Face Off: Budget Receivers Yamaha RX-V496

Yamaha RX-V496

Good old reliable Yamaha has long been a manufacturer of inexpensive, well-featured receivers to suit just about every taste. Their recent RX-V496 is near the low end of their current line, their least expensive model to incorporate both Dolby Digital and DTS. Providing an ample 70 watts to each of the five channels and offering a subwoofer output with a low-pass filter and a speaker-impedance selector, the RX-V496 also supplies an input for an external decoder, should you prefer an outboard processor. All speaker terminals are banana-plug-compatible, while the main speaker terminals are large binding posts.

The RX-V496 is Yamaha's least expensive receiver to offer Dolby Digital and DTS.

Around back are two optical digital inputs for DVD/LD and satellite/DTV, plus one coaxial connection. S-video inputs aplenty are ready for DVD, satellite, and VCR, with S-video outs for the VCR and the monitor. There are also composite video connections for all of the above and satellite/DTV, as well as left/right composite video jacks up front for video auxiliary. The Yamaha YSS-918 application-specific integrated circuit performs Dolby Digital, Pro Logic, Tri-Field, and Cinema DSP duties, with 20 DSP modes for movies and music. The convenient "set menu" also allows you to tweak the settings of the DD, DTS, and center delay.

On back, there are three digital inputs and S-video inputs aplenty.

The Yamaha remote control tied with the Onkyo for the least buttons (39), but it has a much sleeker layout that casts the keys in diamond shapes, circles, and bars—everything except green clovers and purple horseshoes.

I heard a tremendous amount of both punch and detail in The Matrix, but Mike did not notice a lot of surround-channel envelopment. He did feel that the sound was crisp, with dry, tight bass. Adam felt that the bass went overboard: "When the helicopter crashed into the building in The Matrix, I not only heard every ripple that coursed through the exploding building, I felt it in my stomach, and it made me almost queasy. I feel like it lost a lot of nuance along the way." I appreciated what I considered to be a seamless mix to the rear. Mike preferred the surround performance on the Contact clip, but he missed the warmth. I considered the Yamaha less effective on the higher-frequency "whooshing" throughout this scene, and the individual channels each seemed more isolated. Adam believed that the Yamaha handled silence pretty poorly, with a bit of ambient fuzziness always in the background—a barely audible, slightly irritating buzz.

Mike found guitar and bass on the Doors song to be a bit thuddy, the overall sound a bit thin, and the high frequencies a bit crispy. Jim Morrison and co. seemed bottom-heavy to me, with a murky bass that overpowered some of the subtler notes. To Mike's ears, the Keith Richards track demonstrated slightly slow bass but a good midrange attack. I noted excellent separation as on the Doors track, and the drums displayed a nice kick, again at the cost of some subtlety.

• Ample S-video connections
• Plenty of DSP modes
• Bass performance left a lot to be desired

HT Labs Measures: Yamaha RX-V496

This graph shows that the RX-V496's left channel, from CD input to speaker output with two channels driving 8-ohm loads, reaches 0.1% distortion at 80.7 watts and 1% distortion at 96.6 watts. Into 4 ohms, the amplifier reaches 0.1% distortion at 131.6 watts and 1% distortion at 149.4 watts. The analog frequency response was +/-0.75 decibels from 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz. The response dropped to -0.20 dB at 10 Hz and -1.50 dB at 50 kHz. THD+N from the amplifier was less than 0.022% at 1 kHz when driving 2.83 volts into an 8-ohm load. Crosstalk at 1 kHz driving 2.83 volts into an 8-ohm load was -71.8 dB left to right and -76.9 dB right to left.

From the Dolby Digital input to the loudspeaker output, the left, center, and surround channels are all flat, +/-0.30 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. From the Dolby Digital input to the line-level output, the LFE channel is +0.16 dB at 20 Hz when referenced to the level at 40 Hz and reaches the upper 3-dB down point at 84 Hz and the upper 6-dB down point at 104 Hz.—AJ

RX-V496 $399
Yamaha Electronics
(714) 522-9105
Dealer Locator Code YAM