For most home theater enthusiasts, midrange AV receivers represent the best value. They offer superior sound over underpowered entry-level models, include the most important features available on the high-end models, and they still manage to cost between $400 and $600.
The Yamaha RX-V663 falls right into the midrange class, and if your main concern is sound quality, it's one of the better AV receivers we've heard, outperforming the Sony STR-DG920 in our head-to-head matchup. Unfortunately, we ultimately found it hard to recommend given its drawbacks. For example, there are only two HDMI inputs, while every other midrange receiver includes at least three--several include four. Most competitors also offer 1080i or 1080p analog upconversion, but the RX-V663 is limited to 480p and its video processing is below average. We also ran into some other quirks, such as an incorrect autosetup warning and the poorly designed rear panel layout. As much as we liked the RX-V663's sound, overall we felt like most buyers would be better off with the competing Pioneer VSX-1018AH or the Onkyo TX-SR606.
The RX-V663 has a basic, boxy AV receiver shape, with only some slight angling in the middle to break it up. On the top half, there's a centered orange LCD display, which we found easily readable from about 8 feet back. Directly beneath that are several small buttons, allowing access to less frequently used functions such as "Memory" and "Zone 2 control." On the far right is a large volume knob, and underneath is a front panel input that includes both S-Video and an optical digital audio input. On the bottom half, under the LCD display, are four "Scene" buttons (which we'll explain shortly), along with a couple of additional knobs for selecting a source or a DSP (digital sound processing) mode. It all comes down to personal preference, but we preferred the glossy look of the Pioneer VSX-1018AH over the RX-V663.
AV receiver remotes are often a cluttered mess, but the RX-V663's clicker is actually pretty good. There's a direction pad in the center and just to the right are the main controls for volume. Source buttons are nicely separated, as are Yamaha's "Scene" buttons. All in all, it's one of the better remotes for a receiver.
Yamaha clearly puts a lot of focus on its "Scene" functions, and although the idea has promise, we didn't find the current implementation to be that useful. The idea is that you choose a preferred DSP mode for specific listening scenarios, such as watching a DVD. Since we generally prefer to leave the DSP modes off, we didn't find this helpful. We'd prefer if the Scene functions also let us set a default volume level for each scenario.
The onscreen display of the RX-V663 is just white text on a black background (think VCRs, circa 1991). That's pretty much the standard at this price point, although it's worth pointing out that the competing (and cheaper) Sony STR-DG920 includes a basic graphical user interface.
One unusual design annoyance is the abnormal back panel layout of the RX-V663. For some reason, the audio and video inputs for each device are separate, so, for example, you'd run the yellow composite video cable from your Nintendo Wii to the far right-hand side, while the red and white analog audio cables would go on the far left. It's likely to cause a rat's nest of tangled wires on many home theater systems, as well as forcing you to separate many cables that bundle video and audio connections together.
Yamaha's Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO) automatic speaker calibration system determines speaker sizes and volume levels, measures the distances from the speakers to the listener, confirms that all of the speaker cables are correctly hooked up, and uses equalization to balance the frequency response of all the speakers.
Plugging in the (supplied) Optimizer microphone automatically brought up the Auto Setup menu on our display, so it was easy to get to started. After the YPAO ran its series of tones it presented us with a "Warning" message. We initially couldn't figure out what the problem was, but after consulting the owner's manual we made our way through the onscreen menus to see that the YPAO had determined our left front speaker was wired out-of-phase (red/+ and black/- connections were reversed).
Checking the connections at the speaker and receiver ends we found that the wires were, in fact, correctly placed. We have no idea why the YPAO made a false reading, but that didn't seem to otherwise affect the results of the setup. We completed the setup without any further hassles, but we bet less-experienced users would have been confused.
|Dolby TrueHD + DTS-HD MA||Yes||Onscreen display||Text|
|Analog upconversion||480p||Source renaming||Yes|
|Selectable output resolution||No||Satellite radio||Sirius + XM|
The RX-V663 is underfeatured compared with the competition. For key features, that means that instead of getting analog upconversion to 1080p or 1080i--which nearly all of its competitors have--you're stuck with simple 480p upconversion. And as mentioned before, the RX-V663 only has a simple text-based onscreen display, rather than the simple GUI on the Sony STR-DG920.