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There's no doubt about it--the deeply extruded aluminum faceplate and volume knob give the V740 a dramatic high-end flair. This 28.6-pound component is really built.
Home-theater beginners will appreciate the logical menus. Also nicely organized is the button contingent on the remote, which features an illuminated LCD.
Oh, there's something the V740 doesn't have: a cooling fan. The unit instead relies on an internal finned heat sink. We like that design decision because we never got distracted by fan noise.
The V740's conservative 90-watt-per-channel power rating deserves a closer look. Most competing models' power ratings are based on the use of speakers with the most-benign load: 8 ohms of electrical resistance. Some receiver user manuals even recommend steering clear of 4-ohm speakers. The problem is that in real life, no speaker--not even one rated at 8 ohms--offers steady resistance. It dips and rises. The V740 addresses that reality by producing higher-than-average current output. So the V740 isn't afraid of drops to 6 ohms or even 4 ohms--it can deliver short-term 190-watt peaks into 4-ohm speakers. That's impressive performance for a $599 receiver.
A 15-band center-channel equalizer, uncommon among receivers, can help the main and center speakers blend more seamlessly. The front panel also has bass and treble controls for the main speakers.
The usual surround formats--Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS-ES Discrete 6.1, and DTS Neo:6--are augmented with 24 proprietary synthesized-surround programs.
Connectivity looks awfully complete, including HDTV-compatible component-video switching, a 5.1 SACD/DVD-Audio input, 6.1 preamp outputs that can feed an outboard power amplifier, A/B speaker connections, stereo outputs for a two-zone system, lots of A/V and digital-audio ins and outs, and a full set of front-panel-mounted audio/video/digital inputs. Hey, the designers even remembered to accommodate a turntable with a phono input--cool!
Yamaha's two-year warranty is twice as long as the usual offering.
Our home-theater auditions ably demonstrated the V740's sonic skill set. The Pianist DVD opens in a radio studio in World War II Warsaw. As Adrien Brody performs a stately recital, distant explosions shake the building, ominously moving closer and closer. We were chilled by the sound of a bomb hitting the studio, crumbling plaster and shattering glass. The audio effects in this film don't bear any resemblance to the typical overdone Hollywood bombast; rather, they're more realistic and, therefore, more frightening. The V740 put us in the middle of the action.
We next teamed up the V740 with Yamaha's DVD-S2300 universal player. Beck's Sea Change SACD has a wonderfully enveloping surround mix, and the mellifluous mist enhanced the tunes. "Lonesome Tears" features a Beatles-esque string accompaniment that wrapped around the room and swept us away. The sound was just beautiful.
We also compared the V740 with the Denon AVR-2803 receiver. To cut to the chase, the Denon's sound was richer and plusher. Its CD playback was more three-dimensional, and the bass was pleasantly ripe--but we go for that sort of sound. Just listening to the V740 on its own, we were always happy with its very detailed sound. Ah, and the V740's list price is a couple of hundred dollars less than the 2803's.