Yamaha YMC-700 neoHD Media Controller Page 2

PERFORMANCE

The neoHD proved quite a competent home theater controller - about as capable as a very modest-power entry-level receiver. With my rather high-end, slightly low-sensitivity speakers, it sounded surprisingly open and detailed but lacking in dynamic impact at any setting loud enough to yield much visceral excitement. The fact that my listening room is on the largish side didn't help. Yamaha does not specify the YMC-700's power output, but when I subsequently measured it (after my listening and this written report were substantially complete), I was little short of amazed to discover an output of no more than 15 watts per channel into 8 ohms all around.

Switching to a far less costly (but still very competent) compact 5.1 speaker system somehow put the Yamaha's performance more in scale. On the opening battle sequence from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (one of the best A/V demos I know), the Yamaha produced a convincingly shocking chaos-out-of-silence effect, even though it could not approach my usual "serious" playback level (typically a couple decibels below "reference level") without sounding somewhat brittle. Still, its performance was pretty impressive for so small a box.

The neoHD sounded quite capable on music as well, and played satisfyingly loud and clean. That said, it didn't deliver quite the transparency and dynamic life of my everyday system, or of high-end gear that I've heard in general. Only limited surround modes are on tap from the neoHD: Besides stereo and allchannels-stereo, the viable options are Movie and Entertainment, which seemed to correspond roughly to Dolby PLII Music and Game, respectively. (According to the Yamaha's Signal Info menu page, both use PLII processing.)

There's also Live Music, but I found that this mode layered a slightly metallic sheen onto centersteered voices and instruments that I didn't care for. Practically speaking, plain ol'stereo proved the best option for music listening. Yamaha's Air Surround Xtreme is a virtual-surround mode for 2.1-channel speaker setups; this can only be invoked if you've told the setup-menu routines that your system employs just two speakers plus sub. This proved to be one of the more effective, or at least the most dramatic, such modes I've tried, yielding fairly convincing ambience and even discrete surround effects, with minimal (but still audible) impact on vocal and instrumental colorings.

The Yamaha neoHD's video-routing features are straightforward: Incoming analog signals are transcoded to HDMI, while both 480i- and 480p-format standard-def ones and high-def signals (component or HDMI) exit the neoHD at the same resolution they arrived in. Standard-def programs passing through the Yamaha neoHD suffered somewhat from a slight loss of resolution. (So if high-quality processing of standard-definition material is critical for you, it would be better to look elsewhere.)

HDTV signals passing through via HDMI, on the other hand, generally looked great. And I was hard-pressed to find any problems with 1080i-format component video handed off to the neoHD's HDMI output when watching high-def movies and other programs on cable. For high-def sources in general, I'm sure most folks will be happy with the Yamaha neoHD's performance.

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