If you're looking for a simple way to add digital radio to your setup then the Yamaha T-D500 is a solid performer, but we'd ditch the remote control.
Digital radio has been with us for almost two years, and while there has been an explosion in desktop DAB+ boxes, we can still count the number of hi-fi level tuners on one hand. We first saw Yamaha's entrant in September 2010 and were impressed by its no-nonsense looks and simple operation.
The Yamaha T-D500 is a component tuner which incorporates AM/FM and DAB+, and is the only tuner on the company's books at the moment. Unlike all-dancing models such as the Sangean WFT-1D+ and Marantz NA7004, it doesn't offer any network features or fancy DACs. Despite its AU$599 price tag it's a no-nonsense component for people who want to add digital radio to their hi-fi or home theatre setup.
The T-D500 is a elegant black box measuring 435mm wide, 306mm deep and just 87mm high. Despite its limited height, the tuner features a bright and very readable LED display that is one of the best on the market. DAB+ features a wealth of information including track names, artists and weather, and the Yamaha enables you to see this easily from across the room. This is especially helpful because the tuner doesn't feature any form of video output.
To the right of the tuner's display is a nicely weighted "Tuning" wheel, and underneath the readout is a set of oft-used controls.
Apart from the lack of video, the Yamaha does feature a number of audio connections including optical and coaxial digital and a stereo out. There are three antenna connections each for AM, FM and DAB+.
The Yamaha comes with a credit card remote but unfortunately it's one of the worst ones we've ever seen. The majority of the front is taken up with a four-way direction pad that you barely use, and the tuning buttons that you do use are cramped into one corner. The FM Mode and Band controls could also be confusing to newcomers as the first just switches from Mono to Stereo while the second actually changes the "Mode". Despite the significant limitations of the remote control, the T-D500 is straightforward to use, with the easy-to-read display helping enormously.
Having had problems with DAB+ sound quality in the past we were pleasantly surprised with the sound of the Yamaha — even on poor quality stations. The D500 wisely avoids the merciless attack of tuners like the Cambridge Audio 650T and instead chooses to present a detailed mid-range instead. Surprisingly, we found that hooking up Arcam rDac improved the sound even further by pumping up the bass and adding extra zing to vocals without emphasising hashiness.
When it was announced, the Yamaha T-D500 was set to be the cheapest DAB+ tuner on the market. In the meantime, however, Bush's combination HD set top box and DAB+ tuner (AU$$249.99) is half the price and offers more functionality. If it weren't for the clumsy remote, and if the unit was a little cheaper, the Yamaha would be a "must buy". As it is, it's a solid "please consider".