The Yamaha RX-V671 covers the core functionality of an AV receiver well: it sounds great and has plenty of connectivity. Its six HDMI inputs will be enough for nearly every home theater, and one of those inputs is on the front panel, which is great for making a quick connection to a laptop or digital camera. Yamaha is also the only manufacturer that offers a colorful and responsive user interface, although the RX-V671's interface would still be considered archaic on any other home theater device.
Its main failing is the lack of AirPlay support, which we think is the one AV receiver streaming feature worth paying for. If you don't care about AirPlay (or would rather add that functionality by purchasing an Apple TV), the Yamaha RX-V671 is one of the best choices available, sounding better than the competing Onkyo TX-NR609, although the Yamaha does cost almost $100 more.
Gadgets like cell phones and laptops keep getting smaller, but with few exceptions, AV receivers are still bulky black boxes. Aesthetically, the RX-V671 looks pretty much like any other AV receiver, with the exception of its divided front panel: top-half glossy finish, bottom-half matte finish. Altogether, we'd rate the Yamaha's looks as average, with the Denon AVR-1912's more contoured chassis being our favorite of 2011 so far.
If the looks are just average, Yamaha did make the savvy design choice of putting an HDMI input on the front panel. That makes it easy to connect a laptop, digital camcorder, or camera without having to reach around the back of the receiver. The otherwise excellent Denon AVR-1912 and Pioneer VSX-1021-K only have HDMI inputs on the back panel.
Remote and remote apps
AV receiver remotes are notoriously indecipherable, and the RX-V671's clicker is no different. The remote is packed with tiny buttons, with little spacing between them and a confusing overall layout.
For example, toward the top of the remote there are two sections of numbered buttons, separated only by tiny type that indicates one section is HDMI inputs and the other is AV inputs. Why not write "HDMI 1" on the buttons, like other remotes do? There are even two identical power buttons at the top, one for turning off the receiver and the other for turning off sources. Do yourself a favor and spring for a $65 Logitech Harmony 650 or other quality universal remote.
Like every other midrange receiver this year, the RX-V671 can also be controlled by Yamaha's avControl iPhone app. It's a decent app for basic functions, like choosing inputs and adjusting the volume. It also displays cover art and track information when using streaming-music services, such as Pandora, and it can also be used to search on Rhapsody and Napster. It wasn't quite as intuitive as Onkyo's remote app, though.
The RX-V671's user interface is considerably different than all its competitors. It's much more visually oriented, from its colorful background to its icon-based menu system. Compared with the utilitarian interfaces included with competitors, the RX-V671 is at least trying to pretty-up the AV receiver experience, even if it still lags considerably behind other types of home theater components, like Blu-ray players, game consoles, and streaming-video boxes.
The Yamaha's interface is also impressive in how responsive it is. You can speedily choose inputs from the menus and make changes to the settings without it feeling like a chore. (Unfortunately, tediously inputting passwords and usernames for streaming-media services is as chorelike as ever.)
When accessing streaming-music services, such as Pandora, you'll get cover art and track information on the screen. It's one of the better-looking media playback screens on a receiver, but again, it looks archaic compared with the Pandora interface on, say, a Blu-ray player.
|Key AV receiver features|
|Channels||7.1||Analog video upconversion||1080p|
|Graphical user interface||Yes||Automatic speaker calibration||Yes|
The Yamaha RX-V671 has all the key features we expect at this price level, including a two-year warranty, which is a year longer then Pioneer offers for the competing VSX-1021-K.
|iPod/iPhone features chart|
|AirPlay||No||Connect iPod/iPhone via USB||Yes|
|iOS remote app||Yes||Proprietary iPod dock||$100|
The main missing feature here is AirPlay, which is available on the competing Denon AVR-1912 and Pioneer VSX-1021-K. While we generally think
Yamaha's other iPod/iPhone features are standard these days, including the ability to connect an iPod/iPhone directly to the USB input. Yamaha also offers a $100 iPod dock, but we don't see much of a reason to buy that since you can connect directly.
|HDMI version||1.4||3D pass-through||Yes|
|Audio return channel||Yes||Standby pass-through||Yes|
This year, all of the midrange receivers we've tested support the major new HDMI features, including the handy standby pass-through mode, which allows the receiver to pass audio and video signal to a TV even when the receiver is off. No midrange receiver that we've seen so far supports HDMI Ethernet Channel.
|HDMI inputs||6||Component video inputs||2|
|Composite video inputs||5||Max connected HD devices||8|
Strictly by the numbers, Yamaha's video connectivity is excellent. Six HDMI inputs is the most that's available at this price, and it's one of the only midrange models (along with the Onkyo TX-NR609) that includes a front-panel input. Two component video inputs is standard, and its five composite video inputs are plenty.
The only room for criticism is that Yamaha isn't quite as flexible as other models in the ability to assign inputs. A few of the composite video inputs do not let you assign different audio inputs; you're locked to the analog audio input that it's paired with. Practically speaking, we don't think this is a big issue since most home theater components use HDMI now.
|Optical inputs||2||Coaxial inputs||2|
|Stereo analog audio inputs||5||Multichannel analog inputs||No|
The RX-V671 certainly offers a healthy selection of both analog and digital audio inputs, although with six HDMI inputs, we can't imagine many buyers needing many additional audio-only inputs. And audiophiles take note: none of the 2011 midrange receivers we've seen offers multichannel analog inputs or a phono input. You'll need to step up to a more expensive receiver if you want those features.
The RX-V671 may lack AirPlay, but it's packed with built-in streaming services. It has most of the high-quality streaming-music services we care about, although Slacker and Spotify fans are currently out of luck. We still think AirPlay is a much better overall solution if you have an iOS device, since it's compatible with any streaming-music app (you don't need to wait for Yamaha to make a firmware update) and it's much easier to navigate streaming-music services on a phone compared with a receiver user interface.
You'll also notice there's no Wi-Fi dongle available, which is disappointing especially since the similar Onkyo TX-NR609 offers a dongle for just $40. However, there are several affordable Wi-Fi alternatives, including power-line adapters, so we don't consider this a deal breaker.
Like every other midrange receiver we've tested this year, the RX-V671 is DLNA-compliant, so you'll be able to stream music from compatible networked devices running a DLNA server. If you have an Android phone, you can use a DLNA app like Skifta to enable AirPlay-like functionality, although it's not quite as flexible. You can also play back digital music by connecting a USB drive to the front-panel USB port.
|Audio decoding features|
|Dolby TrueHD||Yes||DTS-HD Master Audio||Yes|
|Dolby ProLogic IIz||No||THX Neural Surround||No|
|Other: Adaptive DRC, Cinema DSP 3D|
Like virtually every receiver these days, the RX-V671 supports all the standard HD audio codecs. Though there isn't any support for proprietary sound-processing modes from companies like Audyssey and THX, Yamaha has its own technologies, such as Adaptive DRC and Cinema DSP, that work similarly.
|USB port||Yes||Bluetooth dongle||$70|
Many AV receivers are ditching traditional satellite radio support, but the Yamaha (and the Pioneer VSX-1021-K) still has a port for connecting an external tuner. Yamaha also sells a Bluetooth dongle, which you can use with an iOS device for AirPlay-like audio streaming. (Check out our review of the LG LSB316 to see Bluetooth/iOS device integration in action.)
Note that there are quite a few features missing from all 2011 midrange receivers that home theater enthusiasts may be interested in: pre-outs, HD Radio, and RS-232. Again, you'll need to spend more if you want those features.
|Line-level second-zone outputs||Yes||Powered second-zone outputs||Yes|
The RX-V671 supports second-zone audio via both powered and line-level outputs, so you don't need an additional amplifier in the second zone. Do note that there are some significant limitations on what sources you can use for multiroom functionality. Page 69 of the manual lays it all out, stating that you can't output audio from HDMI or digital audio inputs to a second zone. Practically, we imagine streaming-music services would be the most useful second-zone audio source.
The Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO) auto setup system determines speaker sizes and volume levels, measures the distances from the speakers to the listener, sets the subwoofer-to-speaker crossover points, and confirms that all of the speaker cables are correctly hooked up. Yamaha slightly changed the YPAO's onscreen graphics for this year's models; thankfully it's still dead simple to use.
Plugging in the included microphone automatically brings up the YPAO onscreen menu. Press the "Start" button and the YPAO sends a short series of test tones to all the speakers and the subwoofer. All of the measurements are taken from just one mic position, and the YPAO takes just a few minutes to complete. It's a faster and easier to use system than Denon's or Onkyo's Audyssey setup programs that require the receiver's owner to move the mic from three to six positions in the room and run test tones in each spot to complete the setup. True, the YPAO doesn't equalize the sound or tackle room acoustics problems the way Audyssey does, but we can't say we found the YPAO setup lacking in any way.
The results were as accurate as Audyssey's, and the YPAO correctly determined that all five of our Aperion Intimus 4T Hybrid SD reference speakers were "Small." The YPAO measured the mic-to-speaker distances accurately, but the subwoofer distance was off; it claimed it was 16 feet, when it's really 13 feet away, but very few calibrations get that the number correctly. With this year's YPAO, we couldn't figure out how to check the subwoofer-to-speaker crossover settings, but the sound balances were excellent, so we didn't need to make any adjustments to the YPAO's setup.
We used "The Day the Earth Stood Still" Blu-ray to get acquainted with the RX-V671's sound quality. This movie has lots of cool sounds in it--deep bass tremors, whooshing zaps and explosions--and the RX-V671 took them all in stride. Power demands at high-volume listening levels never made the RX-V671 cry uncle.
The "Avatar" Blu-ray is another disc that sounds great, with an unusually excellent surround mix. The sounds of the jungle's little creatures, birds, and other critters were clear and distinct. In a brief comparison with the Sony STR-DN10120 receiver, we heard greater clarity and the front-to-rear surround imaging was more sharply focused with the Yamaha. The Sony developed the same 360-degree soundfield, but the clarity and details of the animal sounds were softened. We attribute some of that perception to the Sony's warmer tonal balance.
The 5.1 surround mix on Roxy Music's "Avalon" SACD sounded a little more spacious on the Denon AVR 1912 than it did over the RX-V671. That is, the sound was recessed behind the plane of our Aperion speakers with the Denon, which we liked, and the Yamaha's soundstage seemed a little forward of the speakers. Both receivers seamlessly panned the sound on the instrumental tune "India" as it moved from one speaker to the next, circling around the CNET listening room. It's a cool effect, and the big bass drum's definition and dynamics were better with RX-V671 than what we've heard from most receivers. But the AVR-1912's bass power and oomph aced the RX-V671's. All in all, we'd say the two receivers sounded excellent, but different from each other. If forced to pick, we'd give the AVR-1912 the nod.
Listening in stereo to CDs was also a pleasure; the soundstage was wide and very spacious. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "The Live Anthology" served up a little bit of rock and roll heaven, especially when we turned up the volume. The live recordings were done between 1978 and 2007, so the quality varies from tune to tune, but the RX-V671's musicality was consistent through all of it.
The RX-V671's remarkable clarity was evident throughout our music and home theater listening tests, making it a great match with today's best speaker systems.
The Yamaha RX-V671 sounds excellent and supports several high-quality streaming-music services, but it lacks built-in AirPlay support, although it does have a solid collection of built-in streaming-music apps, including Pandora, Rhapsody, and Sirius XM. And while the user interface isn't great compared with other home theater components, it's one of the best available on AV receivers.