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Yamaha RX-V681 review: The Swiss Army knife of AV receivers

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The Good The Yamaha RX-V681 offers excellent sound quality in a relatively affordable package. Its enticing combination of features includes Dolby Atmos, multiroom music and streaming to Bluetooth headphones. The six HDMI ports support 4K video and HDR sources.

The Bad No Chromecast built-in. The user interface and remote control require a slight learning curve. The Zone 2 speakers have spring clips instead of binding posts.

The Bottom Line Yet another strong contender from Yamaha, the RX-V681 combines a bevy of gotta-have features with seriously potent sound quality.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8

If you're upgrading your home theater, what's your main reason for doing so? Is it to run that new set of power-hungry speakers you bought? Or is it to keep up with the some of the latest audio and video standards?

The Yamaha RX-V681 can help with both. It supports Dolby Atmos and HDR, two of the latest home-theater standards, and has a number of other goodies including Yamaha's MusicCast multiroom system, six HDMI ports and Bluetooth. It also has plenty of power and excellent overall sound.

With all of the tools in its arsenal, the Yamaha RX-V681 offers some compelling reasons to upgrade, especially compared to cheaper models in the company's range. It's available now in the US for $600, in the UK for £500 or AU$1,300 in Australia.

Design

yamaha-rx-v681-04.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

Many receivers today limit the functionality available from the front panel in order to keep the look minimal. Not the RX-V681. Its face is more cluttered than its competitors' but we didn't mind, especially since it includes handy shortcuts to the most popular inputs. The large LED display is blue and easy to read from across the room.

yamaha-rx-v681.jpg
Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Yamaha's onscreen interface has received a spit-and-polish over previous years. The RX-V681 now boasts a "high definition menu system" but it takes a little getting used to with its up/down and left/right navigation, even for users already familiar with AVRs.

yamaha-rx-v681-10.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

On of the things the company has also "upgraded" in this receiver is the remote. Gone is the "friendly" candy bar, which is replaced by the dreaded "scientific calculator." The rows and rows of lots of tiny buttons, 70 in all, can be a bit daunting. Still, the volume up/down buttons are well placed. But really, just get a Harmony.

Features

yamaha-rx-v681-03.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

If you're trying to decide between the cheaper RX-V481 and the V681, the most obvious difference between them is that only the RX-V681 does the atmospheric, "object-based" formats Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Essentially, the cheaper receiver is a 5.1 model, or has five amplified channels, while the 681 boasts seven amplified channels. Power per channel gets a small bump from 80W to 90W. While most of the connectors are standard binding posts, we were a little disappointed to see a pair of spring clips for the Zone 2/Presence speakers.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The 681 also offers more HDMI ports than the 481 -- an increase from (a frankly pitiful) four to a healthier six -- and all of these ports are now HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.0 compliant. Connectivity also includes a decent selection of analog and digital ports in addition to both Bluetooth in and Bluetooth out (to compatible headphones or a speaker).

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