The HTR-5950 is available in black or silver. Its front panel is uncluttered and has a well-organized array of buttons and controls. The receiver measures 17.1 inches wide, 6.3 high, and 15.4 deep; it weighs 23.1 pounds. The partially backlit remote is also a model of straightforward design. We were a little surprised that the HTR-5950 lacks any form of autosetup, but the manual onscreen setup menus and navigation are easy enough to follow.
While most receivers in the HTR-5950's price class are 7.1-channel designs, the Yamaha has six 110-watt channels as well as the usual assortment of surround processing modes from Dolby and DTS. If you want to go beyond everyday surround, you can experiment with Yamaha's proprietary Cinema DSP user-customizable surround field programs for movies and music.
Connectivity options are about average for a receiver in this price class. The receiver has a total of three rear-panel A/V inputs, which can accommodate composite, S-Video, or component-video connections. There are no HDMI connections onboard, but the receiver performs component-video format conversion for your composite and S-Video sources, so you'll need only a single component-video connection from the receiver to your TV. You get four digital inputs (three optical, one coaxial) and one optical output. Owners of the ubiquitous Apple iPod can take advantage of the optional YDS-10 iPod dock ($100), which offers a single cable audio and video connection to the receiver. The 5.1-channel analog inputs are useful for connecting to the corresponding outputs on SACD, DVD-Audio, Blu-ray, and HD-DVD players. The speaker outputs for all channels accept banana plugs or bare wires, and there's a set of B stereo speaker outputs. On the front panel, there's a composite-only A/V connection, plus a minijack input for portable audio players.
This YHT-670 is XM Satellite Radio-ready, including the ability to receive XM's two HD Surround-formatted channels. To hear any XM programming, of course, you'll also need an XM Connect-and-Play or XM Mini Tuner kit and an active XM subscription ($12.95 per month).
The receiver proved its mettle when we played the Lost: The Complete Second Season DVDs. The show's dense jungle soundscapes put us in the midst of the action, and when that weird black smoke monster arrived, its primordial rumblings made us jump. The sense of place and environment are key to the drama on this series, and the HTR-5950 provided an immediacy that added to the excitement of watching.
Music displayed the same razor-sharp clarity, which let the Raconteurs' Broken Boy Soldiers CD roar to life with a vengeance. The HTR-5950's ample power and bass definition will be evident over a wide variety of speaker systems.
Summing up, the Yamaha HTR-5950 sounds great and has a solid feature set considering its $450 list price. (It can be found online for less than $300, though, as always, buying from unauthorized retailers could be a treacherous, warranty-voiding risk.) It's a worthwhile buy, as long as you don't need any HDMI connections, automated setup, or more than three A/V inputs.