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We reviewed this Yamaha RX-V671 immediately after the  packing up of its big, big, big sibling, the Yamaha ‘Aventage’ RX-A3010. That $2699 receiver had been justly awarded by Sound+Image for its all-round excellence. The RX-671, however, is Yamaha’s entry-level ‘network’ receiver. There are a couple of Yamaha AV receivers lower in price than this one’s $1099, but they do not have Ethernet sockets, and are thus not open to the wider world of media that is now available.

So the question arises, what exactly do you lose in the way of capabilities if you spend $1099 rather than $2699 for a Network receiver from Yamaha?

Equipment
The most obvious difference, in traditional terms, is that rather than nine 150W channels of amplification, you get seven 90W channels (into 8 ohms, 20-20,000Hz, 0.09% THD, two channels driven). Unlike the big unit, this one has no preamplifier outputs aside from the recording loops and for the subwoofer, so you are limited to this power capability, with no upgrade path. Still, 90W is nothing to be sneered at, especially if you sensibly choose reasonably sensitive loudspeakers.

You also don’t get a phono input, nor 7.1-channel analogue inputs (which are useful, basically, for legacy devices such as pre-HDMI DVD Audio and SACD players). But hey, it’s 2011; time to upgrade! The receiver of course accepts multichannel PCM over HDMI, but it will also accept Direct Stream Digital audio over HDMI from SACD players.

If you have a source device which you particularly love but which is limited to S-Video as its best output, this receiver will be a problem, because it does not support S-Video in any way. However it does have two sets of component video inputs (and one output), and has composite video inputs (including on the front panel), a monitor output and a recording loop. VCR anyone?

The higher Yamaha has eight HDMI inputs, so you’d expect this one to have fewer. And it does, but only by one. And one of its seven is conveniently on the front panel.

As is the USB socket. This supports regular USB mass storage devices, and also iPod/iPhone/iPad for audio only. If you want to get video out of your iPod/iPhone (bearing in mind that they can deliver only SD quality at best), then you’ll need the optional YDS-12 dock ($179) which plugs into a proprietary port at the back. Also compatible with this port are Yamaha’s YID-W10 wireless iPod/iPhone dock transmitter and receiver system ($249), and its YBA-10 Bluetooth receiver ($179).

With mass storage devices the USB socket supports MP3, AAC, WMA (lossy, but not lossless), WAV (up to 96kHz) and FLAC (up to 96kHz).

You don’t get the RS-232C port that’s on the big unit — something of use to system integrators — but you do get Yamaha’s remote control in/out to allow several Yammie devices to be daisy-chained together for convenient control, plus a 12V output trigger. The unit, as I discovered during the review period, monitors its home base via its network connection and lets you know if a new firmware update becomes available. Say ‘Yes’ and it upgrades itself automatically, and at a somewhat snappier pace than is often the case with AV receivers.

Performance
The amplifiers are fairly flexible in their application. You can set the unit to support seven-channel sound in the main room, with two of the amps switching between the rear surround channels and the front height channels (which Yamaha calls ‘Front Presence’) according to the sound program selected. Or you can have it switch between 7.1-channel sound (with rear surround speakers) and 5.1-channel sound plus Zone 2. Or you can set two of the amps to additionally power the front stereo speakers for a bi-amped system.

The unit, as is Yamaha’s practice, eschews Dolby Pro Logic IIz. The signals fed to its height speakers, when set, are from Yamaha’s own long-standing DSP modes, of which it has many. Unlike the Aventage model, it cannot deliver both front height and rear surround at the same time, but must choose between them.

For those of a purist bent, this won’t be a problem. The receiver properly supports 5.1- or 7.1-channel Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, and all lesser formats. And that’s all that the purist needs. You also get a ‘Pure Direct’ mode which switches off unnecessary parts of the system in addition to disabling virtually all processing.

The automatic calibration is Yamaha’s own YPAO system. It comes with a microphone, and aside from the usual distances and level setting, it can EQ the room and your loudspeakers. One cool feature of Yamaha’s system is that you get several ways to apply the data that it gathers. By default the receiver sets itself to ‘Natural’, which adjusts the EQ curve to correct your room and loudspeakers to what Yamaha considers to be natural sound. But if you like you can instead choose ‘Flat’, which as the name suggests is intended to give you the flattest possible frequency response in your room.