The Yamaha RX-V757 feels solid and strong, and it's certainly a lot more satisfying to use than cheap entry-level models. It weighs in at a bit less than 28 pounds and fills out a fairly standard 6.75 by 17.13 by 16.5 inches. The receiver is available only in black here in the United States, but international customers can opt for a silver version as well. The slender remote has an illuminated LCD window for input selection and an easy way to adjust volume level for each channel.
If you're intimidated by the complexities of today's A/V receivers, Yamaha has the solution: Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO). The autosetup and calibration routine is not only easier to implement than similar systems' solutions from Harman Kardon or Onkyo, we think it's a distinct improvement over that of previous generations of Yamaha autosetup receivers. You simply plug the supplied microphone into the V757's faceplate, bring up the setup onscreen menu, click the Auto Setup icon, and the rest is automatic.
The YPAO's system analysis is unusually complete; it confirms that you've hooked up all of your speakers' wires in phase--that is, red to red and black to black--determines speaker "size," measures speaker to listener distances, sets the crossover point for the subwoofer, and balances the volume for all of the speakers and the subwoofer. The YPAO also provides automatic equalization for the center channel speaker in your system to help tonally match it to the front-left and front-right speakers. Best of all, the autosetup's accuracy is above average. That said, the latest generation of Pioneer's Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration autocalibration system--as seen in the company's VSX-515K receiver--is still the ultimate champ for ease of use and sonic accuracy.
The Yamaha RX-V757's Top-Art and high-current amplification circuitry delivers 100 watts to each of the receiver's 7 channels. Yamaha's proprietary digital surround processing programs augment the standard suite of Dolby Digital EX, DTS-ES, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, and DTS 96/24 surround modes.
Connectivity is fairly complete. All five of the A/V inputs (four rear, one front) accept composite or S-Video connections; two accept component-video sources as well. Like nearly all sub-$1,000 receivers to date, the RX-V757 doesn't have the capacity for DVI or HDMI digital video switching. Audio connections include a turntable input; two more stereo inputs; a set of 8-channel/SACD/DVD-Audio inputs; 8-channel preamp outputs; five optical digital inputs, including one on the front panel; two coaxial digital inputs; a single optical output; and A/B-speaker switching. The RX-V757 will upconvert composite and S-Video sources such as VCRs and non-HD cable/satellite boxes to component video, and an adjustable delay maintains lip sync for all sources and video displays.
Rounding out the RX-V757's feature list are multiroom capabilities: infrared and 12-volt connections, plus Zone 2 line-level stereo outputs. The V757 is a 7.1-channel receiver, but you can connect up to 11 speakers, if you count the B set of speakers. The Yamaha's two extra channels are intended for use with Presence speakers, which are placed outside and above the normal front-left and front-right speakers. Note that the Presence speakers will be active only when you're listening in proprietary Yamaha surround modes and muted when you listen in standard Dolby or DTS surround modes.
The XM satellite radio hookup is simply a matter of plugging the Connect-and-Play antenna's single wire into the USB-style connection on the receiver's backside and activating XM service. The downside to the arrangement is that the V757 can display merely one line of XM's normal three-line display at a time. Otherwise, the tuner's operations aren't so different than the V757's AM and FM functions.
We thought we had a handle on the Yamaha sound, but the RX-V757 was a little different than past models: It had a richer, bigger tone, and the receiver made the most of Kevin Spacey's Beyond the Sea DVD. The Bobby Darin bio flick is a soggy film, but its swinging music buoyed our spirits. It really helped that Spacey did all the vocals himself, which we used to demonstrate the intimacy and realism of the V757's sound. In the opening scene, Spacey/Darin sings "Mack the Knife," and when we played it over an identically priced Marantz SR5500 receiver, the sound was a little less vivid. Returning to the RX-V757 brought out more of the live ambience of the concert setting.
CD sound quality was pure and clean, and we took advantage of Yamaha's customizable digital signal processing to create our own surround effects. Unlike with typical Hall or Arena pseudosurround modes that can sound overblown, you can tune the V757's surround effects to your taste. We selected Pop/Rock mode for Ella Fitzgerald's classic album Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie and adjusted the level of the effect, the reverberation time, and the apparent room size; we quickly came up with the sound that we found more pleasing than Dolby Pro Logic IIx. Properly adjusted, the Presence speakers' contributions are subtle, but they certainly add to the creation of a larger, more spacious surround effect. For the ultimate in purity, we engaged the V757's Straight effect, which bypasses all internal processing and shuts down the display. For us at least, listening in stereo was hardly a letdown, and the beauty of Ms. Fitzgerald's voice was just as gorgeous over a pair of speakers.
We also compared the RX-V757's FM radio sound with XM satellite radio. Good old analog, earthbound radio had more background hiss, while the XM was always dead quiet. But FM sounded clearer, with a little more treble detail and livelier overall. We'd call it a sonic draw, but XM's vastly wider channel selection and commercial-free music programming makes it worthwhile.