Yamaha YMC-700 neoHD Media Controller

Key Features
$800 yamaha.com
• 3 HDMI inputs, 1 output • Fully graphical onscreen user interface • Transcodes component and composite video to HDMI • HDMI-through allows TV viewing when powered down • Decodes Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD, DTS • Auto-setup, level-calibration with supplied microphone • FM tuner with auto-presets • Extensive media streaming and Internet-radio capabilities, including Rhapsody service via Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet connection • GUI-based pre-programmed/ learning remote • iPod, Bluetooth-audio (A2DP) integration via optional docks • Integral IR repeater with 1 IR in, 3 IR out • Dimensions + Weight 113?4 x 35 ?8 x 131?8 in; 8 lb

My people! I have visited the future - one possible future, anyway - and returned to tell you about it. The future will be compact yet compendious, sleek yet complicated, powerful yet subtle, elegantly simple yet intricate and occasionally vexatious, enormously capable but subject to the odd lapse. (In other words, it'll be a lot like the present, only more so.) So it is written; so it shall be.

Or will be if Yamaha's new YMC-700 neoHD Media Controller proves an accurate harbinger. The YMC-700 is certainly neo enough, and it's defensibly HD, but it is in truth as much receiver as it is media controller. Still a black box like so many other A/V components, the neoHD shatters the mold otherwise with its compact size (about the same as a box of Shredded Wheat); cool, tuck-waisted profile; and one-knob, virtually buttonless exterior.

The Yamaha YMC-700 offers both Wi-Fi and wired-Ethernet connectivity for accessing the Internet or music and photos stored on a PC or Mac. (And there's also a USB port to suck content from a flash drive.) It has three HDMI inputs and a user interface that's entirely screen-based - without a TV you can do no more than turn the thing on - and its lone video output is HDMI, so owners of older, pre-HDMI TVs need not apply. Come to think of it, the Yamaha YMC-700 sounds like a lot of current A/V receivers, minus a bunch of buttons and jacks. But it's nevertheless a bold move on Yamaha's part - an attempt to transform the standard-issue two-knobs-plus-zillion-buttons receiver design into something a bit more modern.

SETUP

Despite the Yamaha's avant-garde format, basic setup was a snap. I ran HDMI cables from my cable box and Blu-ray Disc and CD/SACD players, connected the Ethernet cable running from my household router, hooked up my five speakers and subwoofer, and was done. Elapsed time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds. (The Yamaha also has component- and composite-video inputs for one or two techno-orphan source components.) All five speaker outputs are those cheesy push terminals I thought had long since gone the way of the AM dial. But these take up about one-third of the back-panel real estate; five dual-banana pairings simply wouldn't have fit without making the neoHD bigger.

The YMC-700 incorporates an infrared-repeater facility that lets it command your multibrand source components from its own simplified handset. Yamaha even packs two double-headed IR "flashers" of the stick-on variety, which I adhered to the IR sensors of my cable-box, DVD, and Blu-ray Disc sources as well as my TV. Onscreen setup menu prompts guide you through selecting code sets for each. Most of these worked fine, though none of the supplied ones fully commanded my Comcast/Motorola cable box. (Not the first time for this box!) That said, an IR-learning routine allows those with more patience than me to fine-tune things for complete functionality.

There's also YPAO (Yamaha Parametric room Acoustic Optimizer), an auto-setup routine using a supplied microphone that calibrates speaker "sizes" (crossover settings), distances, and channel levels. The manual did not say whether this included any room/speaker correction. Subsequent test-bench work confirmed that it didn't, although it did reveal a curious 3-dB low-treble dip centered on 5 kHz when the "auto setup" parameters were in place.

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