NEW YEAR, NEW BREED...
Yamaha’s 2014 receivers are rolling out, and this nicely-priced RX-V577 offers an impressive collection of smart stuff via built-in Wi-Fi.
One strange thing about AV receivers is that while they were among the first devices to become network enabled, very few have since appeared with Wi-Fi support built in. Yamaha’s budget seven-channel home theatre receiver, the RX-V577, deals with that, having Wi-Fi built in and ready to go.
The receiver is generally quite well equipped in addition to that Wi-Fi (and of course Ethernet) network support. Its seven power amplifiers are rated at 80W across the full audio bandwidth at just 0.09% distortion, two channels driven. But that’s with a six-ohm loudspeaker load. Converting naively (e.g. without taking account of the lower load on the power supply) to eight ohms, that would come to 60W per channel, a mere 1.25 decibels less in output.
More importantly, the unit is only designed for loudspeakers of six ohms or greater impedance, so if you have your heart set on a particular set of loudspeakers rated at four ohms, look elsewhere for your receiver.
Many receivers at higher prices offer multiple zones, and even at this price Yamaha here offers a limited Zone B capability. The limitation is twofold. First, the only connections provided are at speaker level, using two of the seven amplifier channels to drive Zone B speakers — there are no line-level Zone B outputs. Second, the main zone and Zone B cannot work from independent source devices. If both zones are operating, then both will play sound from the same source. Zone B does, however, mix down surround sound content to stereo (for obvious reasons).
If you’re running in only 5.1 surround, you can instead use those spare two amplifiers to help bi-amp the front speakers. There’s no opportunity to switch amp functions electronically between those three different purposes — they all share the same pair of loudspeaker terminals, so you’d need to change the wiring each time.
At the rear of the V577, the most unusual thing is the Wi-Fi antenna that pokes about 60mm above the top of the unit. There are six HDMI inputs at the rear (none at the front) plus an assortment of legacy inputs, although there’s no phono stage for turntables, nor legacy S-Video connections.)
A USB socket on the front panel supports playback of music files from sticks or drives, and the connection of iPod and iOS devices for playback of their audio contents. Next to that is a convenient 3.5mm analogue audio input for easy ad hoc connection of other devices, say Android phones loaded up with music. Finally, also on the front, is a proper 6.5mm headphone output.
The remote is standard Yamaha: not very fancy but cleanly laid out and easy to use. In addition — especially if you’re planning on streaming music from your network — you should install the Yamaha A/V app onto your Android or iOS device. In addition to controlling the unit, it provides a highly convenient means of scrolling through all the artists and albums and so on in your recording collections, choosing what you want to play.
The receiver offers a relatively basic on-screen display — text and basic graphics, and delivered at 576p, and without the attractive design of Yamaha’s higher-level models. Nor does it fire up first time with a ‘wizard’ to guide you through set-up — but the manual (provided on CD) is clear enough, and the YMAO automatic calibration system is readily accessible, so new purchasers should be able to manage it all quite well.
There are a number of options for connecting to the network. The simplest is, of course, simply plugging in an Ethernet network cable and selecting ‘Wired’ as the set-up option.
To go wireless there are manual and PIN and WPS button methods, and also a ‘Share WiFi Settings (iOS)’ option. With this one you plug into the receiver’s USB socket an iOS device that is already connected to the wireless network. Select the option on the receiver, press ‘Allow’ on the pop-up that appears on your device, and it’s all done.
Initially it wouldn’t work with my iPad Mini. The problem was that the receiver works only on the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band whereas my iPad Mini was connected to the 5GHz band in my office. I changed it to 2.4GHz and the sharing worked as promised. This ought to be noted in the manual.
The wireless network is limited to the ‘b’ and ‘g’ modes, not the newer and higher capacity ‘n’ or ‘ac’ modes. Nonetheless it comfortably supported streaming of 24-bit, 192kHz FLAC music.
The network music performance was excellent, once I’d switched off the ‘Compressed Music Enhancer’ circuit. This was switched on by default — even with FLAC. By the standards of such things, it didn’t do too much damage, but it did tend to make the music fuller in the lower midrange and more upfront, shedding a bit of stage depth in the process.
A sensible range of music formats were supported both from network streaming and from plugged-in USB media: MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC, AAC and ALAC. That nicely supports both mainstream Windows and Mac music collections. The high resolution versions of WAV, FLAC and ALAC are supported up to 192kHz (96kHz for ALAC), although two channel only in all cases. It also handless gapless playback, where encoded into the files.
Both the Android and iOS apps were fairly intuitive, and while controlling streaming sources using the on-screen menu and the standard remote was doable, thanks to list jump options, the whole thing was far more effective with an app.
The receiver also supports Apple AirPlay, so you can stream music to it from iTunes on your computer, or from your iOS device. And it supports DLNA so you can just call it up, AirPlay style, from the music player app on your Android device. It took a few minutes before my iPad Mini noticed that the receiver was available for AirPlay — I’d decided to switch over to an iPod touch, where it was available before the iPad found it. After first connection there was no further fussiness, and selecting the receiver as the AirPlay output device saw a gap of only a few seconds before the music was being produced by the receiver. My Android devices found the receiver instantly and acted about as quickly on connecting.
Also provided on the unit is vTuner for access to several tens of thousands of internet radio stations, plus Spotify, Spotify Connect and Pandora. For Spotify you need a paid subscription.
I should add that throughout this review I relied entirely on the Wi-Fi connection, not once connecting an Ethernet cable. There was never once a stutter or interruption in streaming performance.
On the more traditional front, the receiver did its job with no fuss and generally fine performance. I used it with a very high quality pair of stereo loudspeakers and also a set of surround speakers costing more than three times the price of the receiver. It delivered fine sound from both.
I did have to intervene after the YMAO automatic calibration, though, because it set the diminutive centre loudspeaker to ‘Large’ rather than ‘Small’. Only one subwoofer crossover frequency is available for all the ‘Small’ loudspeakers in your system.
The sound with stereo music, surround music and surround movies was, well, pretty damned good. It was clean, well defined, precise in imaging, and balanced. You can make use of the parametric equaliser (the receiver sets up adjustments during calibration) or skip it for a less manipulated result. The power on tap provided room-filling and engaging sound with the moderate sensitivity loudspeakers I was using. If you use unusually low sensitivity loudspeakers then this receiver may not be a wise choice, but otherwise, it was fun and lively.
There’s a touch of pandering to the lowest denominator with the inclusion of an ‘Extra Bass’ button on the remote. Thankfully this is fairly mild in effect. There’s also a ‘Virtual Cinema Front’ mode, which lets you place your surround speakers at the front of the room and try to fake a surround sound effect, for reasons that are far from obvious to me.
There is no video processing by the unit, nor any video conversion. If you want to input composite or component video, then you’ll need to connect, respectively, the composite or component video outputs to your TV. But even though the on-screen menus were both basic and delivered in 576p without any underlying signal, they happily overlaid any and all video standards delivered over HDMI, even 3D and even 4K signals — although in the latter case, the bitmap-generated menus were almost too small to be seen effectively on a 55-inch LG UHD.
There’s one final thought here — about where the industry is heading. Last year’s RX-V575, which this model replaces, did not offer Wi-Fi, but did include MHL support for one of its HDMI inputs. MHL is a standard by which Android devices can be connected to home entertainment devices in order to play back their contents while being charged. Yamaha has reversed the status in this model: Wi-Fi included, but MHL dropped. Which does make us wonder about the future of MHL as a standard.
Obviously the Yamaha RX-V577 is a highly competent AV receiver at its price. The Wi-Fi will benefit many users, and seemed not to compromise network performance at all. It’s loaded with smarts, including internet radio and Spotify, while AirPlay and DLNA make music streaming a breeze. Moving up the range will add more power and eventually more channels, should you need them, but with average and above average sensitivity speakers, the V577 proved a highly capable unit at an attractive price.
Yamaha RX-V577 networked AV receiver
Plus: Wi-Fi networking, Good overall home theatre performance, Good selection of digital audio formats to support
Minus: Not suitable for 4-ohm loudspeakers, Not suitable for low sensitivity loudspeakers
Tested with Firmware: 1.07
Rated power: 7 x 80W (6 ohms, 20-20,000Hz, 0.09% THD, two channels driven)
Inputs: 6 x HDMI (0 front), 2 x component video, 0 x S-Video, 4 x composite video, 3 x analogue stereo, 1 x 3.5mm analogue stereo (front panel) 0 x 7.1 analogue, 0 x phono, 1 x optical digital, 2 x coaxial digital, 1 x USB (front panel), 1 x Ethernet, Wi-Fi
Outputs: 1 x HDMI, 1 x component video, 0 x S-Video, 2 x composite video, 1 x analogue stereo, 0 x 7.1 analogue pre out, 1 x 6.5mm headphone, 7 pairs speaker binding posts
Zone: assignable amplifiers, Zone B source must be same as Zone A
Other: 1 x 5V power outlet, 1 x calibration microphone
Dimensions (whd): 435 x 161 x 315mm
Warranty: Two years
Yamaha Music Australia RX-V577product page
Who Sells What: Yamaha Music