We've been critical of some Yamaha receivers in the past for not offering as many features as the competition, but we've always been impressed by their sound quality. That's why when we previewed the Yamaha RX-V665, we were a little worried that the weight was substantially lower than last year's RX-V663 — a whole 3 kilograms! — was Yamaha cutting back on some of the internal components that made the RX-V663 sound great? While we don't know exactly why the RX-V665 weighs less, our extensive listening tests found that the RX-V665 didn't have the sonic prowess we usually find on Yamaha receivers.
While the RX-V665 made some significant improvements, such as including four HDMI inputs and an improved rear-panel design, there were still some significant missteps, such as the inability to assign audio inputs and poor image quality on upconverted analog video signals. The RX-V665 does have some unique features, like presence speaker outputs and dual subwoofer outputs, that still might make it a choice for budget audiophiles who like those non-traditional arrangements, but most buyers will get more bang for their buck from competing models such as the Onkyo TX-SR607, or the upcoming Pioneer VSX-1019AH.
The RX-V665 has the typical boxy look of an AV receiver, but is a little shorter than most with a 364mm depth. The front panel features a large volume knob and a few additional front-panel controls, but otherwise it's relatively sparse compared to some competing models. The LCD display is a bluish white, instead of the orange of previous years', which we preferred as we found a little easier to read from far away.
The four buttons across the front of the receiver control Yamaha's "Scene" functions, which allow you to pick a preferred DSP (digital-sound processing) mode for specific listening scenarios — for example, using the "Hall" effect when watching DVDs. Since we generally prefer to leave the DSP modes off, we didn't find this helpful, but those who like the different sound modes may find it useful. We'd prefer if the Scene functions also let us set a default volume level for each scenario; we did appreciate that Yamaha lets you set a specific volume for each time the receiver turns on in the set-up menu.
The RX-V665's included remote is jam-packed full of tiny buttons, making it difficult to use, especially for home theatre novices. Luckily, important buttons like volume and the main directional pad are separated enough to be easily differentiated, but input buttons and playback controls are a confusing mess. It's definitely not as bad as the remote included on last year's mid-range Denon AVR-1909, but we prefer the simpler remotes found with the Onkyo TX-SR607.
The RX-V665BL's on-screen display is text-based, and it looks primitive compared with other receivers in this price range; it's a strictly white-text-on-black-background look that you're used to seeing on an old VCR, and it doesn't help that the entire image shakes as if the RX-V665 is struggling to keep it on the screen. Making matters worse, its simplicity didn't carry over to ease of use, as options such as output resolution are under the "HDMI" menu instead of "Display", which instead controls the front panel LCD. We also spent quite a bit of time trying to find the input assignment menu, only to realise the RX-V665 doesn't have the capability to assign inputs (more on that later).
Yamaha's Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO) calibration system is similar to most auto-set-up systems, but we found that it's one of the easiest to use. Plug in the supplied microphone and the RX-V665 automatically brings up the auto-set-up menu. Press the menu's "Start" button and YPAO will send a series of test tones to all the speakers and subwoofer. It takes just a few minutes to complete and all of the measurements are taken from just one mic position.
After the measurements were completed, we tried all three available EQ Types and didn't hear big differences between them; we settled on Flat. Even so, we felt the subwoofer volume was much too loud, so we brought up the RX-V665's manual set-up menu and lowered the sub's volume.
The RX-V665 hits all the major features we expect at this price level, including on-board decoding for both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. It can also upconvert your analog signals all the way up to 1080p, but don't put too much stock in that spec, as we weren't thrilled about the receiver's actual performance (more on that in the performance section).
From the specs chart, the RX-V665's connectivity would seem to be pretty complete, but the specs don't tell the whole story. The RX-V665's four HDMI inputs are average at this price point, although it's worth pointing out that the Onkyo TX-SR607 has six. While the rest of the connectivity is in line with comparable models, it's not nearly as flexible as some others, as the RX-V665 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 optical-digital audio, 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.
The RX-V665 is stronger on more audio-centric features. The 7.1 analog audio inputs are a nice inclusion, especially since they have been dropped on the competing Onkyo TX-SR607. It also includes full 7.2 preamp outputs, for those intending to use the RX-V665 with a separate amplifier. As usual, Yamaha also included a second subwoofer output if you'd like to run a dual-subwoofer configuration; Yamaha also includes additional speaker jacks for optional "presence speakers", which are positioned similarly to Dolby Pro Logic IIz height speakers and provide greater ambiance.
The Yamaha RX-V665 has a strong set of multi-room features, enabling you to send analog audio to a second room, using either speaker-level outputs or line-level outputs. It's also worth noting that, unlike most competing models, the RX-V665 doesn't use the same speaker connections for the surround-back speakers and second zone speaker level outputs, so you can easily set up both a 7.1 system and have second zone audio running. (The second zone speaker level outputs do share jacks with the optional presence speakers, however.)
We used our CNET reference Aperion Intimus 4T Hybrid SD speaker system for most of our listening tests. The RX-V665 handled the Mission Impossible: III Blu-ray's outlandish action hijinks in stride. The helicopter flying over, under and around the gigantic wind turbines sounded great, and the missile explosions had decent impact.
Moving on, we listened to a bunch of great bands on the From the Basement DVD. The White Stripes charged through Blue Orchid in style, but we felt Meg White's bass drum sounded a little soggy, and her cymbals lacked delicacy and air. Listening to CDs confirmed our hunches about the RX-V665's sound. Jazz pianist Monty Alexander's The Songs of Nat King Cole SACD had wide stereo soundstage, though it lacked depth. We had to strain to hear individual notes from Lorin Cohen's stand-up bass.
We briefly compared the Yamaha with a Denon AVR-1909 receiver. Yep, the Denon's bass was firmer, treble clarity was superior, and the soundstage dimensionality was improved. Still, we're not talking about big differences, but with a speaker system as revealing as the Aperion we preferred the Denon.
We also had the Mirage Nanosat 5.1 satellite/subwoofer system on hand, and the RX-V665 sounded better with the smaller speakers. The Nanosat 5.1 is an excellent system, but its softer, more "forgiving" sound turned out to be a better match with the RX-V665.
The RX-V665 is capable of upconverting analog signals to its HDMI output, so we put it through our video testing suite. We connected the Sony BDP-S360 via component video to the RX-V665, with the BDP-S360 set to 480i output. The RX-V665 was set to output at 1080p over its HDMI output, connected to the Sony KDL-52XBR7.
Our video testing starting with Silicon Optix's HQV test suite, and the RX-V665 did not pass the first resolution test. Areas where we should have seen detail were instead just a solid colour, 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 RX-V665 came up short, showing as many jaggies as some of the worst Blu-ray and DVD players to which we've administered this test. From test patterns, the RX-V663's performance was not promising.
We put the test patterns away and switched to actual program material, but the RX-V663's performance didn't improve. The introduction to Seabiscuit is a torture test for video processors and the RX-V665'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 RX-V665 for HDMI sources, you shouldn't run into these issues at all. It's also worth pointing out that the RX-V665 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 Sony KDL-52XBR7, and we imagine it would on almost all HDTVs. The bottom line is: don't expect the RX-V665 to offer pristine quality on upconverted analog signals.