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Yamaha YHT-791BL review: Yamaha YHT-791BL

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The strongest part of the YHT-791BL's connectivity is its four HDMI inputs, which should be enough for most home theaters. Aside from HDMI, the HTR-6250BL starts to feel a little skimpy. There's no analog multichannel input, so anyone with some legacy gear may be out of luck; it's worth pointing out that the competing Onkyo also lacks an analog multichannel input.

The YHT-791BL's connectivity is beyond what you get in less-expensive HTIBs, but not being able to assign inputs is an annoyance.

The YHT-791BL also lacks the capability to assign audio inputs to any video input you'd like. So, while there are two component video inputs and two optical-digital-audio inputs, it's not possible to use two component video sources accompanied with both optical-digital-audio inputs, because one of the component video inputs is permanently assigned to a coaxial-digital-audio input. In the real world, this will probably be an issue only if you have many analog video sources, but it's an annoying drawback that isn't present on other receivers in this price range.

Multiroom features
Line level 2nd zone outputs No Line level 3rd zone outputs No
Speaker-level 2nd zone outputs No Speaker-level 3rd zone outputs No
2nd zone video output No 2nd zone remote No

The YHT-791BL lacks multizone capabilities, but that's perfectly normal for an HTIB. If you only plan to use the YHT-791BL in a single room, don't worry about it; if you need multiroom capability, you'll have to step-up to a separates-based system.

We also appreciated that Yamaha includes the YDS-11 iPod dock in the package. Again, the YDS-11 is the same iPod dock that Yamaha sells separately to add functionality to the company's AV receivers, using Yamaha's proprietary "universal port." We had no problems plugging in the YDS-11 and browsing our iPod's music using the onscreen menus. That being said, the Yamaha's onscreen display is rough-looking and you won't get any niceties like album art; it's a strictly utilitarian affair. We also didn't have any luck viewing photos or videos using the YDS-11.

The YHT-791BL immediately impressed with its clean and clear sound. We attribute some of that to the two-way speakers' quality; they're a big a step up from what you get with Panasonic, Samsung, or Sony HTIB speakers. The Yamaha speakers and subwoofer integration was also well above average, and even when we cranked up the volume a bit the YHT-791BL didn't protest or sound harsh.

We started with the "Ratatouille" Blu-ray Disc and the sound was spectacular. We especially enjoyed the scene where Remy, a French rat (voiced by Patton Oswalt) finds himself coursing through the Paris sewer system. The barrage of rushing water, echoing through the sewer pipe provided a truly immersive surround experience. The film's rich orchestral score had a luscious sensuality, and the speakers' clarity was well above par.

Next, Bruce Springsteen's "Live in Dublin" DVD demonstrated another side of the YHT-791BL's skill set. We accidentally started listening in stereo, but even with just two speakers and the subwoofer, the soundstage was deep and wide. The speakers almost disappeared as the sound spread across the front of the CNET listening room.

Switching over to Dolby Digital 5.1 was even better, of course. The mostly acoustic performances were exceptionally clear, and when each singer in the band soloed on "Further On (Up the Road)" it was easy to hear how distinctive each vocal was. The guitars, violins, and piano sounded wonderfully natural. The only downside was the bass; definition was sorely lacking. The subwoofer provided a solid foundation for the music, but it was muddy and thick sounding. We're usually less enthusiastic about HTIBs' sound when playing CDs, but the YHT-791BL was just as strong a performer with two-channel music as it was with movies.

Unfortunately, we didn't have what we consider the best-sounding HTIB on the market, Onkyo's HT-S9100THX, on hand for a direct comparison. That system has significant size and power advantages over the YHT-791BL. For one thing, it has a 290 watt, 12-inch powered subwoofer, so the HT-S9100THX's bass went deeper, and was much better in terms of pitch definition. Other than that, we'd judge the overall sound of the two systems as more or less comparable.

The YHT-791BL's subwoofer is the only real shortcoming in the YHT-791's sound quality.

As with the HT-S9100THX, the YHT-791BL's modular design allows you to improve the sound by swapping out its speakers and subwoofer with superior models from Definitive Technology, Aperion, Klipsch, Energy, etc. Actually, we'd recommend first jettisoning the Yamaha subwoofer for something better. It's the weakest part of the YHT-791BL system.

To finish up, we listened to the YHT-791BL's receiver with our reference Aperion Intimus 4T Hybrid SD 5.1 speaker/subwoofer system. The Yamaha/Aperion sound was much improved, and the bass fullness, texture, and detail were dramatically better. Overall dynamics and liveliness were more vividly presented. So, while the YHT-791BL can be pretty terrific on its own, it can be improved upon. Few HTIBs offer that level of versatility.

Video performance
The YHT-791BL's receiver is capable of upconverting analog signals to its HDMI output, so we put it through our video-testing suite. We connected the

Our video testing started with Silicon Optix's HQV test suite, and the HTR-6250 did not pass the first resolution test. Areas where we should have seen detail were instead just a solid color, and we could see image instability and strobe-like effects elsewhere on the image. Next up were a couple of jaggies test patterns, and again the HTR-6250 came up short, showing as many jaggies as some of the worst Blu-ray and DVD players to which we've administered this test. The HTR-6250 didn't pull through on the 2:3 pull-down processing test either, as there was plenty of moire in the grandstands of a clip with a race car. From test patterns, the HTR-6250's performance was not promising.

We put the test patterns away and switched to actual program material, but the HTR-6250's performance didn't improve. The introduction to "Seabiscuit" is a torture test for video processors and the HTR-6250's processor was sufficiently pained, as the image was obviously soft and, at times, jaggies marred nearly the entire screen. The opening sequence of "Star Trek: Insurrection" wasn't any better, with jaggies all over curved lines like the boat hulls and roofs of the huts. Even those not particularly sensitive to image quality will most likely notice these quality issues.

To be clear, the problems we saw were only on 480i analog signals upconverted to 1080p over the HDMI output. If you're only planning on using the HTR-6250 for HDMI sources, you won't run into these issues at all. It's also worth pointing out that the HTR-6250 can pass through analog signals to the HDMI output at their original resolution, leaving your HDTV to do the converting. In our experience, this produced a better image on the Samsung LN52B750, and we imagine it would on almost all HDTVs. The bottom line is: don't expect the HTR-6250 to offer pristine quality on upconverted analog signals.

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