Yamaha has crammed the DSP-AX761 full of features and DSP modes and added some cool innovations of its own. It looks slick with its titanium livery and trademark orange display.
This is a 7.1 channel amp, but there are two additional front channels for an extra pair of 'front effects' speakers, powered by proprietary DSP processing. It trumps 7.1 with a soundfield designed to fill larger rooms.
Budget receiver with all the trimmings
It has all of the usual Dolby and DTS decoding. bolstered by another 17 DSP modes to choose from. This may seem like overkill, but the four 'Scene' buttons that stand out on the front panel are a welcome addition. You can assign these to act as shortcuts to the ideal settings for your favourite four sources.
When you plug in the auto-setup mic the calibration is done for you, saving a lot of stress, but the universal remote control is a bit intimidating. Technophiles will no doubt enjoy programming it to operate everything in the house, though.
As an iPod Ready sticker suggests, you can connect your music player and access its content via an onscreen menu. The two HDMI v1.3 inputs are able to passthrough a 1080p signal and switch audio at the same time.
There's a reasonable power plant beneath the lid, and the sound is dynamic and exciting, although there's a significant drop-off in power with all channels driven (just 50W per channel).
The additional front effect speakers could be quite beneficial if your cinema room is particularly wide, but I preferred the 6.1 mode with the front speakers bi-wired.
This worked well with my suite of software, sending crisply-detailed audio to all channels and filling the room easily with a cohesive soundstage.
The fine-tuning was done in the UK to suit our British ears (and differentiate the UK release from its European sibling) and it certainly sounds more refined than the edgier tone of cheaper Yamaha amps.
With its great feature-set and the additional effects speakers this is one to consider.