- Written by Kieran Coghlan
- Published on 01 June 2009
Part of what I enjoy most about this hobby is helping other people get into it. Given that, I'm a big fan of mid- to entry-level home theater equipment, since most people asking for advice about their first system are not looking to dole out beaucoup bucks, especially in this economy. Yamaha has a great history with their A/V receiver product line, with many excellent products in the mid- to entry-level range. I've owned the same Yamaha receiver (RX-V995) for an amazing 10 years now and it's still going strong. What's even more amazing, is how much receiver you get today, for half of what I paid for mine, 10 years ago. Yamaha's latest entry-level receiver, the RX-V665 at an MSRP of $550, is loaded with features and excellent performance.
- Design: 7.1 A/V Receiver
- Power Output: 90 Watts RMS x 7
- Codecs: Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital (Standard, Plus, & EX), Dolby Pro Logic (Standard, II, & IIx), DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS (Standard, Express, 96/24, ES Matrix 6.1, ES Discrete 6.1, & NEO:6), and Neural Sound (USA Only)
- Satellite, iPod, and Bluetooth – ready (Each requires additional hardware)
- YPAO Automatic Parametric EQ and Speaker Setup
- Dimensions: 6" H x 17.1" W x 14.4" D
- Weight: 18.7 Pounds
- MSRP: $549.95
The first thing I noted about the 665, even before it was delivered to me, was the paltry weight. At 18.7 pounds, I actually wondered if this was a typo. I mean, my DVD player (admittedly built like a tank) weighs almost that much and my stalwart 995, not top of the line even when new, hefts in at almost twice as much. I was immediately concerned about the amplifier section and power supply. When the 665 arrived, the weight was confirmed as I was able to carry the box easily in one hand.
However, upon un-boxing, I noticed a few design features that explain at least some of the 665's svelte build: The faceplate, though a dead-ringer for a nice plate of black-anodized brushed aluminum, is actually plastic, and the overall build and design of the receiver further reflect those sort of subtle but not insignificant materials choices throughout. So while very light in weight, it does not feel, nor look, as though it's cheaply built (save for the volume knob, more on that later); but rather fairly cleverly designed. Keep in mind; this is an 18 lb $550 receiver: one shouldn't expect tank-like build quality. Given that, I was pleased with the design and build. I was however, still a little concerned about the power supply.
Aesthetically, the 665 is a very traditional black AV receiver, with a nice minimalist front panel. The only dial on the front is the main volume. There are several discreet, flush buttons for various mode selections and tuning, one set of A/V inputs and a headphone jack. The display uses a white LCD, which is a departure from older Yamahas which used gold LCDs.
I must say I wasn't very fond of the volume knob and control for a few reasons, least of which was that the knob is very light and feels cheap. Granted, tactile characteristics of a volume knob are not as important as they used to be, since we generally adjust volume with the remote. The second mark against it was that the volume knob is not backlit in any way, so it's very difficult to see how much the volume changes when adjusted via the remote. There is an attenuation value displayed on the main LCD display, but the font was too small to read from the couch. Thirdly, the volume adjusts much, much too slowly when using the remote. This may seem like a minor quibble, but after a while, it really became annoying. When I press and hold the volume button on the remote, I expect a fairly fast response, especially with commercials that are >6dB louder than the main program on TV these days.
Around the back side of the 665 is a pretty decent set of inputs and outputs for such an affordable receiver: In addition to nice binding post terminals for all 7 channels (the only spring clips are for Yamaha's proprietary "front effects" channels), there are four HDMI inputs and one out, two component inputs and one out, four digital audio inputs (two coax, two optical) and the standard array of analog audio/video RCA jacks. Curiously absent are any S-Video jacks at all, even though composite video jacks are included. I can't think of any contemporary A/V devices these days that have composite video outputs and not s-video outputs. One benefit of eliminating the s-video jacks, however, is that the back panel is not as crowded as it might otherwise be. For example, although I use banana plugs for my speaker wire, it looks to me like you could fit 5/16" spades in to the binding posts if you wanted to. Also missing, is a phonograph input jack.
I can't say I blame Yamaha for removing such a jack from a receiver at this price point, though. Most people still into vinyl will most likely not be in the market for a receiver like the 665. One small quibble I had with the connections on the back panel is that of the two component inputs, one has coaxial audio input, while the other has optical. These are not interchangeable and can not be re-assigned. So if you have two component video sources and both have only coax digital audio out (or both only optical), you would not be able to switch both sources with the 665. While this design simplifies setup (you have no choice where to connect your component source that has only optical digital audio out) the lack of flexibility can be frustrating.
For example, I would have preferred to connect the DVD player to AV-1, which has the optical audio jack. My DVD player has both coax and optical audio outputs, but my other component video source, my digital media center (an original Xbox) has only optical. So, I was forced to connect my DVD player to AV2, using coaxial digital audio, and my media center to AV1. I then re-named AV1 to "Game" to distinguish it from the DVD player. Again, these may seem like minor quibbles to some, but you never know when one man's minor annoyance is another's deal-breaker.
The remote is pretty basic. The layout seemed fairly intuitive to me: I found it fairly easy to remember where buttons were. That said, it could be a lot better. There is absolutely no dark-viewing technology (backlight, glow-in-the-dark, etc.) at all. The source buttons are much too similar and close together. Even while looking, I often pressed the HDMI#1 source button instead of the AV#1 button. The transport buttons are identical in shape, and the numeric keypad is tiny. On the other hand, the navigation section and volume buttons were easy enough to find and operate; and this is the most commonly used part of the remote. I did really like that there was a dedicated set of buttons for the TV. The remote was very sensitive to direction: In my family room the 665 was about 14 feet from the remote when watching TV and it had to be pointed pretty much straight at the receiver to work reliably.
The remote has four "scene" buttons. The scene buttons offer a one-button solution for what Yamaha deems the four most common sources for the RX-V665 (Blu-Ray/DVD, TV, CD, and Radio). You can assign the scene buttons to any input source, but the labels on the remote are permanent. I'm not sure yet what these buttons offer over the standard source selection buttons (HDMI 1 through 4, and AV 1-6) other than that the Scene buttons are hard-labeled with a device type (e.g. "TV" instead of AV-4 in my case).
The component video switching section is rated to 60 MHz @ -3dB. This is adequate for 720p and 1080i video (although barely – some softening may be visible depending on your display's and cable's quality) but this is not adequate if you have any 1080p video sources that use component cabling or if your 1080p display requires component cables. Admittedly, both of these scenarios are probably pretty rare anymore, but caveat emptor. Both the HDMI and the component video outputs are active at the same time.
Setup of the RX-V665 was a breeze. Apart from the connections, which for a given HT don't change from receiver to receiver, I had the 665 up and running and fully calibrated in about 15 minutes. The most difficult part was finding a way to place the YPAO microphone at a location that best simulated where my head would be during listening sessions. YPAO (Yamaha Parametric Audio Optimization) is Yamaha's own proprietary EQ, speaker setup and level balance system and I have to say it worked quite well. The YPAO calibration resulted in nearly perfect speaker settings for my system. The only part of the YPAO results that I tweaked a bit was the cutoff frequency for my speakers. I have identical satellite speakers in a 5.1 configuration and they are pretty solid down to about 90~100Hz. YPAO configuration resulted in a crossover frequency of 160Hz, whereas I ended up preferring it a bit lower at 120Hz. Everything else the YPAO nailed; distances were spot-on and the EQ smoothed out some bumps and dips in the sound field.
Comparing YPAO to Audyssey, the EQ offered on several other manufacturers' receivers, the main difference that I could tell is that Audyssey can optimize the sound field for multiple seating locations, whereas YPAO optimizes for only one location. During an Audyssey calibration, you can move the microphone to several locations in the room, whereas the YPAO system is "set it and forget it". In fact I just left the room entirely. There are advantages and disadvantages to both systems: The Audyssey system might result in a better (more stable/consistent) sound field for every seat in the room, but at some sacrifice in overall sound quality for any one seat.
YPAO on the other hand is going to sacrifice consistency of the sound field from seat to seat, in favor of optimizing sound field and quality at one seat location. (Audyssey can also optimize for one seat only by leaving the microphone stationary during calibration.) Indeed, I don't think I've ever had my 5.1 system so well calibrated for the main seating location. Balance and smoothness were excellent. That said, auto-EQ is not for every one, nor every room. For a more detailed look at the pros and cons of auto-EQ, read Secrets' technical article on the topic.
For daily use, I was very pleased with the 665. I was very happy to have some of the more modern codecs for 2 channel decoding, like Dolby Pro Logic II, when watching standard TV programming and casual music listening. Action HDTV programs like 24, CSI and NUMB3RS were well served. Each of these programs often makes good use of the surround channels in the DD5.1 sound track and the Yamaha delivered with aplomb. I was anxious though to really put the 665 through its paces, with some reference movie and music discs from my collection.
First up was my standard reference DVD for audio, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. There are other discs out there equally deserving of reference status for surround sound action, but I've been listening to and using the pod-race scene from this movie for so long, that it's easy to make comparisons. Again, for "normal" listening levels, the Yamaha did great. For me, "normal" means don't make a spectacle of your house with the sounds emanating from it, be able to have a limited conversation somewhere in the house, and maybe even let the kids sleep. The next volume level for me, is what I would consider enjoyable for a movie, but not optimal. This is the loudest my wife is comfortable with, which is still several clicks less than what I consider "loud." At this level, the 665 continued to impress.
The surround channels were immersive, and I never felt like the sound system was drawing attention to itself. One thing I really liked was the balance that the YPAO speaker setup achieved for my system. I felt like the sound field was noticeably smoother and more contiguous that what I was able to achieve with my older 995 receiver, which lacks EQ of any sort. Normally my bass is a bit "boomy" for my taste, and the 665 with the YPAO configuration smoothed out some of that boomy-ness.
At THX home reference levels (i.e. the receiver volume where THX test tones read 75dB on my SPL meter), I felt like the 665 was being pushed just a little beyond its comfort zone. Keep in mind too, that I had the 665 set up in a 5.1 configuration; only 5 of the 7 amplified channels were ever driven simultaneously and with very efficient satellite speakers. However, I want to stress that most people, including myself, never really listen to movies or music at reference levels – it is very loud. That said, I could certainly tell a difference between my 32lb RX-V995, and the 19lb RX-V665 when the volume was up and the surrounds were active.
I did not have a source that allowed me to test the latest high-definition audio formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio. However, I did listen extensively to both Dolby and DTS 5.1 formats, and as described earlier, the decoding performance of these codecs was very good.
My Telarc CD of "Aaron Copland: The Music of America" served as a music test for the RX-V665. This CD has all of the American composer's "greatest hits" with plenty of dynamic range – from pianissimo string and brass dances to full trumpets and tympani – to test any system. If you want dynamic transients, just try listening to "Buckaroo Holiday" from Copland's ballet score, "Rodeo". The challenging transitions from the cowgirl theme into the rodeo itself are a great test of any system. On lesser systems you'll find yourself turning up the volume to get the detail of the quiet cowgirl theme, and then turning it down again as the tympani and horns blast with the thunderous onset of the rodeo.
Again, I listened at two different levels as I evaluated the 665's performance: first at a "normal" listening level, what I might have while reading or studying, for example. Then there's my critical listening level, where I really push the system. At normal levels the 665 came through with great detail. The processing abilities of this receiver are quite impressive. At louder volumes, I felt that the big transients were not supported by enough dynamic headroom from the amplifiers in the 665: sections of forte tympani, bass, and brass felt just slightly weak, compared to what I am used to with the 995.
The RX-V665 is capable of video up-conversion through the HDMI output. All inputs are converted to whatever resolution you choose to be output on the HDMI monitor out. In my setup, I have two component sources: a Sony DVP-S7700 DVD player and a classic Microsoft Xbox setup as a media center with XBMC software. The DVD player is SD (480i) resolution, and the Xbox is set to 720p resolution. I normally have both sources run directly to my 50" 720p Samsung plasma TV, since my 995 can not switch component video. With the 665, I was able to hook both sources up to the receiver and choose either HDMI out to the TV or HD component out to the TV. Regardless of the configuration, I could not tell any differences in video quality, which is a good thing. If I had both sources up-converted to 720p and output to the plasma via HDMI, or if I used the component outputs of the 665, and let the plasma do the up-conversion, there was no visible difference in the picture quality. There was, however, a ~5 second delay when switching from component out to HDMI out on the receiver.
I had the 665 as the centerpiece of my system for about two months, so I had ample time to get used to it, and experience it on both an "every day" level, and a critical listening level. I'd like to stress that I was very impressed with what $550 can get you in a receiver these days. The 665 is loaded with fantastic features, like HDMI and HD-component video switching and HD up-conversion of any analog source to HDMI, as well as a FULL complement of all the latest codecs. I was never disappointed with the processing abilities of the RX-V665. There were a few small annoyances, like the volume control and the lack of some connections on the back panel. The amplifier section was more than adequate for most listening situations.
I would not however, recommend this receiver for a system that has either a large room to fill, or larger less efficient speakers to drive, or both. This receiver may also fill an interesting role as a fairly inexpensive pre-amp/processor, since it is equipped with pre-amp outputs for all channels. Overall, I was pleased and generally had no issues replacing my 995 with the 665 on a daily use basis. The RX-V665 is definitely going on my list of recommended receivers for people asking about an entry-level system. With a set of efficient speakers and a medium to small room, the 665 will not disappoint.