The YHT-740's silver-toned A/V receiver, five-disc carousel CD/DVD changer, and 6.1-speaker ensemble comes packaged in one rather massive box. The receiver and DVD player's mellow orange display is easier on the eyes than the blue hues found on other boxes.
The receiver and the DVD changer are full-size units. Before you buy the 740, grab a tape measure, and make sure your furniture can accommodate the changer's nearly 18-inch depth. We placed the receiver on top of the changer, bringing the stacked units to 11 inches in height.
While the receiver's quick-setup regimen is fairly straightforward, we strongly recommend investigating the more advanced routines if you're interested in getting the best sound out of this system. Curiously, Yamaha's engineers opted for a Large default setting for the smallish left- and right-front speakers, but we recommend switching to Small to obtain the best sound. And since the 740 lacks onscreen menu displays, the setup routine isn't as user-friendly as it could be.
The 740 kit includes two nicely designed remotes, one for the receiver and one for the DVD changer, but we used the receiver's remote for both components. Button logistics were above par.
The receiver hosts six 80-watt channels and a complete selection of surround-processing modes: 6.1-channel Dolby EX and DTS ES, as well as Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS Neo:6.
Connectivity options far exceed those of most combo HTIBs we've seen. With two component-video inputs and one output, the receiver can handle switching duties between the DVD changer and a second high-end video device such as an HDTV set-top box, a DVR, or a DVD recorder. In addition to the three A/V inputs and one output, there's a video monitor output, all of which feature S-Video, as well. Two analog audio-only inputs and one output are flanked by a whopping four digital inputs (three optical and one coaxial) and one optical digital output. There's also a 5.1-channel input for compatibility with SACD and DVD-Audio players, although the included changer doesn't play back either format. A front-panel A/V input rounds out the package. Additionally, all speaker connectors are high-quality five-way binding posts.
The changer's disc-loading mechanism dawdles for 16 seconds before you hear a note of music. After you finish playing a CD or DVD, you can't just hit Play to restart the disc. No, you must first punch the Disc Skip button on the remote so that the changer will search for the disc. Those nitpicks aside, the changer spins all of the standard formats, including DVD-Video; all of the DVD-recordable permutations except DVD-RW; audio CDs; and MP3-encoded CD-R/RWs.
The Achilles' heel of many HTIBs is their speaker packages, and so it is with the YHT-740. Yes, they're nice and small: the five 6.75-inch-tall satellites each feature a 3-inch woofer and a 0.5-inch dome tweeter, while the 11.5-inch-wide center speaker utilizes dual 3-inch woofs and the same tweeter. The silver sub is a one-foot cube housing a downward-firing 6.5-inch woofer and an onboard 70-watt amplifier. Most subs hide their controls around back, but this one proudly flaunts its volume, crossover, and other controls on the top of the front panel. You won't have to get down on your hands and knees with a flashlight to dial in your preferred settings.
The wee sats belted out The Recruit DVD with surprising gusto, but we noted a tendency for the sub to turn muddy; even when we backed off a bit on the volume, the sub still droned on. It just lost its composure at certain bass frequencies. The center speaker was the best of the lot--Al Pacino's gruff voice was right there, and the surround speakers' enveloping sound was never less than convincing. We judged the 740's sound to be too forward and too bright for our tastes, but it was better balanced (and sounding) than Panasonic's pricier SC-ST1 HTIB. And the 740 could also play louder without duress. The gun blasts from The Recruit really made us jump.
CDs were less enjoyable. Nirvana's classic Nevermind overtaxed the little speakers, and the bass lacked definition. Moving onto jazz, we found that John Coltrane's A Love Supreme sounded coarse, with sizzling noises. We performed a few direct comparisons with the next model up in the Yamaha line, the YHT-940, which has larger sats, as well as a better sub and receiver. Its overall sound was superior, and the bass definition in particular was significantly better. If music rather than DVDs is your first love, the additional $200 for the 940 would be money well spent.