I got quite a touch of the vapours about Yamaha's RX-V3800 earlier this year.
At £1,300 it pushed the features envelope to new levels of metaphorical postal stationery and sounded simply stunning.
Now if it was a little too pricey for you, then the Yamaha RX-V1900 is surely the answer.
For £900 the RX-V1900 promises most of the power, most of the grunt and most of the performance of the RX-V3800 and sacrifices just the networking and fancy GUI. It also has lesser connectivity – just one phono audio-out and two phono composite video outs.
For those not bothered by network trickery but wanting cracking home cinema performance, I am beginning to smell a bargain....
In fact, the RX-V1900 is based on exactly the same Yamaha ToP-ART high-current amplification and still claims a very respectable 130W per channel – very close to the RX-V3800.
Inside is a suite of Burr-Brown 192kHz/24-bit DACs for all channels, low-jitter phase-locked-loop circuitry, and assignable amps for Yamaha's mad front- presence channels – or to bi-amp the front mains. I do wonder how many households globally have ever gone to the bother of installing 'presence' speakers above and behind the main stereo pair to use some of Yamaha's more obscure DSP modes. I suspect 'none too many' is the answer. Especially if my other-half's opinion of 'yet more speakers in the lounge!' is anything to go by.
The 4-in/1-out HDMI board is straight off of its bigger brother and it similarly sports decoding for all the big-cheese HD-audio formats, as well as a Pure Direct mode for HD audio and video. Quite what is actually turned off when you are watching full 'HD audio and video' is a bit of mystery and, unsurprisingly, it doesn't make much difference to the sound. The video-side includes a 1080p scaler, v1.3a connectivity to support HDMI's auto-lip-sync and DeepColor features, and 100Hz/120Hz and 24Hz refresh rates.
The two remotes will be handy for the two extra zones available in multi-room modes, although the 'credit-card' sized secondary model is just asking to spend its life in fluff-infested gloom down the back of the sofa.
The latter gives you basic audio-streaming from suitably-equipped sources even if the V1900 doesn't have an Ethernet port. Wrap the whole lot up with YPAO auto set-up and RoomEQ software and serve black.
So is the RX-V1900 simply an RX-V3800 on the cheap with a few 'nice to have' features missing? Hmmm, same dimensions, same fascia, almost the same connections and just 300grams lighter? I think it is.
Wipe me out
It might have been a pleasant coincidence that Sony launched WipeOutHD for the PS3 the very same day I received the RX-V1900. WipeOutHD offers eye-watering graphics moving at blistering speed, backed by a thumping hardcore 5.1 channel LPCM soundtrack and enough special effects to keep a convention of Hollywood directors happy for weeks. Does the Yamaha rise to the occasion like an anti-gravity racer? It does indeed.
From the opening credits of the game and Booka Shade's rather enigmatic Steady Rush, the V1900 marks itself as a performer of passion. Press Start and the scene is a maelstrom of effects, from the engine roar to the countdown beeps, that really gets the pulse racing. The countdown gives you just enough time to switch the internal cock-pit view and crank the volume before the sensory overload begins.
With the ridiculous pace of DJ Fresh's X-Project (WipeOut Mix) driving the game, the bass is simply stunning. The beat has real weight and all the character that embodies the synth-drum of the genre.
As you collide with another racer the metallic-scraping on the relevant side is crafted with the sort of realistic detail that makes you wince.
The explosions simply resound around the room and the computerised female voice warning of impending obstacles has this amazing all-round character that cuts through the chaos – just as if you are hearing it in the cock-pit. In 1080p with a big-screen projector and the Yamaha wound up to ASBO-dB levels, the whole sensation is wonderfully intense and exhausting.
Switching to something a little more sedate for a while, the RX-V1900 proves its worth with movies, too. The complex Chinese dialogue of Curse of the Golden Flower on Blu-ray is crisp, succinct and neatly presented without overt sibilance or chestiness – whatever the level.
The swooping martial arts sound effects and metallic tones of swords splicing air are spot on, and projected way beyond the boundaries of the speakers. Again the receiver does wonders with the ambience, imaging a really natural 'outdoor' feeling in the forest scenes. The tiny details and ambient clues add up to a solid presence that simply draws you into the scene.
On the downside the YPAO system was not quite as successful as I recall the V3800 being in my room. This may be partially due to some recent kit and furniture manoeuvres, but I suspect it has more to do with the limited tweaking options of the block-text interface. You simply can't get in there and accurately nudge the filters in a way that was possible with the more expensive GUI-enabled machine.
Running the YPAO still cleaned up the annoying mid-bass bloom in my cinema, but didn't really add anything more to the Yam's already fine ability to create the scene.
While I am being picky, I will warn that the RX-V1900's natural balance may require careful speaker-matching if you have a penchant for extreme volumes.
The up-front presentation is pushed forward when the bass runs out of steam at very high SPLs and this may well play havoc with some bright-sounding speakers. But that is rather like saying a sports car's rock-hard suspension may cause havoc on rough road surfaces. In ideal conditions the Yamaha really delivers the sonic goods and throws you into music, movies and games like few others at the price.
It's no shrinking violet, so if you prefer your films rated PG rather than 12 and have anything starring Barbara Streisand in your collection it might be best to look elsewhere. For the rest of us with a penchant for loud music, all-action movies and HD games to scramble your AV senses, Yamaha's RX-V1900 is indeed a bargain.