Yamaha RX-V685 AV Receiver Review Page 2

Yamaha’s proprietary YPAO (Yamaha Parametric Acoustic Optimizer) auto-setup/room-EQ routine runs along a familiar path: You plug in the supplied small microphone, place it at the listening position, run the setup routine, and wait while the receiver cycles through a series of bursts and bleeps. (Yamaha provides a clever little knock-down cardboard stand for the mic, though I used my usual full-sized tripod.) YPAO collects data from only a single mic placement and does not show EQ results in either a graph or data, but the distance, speaker-size, and channel-level results it obtained were all within range of what I had previously set manually. The system’s EQ correction seemed to dial in a milder version of the effect I usually hear from full-bore systems like Audyssey EQ32: slightly tighter bass and more focused ambience in the upper-midrange region. But since my speaker/room setup is quite accurate above about 100 Hz, corrections tend to be modest from any system. Thus, as always, I did the bulk of my listening with the system bypassed.

My first order of business with any receiver or amplifier is two-channel, unprocessed listening, for which I turned to the V685’s Pure Direct mode: direct as in stereo, no-subwoofer, unprocessed, full-range playback. And like virtually all the receivers I encounter these days, including many surprisingly inexpensive examples, the Yamaha proved a very capable basic amplifier. It had no difficulty driving my antique-but-effective Energy three-way monitors—a moderately difficult loudspeaker load—to convincing levels on both rock and full-orchestra classical, and they sounded lively and dynamic doing so.

A solid recording like Duke Robillard’s “Rain Came Falling Down” (via a Tidal FLAC stream) maintained plenty of bite and attack from Duke’s understated guitar licks and preserved an easy clarity from the bright snare hits and the loping cymbal ride hovering over the tune’s heavy New Orleans walk, even at pretty demanding volumes. Another Tidal stream, the opening Allegro of the familiar Mozart d-minor piano concerto (k466), played with odd severity but great clarity by the jazz hands of Keith Jarrett, had no difficulty in presenting at concert-like levels without strain or congestion, and with fine textural integrity and impressive clarity and "ping" from the piano single-line attacks. As I’ve done many times before, I marveled at the ability of an inexpensive, heavily integrated multichannel amp to approach the transparency and dynamics of my much more costly, everyday separate components. Did it match them? Probably not, but it came very close.

The V685 has a sort of medium-sized helping of Yamaha’s DSP prowess. There’s the usual long list of available programs, including a half-dozen or so music-appropriate ones like Hall in Munich, Chamber, and The Bottom Line, plus plenty more A/V-oriented options. There’s even one named Roleplaying Game, which I confess misses my demographic altogether. User-adjustable parameters like Hall Size and effect DSP let the listener dial in effects to suit speakers, room, and taste, but for the most part Yamaha’s defaults are reasonably restrained. As a rule, I generally still chose to dial back effect levels and “room sizes” by a couple of clicks for a subtler but still important contribution. For example, a hi-rez DSD track of a Haydn horn concerto (Channel Classics), a superbly naturalistic recording to begin with, gained, via my personalized "Hall in Vienna" program, a bloom of hall-sound spaciousness and of proscenium-arch altitude that made it more convincingly lifelike and thus more musically complete. I don’t know what proportion of V685 users might employ these programs in this way, but those that do will derive real sonic value.

Ergonomics and Extras
Yamaha’s supplied remote controller is a handsome new design, quite usable in the main though devoid of any key-illumination. A bit curiously, there are direct-access keys to the receiver’s Extra Bass and Enhancer features (both fairly unimportant in my view), but no direct-access keys to select inputs—you need to instead to cycle through the 16 possible options using the input-up/down arrow keys (you can delete unused inputs from the rotation in the setup menu).

Happily, Yamaha provides a valuable alternative with its Scene memory feature. This set of eight presets, every one of which can store a combination of input source, surround program, channel- and overall-levels, and virtually every other user-selectable or adjustable parameter, gives one-touch access to custom-configured sources. While many of Yamaha’s competitors offer a similar feature, few are as comprehensive. If the V685 was permanent in my setup, I would surely come to rely on it.


The V685’s interface for streamed audio (my principle music source these days) showed itself to be quite workable, if somewhat slower than some others I’ve tried in commanding my iMac-sourced (TwonkyMedia) DLNA server. But it was stable and decoded and played my hi-res files with full fidelity, including DSDs, though the only way to get a display of currently playing file-type and sampling rate/depth was to go five-clicks deep into the onscreen setup menu’s Info branch. (App control offers easier access to file format info.)

Yamaha offers free apps (iOS and Android) to supplement its receiver operations. AV Controller provides full command over the unit including a number of features, such as direct selection of inputs and DSP programs, that the supplied remote does not. (It can even link to display the full owner’s manual on your phone or tablet, which is pretty thoughtful.) A separate, equally well thought out, MusicCast app is required select and control content from streaming partners like Spotify and Tidal, and to integrate any wireless MusicCast speakers in other rooms.

With well more than a dozen A/V receiver options in the $550-to-$700 range, Yamaha’s V685 plays on a hotly contested ground. But for those who consider close listening of acoustic stereo music to be a key function, it’s a must-audition: DSP-surround may or may not ultimately prove to your taste, but serious listening under controlled conditions should be mandatory before deciding. For everyone else, the Yamaha is still a fully competitive choice, with excellent basic sonics, the usual video processing, and its own distinctive helping of features.

Yamaha Electronics

drny's picture

I love Yamaha's five channel stereo mode for music listening.
The caveat being that full 3 way range speakers (read towers) are needed truly enjoy your music.
The downfall of the RX-V line has always been the middle of the road amp (the same can be said of all Receivers under $1,000).
For those who dare to push any middle of the road Receiver beyond -12db be forewarned, they will clip well before decent full range speakers distortion level becomes unpleasant.
If they don't clip they will overheat,unless you are using an over head cooling fan.
Now, if you enjoy your music / movies at respectable levels (or use headphones), then by all means enjoy.

hk2000's picture

What happened to your measurements section? When I first noticed a review w/o measurements, I missed it, but let it go, now it's obvious you're doing away with the only feature that kept me coming back.
It was the only thing that differentiated S&V from the rest, now your reviews are no more than another person's subjective opinion- and it means nothing to me. The only reason I can think of is that you're doing it to appease the receiver manufacturers- what with their 10% THD ratings and other corner cutting measures.

I blame the new guy!!! When he announced his appointment, many readers got excited because of his track record, now I wonder.

Mrsnikoph78's picture

I guess we're done with measurements? I could learn an equal amount about this receiver by reading its manual online. Put this bad baby through the ringer!

Tommy Lee's picture

..is spinning in his grave. Did you see the speaker "tests" in the most recent issue? No actual measurements or frequency response graphs! Meanwhile, the TV tests remain reasonably complete.
What's going on here?

sirwilliamlee's picture

without measurements...youre just another magazine. i can read manufacturer fodder on my own.
heres an idea. cancel the opinions, reinstate the measurements.

frodo582's picture

"No 9-channel (front- and rear-height) Atmos/DTS:X expansion option" Which $600 receiver has this option?