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Yamaha RX-V1700 review:

Yamaha RX-V1700

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The RX-V1700 is also pretty flexible in terms of multiroom capabilities. It has the ability to power both a second and third room with independent sources. It's also XM-ready, which means that you only need to plug in a Connect-and-Play antenna (such as the XM Mini-Tuner) and you can receive XM programming--assuming you have a subscription, of course. There's also support for XM's surround format, Neural Surround. Additionally, there's a port around back for Yamaha's iPod dock, the YDS-10. Those with home-automation systems will be happy to see an RS-232 port. There's also a pair of switched AC outlets on the back.

Overall, the RX-V1700 feels a little light in terms of features at its price. For example, the Onkyo TX-SR674 ($700) matches the RX-V1700 on several important feature categories, such as HDMI inputs and upconversion capabilities. The RX-V1700 definitely has the edge overall--it has more standard-def video and audio inputs and more selectable A/V sources, as well as superior multiroom categories--but we don't know if most people would find that worth the $500 premium. On the other end of the spectrum, if you spend a little more you can score Sony's excellent STR-DA5200ES, with its groundbreaking menu-navigation system--or Pioneer's feature-packed VSX-84TXsi, which has four HDMI inputs and scales standard-def sources all the way up to 1080i. The same upscaling feature is also available on the Yamaha's step-up model, the RX-V2700 ($1,700). The V2700 also adds a third HDMI input, an additional 10 watts per channel, and network audio streaming capabilities similar to those found in the Yamaha RX-N600.

Audio Performance

The Miami Vice DVD wasted no time demonstrating the Yamaha RX-V1700's home theater skills. The score's pulsing music had a weight and power that reached beyond the norm for A/V receivers, and we totally believed its 130-watt-per-channel power rating. This was even more amazing because we've criticized previous generations of Yamaha receivers for sounding tonally lightweight, but the RX-V1700 was anything but. Crockett's and Tubbs' shootouts with the bad guys were scarily effective. Maybe we're just tired of car chases in general, but we loved Vice's scenes with the drug dealers' fast boats. The powerful engines roared with gusto.

The same could be said about the Rolling Stones' Four Flicks DVD concert set. The band's sound had the perfect balance of close-up presence and the live atmosphere you would experience in the very best seat at a show. Mick Jagger was in fine voice, Keith Richards' raunchy guitar had just the right edge, and we could hear Charlie Watts' drums filling the arena. Our only complaint was that the surround ambiance of the audience felt a trifle subdued. The RX-V1700 otherwise had the surefooted stamina of high-end components.

The high-resolution sound we heard from SACDs produced exceptional spatial depth on the front three speakers in our home theater system. Despite the general impression that SACD and DVD-Audio are fading away or dead, we keep finding new discs such as Telarc's just-released SACD of Rachmaninoff's "Dances from Aleko" with Paavo Jarvi conducting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra's strings had the rich, harmonic bloom few receivers in the RX-V1700's price range approach.

Next, we listened to XM Satellite radio, which sounded fine, though nowhere as good as CDs--though that's a shortfall of the XM service, not the Yamaha. That said, engaging Yamaha's compressed music enhancer didn't seem to make much of a difference.

Video Performance

Video processing is becoming more and more of an important issue for A/V receivers, and we ran the Yamaha RX-V1700 through our full suite of tests. We kicked off our tests using Silicon Optix's HQV test suite, using an S-Video connection from our reference Denon DVD-3910 to the RX-V1700 and upconverting it over HDMI to 480p on several displays (the Pioneer PRO-FHD1, the Vizio GV47LF, and the Panasonic TH-50PF9UK). Right off the bat, the RX-V1700 struggled with the initial resolution test, unable to pass the full vertical resolution of DVDs. It faired better on the next tests; it handled a rotating line pretty well, and it had marginally acceptable performance on the test with three shifting lines--only the third one wasn't stable. Next up was a waving flag test--which looked fine--as well as a detail test, which predictably looked a little soft.

The real problem came with the race-car scene, which indicates how well the video processing can detect film material and engage its 2:3 pull-down processing. Well, the RX-V1700 never quite was able to lock into film mode, which results in a moiré pattern in the background. To follow-up on its 2:3 pull-down capabilities, we put in Star Trek: Insurrection--our favorite torture test for this issue. Unfortunately, the opening seemed to confirm that the RX-V1700 did indeed lack proper 2:3 pull-down detection: we saw jaggies on the hulls of the boats, as well as on the roofs of the houses as the camera panned over. The result wasn't pretty--unlike some of the more subtle processing issues we see, we think even nonenthusiasts would pick up on these errors. We followed up with a look at the introduction to Seabiscuit, and it was just as bad, with each black and white photograph having several examples of distracting jaggies.

That the video processing of the RX-V1700 isn't perfect isn't necessarily a deal-breaker. Because every recent HDTV can deinterlace a 480i signal--that is, convert it to 480p--the only advantage to having your receiver handle the job is if its deinterlacing capabilities are superior to your HDTV's. In the case of the RX-V1700--where the deinterlacing isn't that good--most people would probably be better off just letting their TV do the processing and using the RX-V1700 primarily as a video switcher. This can easily be done by going into the setup menu and turning HDMI I/P off, which means that standard-definition interlaced signals will remain interlaced but will still be sent over the HDMI output. We should note, however, that not every HDTV is capable of accepting a 480i source over HDMI.

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