We've been critical of some Yamaha receivers in the past for not offering as many features as the competition, but we've always been impressed by their sound quality. That's why when we previewed the Yamaha RX-V665BL, we were a little worried that the weight was substantially lower than last year's RX-V663; was Yamaha cutting back on some of the internal components that made the RX-V663 sound great? While we don't know exactly why the RX-V665BL weighs less, our extensive listening tests found that the RX-V665BL didn't have the sonic prowess we usually find on Yamaha receivers. And while the RX-V665BL made some significant improvements, such as including four HDMI inputs and an improved rear-panel design, there were still some significant missteps, such as the inability to assign audio inputs and poor image quality on upconverted analog video signals. The RX-V665BL has some unique features, like presence speaker outputs and dual subwoofer outputs, that still might make it a choice for budget audiophiles who like those nontraditional arrangements, but most buyers will get more bang for their bucks from competing models such as the Onkyo TX-SR607, Sony STR-DN1000, or Pioneer VSX-1019AH-K.
Editors' note: Yamaha has released a firmware update for the RX-V665BL that enables the ability to assign audio inputs. We have left our criticisms as-is, because we have not been able to test this functionality and its unorthodox updating procedure.
The RX-V665BL has the typical boxy look of an AV receiver, but it's a little shorter than most, coming in at 17.2 inches wide by 6 inches high and 14.3 inches deep. The front panel features a large volume knob and a few additional front-panel controls, but otherwise it's relatively sparse compared with some competing models. The LCD display is a bluish white, compared with the orange of last year's RX-V663, which we preferred and found a little easier to read from far away. When you pull the RX-V665BL out of the box, you'll notice that it's significantly lighter than the RX-V663, coming in at only 18.7 pounds.
The four buttons across the front of the receiver control Yamaha's "Scene" functions, which allow you to pick a preferred DSP (digital-sound processing) mode for specific listening scenarios--like always using the "Hall" effect when watching DVDs. Since we generally prefer to leave the DSP modes off, we didn't find this helpful, but those who like the different sound modes may find it useful. We'd prefer if the Scene functions also let us set a default volume level for each scenario; we did appreciate that Yamaha lets you set a specific volume for each time the receiver turns on in the setup menu.
The RX-V665BL's included remote is jam-packed full of tiny buttons, making it difficult to use, especially for home theater novices. Luckily, important buttons like volume and the main directional pad are separated enough to be easily differentiated, but input buttons and playback controls are a confusing mass. It's definitely not as bad as the remote included on last year's midrange Denon AVR-1909, but we prefer the simpler remotes found on the Onkyo TX-SR607.
The RX-V665BL's onscreen display is text-based, and it looks primitive compared with other receivers in this price range; it's a strictly white-text-on-black-background look that you're used to seeing on an old VCR, and it doesn't help that the entire image shakes as if the RX-V665BL is struggling to keep it on the screen. Making matters worse, its simplicity didn't carry over to ease-of-use, as options such as output resolution are under the "HDMI" menu instead of "Display," which instead controls the front panel LCD. We also spent quite a bit of time trying to find the input assignment menu, only to realize the RX-V665BL doesn't have the capability to assign inputs (more on that later).
Yamaha's Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO) automatic speaker calibration system determines speaker sizes and volume levels, measures the distances from the speakers to the listener, confirms that all of the speaker cables are correctly hooked up, and uses equalization to balance the frequency response of all the speakers. That's what most autosetup systems do; it's just that Yamaha's YPAO is one of the easiest autosetups to use. Plug in the supplied microphone and the RX-V665BL automatically brings up the autosetup menu. Press the menu's "Start" button and YPAO will send a series of test tones to all the speakers and subwoofer. It takes just a few minutes to complete and all of the measurements are taken from just one mic position. Yamaha's autosetup routine is much faster and easier than Denon's or Onkyo's.
After the measurements were completed, we tried all three available EQ Types and didn't hear big differences between them; we settled on Flat. Even so, we felt the subwoofer volume was much too loud, so we brought up the RX-V665BL's manual setup menu and lowered the sub's volume.
|Dolby TrueHD + DTS-HD MA||Yes||Onscreen display||Text-based|
|Analog upconversion||1080p||Source renaming||Yes|
|Selectable output resolution||Yes||Satellite radio||XM + Sirius|
The RX-V665BL hits all the major features we expect at this price level, including onboard decoding for both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. It can also upconvert your analog signals all the way up to 1080p, but don't put too much stock in that spec, as we weren't thrilled about the receiver's actual performance (more on that in the performance section). There's support for both XM and Sirius radio--many receivers only support one of the services--although that's less of a plus now that the two companies have merged.
|HDMI inputs||4||Optical audio inputs||2|
|Component video inputs||2||Coaxial audio inputs||2|
|Max connected HD devices||6||Stereo analog audio inputs||2|
|Composite AV inputs||5||Analog multichannel inputs||7.1|
|Max connected video devices||11||Phono input||No|
From the specs chart, the RX-V665BL's connectivity would seem to be pretty complete, but the specs don't tell the whole story. The RX-V665BL's four HDMI inputs are average at this price point, although it's worth pointing out that the Onkyo TX-SR607 has six. While the rest of the connectivity is in line with comparable models, it's not nearly as flexible as some others, as the RX-V665BL lacks the capability to assign audio inputs to any video input you'd like. So, while there are two component video inputs and two optical-digital-audio inputs, it's not possible to use two component video sources accompanied with optical-digital audio, because one of the component video inputs is permanently assigned to a coaxial-digital-audio input. In the real world, this will probably be an issue only if you have many analog video sources, but it's an annoying drawback that isn't present on other receivers in this price range.
The RX-V665BL is stronger on more audio-centric features. The 7.1 analog audio inputs are a nice inclusion, especially since they have been dropped on the competing Onkyo TX-SR607. It also includes full 7.2 preamp outputs, for those intending to use the RX-V665BL with a separate amplifier. As usual, Yamaha also included a second subwoofer output if you'd like to run a dual subwoofer configuration; Yamaha also includes additional speaker jacks for optional "presence speakers," which are positioned similarly to Dolby Pro Logic IIz height speakers and provide greater ambiance.
|Line level 2nd zone outputs||Yes||Line level 3rd zone outputs||No|
|Speaker-level 2nd zone outputs||Yes||Speaker-level 3rd zone outputs||No|
|2nd zone video output||No||2nd zone remote||No|
The Yamaha RX-V665BL has a strong set of multiroom features, enabling you to send analog audio to a second room, using either speaker-level outputs or line-level outputs. It's also worth noting that, unlike most competing models, the RX-V665BL doesn't use the same speaker connections for the surround-back speakers and second zone speaker level outputs, so you can easily set up both a 7.1 system and have second zone audio running. (The second zone speaker level outputs do share jacks with the optional presence speakers, however.)
We used our CNET reference Aperion Intimus 4T Hybrid SD speaker system for most of our listening tests. The RX-V665BL handled the "Mission: Impossible III" Blu-ray's outlandish action high jinks in stride. The helicopter flying over, under, and around the gigantic wind turbines sounded great, and the missile explosions had decent impact.
Moving on, we listened to a bunch of great bands on the "From the Basement" DVD. The White Stripes charged through "Blue Orchid" in style, but we felt Meg White's bass drum sounded a little soggy, and her cymbals lacked delicacy and air. Listening to CDs confirmed our hunches about the RX-V665BL's sound. Jazz pianist Monty Alexander's "The Songs of Nat King Cole" SACD had wide stereo soundstage, though it lacked depth. We had to strain to hear individual notes from Lorin Cohen's stand-up bass.
We briefly compared the Yamaha with a Denon AVR-1909 receiver. Yup, the Denon's bass was firmer, treble clarity was superior, and the soundstage dimensionality was improved. Still, we're not talking about big differences, but with a speaker system as revealing as the Aperion we preferred the Denon.
We also had the Mirage Nanosat 5.1 satellite/subwoofer system on hand, and the RX-V665BL sounded better with the smaller speakers. The Nanosat 5.1 is an excellent system, but its softer, more "forgiving" sound turned out to be a better match with the RX-V665BL.
The RX-V665BL is capable of upconverting analog signals to its HDMI output, so we put it through our video testing suite. We connected the Sony BDP-S360 via component video to the RX-V665BL, with the BDP-S360 set to 480i output. The RX-V665BL was set to output at 1080p over its HDMI output, connected to the Sony KDL-52XBR7.
Our video testing starting with Silicon Optix's HQV test suite, and the RX-V665BL did not pass the first resolution test. Areas where we should have seen detail were instead just a solid color, and we could see image instability and strobe-like effects elsewhere on the image. Next up were a couple of jaggies test patterns, and again the RX-V665BL came up short, showing as many jaggies as some of the worst Blu-ray and DVD players to which we've administered this test. The RX-V665BL didn't pull through on the 2:3 pull-down processing test either, as there was plenty of moire in the grandstands of a clip with a race car. From test patterns, the RX-V665's performance was not promising.
We put the test patterns away and switched to actual program material, but the RX-V665BL's performance didn't improve. The introduction to "Seabiscuit" is a torture test for video processors and the RX-V665BL's processor was sufficiently pained, as the image was obviously soft and, at times, jaggies marred nearly the entire screen. The opening sequence of "Star Trek: Insurrection" wasn't any better, with jaggies all over curved lines like the boat hulls and roofs of the huts. Even those not particularly sensitive to image quality will most likely notice these quality issues. To be clear, the problems we saw were only on 480i analog signals upconverted to 1080p over the HDMI output. If you're only planning on using the RX-V665BL for HDMI sources, you won't run into these issues at all. It's also worth pointing out that the RX-V665BL can pass through analog signals to the HDMI output at their original resolution, leaving your HDTV to do the converting. In our experience, this produced a better image on the Sony KDL-52XBR7, and we imagine it would on almost all HDTVs. The bottom line is: don't expect the RX-V665BL to offer pristine quality on upconverted analog signals.