Yamaha RX-V475 A/V Receiver Page 2

And yet, all of those concerns just sort of don’t matter anymore once everything is set up correctly and you sit back to simply listen to what the RX-V475 is capable of. Given the lack of other changes, I seriously doubt the amplifiers have been beefed up at all over last year’s models, and yet the receiver is nonetheless capable of delivering a rich, robust-sounding surround experience that sets the Yamaha apart in the sub-$500 market.

I started my listening with the DVD-Audio release of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, specifically the second cut, “Dreams,” which makes for a beautiful slow-burn surround sound test that demonstrates virtually all of the RX-V475’s strengths. The track starts out as a forward-heavy affair, which the Yamaha renders beautifully (once set up properly for my compact speaker system)—rich, omnipresent bass, free from sloppy, boomy distractions, and wonderfully integrated with the front soundstage. When subtle surround elements start sneaking into the mix toward the end of the first verse, the receiver delivers them flawlessly, with a nice holographic effect that loses nothing of its front-heavy assault, yet doesn’t bury or smear the call-and-response vocals that sneak in from the sides. Once the surrounds really kick in with force in the chorus, the RX-V475’s amp section gives them every ounce of sonic oomph they need, without taking anything away from the bedrock of the LCR channels.

With the song in full-on surround mode, I did some A/B testing between YPAO’s parametric EQ setting on and off, and again love the fact that Yamaha’s room correction does a great job of toning up and clarifying bass in my somewhat acoustically problematic secondary listening room without robbing the music of its sparkle and life. Upper-mid and high frequencies were largely unaffected by the room correction process, which is a check in the plus column in my book.

From there, I mostly turned to my go-to demo discs—the ones whose sonic quirks I know by heart, like The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition on Blu-ray. The RX-V475, with YPAO PEQ engaged, again brought out the ambience in the Pass of Caradhras sequence, while delivering a natural, controlled LFE that gave the scene ample weight without overwhelming it. Skip forward to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields from Return of the King: Extended Edition, and I remained impressed by the ability of Yamaha’s budget offering to deliver dialogue with exceptional clarity, without robbing the intense, surround-heavy action sequences of any of their essential energy.

Unfortunately, I’m also still unimpressed by the RX-V475’s ECO Mode, which dynamically adjusts power usage to further enhance energy efficiency. Direct A/Bing is tough, since toggling ECO mode shuts down and restarts the receiver. But to my ears, at any appreciable volume, it seems to compress dynamics noticeably and also seems to introduce a bit of distortion to the audio at reference levels. Since the real strength of the RX-V475 lies in its audio performance (at this price point), anything that impacts that performance has to be placed in the minus column. Other boo-boos include the fact that the audio via the HDMI inputs occasionally just gives up the ghost, requiring a quick reboot of the receiver to re-establish an audio connection.

Back to the positives, though: The RX-V475 does just as admirable a job with stereo music as its counterpart last year, which—again—I’ll chalk up to the way the YPAO room correction eases up on bass spikes without dulling the high-end sparkle. The stereo soundstage leans more toward width than depth, so the out-of-phase effects in Jimi Hendrix’s “1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” and Beastie Boys’ “Hey Ladies” don’t penetrate the room in quite the same way you would get with a good dedicated stereo preamp. But the big, bombastic, wall-to-wall frontal attack of the Black Keys’ “Next Girl” is delivered with authority. For a bit of added depth, Yamaha’s proprietary DSPs—“Cellar Club” and “The Bottom Line” remain my favorites—introduce appreciable ambience without playing weird games with the tonal balance or relative mix of the music. If those don’t suit your tastes and you’re still itching to spruce up your two-channel tunes, Pro Logic II and DTS Neo:6 are also on board.

It should be noted that any and all surround or DSP modes should be avoided like the plague if you’re listening to the RX-V475 via headphones. Yamaha boasts a Silent Cinema feature, which promises to deliver “surround or soundfield effects, like a multichannel speaker system, with stereo headphones.” I simply couldn’t find an agreeable setting other than Stereo via my Audeze LCD2 and HiFiMan HE-400 cans, though. Any engagement of DSP or surround processing merely resulted in differing levels of reverb and echoing muddiness, with no appreciable 3D sound effect whatsoever.

That’s not a knock against the RX-V475’s headphone amp, though. In vanilla two-channel mode, it’s actually quite nice sounding, with a solid image and the ability to drive even the fussier headphones in my collection admirably. My only real beef with Yamaha’s headphone implementation is the lack of independent volume memory for headphone and non-headphone listening.

Reading back over everything I’ve just written, the RX-V475 almost comes across as an iffy purchase, and when you consider the lack of substantial updates (if you’re not MHL equipped), combined with my setup woes, it may well be for some people.

And yet, I keep coming back to the fact that, for a $450 receiver, Yamaha’s new next-to-bottom-of-the-line offering actually sounds really excellent. I haven’t had a chance to hear Denon’s new $499 IN-Command AVR-X1000, which for fifty bucks more adds Audyssey’s more advanced MultEQ XT room correction system (quite an oddity at that price point), not to mention additional zone outputs, Spotify, and a much more user-friendly back panel. That AVR raises the bar on value this year, but only if the sound quality is there to back it up, something I can’t comment on just yet. But taken on its own, the Yamaha RX-V475 really does deliver on the sound side of things in a way that few receivers at this price point do. So if you’re on a sub-$500 budget and audio performance is your only concern, if streaming features are inconsequential, if five channels of amplification are enough and your speakers don’t present particularly demanding loads, and if you’re willing to put a bit of work into the setup (via some very rudimentary UI screens), the RX-V475 really should be on your short list of receivers to audition.