Yamaha RX-V2200 A/V Receiver
It can be a daunting task for some: dipping your toes into the deeper end of the home theater pool and crossing over the $1,000, advanced-swim rope. Sure, we all know that there are people in our little world who will spend thousands of dollars on cable alone. However, the simple reality is that, for those who are unwilling or unable to spend as much money on an audio/video system as they might on a car or a house, stacking up that first pile of 10 or more C-notes for a single system element isn't a decision made lightly. Luckily, options abound at this level, especially in the receiver market. I don't know of a company that makes receivers that doesn't have at least one around the $1,000 price point, beckoning the frugal to dive in. Once you've decided to take the plunge, the only hard part is figuring out which one is right for you.
Yamaha, like many of the other big boys, actually has a few models that hover around this price range, including the $1,199 RX-V2200. The RX-V2200 is a six-channel configuration that offers 100 watts per channel, second-zone output, and a range of processing options. The headliners are Dolby Digital, Dolby EX, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS, DTS ES Matrix, and DTS Neo 6. Since the RX-V2200 offers only the matrixed varieties of the 5.1-plus-channel formats, Yamaha only offers power (and preout capability) for one rear center channel, rather than two. For those of you who are ardent about splitting the rear center channel between two speakers, you can either do some creative speaker wiring or use a Y-connector to split the preout feed to an external stereo amplifier and go from there.
Inputs include four optical digital and two coaxial digital (lean by today's standards), nine analog audio, five S-video and composite video, two wide-bandwidth component video (not always a given at this price), and 5.1-channel analog audio for use with external processors—most importantly, DVD-Audio and SACD. As with almost all receivers and pre/pros, the RX-V2200's 5.1-channel inputs are straight analog throughput. This is good, but make sure your DVD-Audio or SACD player has bass management. Outputs consist of two optical digital, four analog audio, three S-video and composite video, one component video, and the aforementioned 6.1-channel preouts. There's also an input and output for an external control system, plus two 120-volt power outlets. Zone 2 gets an analog audio output and a composite video output.
Setting up the RX-V2200 should not be a problem if you put a little effort into it. The onscreen menus aren't as straightforward and intuitive as I would like to see on a receiver at this price point (where there's a higher likelihood of less-experienced users); however, with the manual in hand, all but the most technically hopeless should have little problem. You may never use some parts of the expansive menu system, as a considerable amount of control is supplied for some of the 40-plus DSP modes. Opinions on the usefulness of these modes vary widely. I'll say this: Yamaha's DSP modes are better than most. If you do decide to use them, you'll be able to fine-tune them with tweaks like initial delay control, room/soundstage size adjustment, and even a liveliness function that adjusts the rate at which early reflections decay.
I set up the RX-V2200 with a couple of my favorite less-expensive speaker systems: the Infinity Interludes (with the IL50s in front) and the Phase Technology Teatro 11.5 system. Our trusty Sony DVP-C650D DVD player and SCD-CE775 SACD player, neither of which will break the bank, supplied the source material. One setup twist to note is that the RX-V2200's cutoff frequency for the low-pass filters is 90 hertz. This isn't a problem, but don't expect any Christmas cards from THX.
I started my demo in straight two-channel with music, and the RX-V2200 performed almost exactly as I expected it would—nothing spectacular but nothing that jumped out at me as being a major concern, either. I started with the second Burmester collection and was generally impressed with the RX-V2200's accuracy and lack of coloration. However, I felt that the soundstage lacked depth and the type of separation that allows each instrument to exist as an independent entity. These traits were more noticeable on thick tracks like the pipe-organ-heavy