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Multiroom music promises the ability to listen to all of your music anywhere in the house, or the same song in all rooms at the same time, party-style. Until now there has only been one manufacturer able to crack the collective multiroom consciousness -- Sonos -- and it's taken the company ten years.
Although late to the party, Yamaha's MusicCast is one of the most fully formed Sonos alternatives yet. Like every other system it streams and plays music from your phone, but Yamaha has also integrated the system in other products, including receivers, soundbars and powered speakers. The AV receiver serves as the hub of a the system, making it the ideal component to offer multiroom streaming.
The RX-V479 is the least expensive Yamaha receiver to feature MusicCast, just one of several useful features. Throw in Bluetooth wireless audio and 4K video compatibility and you have a reasonably future-proof receiver for not too much money. Of course it misses out on Atmos playback found on more expensive units, but it's still too early to see if that state-of-the-art surround technology is worth the investment.
With excellent home theater sound, a gaggle of intriguing features, and enough power for most living room setups, the RX-V479 is worth the extra investment over the entry-level RX-V379. The RX-V479 is available now for $399, £299 and AU$799.
It's a well-worn truth that all receivers pretty much look the same, and this is especially salient when talking about receivers from a single brand. Often the only way to tell the products apart is to scan the bottom right corner for the model number. This holds for Yamaha's RX-V479, which, apart from a couple of extra logos, looks identical to the entry-level RX-V379.
While the front panel might look a little complicated, its direct input buttons are so much more usable than the dials on most receivers. The panel also includes Yamaha's blue LED display, which not only looks better than the old orange version but is easier to read from across the room.
Yamaha receivers have been guilty in the past of scientific calculator-like remotes brimming with buttons that were hard to use. This year's clickers scale down the number of buttons a bit and add color, making them slightly simpler to operate. If you want more functionality -- like numbered buttons or universal functionality -- you can always trade up to a dedicated universal remote.
The RX-V479's menu system is nothing to shout about. There's no fancy visuals, just a straightforward text menu. It's functional, but takes some learning.
For 100 bucks or so more than the entry-level RX-V379, the RXV-479 gives you a generous amount of additional features. There's a 15 percent bump in power to 115W for each of the five channels, and they all feature high-quality binding posts, not just the fronts. While it lacks Atmos -- all of Yamaha's RX series does -- there is the expected Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio decoding. That's more than enough for most real-world 5.1 surround soundtracks.
Connectivity bumps up to six HDMI inputs (from the cheaper model's four) with one of these plus the output featuring HDCP 2.2. Then there's one optical and two coaxial digital inputs; two stereo analog RCA jacks and three composite video inputs.
As we mentioned at the top, the RX-V479 features the company's new MusicCast multiroom system. It promises playback for Pandora, Spotify and Rhapsody as well as Internet radio and music stored on your phone and your network.
Unlike some other systems -- namely Sonos and Denon's HEOS -- the Yamaha MusicCast system is able to play high-res files up to 24-bit/96kHz, which is handy even if just from a compatibility standpoint. And just like those others it's proprietary, so you'll need to buy other MusicCast gear -- sound bars, monitors, dedicated speakers or other receivers -- to take full advantage of it. The cheapest such device is the base MusicCast speaker at $250.
Control of your digital music (and limited control of the unit itself) is possible with the MusicCast app for both Android and iOS. It offers the ability to control multiple zones and a degree of customization including configurable artwork for each zone.
The system comes with a setup microphone and Yamaha's own YPAO calibration routine. However, if you like to roll up your sleeves and fine-tune the sound of your speakers, the RX-V379's GEQ feature boasts seven equalization bands, from 63 Hz to 16 kHz, for each of the five speaker channels.
We put the Yamaha RX-V479 receiver through its paces with the Andrew Jones designed ELAC B6 speakers in the front left/right spots, ELAC C5 center channel speaker, ELAC B5s as surround speakers, and a Klipsch R-110SW subwoofer. We performed a complete manual speaker calibration/setup in about five minutes. All of the subwoofer-to-speakers crossover points were set to 80 Hz for all five speakers.
To provide a maximum, no-holds-barred test of the RX-V479's power reserves we dialed up the volume and played the "San Andreas" Blu-ray. It's not a very good film, but the scenes of a massive San Andreas earthquake tearing up huge swaths of California fully energized the CNET listening room. Deep, deep bass tremors, and the rumble of tall buildings keeling over and crashing onto the streets left no doubt about the RX-V479's potency. The sound held together, and the subterranean bass shocks were surprisingly visceral. Our opinion of the Klipsch R-110SW subwoofer's bass definition jumped a notch or two, it was a great match with the RX-V479.
Gluttons for high-decibel home theater entertainment, we next trotted out the "Mad Max: Fury Road" Blu-ray. The RX-V479 handled the heavy-duty demands of blitzed-out road warrior cars and other vehicles va-va-vroom horsepower with ease, the onslaught of the explosions unleashed with their full dynamic range intact. Dialog intelligibility in the midst of the fracas was impressive, and so was the front-to-rear surround sound of all five speakers.
When we switched over to the less expensive Denon AVR-S500BT receiver, the soundstage flattened out, soft-to-loud dynamic swings softened, and bass definition went south. The Denon played as loud as the RX-V479 and the tonal balance was pleasantly rich, but excitement and energy levels were subdued.
We heard similar softening with stereo music from the AVR-S500BT. Returning to the RX-V479 with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Kathryn Stott's duets on "Songs From the Arc of Life," the sound was clear, clean and transparent.
If we move up to a musical receiver like the $499 Marantz NR1506, the sound is more evenly matched. For while the Marantz was able to bring better focus and poise to Bjork's "Stonemilker," the Yamaha beat the Marantz for home theater zing with the Thanator Chase scene from Avatar.
Lastly, as we found with the YSP-1600 sound bar, the MusicCast system can be a little quirky -- the app presents an initial learning curve -- but it's generally simple to set up and use. Sound quality of the streamed music -- especially of high-res tracks -- was just as pleasing as with their CD counterparts.
The Yamaha RX-V479 demonstrates just how far affordable AV receivers have come. Not only does it offer a complete suite of up-to-date features, including a well-considered multiroom system, but sound quality is first-rate.
The excellent Marantz NR1506 costs one hundred dollars more and offers striking looks, but it's better suited to music playback, while the Yamaha offers a more rounded performance with both music and movies. As a result, the RXV-479 is our new favorite receiver under $500.