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AV Receivers

Back to basics: The Yamaha R-S201 stereo receiver

Stereo audio systems are super-easy to setup, and can sound better than a sound bar.

Yamaha R-S201 stereo receiver Yamaha

If you've been flummoxed one too many times by the complexity of multichannel AV receivers, the Yamaha R-S201 stereo receiver may be just what you need. It's super-simple to setup and use, so after you have selected one of its five inputs, and turned the volume up, you will definitely hear sound. With AV receivers that's less certain, there are too many ways to get lost in the menus and multi-tiered navigation options. Stereo receivers like the Yamaha R-S201 dispense with extraneous doo-dads and focus on the sound. With the receiver hooked up to a pair of inexpensive, but awesome Pioneer SP-BS22-LR speakers you'll get a lot better sound than most sound bars.

I like that you can tweak the R-S201's bass and treble controls directly from the remote, or choose "A" or "B" pairs of stereo speakers, but that's about it for choices.

Power is rated at 100 watts per channel for 8 Ohm speakers, and 140 watts per channel for 4 Ohm speakers. The rear panel has two sets of speaker wire clip connectors, "A" and "B," if you don't have a second pair of speakers you could hookup a powered subwoofer to the "B" outputs. With that setup you can turn the sub on or off by turning the "B" outputs on and off via the remote. That might come in handy for late night listening sessions.

The receiver lacks a phono input for turntables, if that's what you need you can buy a separate phono preamplifier and use it with the R-S201, or go for a stereo receiver that has one built-in, like the Onkyo TX-8020 does. There's one other significant omission, the R-S201 doesn't have even a single digital input of any kind. I hooked up our Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray player's stereo analog outputs to the R-S201 and ran a HDMI cable for video to the display. So make sure your disc player, cable or satellite box has stereo analog output jacks before buying this receiver.

The R-S201 is a full-size receiver, it measures 17.2 by 5.5 by 12.6 inches (435 x 141 x 322 mm), and it weighs 14.8 pounds (6.7 kg).

Yamaha R-S201's rear panel Yamaha

I listened to the R-S201 with a set of Pioneer's terrific new Elite SP-EBS73-LR bookshelf speakers (a full CNET review is in the works). Jazz singer/pianist Diana Krall's "Live in Rio" concert DVD sounded awfully nice, her large orchestra was big and powerful. With Bjork's new "Vulnicura" album I was taken aback by the scale of the sound coming from the SP-EBS73-LR speakers, but a Marantz NR1605 AV receiver was even better. It sounded more transparent, bass definition firmed up, and the music sounded more dynamically alive. OK, but the NR1605 sells for $699 in the US, £389 in the UK and AU$1,150 in Australia. So yes, there are better sounding alternatives available, for many times the price of the R-S201. Its US MSRP is $179.95, and Amazon currently lists the R-S201 for $149.95, with free shipping for Prime customers. In the UK it's £153.54 and AU$399 in Australia.