Yamaha is one incredibly diversified company. Along with its highly regarded motorcycles, boats, golf carts, snowmobiles, musical instruments, and professional audio gear, it produces first-class consumer electronics. The RX-V1400 A/V receiver (listed at $799) is a fine example of Yamaha's craft. It offers fully automated setup, so you don't have to trudge through pesky menus to achieve perfectionist-caliber sound. The V1400's alluring combination of features, build quality, and top-notch sonics makes it the receiver to beat in this price range. The V1400's handsome front panel strikes a good balance between high-end style and ergonomic usability. The face is uncluttered, and a flip-down door hides many of the less-used buttons. The receiver's 34.2-pound heft says a lot about Yamaha's build-quality standards. Measuring a stout 17 inches wide, 6.75 inches high, and--gasp--17 inches deep, the V1400 qualifies as supersize.
As befits a higher-end receiver, the V1400 has a remote that's a cut above average. Its illuminated display keeps tabs on which input is selected, and you get direct access to Dolby and DTS surround processing and various DSP modes, such as THX, Rock, and Jazz. If you want to get back to pure stereo or Dolby, you just hit the Straight button. The big attraction here is the automatic setup program: the Yamaha Parametric Acoustic Room Optimizer (YPAO), which the world first saw in the company's RX-Z9 flagship model, listed at $4,500. After you've hooked up your speakers and the supplied microphone, you're ready to start the YPAO routine. The V1400 sends a series of bleeps, squeaks, and tones through the speakers to check their wiring, their distances from the listening position, their sizes, and the subwoofer's crossover point. After the test, the receiver adjusts the levels of all the speakers and the sub. That's pretty impressive, but there's even more: the V1400 extensively analyzes the sound and applies equalization to each speaker. The proprietary YPAO technology handily trumps the automatic setup schemes of Pioneer and Harman Kardon.
We purposely tried to trip up the YPAO by connecting the front-left speaker out of phase, hooking up positive to negative and vice versa. The V1400 immediately detected the error and canceled the setup. "Warning," the onscreen display cautioned us, flashing the word beside a directive to switch around the wires.
The autoequalization works well but isn't a cure-all. It enhanced our Dynaudio Contour speakers but made our NHTs sound worse.
Of course, you don't have to use the YPAO. But if you want to manually input all your settings, be forewarned: Navigating the various menus wasn't nearly as intuitive as we would have liked.
Power hounds will enjoy the V1400's potent amplifier, which delivers 110 watts on seven channels. It has what it takes to drive even low-impedance (4 ohm) speakers at high volumes; many competing designs balk when the rating drops to 6 ohms. All the latest surround formats are included: Dolby Digital EX and Pro Logic II, along with DTS's ES Discrete 6.1, Neo:6, and 96/24. Additionally, the V1400 boasts THX Select certification and proprietary processing.
This is the first receiver we've seen with lip-synch delay--helpful with plasmas and other video displays that sometimes fall behind audio signals. The V1400 can accommodate a lag of up to 0.25 second.
Connectivity is unusually generous. When taking in composite or S-Video output from any video source, the V1400 can upconvert the signal to component video, so you can run just one set of cables to your HDTV. You also get switching for two component sources. For digital audio, the back panel offers seven inputs (four optical, three coaxial) and two optical outputs. Among the plentiful analog A/V hookups is an eight-channel in for multichannel audio sources, such as DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD players. The 7.1 preamplifier outs provide an upgrade path for those adding a separate power amp. Rounding out the connection options are multiroom operation and A/B speaker selection; the V1400 can handle a total of 11 speakers. We started our auditions in stereo. Listening to our CDs, we were taken aback by the V1400's tuneful, rocking bass; effortless midrange detail; and refined high frequencies--definitely a cut above everyday receiver sound.
Next, we switched to DVDs. We were having such a great time with Matrix Reloaded that we really had to concentrate to remember to take notes for this review. As we watched cars crash and burn during the extended "road rage" chase scene, we nudged the volume higher and higher. We couldn't get enough of those tumbling SUVs, the roar of engines, and the shriek of twisting metal. This sequence is sure to become a favorite home-theater demo.
After Reloaded, we watched Tears of the Sun, which couldn't be a more different movie. Based in reality, this portrayal of man's inhumanity to man has far greater emotional power. The V1400's exquisitely nuanced sound sucked us into the story, and the scenes in the African jungle were so real that we could feel the humidity.