Yamaha RX-V663

The Yamaha RX-V663 sounds great, but it's tough to recommend with its paltry HDMI connectivity, poor upconversion quality, and other design quirks.


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For most home theater enthusiasts, midrange AV receivers represent the best value. They offer superior sound over underpowered entry-level models, include the most important features available on the high-end models, and they still manage to cost between AU$800 and AU$1,200.

The Yamaha RX-V663 falls right into the midrange class, and if your main concern is sound quality, it's one of the better AV receivers we've heard, outperforming the Sony STR-DG920 in our head-to-head matchup. Unfortunately, we ultimately found it hard to recommend given its drawbacks. For example, there are only two HDMI inputs, while every other midrange receiver includes at least three — several include four. Most competitors also offer 1080i or 1080p analog upconversion, but the RX-V663 is limited to 480p and its video processing is below average. We also ran into some other quirks, such as an incorrect autosetup warning and the poorly designed rear panel layout. As much as we liked the RX-V663's sound, overall we felt like most buyers would be better off with the competing Pioneer VSX-1018AH or the Onkyo TX-SR606.

Design
The RX-V663 has a basic, boxy AV receiver shape, with only some slight angling in the middle to break it up. On the top half, there's a centred orange LCD display, which we found easily readable from about 8 feet back. Directly beneath that are several small buttons, allowing access to less frequently used functions such as "Memory" and "Zone 2 control." On the far right is a large volume knob, and underneath is a front panel input that includes both S-Video and an optical digital audio input. On the bottom half, under the LCD display, are four "Scene" buttons (which we'll explain shortly), along with a couple of additional knobs for selecting a source or a DSP (digital sound processing) mode. It all comes down to personal preference, but we preferred the glossy look of the Pioneer VSX-1018AH over the RX-V663.

AV receiver remotes are often a cluttered mess, but the RX-V663's clicker is actually pretty good. There's a direction pad in the center and just to the right are the main controls for volume. Source buttons are nicely separated, as are Yamaha's "Scene" buttons. All in all, it's one of the better remotes for a receiver.

Yamaha clearly puts a lot of focus on its "Scene" functions, and although the idea has promise, we didn't find the current implementation to be that useful. The idea is that you choose a preferred DSP mode for specific listening scenarios, such as watching a DVD. Since we generally prefer to leave the DSP modes off, we didn't find this helpful. We'd prefer if the Scene functions also let us set a default volume level for each scenario.

Your TV might be high-def, but your RX-V663's menus are straight out of the VCR era.

The onscreen display of the RX-V663 is just white text on a black background (think VCRs, circa 1991). That's pretty much the standard at this price point, although it's worth pointing out that the competing (and cheaper) Sony STR-DG920 includes a basic graphical user interface.

One design annoyance is the abnormal back panel layout of the RX-V663. For some reason, the audio and video inputs for each device are separate, so, for example, you'd run the yellow composite video cable from your Nintendo Wii to the far right-hand side, while the red and white analog audio cables would go on the far left. It's likely to cause a rat's nest of tangled wires on many home theater systems, as well as forcing you to separate many cables that bundle video and audio connections together.

Setup
Yamaha's Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO) autosetup system determines speaker sizes and volume levels, measures the distances from the speakers to the listener, confirms that all of the speaker cables are correctly hooked up, and uses equalization to balance the frequency response of all the speakers.

Starting the autosetup program is as easy as plugging in the included mic, but note that we got an inaccurate error warning during out tests.

Plugging in the (supplied) Optimizer microphone automatically brought up the Auto Setup menu on our display, so it was easy to get to started. After the YPAO ran its series of tones it presented us with a "Warning" message. We initially couldn't figure out what the problem was, but after consulting the owner's manual we made our way through the onscreen menus to see that the YPAO had determined our left front speaker was wired out-of-phase (red/+ and black/- connections were reversed).

Checking the connections at the speaker and receiver ends we found that the wires were, in fact, correctly placed. We have no idea why the YPAO made a false reading, but that didn't seem to otherwise affect the results of the setup. We completed the setup without any further hassles, but we bet less-experienced users would have been confused.

The RX-V663 is under-featured compared with the competition. For key features, that means that instead of getting analog upconversion to 1080p or 1080i — which nearly all of its competitors have — you're stuck with simple 480p upconversion. And as mentioned before, the RX-V663 only has a simple text-based onscreen display, rather than the simple GUI on the Sony STR-DG920.

The connectivity of the RX-V663 comes up short as well. There are only two HDMI inputs, while the competing Onkyo TX-SR606 and Sony STR-DG820 both offer four; the Denon AVR-1909 and Pioneer VSX-1018AH offer three. Sure, you can add HDMI connectivity easily with an HDMI switcher, but we expect a bare minimum of three inputs at this price level.

We were also surprised to find that we could only connect five video devices at the same time to the RX-V663. Sure, it has more inputs and outputs for additional devices, but there are only enough input "slots" (such as DVR or DVD) for five devices. On the upside, it's worth noting the RX-V663's AV inputs include S-Video, unlike the Sony STR-DG920 and Pioneer VSX-1018AH.

There are a couple of worthwhile features that don't show up on the chart. One is that the RX-V663 includes two switched AC outlets, for powering other components. The other is that the RX-V663 includes a proprietary port for connecting either a Yamaha YDS-10 iPod Dock or Yamaha YBA-10 Bluetooth adapter. With the YDS-10, you'll be able to use the onscreen interface to browse your iPod music collection. You're still stuck with the old-school blocky white text, but it gets the job done.

Multiroom support is right in line with the competition. There's second zone functionality either using the line level outputs or the powered speaker-level outputs. Note that using the second zone speaker-level outputs require you use the would-be surround back channels of a 7.1 configuration; you can't have a 7.1 setup and a second zone.

Audio performance
We use the World War II naval battle scenes on the U-571 DVD as a torture test for receivers. The massive power demands required to play the sounds of a series of depth charge explosions have humbled lesser receivers, but the RX-V663 sailed through the challenge with ease. The receiver sounded more powerful than its 95 watts per channel specification would normally indicate; the Yamaha had the sort of big, gutsy sound we associate with more expensive receivers.

ZZ Top's Live From Texas concert Blu-ray was also a cakewalk. We pumped up the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack to take in the trio's full throttle rock and roll, and again the RX-V663 took it all in stride. Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill's raucous guitars had plenty of grit, and the surround ambiance of the hometown crowd wrapped seamlessly around the CNET listening room.

A shootout with a Sony STR-DG920 receiver put the RX-V663's strengths in perspective. We used the Sunshine Blu-ray for these listening tests. The film about a space mission to reignite our dying sun was a good excuse to put both receivers through the wringer. The massive spaceship's rumbling presence had a bigger, weightier throb over the Yamaha, and the score's delicate percussive accents were also cleaner and clearer as well. When we cranked the movie really loud, the Yamaha sounded more powerful, and we sensed a little more strain from the Sony. The film's surround mix was more coherent and three-dimensional through the Yamaha.

Finishing up with Shemekia Copeland's new CD, Never Going Back, the V663's clarity was exceptional, but we never felt it was overly bright or aggressive. Ms. Copeland is a terrific blues shouter, but on this CD she's also a great storyteller. The Yamaha's naturalistic sound, with just the Aperion 4T tower speakers in stereo and no subwoofer, let us focus on her gorgeous vocals. The RX-V663 is one of the best sounding receiver's we've heard of late.

Video performance
The Yamaha RX-V663 is capable of upconverting analog signals to its HDMI output, so we put it through our video testing suite. We connected the Panasonic DMP-BD35 via component video to the RX-V663, with the DMP-BD35 set to 480i output. The RX-V663 was set to output at 480p (which is the highest resolution for upconverted signals) over its HDMI output, connected to the Panasonic TH-65VX100U.

As soon as we had the RX-V663 upconverting analog signals, we could see significant image instability, as even the setup menus of the DMP-BD35 looked pretty shaky. We loaded up Silicon Optix's HQV test suite in DVD, and the RX-V663 performed very poorly on the initial resolution test, compressing both vertical and horizontal resolution, which caused flickering and shakiness all over the image. The next two video-based tests were just as bad, as we observed a rotating white line full of jaggies, and the same thing on three pivoting lines. It also failed the 2:3 pull-down test, as we could see signal moire in the grandstands as the racecar drove by. AV receivers often struggle with video performance tests, but the RX-V663 was definitely below average.

The RX-V663 seemed to be reducing resolution more than normal, so we also took a quick look at our Avia test disc on DVD. We fired up its main resolution test pattern and the issue became clearer (or fuzzier, depending on how you look at it). The RX-V663 reduced horizontal resolution to about 400 lines, but vertical resolution was reduced all the way to somewhere between 300 and 350 lines of resolution. That's severe enough that even nonvideophiles will probably notice something isn't right.

Moving on from test patterns, we fired up the opening scene to Star Trek: Insurrection. As you'd expect from the test patterns, it looked pretty rough as it failed to kick into 2:3 pull-down processing mode, and the reduced resolution was readily apparent. Next up was the difficult introduction scene from Seabiscuit. Again, the RX-V663 struggled, with jaggies filling nearly the entire screen during the pans of black and white photographs. It's hard to recommend this receiver for upconverting analog video signals.

On the upside, it's worth pointing out that the RX-V663 also does not scale incoming HDMI video signals, and instead passes them perfectly through to the display. This means that if you only intend to use the HDMI video inputs on the RX-V663, you can ignore the previous comments on video performance, as they only apply to analog signals. Additionally, if you don't use any of the video upconversion features, the aforementioned issues don't apply, either, although you'll be running additional wires, and you're at the mercy of your HDTV's video processing.

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Thorbs
9
Rating
 

Thorbs posted a review   

The Good:Great sound quality.

The Bad:Only 2 HDMI ports.

Great amp good value for money, sound is best going around for the cost of the amp, if you dont care about upscaling then i recomend it.

Rozzas Dad
9
Rating
 

Rozzas Dad posted a review   

The Good:Has in built phono staging, sound quality, 2 zones, volume

The Bad:Can F**k up auto setting-

Bought this two years ago, wanted phono inbuilt plus also AV. Up- scaling is not an issue as the review suggests- who the f uses non 1080 av gear these days anyway? (sounds like teh reviewer wanted to VCR or Beta tapes or something?) Sounds is crisp and can crank it up to wall shattering levels- lower ranges are a little think but going for a manual set up for crossover frequency can resolve. Two zone is a bonus.

Auto set up can go weird resulting in bugger all bass. Trick here is to do an auto set up and then manually adjust, setting up speaker designation (small, medium, big / front,back) and also adjusting crossover frequencies (slightly upward).

Go this as a package with full 7.2 set of Jensen XR speakers for $2500 at West Coast HiFi :-)

 

J posted a comment   

I bought this amp 3 years ago. The sound is pretty good, all you really need. However, I had to take it back to service center to rectify a couple of issues. Remote was faulty from the day one and there were unusual drop outs when watching DVD( have Panasonic Blue Ray). Both were repaired and I did not have any problems since. I also have Yamaha HD 1500 (cd player and hard disc drive) which had to see my "friends" at the service centre too. This baby had faulty HDD after 1.5 years of light use but luckily was under warranty. I am worried that the legendary Yamaha quality could be a thing of the past...
J

H
9
Rating
 

H posted a review   

The Good:Sound was great

The Bad:Rear panel config

Tested head to head this in a sound room at Len Wallis. Was only bettered by one other amp - needless to say costing $$$ more.

In my Victorian home (certainly not acoustically perfect) the sound is still superb.

Regarding the upscailing... get a PS3 and let that do the work for you.

My only complaint is that the rear panel is messy.

 

Papadow posted a comment   

The Good:great for Audio and PS3

The Bad:none really if you use HDMI

I got a PS3 using 2 M1000 HDMI 14 Gps Monster cable M series to my amp and amp to my Samsung 46" LCD TV, brought my 663 for $720 @ JaBi hifi after haggerling the saleperson, 1st it an HD amp, 2nd it an HD amp, oh then its a video upscaler (who cares about upscaling), look Yamaha are leaders in Pro Audio for a reason they make musical instrutments and speakers as well as the odd motobikes so they would have some knowledge how things should sound, NOT VIDEO that prize i give to Sony,
But really the amp is the best quality for your buck

JC
9
Rating
 

JC posted a review   

The Good:Great sound (hdmi) and fairly easy to use.

The Bad:The graphics on the ipod are pretty poor. The 663 is now finished, discontinued line. I bought ours for $790.00. There are some retailers around that have them in stock.

If you only want the 663 for digital, it's fantastic.
A friend has the 605 and while the graphics are better, the sound from the 663 is of a better quality. For me it's about the sound.

bonehead
9
Rating
 

bonehead posted a review   

The Good:lots of dsp modes for movie and music but if yu just want to plug in and play just use the basic default dsp modes without changing variables till u get confident

The Bad:when turning on on screen display yu lose picture and sound for a second and back panel inputs are not cable friendly

running a ps3 connected via hdmi (high speed cable) to the 663 and hdmi out (standard cable)to a 42 inch lg plasma,the 663 is running 7.1 (with sub) accusound speakers 100 rms. watched several blue ray movies and the sound and picture was seamless and no jerkyness no sync problems and for once a unit that doesnt lose detailed low voice dialoge, music is clear and detailed, some colouration if not using the right sound field

Tony Montana
9
Rating
 

Tony Montana posted a review   

The Good:Value for money, easy to use

The Bad:Only 2 HDMI (could get a switcher)
I think cd music sounds better on other amps.

Got mine for $750, fantastic amp. My brother also got his for his dedicated theatre and it sounds even more amazing in there.

JackBlack
5
Rating
 

JackBlack posted a review   

The Good:ok value

The Bad:inputs were not sufficient

it was ok - I have seen better

counterz
9
Rating
 

counterz posted a review   

The Good:Fantastic sound quality.
Great price.

The Bad:Only 2 HDMI ports.

I bought this amp for $750 at Harvey Norman. Best deal on the market.




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User Reviews / Comments  Yamaha RX-V663

  • Thorbs

    Thorbs

    Rating9

    "Great amp good value for money, sound is best going around for the cost of the amp, if you dont care about upscaling then i recomend it."

  • Rozzas Dad

    Rozzas Dad

    Rating9

    "Bought this two years ago, wanted phono inbuilt plus also AV. Up- scaling is not an issue as the review suggests- who the f uses non 1080 av gear these days anyway? (sounds like teh reviewer wante..."

  • J

    J

    "I bought this amp 3 years ago. The sound is pretty good, all you really need. However, I had to take it back to service center to rectify a couple of issues. Remote was faulty from the day one and ..."

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