietary calibration system dubbed MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration System) which uses a supplied microphone to measure a test tone sequence, and then identifies, checks and sets up the levels and delay settings for the connected speaker system.

The entire process takes about seven minutes, and the result was impressively effective, ensuring excellent channel integration, flawless low-frequency effects, and seamless surround sound staging.

Of course, you can also set up the surround adjustments manually to better suit personal preference, but frankly the MCACC system worked so well that there seemed little need to tweak the settings subsequently.

PERFORMS LIKE …

Once the Pioneer had been allowed to settle in for 50 hours or so, it delivered a rich and entertaining movie experience. Quantum of Solace on Blu-ray remains one of my go-to movies for both its dynamic soundtrack and impressive action sequences.

The Pioneer rose to the occasion, delivering a fast, agile and eager sound with plenty of impact and impetus. While the receiver tended towards a certain brightness at the upper end of the tonal scale initially, it soon settled down, suggesting that it dserves a slightly longer burn-in period than the 50 hours allocated.

Even then, the overall sonic signature remained clean and open, allowing full and unequivocal access to the sheer impetus and impact of the soundtrack.

The action sequences of this movie are accompanied by such a sonically dense soundtrack that it presents any AVR with a stern challenge – not only in terms of tonal spread, but also to accurately track the on-screen action.

The early action sequences between James Bond’s Aston-Martin and the chasing Alfa Romeos is a good case in point: it’s punctuated by punchy impacts, staccato gunfire and anguished car engines, all linked to fast-paced, almost chaotic footage.

The Pioneer picked its way through all the visual and sonic action with composure and aplomb, zooming into and out of the action with brisk confidence. It never lagged behind the action, and took even the most extreme dynamic swings in its stride.

But the receiver was also adept at recreating ambience and atmosphere, while it projected dialogue with just the right measure of weight and nuance. Most of all, it steered clear of making the surround sound effects seem gimmicky or artificial, instead creating a smooth and immersive sound field that added to an overall sense of realism and engagement.

While the Pioneer’s primary role will be to deliver movies with the necessary gusto and precision, its talents extend to treating music with the necessary deference and enthusiasm, too.

Given its ability to deal with high-res PCM and DSD files, that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, especially given that its arsenal of features includes the ability to select a shorter, optimised signal path via the source direct mode.

Listening to Chris Botti Live in surround sound, the Pioneer made the most of the performance’s energy and verve, recreating the ambience of the venue, and also capturing the enthusiasm of the audience.

The music was presented with plenty of pace and honesty, easily penetrating the multiple layers of the arrangement, while maintaining a strong sense of musical equilibrium. It was able to reflect the presence and stature of the Boston Pops Orchestra while still spotlighting Botti’s virtuoso trumpeting, as well as the slick backing band.

Switching to the stereo soundtrack showed off the Pioneer’s penchant for clarity, imaging and staging: the music was still painted in broad, bold strokes, and there was a pervasive sense of three-dimensionality that came close to the surround mix for immersive quality.

I wasn’t as convinced by the DSP-created surround modes, though: they sounded too contrived, and while they do have novelty value, and may please sports fans or gamers in some cases, I found little reason to select any of the modes above the umolested stereo and Dolby Digital/DTS modes on offer.

Thanks to the proprietary remote app, accessing the LX302’s many features was never overly challenging. That extended to navigating the music and video library on the Synology NAS, and automatically identifying the programme material.

The AVR’s treatment of video was equally satisfying throughout, treating the picture material emanating from the Oppo with honesty and deference to both colour spread and visual detail. Upscaling from DVD to 1080p represented a useful improvement, although it couldn’t match true FHD in fine detail and texture terms.

THE BOTTOM LINE

In many ways, the LX-302 looks and performs more like a flagship AV receiver than a midrange unit. It has features and the prowess to make movies and music come alive, while it delivers is sonic wares with plenty of verve, too.

Add believable surround and stereo imaging, expansive staging and a real talent for musicality to the equation, and the VSX-LX302 also delivers value in spades.

 

By DEON SCHOEMAN
PROS
Loads of features. Great with movies and music. Keen pricing.
CONS
DSP surround modes don’t convince.

VITAL STATS

Channels: 7.1
Power output: 7x 100 watts (8 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0.08 % THD)
Surround sound formats:
– Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio
– Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DTS:Neo
DSP: Cirrus Logic quad-core
Audio DAC: AKM 4458, 384 kHz/24-bit
Frequency response: 5 Hz – 100 kHz (-3 dB)
Signal-to-noise ratio: 106 dB (line in, IHF, A-rated)
HDMI: 7x inputs, 2x outputs
Video inputs: 1x component, 2x composite
Audio inputs: 4x line-level stereo, 1x MM phono, 1x stereo minijack
Audio outputs: 2x subwoofer, 1x stereo pre-out, 1x stereo headphone jack
Digital inputs: 1x RCA coaxial, 2x Toslink optical, 2x USB Type A
Connectivity:
– Ethernet, 802.11 Wi-Fi, A2DP Bluetooth 4.1
– Apple AirPlay, DTS Play-Fi, Fireconnect
Dimensions (WxHxD): 435 x 173 x 371 mm
Weight: 10,0 kg
PRICE
R14 990
SUPPLIED BY
Volco Enterprises

TESTED WITH
Optoma HD80 DLP projector
Oppo BDP-95EU universal player
Marantz SR-6011 AV receiver
Atlantic Technology 7.1 speaker system

SOFTWARE
Quantum Of Solace (Blu-ray)
Chris Botti –Live In Boston (Blu-ray)
Boz Scaggs Live (DVD)