Every year, AV receiver manufacturers tend to add one marquee feature to their product lines, and this year, it looks like it's Mobile High Definition Link (MHL).
Yamaha's new 2013 line of AV receivers consists of four networked models, plus the entry-level RX-V375, with the biggest change being that the four higher-end models each include one MHL-compatible HDMI input. The RX-V775WA and RX-V675 have their MHL port on the front — which is convenient for connecting a compatible smartphone — and the RX-V575 and RX-V475 have their MHL port on the back.
The rest of the features are similar to what Yamaha offered last year. You can look at the full comparison on Yamaha's US site (no details for Australian pricing or availability yet), but this is how we'd break down the important step-up features:
RX-V375 (US$300): 5.1 channels, four HDMI inputs
RX-V475 (US$450): five HDMI inputs, MHL, Ethernet, AirPlay
RX-V575 (US$550): 7.2 channels
RX-V675 (US$650): six HDMI inputs, GUI, powered second zone
RX-V775WA (US$850): dual-HDMI outputs, 7.1 pre-outs, included Wi-Fi dongle.
Yamaha's press release also mentions that "high-speed HDMI switching" is available on all of these models, which sounds like welcome improvement, given how slow even newer AV receivers switch inputs.
Yamaha RX-V475 back panel.
The RX-V475 strikes us as the best value of the bunch, as the other step-up features don't seem worth the extra cash. All of the models from the RX-V475 up are also compatible with Yamaha's add-ons for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality.
But requiring pricey dongles for what we'd consider basic features feels out of step with the way many people listen to music these days, especially for a $450+ product. Last year's Sony STR-DN1030 was a refreshing step in the right direction as the only receiver in its price range with built-in AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. We expected manufacturers to follow suit in 2013 on what should be standard features (Bluetooth and Wi-Fi), but Yamaha's 2013 line still relies on expensive, kludgy add-ons. We'd bet Yamaha won't be alone in that direction, but that speaks more to the ossified AV-receiver market than anything else.
The RX-V375 will be released in the US in February, followed by the RX-V475, RX-V575 and RX-V675 in March, and the RX-V775WA in April. We expect additional companies to announce their 2013 AV receiver line-ups in the coming weeks.