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Product Review - Yamaha RX-V1 DD/DTS Matrix 6.1 Receiver - July, 2000


Brian Weatherhead

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Yamaha RX-V1 DD/DTS Matrix 6.1 Receiver

Eight Channels: Front Left/Right, Front Effects (L/R), Front Center, Rear-Side-Surrounds (L/R), Rear Center (Matrix 6.1), LFE is 0.1 in 8.1

Power Output: 110 Watts RMS Per Channel in Six Channels, 35 Watts Per Channel in the Front Effects Channels, LFE Channel is Pre-Out

54 Sound Field (DSP) Modes

DD and DTS Matrix 6.1 Decoding

Pre-Ins and Pre-Outs for All Channels

Size: 8 1/2" H x 17 1/2" W x 18 1/2" D

Weight: 61 Pounds

MSRP: $3,199 USA (Black), $3,299 (Gold)

 

 

Yamaha Electronics Corporation, USA, 6660 Orangethorpe Avenue, Buena Park, California 90620-1345; Phone 714-522-9105; Web http://www.yamaha.com 

Introduction

When asked if I would review the new RX-V1, I paused . . . and replied, "Definitely." Ok, so the pause was less than one cycle on my computer . . . but still. The new RX-V1 is Yamaha’s new theater 6.1 receiver and for an MSRP of $3,199.

I went to pick the receiver up, came back, and enlisted the help of a friend. At 61 pounds (FedEx bill to prove it), it’s the heaviest AV receiver that I have seen lately. Do the math and that’s $48 a pound. This receiver is 8 channels of Yamaha technology. With so many features, I have no idea how to present them all, but I will try.

Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES

This is Yamaha’s first receiver with 6.1 decoding support (it has lots of other new stuff too, which are described below). It decodes the DD 6.1 and DTS 6.1 matrix formats. A simple button on the remote turns on the 6.1 Matrix Decoding. DTS has released DTS Discrete 6.1 which is not a matrix format. The sixth channel is discrete, but the RX-V1 can't decode it. It is not clear yet whether or not discrete 6.1 DVDs will have matrix versions of the sixth channel on the disc for matrix-only receivers. There are also Neo:6 and DPL-II coming. New formats seem to be never-ending.

The Sixth Channel (Decoding)

The sixth channel (EX and ES) is the rear center channel in the matrix 6.1 design. It provides the means to make seamless wraparounds, and more directional rear effect. Because the rear left and right channels are actually designed to be on the rear sides rather than behind you on the rear wall, there was a need for a center rear to pull the effect more towards the back of the room. This also allows the effect to transition in a circular fashion around the listener, where as just the two original surrounds often created an over the head wrap effect. The decoding of the sixth channel in the Dolby realm is the same process as the center channel of the older Dolby Pro Logic. In fact, you can use your old Pro Logic receiver to decode the new center channel, if you don't have the RX-V1. Just pipe your left and right rear channels into your old receiver, and hook up three speakers to the front left center and right outputs of the old receiver. Or sell your old equipment and buy a new ES/EX receiver. Those of you with programmable-upgradeable decoders should be able to get the upgrades soon. Remember, the matrix 6.1 spec is not another dedicated channel, but a decoded matrix channel from the back two.

The Sixth Channel (Positioning)

So now that we have another channel, where does it go, and how do we aim it? The manual that came with the receiver has little as to how to position the speakers. It does say that the front effects speakers (Yamaha adds their own front effects that are extracted from the front main channels) and the rear effect (EX or ES) should be 6 feet off the floor and face the listener. I even checked www.dolby.com, and found no information on the new speaker placement.

Directional Surrounds

Here is how to place your direct radiating speakers as suggested by Dolby. The front left and right speakers should be separated by a 45 degree angle from the listener. The front center channel should be located directly below/above/behind the screen with it aimed at the listeners head. The rear-side-surround speakers should be aligned just behind the listeners ears, and the height should be 60cm to 90cm above the listeners ears. If you have 2 rear center speakers (EX or ES), they should be separated by 60 degrees from the listener and 60 cm - 90 cm above the listeners ears, and tilted down toward the listening position, but not tilted laterally (not toed in). If you have one rear center speaker, it should be placed 60 cm -90 cm above the listener in the rear center of the wall, and be aimed towards the listening position.

Diffuse Surrounds

Front left/right and front center speakers are still directional, but the rear-side-surround left and right diffuse surrounds should be placed directly left and right from the listener and 60 cm -90 cm above the listeners ears. The rear center(s) are again placed 60 degrees apart and pointed towards the listener. Speaker Type: For small rooms diffuse speakers can add a feeling of volume to the room, but some directionality is lost. With small rooms or low power amplifiers, directional speakers may sound better. With higher power and larger rooms diffuse surrounds make the sound placement blend better between the speakers.

The Sixth Channel (Listening)

I listened to a few movies that had the 6.1 matrix encoding, and immediately noticed that with 6.1 turned on, a lot of sound seems to be lost from the rear-side-surround L/R speakers. In movies like "Austin Powers", I preferred the 6.1 turned off or mixed to 5.1. Movies with a lot of low volume action won't benefit from 6.1. Sci-Fi movies and action packed movies are another matter. "Fight Club" played very well in the 6.1 format, creating enveloping fight scenes and special effects. 6.1 is going to need special care to get right, because it is distracting (as in the case of "Austin Powers") or engulfing (as in the case of "Fight Club"). There doesn't seem to be any in between, at least right now. I have a hunch that once 6.1 is routine, and producers get more familiar with it, we will see better uses for it. Now, if I could just get George Lucas to send me a DVD copy of Episode I, I could see what a movie designed with 6.1 in mind would sound like.

The Features

You may have noted by now that the Yamaha has 8 channels of power. The 6.1 format uses 6 of the amps 8 channels (the amp has no amplified 0.1 sub channel). The remaining two channels are for additional effects speakers placed in the front left and right corners, “six feet above the listener”. There is no coded format for “8.1”, so the use of these is purely creative programming by Yamaha.

Digital Sound Fields (DSP)

With more sound fields (modes) than you can count on all you fingers and toes five times, there has to be one that makes you grin. For the purists (like me), you can turn them off and hear true 2, 3, 5.1, and 6.1 decoding. Realize that if you only use the standard decoding, the extra two channels (front effects) don’t get used. With more than one option in each mode they total up to 54 sound fields. Most of these DSP modes are created from worldwide venues (eg., concert halls). The DSP is controlled by new Yamaha 44 bit LSIs (Large Scale Integrated Circuits). If you are impressed with 24 bits, wait until you hear your sound processed with 44. This is the highest bit rate for DSP of any processor/receiver in the world. The increased bits result in a much smoother processing than was previously obtainable.

Using the different modes is very easy, as each of the DSP buttons on the remote selects three or four of the modes (they are grouped). The only one that I really enjoyed was the "TV/Sports" mode. I watched Motorcycle and Cart races with this enabled, and it was quite fun to listen to. My roommates loved the various DSP modes, switching between almost every mode when listening to music and playing video games. DSP simulation is a personal taste, and if you like making your living room sound like an echoed church, you can do it with the RX-V1.

2/3 Channels: 11 DSP Modes

DD 6.1 EX: 5 DSP Modes

DD 5.1: 5 DSP Modes

DTS 6.1 ES: 5 DSP Modes

DTS 5.1: 5 DSP Modes

 

Digital ToP-ART Design

Yamaha's Digital ToP-ART (Total Purity Audio Reproduction) design philosophy maximizes digital quality and minimizes analog circuitry. Specifics include high performance digital circuitry using Burr-Brown 24-bit DACs for all input channels, a digitally regulated volume control, processor direct switch, high density Cinema DSP circuitry, utilizing the world's first 44-bit LSIs, two decoding LSIs, and low impedance drive amplifier featuring superior power transistors, and gigantic heat sinks.”

When and if you open the case of this amp, you will notice the Copper shielding, careful attention to wire positions, and the fact that the power supply is completely isolated from the rest of the amp also by copper shielding. The heat sinks have more surface area than a VW bug. Obviously, they contribute to the massive weight. The power supply is enormous, with two large caps to supply surge juice. I would estimate the transformer itself at 15 lbs. It’s big, and it’s cool. Below are shown the 24 bit Burr-Brown DACs on board this beast. If only they made a plexiglas cover, I would hang it on my wall. The guts are truly a work of art.

Discrete Power Transistors

Discrete power transistors rather than IC chips are used in the amplifier section to provide the cleanest sound possible. The amp delivers 110 watts rms each to six channels and 35 watts rms each to the two front effects channels. The amp is rated at 110, but it sure sounds like 200. The channels have a warmer sound than my Pioneer Elite 27TX, and sounded beautiful on Klipsch Horns. There was no background hum, and I had to crank it to hear any noise during silent sections of music. The Kilpsch 12” drivers on my towers seemed lively and had greater punch. The highs were mellow, not harsh. After a month of listening, I could definitely tell that this amp had muscle. The amplification section has been improved from the DSP-A1, so if you liked the sound from the DSP-A1, you will like the V1 even better.

Digital Matrix 6.1 and DTS ES

The latest technology for movie theaters, 6.1-channel matrix surround is now available for the home. Utilizing a 5.1-channel Dolby Digital or DTS signal, Yamaha's 6.1 Matrix Decoder automatically extracts a rear center signal. You can turn on the 6.1 manually, so it does not matter if there is no EX/ES flag on the DVD.

Tri-Field Processing

Yamaha's Tri-Field Processing applies Digital Sound Field Processing technology to Dolby Digital and DTS. This applies venue effects and utilizes those two other effects channels. I ended up having to add three more speakers, the rear center, and then the front left/right effects. I utilized an additional Klipsch KSP-S6 surround for the rear center, and two direction bookshelf speakers I had upstairs. Listening to Boyz II Men in 5.1, I changed into the DSP modes offered for the format. The two additional speakers did add depth to the sound, but they didn't sound as clear as the rest of my reproduction system, which is my fault, but it just proves that your system is only as good as your weakest link. I did like listening to the 5.1 DSP modes on very vocal music like opera and quartets. But on rock and roll and pop music, I didn't like the DSP turned on. My roommates loved that fact that there were three more speakers hanging around the room, as it definitely adds to the cool factor of the system, but I think if I were married, it would be a minus point in the SAF (Spouse Acceptance Factor).

Silent Cinema

This feature simulates surround effects with headphones. Of course, it only can approach true surround sound, not actually duplicate what five individual speakers do, but it is something you can use late at night to watch movies and have more than just two-channel stereo. Several companies make headphone surround sound, and this one is built-into the receiver. No extra purchases are necessary.

6-Channel Inputs for External Decoder

The RX-V1's rear panel has input jacks to accommodate an external 6-channel decoder, making the receiver ready for DVD-Audio, or any other 5.1 channel format, should one be developed.

Auto Priority Input Selection and Auto Sound Decoder

When different input formats are connected from the same source, the RX-V1 automatically prioritizes them and selects in this order: AC-3 RF, coaxial digital, optical digital, and finally the analog input. The RX-V1 senses a DTS or Dolby Digital signal and will automatically switch the receiver to the appropriate mode when the signal is detected. The selected mode is displayed on the front panel. A hidden feature of this setup is that if you are watching an input with sound and video (TV or Video games) and switch to an audio-only input (CD, LP), you keep the Video from the previous mode, and hence can listen to CDs while you watch TV. This is a neat hidden feature - maybe a bug - but I thought it was handy.

Inputs Galore!

Outputs Galore!

The remote control looks a lot different than previous ones (see photo below). Everything has standard shaped buttons now, instead of a round dial for some controls. An LCD panel tells you the source. It has backlighting, but it is still not very easy to adjust the volume of individual channels, the buttons of which are beneath a small door at the bottom of the remote. However, overall, it is an improvement over the remotes from last year. The RX-V1 remote has a set of new extended commands for use by professional installers who can set up an customer's entire system to be controlled by the single remote.

 

I would have liked to see a digital output. This is nice when you are using a dedicated external decoder, but still wish to use your A/V switching capabilities of your receiver. This feature is on the Denon AVR-4800 unit, but there are fewer total inputs and outputs on that product. No receiver has everything. The RX-V1 can drive speaker with impedances as low as 4 Ohms, so if you have two 8 Ohm surrounds in parallel, you don’t risk overheating. Channel delays, individual channel EQ, and channel level all are easy to adjust via the on screen display (neat graphics).

Below are shown close-ups of several parts of the rear panel. Photo 1 is the 6 channel input section. You use this when connecting an outboard decoder. Photo 2 is the component video input section, along with the component video output. We have come a long way since the old receivers that just had composite video jacks for input and output. Photo 3 has the pre-ins and pre-outs. Note that this is different than the 6.1 input section. Pre-ins and pre-outs remain active regardless of the input mode, such as DVD or Tuner. They let you use outboard equalizers and outboard power amplifiers.

1

2

3

 

MISCELLANEOUS

RECORD OUT SELECTOR

            You can listen to one source and record another.

DUAL CENTER CHANNEL OUTPUTS

            You can easily add a second center channel speaker. This is especially convenient for large-room systems or for those using a big screen or projection TV.

BASS EXTENSION CONTROL

                        Accentuates the bass by adding a 7 dB boost at around 70 Hz.

            PROCESSOR DIRECT SWITCH

            Bypasses all the effects, and gives you pure “un-fluffed” sound.

A/B SPEAKER SELECTOR

                        Allows selection of either main speakers, or a second pair, or both.

SLEEP TIMER

                        If you need me to tell you what this is, go take a nap.

 
40-STATION DIRECT ACCESS PRESET TUNING

If you have 40 stations in your town, you’re in luck. The DSP-A1 didn't have an AM/FM tuner. I guess Yamaha decided not to leave it out of the RX-V1. It's a good one, too.

I told you there were a lot of features packed in this beast, but you didn’t believe me. The display and face of the unit are attractive, plain, and come in semi-gloss black, or gold. The display is a dot matrix with controllable brightness.

Street Price

The Unit has an MSRP of $3,199. The walk-in stores are selling them for $3,199, while the online retailers are averaging $2,500. If you buy at discount, make sure it is an authorized Yamaha dealer with proper credentials for warranty. Grey market and trans-shipped products can have problems.

Conclusion

This is a very fine receiver, but it has a high price tag (nice things don't come cheap). The competition for the RX-V1 is the Onkyo TX-DS989 [7x160 watts] for $3,200, and the Denon AVR-5800 for $3,600. Pioneer has also released the Elite 36TX, 37TX, and 39TX all capable of the new EX/ES standards. If you want an excellent receiver with the feature of 6.1 and strong performance, this one fits the bill. A great amp, plenty of power, and tons of features. I would keep it if I could.

 

- Brian Weatherhead -

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