The AV receiver is nothing new, but what is new is the fact that A/V receivers are now getting smart features, better connectivity, and more features for the money.
That’s great news for consumers, who might want receivers with support for surround sound and wireless standards like AirPlay, without having to shell out the cash that would have been required a few years ago.
The latest company to give its lower-cost receivers an upgrade is Yamaha, which recently took the wraps off of Yamaha RX-V 85 series of receivers.
At the top, you’ve got the Yamaha RX-V2085, which offers support for 9.2 channels of audio, dual ESS Sabre DACs, and so on. More interesting, however, are the lower-end models, like the Yamaha RX-V485, which brings features you would normally expect in far more expensive receivers to a price of under $400 (around £300, AU$550).
But with all those features, is the Yamaha RX-V485 ultimately worth buying? We put it to the test to find out.
A/V receivers are normally somewhat bulky black boxes, and the Yamaha RX-V485 is no exception to that rule ... but, as far as bulky black boxes go, it certainly doesn’t look bad. The unit comes in at around 17-inches wide, almost 7-inches tall, and 13-inches deep. That’s a pretty standard size for A/V receivers like this, though it does seem to be a little shorter than some others, which is a nice touch.
On the front of the unit, you’ll get pretty much everything you’ll expect. There’s a power button on the left, which sits a few inches above a headphone jack. Towards the center is where you’ll get the bulk of the front-mounted controls, including the ability to tweak the radio settings, change the “scene,” switch inputs, programming, and so on, as well as an aux port and a USB port. On the right, you’ll find a large volume knob.
The back, of course, is where you get all your connectivity: There’s one HDMI output which will be perfectly fine for the majority of people who use the device the way it’s designed, and route all their sources through the receiver. To that end, there’s four HDMI inputs, which should be fine. For sources that don’t use HDMI, you’ve got a few other video inputs, and even a video output in case your TV doesn’t support HDMI. You’ll also get enough connectivity for a 5.1 surround sound system, which will be plenty of connectivity for most buying a receiver in this price range.
The remote is relatively well-designed too, helping ensure that it’s pretty easy to use. You’ve got power controls at the top, along with a scene selector, quick tuning buttons, volume controls, input controls, and so on. Like most remotes, once you’ve set up your receiver you’ll probably only use a few of the buttons, but the remote serves power-users who like to be able to tweak settings perfectly well, too.
While the design of this receiver is perfectly fine, it’s what’s under the hood that really sells the Yamaha RX-V485.
Let’s start with the wireless features, of which there are quite a few: The device supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Apple’s AirPlay, which is very helpful in particular for streaming music, though doesn’t seem as though you’re able to stream video directly to the receiver through AirPlay. Unfortunately, though, the Yamaha RX-V485 doesn’t seem to support Google Cast – which we see as a pretty major omission considering the AirPlay support.
Still, for those that don’t use Apple devices, Bluetooth is still there for everyone else, and while it may not be as good at integrating with other smart home features, it still worked perfectly fine for streaming audio in our tests.
One major feature that Yamaha is touting for this series of receivers is support for its MusicCast speakers, which essentially allow you to set up the receiver to use MusicCast speakers as wireless surround speakers. You can’t use MusicCast speakers as the main speakers in your setup, but it’s still a very nice feature, and means that you don’t have to run cables around your living room for decent surround sound. We’ll review the quality of the speakers themselves separately.
Setting up the MusicCast speakers to work as surround speakers was a little tricky. First, you’ll have to set up the receiver and the speakers in the Yamaha MusicCast app, then link the receiver to the speakers. Then, you’ll have to open the receiver settings from the receiver itself, and set your system to a surround system, in case you had it set up as a standard stereo system.
When you link your MusicCast speakers and receiver, only the receiver will show up in AirPlay, which could be good, or bad, depending on how you look at it. It’s good, for example, because it means the audio will play through all of your living room speakers easily. It’s bad, however, because it means you can’t only send audio to one speaker, if for some reason you want to.
Another nice addition to the receiver is that it supports Amazon’s Alexa. With it, you can use your voice to do things like change the volume. It’s a nice touch, and one that worked fine, but we didn’t find ourselves using it much.
Other features are less smart-home related and more traditional receiver-related, but still very helpful. The receiver supports 4K HDR, Dolby Audio, and Dolby Vision, all of which should help ensure that the video and audio quality is high.
Next up is the fact that the receiver supports two zones – meaning instead of having one 5.1-channel system, you can have one main 3-channel setup in zone one, and a 2-channel setup in zone 2. With this setup, you can play the same source to two zones at the same time and control their volume separately, which is a nice touch.
All the features on offer are helpful, but they’re limited if the receiver doesn’t perform. Thankfully, however, it performs perfectly well: the receiver sounds great at all volumes and there’s little distortion, even at higher volumes.
If your ears are very well tuned, you might start to hear why the receiver is cheaper than some others, thanks to the slightly restrained detail in the upper frequencies, but ultimately the receiver sounds great for the untuned ear, and good for those who know what to look for.
When it comes to specs, the receiver offers 80W of power when two channels are in use, and a total harmonic distortion of 0.09%, which is inaudible.
All that said, you’ll likely get a little more detail and clarity from some of the more expensive receivers in the range, which replace the standard Yamaha DACs with ESS Sabre DACs.
The Yamaha RX-V485 offers a ton of features at an excellent price and it’s easy to recommend buying it, especially for those that like the idea of using Yamaha’s MusicCast speakers for surround sound. For those that don’t, however, there may be some other options.
We recently reviewed the Onkyo TX-NR676, for example, which offers many of the same smart features at a similar price, plus it supports a 7.1-channel setup plus another two-channels for a second zone – so, if you plan on going beyond the 5.1-channel setup, it may be the way to go. The Onkyo unit also supports Google Cast, so if you use Android or Google Chrome, it could be a little more handy.
Still, despite the lack of some of those features, the Yamaha RX-V485 is easy-to-use, relatively full-featured, and sounds great. If you plan on using 5.1-channels or less, and won’t miss the lack of Google Cast, then it’s an excellent option to go for.
- Don't miss our guide to the Best AV receiver 2018