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AV receivers are notoriously jam-packed with features, most of which you'll never use. Yamaha's RX-V573 ($500 street price) is notably lacking many of those niche capabilities common on other receivers, but it also falls short with the one feature that matters the most: HDMI connectivity. With just four HDMI inputs, the RX-V573 falls behind all of its major competitors, especially with the
The sole bright spot is the RX-V573's built-in AirPlay functionality (and other limited network features), but in most cases it's better to add AirPlay with a separate Apple TV box. Most buyers will be better off with competing receivers like the Onkyo TX-NR414 or
The Yamaha RX-V573 looks no different from other mainstream AV receivers. It's big and boxy, with a two-tone look of glossy black on the top and matte finish on the bottom. If you're looking for something more stylish,
The RX-V573's remote is as bad as it gets. It's covered in tiny buttons, most of which are unnecessary and many are poorly labeled. Even something as simple as a power button is confusing. There are two identical power buttons at the top, one to power off the receiver and one that can power off other devices if you program the remote to do so. Between those buttons is a white button with no label or obvious function; only after I looked it up in the manual did I learn it toggles the remote between controlling the receiver and other devices.
The smartphone remote app is better, although not that useful. You can access music stored on your phone within the app, which is a nice plus for Android users who can't take advantage of the receiver's built-in AirPlay functionality. It's also a faster option for navigating Internet radio stations, although there's no search functionality.
Nearly all AV receiver user interfaces are hopelessly archaic, and the RX-V573's setup menus are no better. The setup menus feature blocky white text that looks more like the display of a Commodore 64 than a modern high-definition display. More annoying is that every time you navigate the menu, the entire screen goes blank, before refreshing again, sort of like those early, clumsy e-ink displays. It's not a huge drawback since you'll rarely need to use the setup menus, but it remains shocking how backward AV receivers are compared with nearly every other home theater device.
The RX-V573 doesn't support many streaming-audio services, but it does have a basic user interface for AirPlay and Internet radio. Don't expect any eye candy here, not even album art, as all you get is basic artist, album, and song info.
Four HDMI inputs: The RX-V573 has four HDMI inputs, which is definitely on the skimpy side for this price range. If you want the most HDMI connectivity for your buck, however, go with Onkyo: the TX-NR616 ($430) and TX-NR515 ($400) both offer eight HDMI inputs. The Yamaha is well-appointed with the rest of its connectivity, including four digital audio inputs: two optical, two coaxial. (Check out CNET's 2012 AV receiver spreadsheet for a more detailed comparison of AV receivers' connectivity.)
Built-in networking: The RX-V573's Ethernet port allows for all kinds of networking functionality, including firmware updates, AirPlay, smartphone control, and media streaming via Internet radio. I still don't think networking is an absolutely essential AV receiver feature (largely because AV receivers shouldn't be media streamers), but it's a nice bonus. The RX-V573's set of streaming-audio apps is somewhat limited compared with competitors', so if you won't be using a separate media streamer or iOS device (with AirPlay), you'll get more options, like Spotify, from Onkyo's network receivers.
Built-in AirPlay: If you own an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, the RX-V573's built-in AirPlay is a nice bonus, although it's not essential since you can always add AirPlay later with a $100 Apple TV. If you're not sure whether you should pick a receiver with built-in AirPlay, check out our rundown of the advantages and disadvantages of built-in AirPlay versus buying a separate Apple TV box.
Two-year warranty: Yamaha's two-year warranty is standard, although it's better than the one-year warranty offered on Pioneer's competing receivers. And if you're really looking for peace of mind,
3D pass-through, audio return channel, standby pass-through: The RX-V573 supports all three of these HDMI features (each of which is explained in more detail here), but while they're all useful, you can largely ignore them when making a buying decision, since almost every newer receiver supports them.
iPhone/iPad-friendly USB port: The USB port on the front panel supports iPhones, iPods, and iPads, so you can connect those devices directly using a standard cable and navigate your music collection onscreen. We also had success using the USB port with a standard USB drive filled with music.
Powered second-zone audio: The RX-V573 has basic multiroom functionality, with the option to assign the surround back channels as a second zone. If you're really interested in multiroom functionality, Onkyo's TX-NR616 is the most featured in this price range, with powered second-zone audio, unpowered second-zone audio, and unpowered third-zone audio.
Other features: The Yamaha RX-V573 lacks the ability to upconvert analog video signals over its HDMI output, but that feature isn't nearly as important as it used to be, since analog video devices are pretty rare. It lacks support for Dolby Pro Logic IIz processing, allowing for "height" channels, but we don't think the minimal sonic benefits are worth the extra effort. The RX-V573 doesn't have any THX certification, but that's not worth factoring into a buying decision, since the Yamaha has solid sound quality.
Setup and calibration
Yamaha has its own automatic speaker calibration technology, dubbed the Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO). Plugging in the (supplied) Optimizer microphone automatically brings up the onscreen menu. Press the "Start" button and YPAO sends a short series of test tones to all the speakers and the subwoofer. The RX-V573's tones were louder than any in recent memory, but the entire operation takes just a couple of minutes to complete.
YPAO only takes measurements from a single mic position, making it faster and easier to use system than the Denon, Marantz or Onkyo's Audyssey setup programs that require the receiver's owner to move the mic to three to six positions in the room. And even with fewer measurements, the results of the RV-V573's calibration were inline with what we get with most receivers.
Sound quality evaluations for AV receivers (and other amplifiers) are controversial. Some say all AV receivers sound the same, others disagree, and we're not likely to settle that argument anytime soon. CNET's sound quality evaluations are strictly subjective, with resident golden-ear Steve Guttenberg comparing similarly priced models in an identical listening environment using the same speakers.
While the RX-V573 power specifications closely match the 5.1 channel RX-V473's, the 7.1 channel model sounded better in our auditions with our Aperion Intimus 4T Hybrid SD reference 5.1 channel system. We did notice some small differences in the auto setup and calibration results of the two receivers (the RX-V573 had a lower subwoofer-to-speaker crossover setting, for example), but the differences in sound were more significant than that. The RX-V473 had a somewhat leaner tonal balance, and the subwoofer volume was set lower.
In any case, the RX-V573 aced Peter Gabriel's vocals on his "New Blood: Live in London" concert Blu-ray, which sounded more full-bodied than they were on the RX-V473. Subtle ambiance cues of the concert hall sounded realistic, and the front and surround speakers created a seamless soundscape. The Raconteurs "Live in Montreux 2008" Blu-ray amply demonstrated that the RX-V573's power reserves were up to the job of playing rock nice and loud without distress. Patrick Keeler's drum dynamics and power were first rate, and Jack White's electric guitar really cut through the dense mix.
Returning to the "Master & Commander" Blu-ray, we cued up the scenes where the wooden ships pummeled each other with cannon balls. The RX-V573 unfailingly delivered the blasts and crashing impacts of naval battles; it had the poise of a more expensive receiver. The Blu-ray's sound over the RX-V573 was on par with our reference Denon AVR-1912 receiver, and that's high praise indeed.
Two-channel music from CDs was definitely up to snuff when we played Keith Jarrett's "Koln Concert." It's a solo piano recital, but the spacious soundstage and crisp piano sound, along with Jarrett's off-mic "vocalizing" were all faithfully reproduced by the RX-V573.
What about Yamaha's other AV receivers?
If you're sold on the Yamaha brand, the company offers several other AV receiver models in its RX-V line. For most buyers, the step-down RX-V473 is a better value, as it's nearly identical to the RX-V573, except it's limited to five channels, rather than seven (7.1 is rarely worth the effort). However, the reality is that Yamaha's line isn't very competitive compared with other manufacturers. I'd say the low-end RX-V373 offers the best value; it only offers basic functionality, but most people don't need extra features, and its $250 street price is relatively attractive.
On its own, the Yamaha RX-V573 is perfectly serviceable AV receiver, albeit with a crummy remote and an archaic user interface. But competing receivers offer more features, most importantly more HDMI inputs, for less money without any significant drawbacks. Unless you find the RX-V573 at a significant discount, you'll be better served with another receiver.