There are so many features on modern receivers, set-up can be daunting. You have to configure the inputs, channel allocation (zones), speaker size, speaker distance, speaker delay, crossover frequency . . . it just goes on and on.
Manufacturers have made this easier not only by making the menus more understandable, but by automation.
Auto Setup is the generic name for what will become one of the most important user conveniences ever to show up in receivers. It is really just in the last year or so that this feature has arisen.
Yamaha's version of this is called the Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO). Using the included microphone that you place in your sitting position, and activating the Auto Setup function in the menu, the receiver will play a series of test tones and determine if your speakers are all connected, if they are connected with the correct polarity (+ to + and - to -), how big your speakers are (setting the proper crossover if they are bookshelf speakers), determine the distance to each speaker so it can set the speaker delay, and adjust the frequency response based on the speaker's own response plus the effects of the room.
Whew! That is a lot of work taken off our hands, and automatically performed by the receiver. YPAO is a great feature that everyone will want to try out. We have reported on this in another recent Yamaha receiver review, and it works very well. Of course, after performing Auto Setup, you can go back and tweak any of the settings that you are not happy with. But, I think most of us will just run the program, then sit back and enjoy the movies and music. That is what it is designed for. Trouble-free optimization of your home theater. In fact, I bet that many consumers don't bother with setting speaker distances and delays in the first place. Well, with Auto Setup, there is no excuse not to set it all up properly.
I tested the RX-V4600 with our Yamaha universal player, using a variety of speakers. Cables were Nordost. I was not able to test the HDMI or iLink inputs for DVD-A and SACD audio decoding.
Yamaha has always been notable for their incredible array of processing features, and the 4600 is no exception. I have used their receiver models for many years, and love the enhanced processing of DD movie sound tracks using their sound fields, such as Movie Theater Adventure. The Presence speakers are used for such processing, and it opens the soundstage to a great degree. In terms of sound fields, Yamaha has some of the best out there.
The sound quality was good, although you will see from the bench tests, it only output about 40 watts RMS per channel when five of the channels were being driven. Under most circumstances, this will not be an issue, since consumers typically listen in the 10 watts per channel range, and most of the time, the rear channels are not producing any sound at all. For stereo (two-channel) listening, the 4600 produced 138 watts per channel, and that is plenty. However, you should use this receiver only with 8 ohm speakers (that is the case with most mass market receivers). The 4600 is rated into 6 ohm loads, and if you must use lower impedance speakers, you should activate the 6 ohm setting from the front panel (depress the Straight/Effect button, then press the On/Standby button, then press the Straight/Effect button until you see the appropriate impedance setting). You should also consider setting the speakers to Small, and using a crossover of 80 Hz, which will let the subwoofer do the work for the low frequencies, and allow the receiver's power amplifiers to concentrate on the sound above 80 Hz. Since it takes a huge proportion of the energy to drive the low frequencies, this will give you higher SPL capability for the range that the receiver works with.
I played all my favorite CDs and a few of my favorite movies, and felt that the 4600 did what it was designed to do, namely be a piece of cake to set up and get down to listening. Within its power limitations, the sound was clear and concise.
Switching between sources never caused a problem. The 4600 seemed to recognize what I was doing and made the internal changes so I could get back to listening rather than look in the instruction manual for why there was no sound.
What I liked most about the 4600 was its ease of use and digital EQ of all speakers. This can be a real advantage for consumers with poor room acoustics, and entry-level speakers. Keep the microphone in a safe place after use, as it is small and fragile.
The HDMI switching and iLink connections for playing DVD-A and SACD using digital out from universal players, are important additions to receivers. Even though I was not able to test the iLink for DVD-A and SACD, it is a good bet for the future to get a receiver that has it. Now that HDMI and iLink are here, I would think twice about purchasing a receiver without them. I have several HDMI sources now, and it made things much easier to use the HDMI switching rather than manually change the HDMI connection or just use component video for one of the sources (my display has several types of inputs that can be selected).
Below are our Secrets Benchmark findings for the Yamaha RX-V4600. As you can see, it passed most of the criteria. The total score and ratio, shown at the bottom, will be more indicative once we have Benchmark scores for several SSPs and receivers in various price categories.
Secrets Benchmark Results