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Yamaha YHT-670 review: Yamaha YHT-670

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The DVD changer's tray glides in and out with unusual smoothness, and the nearly silent disc-swapping operation takes 18 seconds. Measuring 17.1 inches wide, 3 high, and 16.5 deep, it's a little deeper than the receiver. It, too, is available separately, as the $200 DV-C6860.

7.0

Yamaha YHT-670

The Good

Home theater in a box including component-grade A/V receiver with generous connectivity options, full-size DVD changer, wall-mountable minisatellite speakers and powered 8-inch subwoofer; XM Satellite Radio capability with HD Surround; optional iPod dock.

The Bad

Curiously, you get only five satellites with this 6.1-channel A/V receiver, and the system lacks automatic setup (speaker calibration) and HDMI output. You also may need to use separate remotes--one for the receiver, one for the DVD player.

The Bottom Line

The compact speakers of Yamaha's YHT-670 home-theater-in-a-box not only mimic the sound of HTIBs with tower speakers, the sound can be upgraded down the road with better speakers.
Intro
The YHT-670, one of Yamaha's top home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems, is a markedly different sort than Panasonic and Sony's best HTIB models. Those come decked out with skinny tower speakers, stylish subwoofers, and trendily slim combo A/V receiver/DVD changers. The YHT-670 ($650) instead features a full-size A/V receiver and a separate DVD changer, as well as a space-saving six-piece microsatellite/subwoofer system. So inquiring buyers might wonder: how does the sound of Yamaha's 6.5-inch-tall satellite speakers stack up against that of the competition's 40-inch-tall towers? Not so differently--the towers may look cool, but they're mostly plastic and typically house a woofer and tweeter no bigger than those lurking under the grilles of the pint-size Yamaha satellites. Moreover, for a lot of buyers, the Yamaha YHT-670's wee speakers will make more sense than the towers, and if you'd ever consider upgrading your sound, the YHT-670's A/V receiver will come alive with better speakers and/or subwoofer. With the combo systems, you're stuck with the towers, and no chance to upgrade. That said, the lack of HDMI video connectivity and a wireless rear speaker option--both available in lower-priced systems from the likes of Samsung and Panasonic--is something of a disappointment. The Yamaha YHT-670 package includes a full-size A/V receiver, DVD changer, and a six-piece satellite/subwoofer system. The quality of the receiver, available separately as the $400 Yamaha HTR-5950, is a huge step up from the typical integrated A/V receiver/DVD players we find in most HTIBs. The Yamaha receiver's front panel has a well-organized array of buttons and controls. The receiver measures 17.1 inches wide, 6.3 high, and 15.4 deep; it weighs 23.1 pounds. The partially backlit remote is likewise a model of straightforward design, except for one thing: we couldn't get it to work with the YHT-670's DVD changer. We wound up using both remotes: one for the receiver and one for the changer. Sure, if we persevered, we probably could have programmed the receiver's remote to control the DVD changer, but we think it should come that way.

The satellite speakers are petite--just 6.5-inches tall--so they can fit just about anywhere, and the matching 11.8-inch-wide center speaker is small enough to easily fit on a shelf below a TV. The speakers' molded, black-plastic cabinets look, well, like molded plastic. The black grilles are removable, though the silver-white woofers might be too garish for some tastes. The one-foot cube subwoofer is more impressive; its sturdy medium-density fiberboard cabinet is nicely finished in black ash, and its woofer is covered by a tasteful, black cloth grille.

During setup, we quickly discovered that the A/V receiver's factory presets sounded out of whack, but if you want to get going with the least amount of fuss, select the Basic Setup via the onscreen menu. It will put you in the ballpark of acceptable sound. We achieved the better results in the Manual Setup mode where we switched the speaker sizes to Small and determined the best crossover setting to be 120Hz, but Yamaha doesn't offer any info in that regard. Why the receiver doesn't come preset to sound its best with the YHT-670's speakers is one of life's little unsolved mysteries. The Yamaha YHT-670's A/V receiver boasts six 110-watt channels and the usual assortment of surround-processing modes from Dolby and DTS--along with Yamaha's proprietary Cinema DSP user-customizable surround field programs for movies and music sources.

Connectivity options are far ahead of the usual meager HTIB allotment. The receiver has a total of three rear-panel A/V inputs, which can accommodate composite, S-Video, or component-video connections. There are no HDMI connections on board, but the receiver performs component-video format conversion for your composite and S-Video sources, so you'll need only a single component-video connection from the receiver to your TV. You get four digital inputs (three optical, one coaxial), and one optical output. Owners of the ubiquitous Apple iPod can take advantage of the optional YDS-10 iPod dock ($100), which offers a single-cable connection to the receiver for both audio and video. The 5.1-channel analog inputs are useful for connecting to the corresponding outputs on SACD, DVD-Audio, Blu-ray and HD-DVD players. The speaker outputs for all channels accept banana plugs or bare wires, and there's a set of "B" stereo speaker outputs. (Interestingly, the receiver is a 6.1-channel model, despite the fact that Yamaha includes only five satellite speakers.) On the front panel, there's a composite-only A/V connection, plus a minijack input for portable audio players.

This YHT-670 is XM Satellite Radio-ready, including the ability to receive XM's two HD Surround formatted channels. To hear any XM programming, of course, you'll also need an XM Connect-and-Play or XM Mini-Tuner kit as well as an active XM subscription ($12.95 per month).

The five-disc changer plays all standard DVDs and CDs, including recordable DVDs (+R/RW and -R/RW) and home-burned CD-R/RWs (audio, MP3, and WMA, as well as JPEG photo discs).

The YHT-670's satellite speakers feature a single 2.5-inch woofer and 0.5-inch tweeter; the elongated center speaker uses the same drivers but with twin woofers. All of the speakers have spring-type connectors. The subwoofer has an 8-inch woofer powered by an onboard 50-watt amplifier. Its rear panel offers just a single RCA input and a volume control.

The YHT-670's features package is decent, but there are plenty of better deals out there. Consider the Samsung HT-TQ85. Widely available for less than $400, it offers a slick-looking combined receiver/DVD changer with an HDMI output and input, tallboy tower speakers, and the option--with a separately available accessory--to make the rear-channel speakers wireless. That said, the component design of the YHT-670 provides the opportunity to upgrade the speakers at a later date--you can hook up a superior set of speakers and subwoofer and really go to town. You won't find that option on the Samsung and its all-in-one ilk. The Yamaha YHT-670 is proof-positive of just how far the evolution of home-theater-in-a-box design has come. The little Yamaha speakers--remember, they're just 6.5-inches tall--can definitely conjure a room filling sound, although the subwoofer is admittedly a key element in providing the necessary muscle to do so. We fired up the X-Men: The Last Stand DVD, and as soon as we heard the richly toned voice of Professor X (Patrick Stewart), we were convinced about the YHT-670's abilities--the little center speaker sounded like a speaker twice its size. There's a great scene in a house where our heroes are sent crashing through walls and ceilings, and the YHT-670 conveyed the dynamic intensity of the effects. Was the YHT-670 the equal of a system with much larger speakers? No, and the sound wasn't as clear or detailed as it would be, but once we were caught up in the DVD, we weren't thinking about the speakers' size. The contents of the onscreen room were swirling all around us, testament to the system's enveloping surround sound.

The little subwoofer again made a strong impression when we played Bob Marley's Catch A Fire CD. The reggae pulse of the music surprised us with its power and its definition. But the satellites now sounded as small as they looked; we could sense them straining to keep up with the sub. That was even more obvious when we rocked out with Primal Scream's Riot City Blues CD. The treble sounded a trifle shrill. Even so, we consider the YHT-670's sound on CD to be perfectly acceptable, just not as rich and clear as you'll get from the larger speakers of Onkyo's home theater systems, such as the HT-S790.

Backing down the volume put the YHT-670's sound in a better light when we played the Jamie Saft Trio's jazz tribute to the music of Bob Dylan, Trouble. The sweet sounds of acoustic jazz didn't overtax the speakers, and our estimation of their musicality went up a couple of notches.

So, in effect, we're saying is the Yamaha YHT-670 is better suited to movies than to music--the same could be said of most HTIBs. But thanks to the YHT-670's component-quality A/V receiver and DVD changer, the sound we heard was just the starting point. If you upgrade to better speakers and maybe a subwoofer, the sound will definitely move up a couple of levels.

7.0

Yamaha YHT-670

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7