Yamaha RX-V557 6.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver Review

Yamaha RX-V557 Home Theater Receiver
Yamaha RX-V557 XM-Enabled 6.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver. Images provided by Yamaha Electronics Corporation

Introduction To The Yamaha RX-V557

AV receivers in the $300 - $500 price range now provide performance and flexibility that was once reserved for much higher-priced units. Having had a chance to use the Yamaha RX-V557, I must say that it is an excellent value, with the added bonus of XM Satellite Radio capability. For those wishing to get into home theater with a good performing entry-level AV receiver that is priced reasonably, the RX-V557 deserves consideration.

Features and Specifications:

1. 6.1 channels (left, center, right, left surround, center back, right surrround) of amplification , delivering 90 watts into each of the six channels. A Subwoofer line output is provided for a powered subwoofer channel.

2. Dolby Prologic IIx, Dolby Digital 5.1/6.1 EX, DTS 5.1/6.1 ES, 96/24, and Neo:6 surround formats are included, as well as Yamaha's DSP (Digital Sound Processing) surround enhancement options.

3. 6-channel analog audio inputs for SACDenabled CD players, DVD-Audio-enabled DVD players, or external decoder are available.

4. Center channel equalizer. Extensive speaker level, distance, and low frequency crossover settings are provided for precise sound setup.

5. Zone 2 preamp outputs are provided as well as Yamaha's Silent Cinema headphone output.

6.Audio inputs provided: 6 analog stereo, 4 digital optical, 1 digital coaxial. Video inputs provided: 4 composite, 3 S-video, 2 component.

7.  S-video to composite/composite to S-video conversion, as well as Composite and S-Video to Component Conversion is included.

8.  An XM-Satellite Tuner is Built-in (antenna and subscription required). An AM/FM Tuner with 40 presets is also included.

9. Multi-function front panel LED display shows both Receiver and XM radio functions.

10. A Wireless remote control is provided.

Overall Performance

The Yamaha RX-V557 proved to be a very good performer with each of the connected components and with all software program material used in this review. Stereo and surround sound performance was very good on a wide range of movie and audio-only material from both analog and digital sources.

In addition to the standard Dolby Digital and modes, Yamaha's Cinema DSP modes did a great job of placing the above soundfields into realistic environments, such as a movie theater or concert hall. Unlike some AV receivers in this class, the RX-V557 also holds up well in two-channel sound reproduction, providing good music-only performance.

Although not as powerful as the its higher-priced and higher-end cousins, the RX-V557's amplifiers supplied enough power for an small to average sized room over long periods of time. In addition, the 557 was able to respond quickly to dramatic changes in sound levels. This was especially evident on intense audio clips such as the foggy battle scene in Master and Commander, as well as demanding music clips, such as Heart's Magic Man.

The 557 also performed well in the video department. The video conversion circuitry worked very well when used with both the Syntax LT-32HV LCD television

On very color intense films, such as Moulin Rouge and the opening scenes in House Of The Flying Daggers, there was little difference between a straight interlaced component video signal and an interlaced component video signal that had been converted from S-Video.

The 557 also did a good job of transferring straight progressive scan component video signals.

The XM Factor

In addition to its home theater audio and video features, Yamaha has included an innovative twist that is probably a harbinger of things to come.

The RX-557 includes a built-in XM-Radio satellite tuner. However, since XM radio is a paid subscription listening service, the consumer must both purchase a special XM-radio antenna, as well as pay a monthly fee for the service.

Despite this aspect, however, I found that setting up the XM feature was fairly straight forward. There is a special input on the back panel of the 557 to which you connect the XM antenna. In addition, the antenna has an extremely long cable as it must be placed near a window facing south. This may restrict some installations.

After the antenna is set up and connected, the 557 will display a serial number from the antenna on its LED display from which you call or activate your service via the XM website.

The result is a listening experience I did not expect. Having given up listening to AM/FM in my home theater setup years ago (except for product reviews), I actually found myself listening to the XM radio function quite a bit as I was doing other things in the room. The extensive program offerings in terms of niche music channels and cable news services adds a lot of listening flexibility.

In addition, the sound quality was consistently good (depending on the original programming source) and free of pitfalls of traditional AM and FM radio signals. The only glitch, at first, was placing the antenna correctly.

What I Liked

1. Very good sound quality in both stereo and surround modes.

2. Video signal conversion from composite or S-video input to component output simplifies video connectivity.

3. Incorporation of an XM-Satellite Radio tuner brings the pleasure of good-quality radio listening (in both programming options and sound quality) into the home theater environment.

4. Although the basic setup of the RX-V557 is easy, there are also extensive speaker setup and adjustment options for added installation flexibility.

5. The front panel controls are simple and well-designed. In addition, the 557's LED display does a great job of displaying XM radio information as well as receiver status information.

What I Didn't Like

1. No dedicated phono (turntable) input is provided. Although the 557 has a 6-channel input for SACD/DVD Audio players, it must be noted that Vinyl records are still outselling both of these formats.

2. No onscreen menu display option.

3. No S-video or digital audio input on front panel.

4. The 557 could use a second AV input/output loop to accommodate both a VCR and DVD recorder or DVR.

More Info

The RX-V557 delivers enough power for an averaged-size room and provides exceptional sound with its high-current amplifier design. Useful features include: 6.1 channel surround processing, composite to S-video to Component video conversion; Second Zone pre-outs, which allow the user to supply either a simultaneous or second source to another room (additional amplifier required), and Center Channel Equalizer, for fine tuning movie dialog tracks.

The most innovative feature of the RX-V557 is the inclusion of an XM-Satellite Radio tuner in addition to a standard AM/FM tuner. With the addition of a compatible XM Satellite Radio antenna, and the required subscription fee, the consumer can enjoy an extensive offering of specialized music, news, and information channels. XM radio definitely has the potential to increase the flexibility of a home theater setup.

The sound quality of the RX-V557 is clear and well-balanced for an entry level AV receiver. One of the indicators of a good receiver is the ability to perform well in both stereo and surround modes. I found the audio quality of the 557 in both stereo and surround modes to be very good, making it acceptable for both extensive music listening as well as for home theater use.

I also found the composite and s-video to component video conversion function worked very well. This simplifies connection of older components to today's digital televisions.

If you are looking for a flexible, good performing, and affordable receiver to be the centerpiece in a basic home theater, the RX-V557 deserves consideration. I give it 4.5 Stars out of 5.

NOTE: Since the posting of of the above review, the production of the Yamaha RX-557 has been discontinued. For current alternatives, check out my periodically updated listing of Home Theater Receivers priced at $399 or Less, $400 to $1,299, and $1,300 and Up

Additional Components Used In This Review

Components used in the evaluation included a Denon DCM-370 CD/HDCD Changer, Panasonic LX-1000 Laserdisc Player, JVC XV-NP10S DVD Player - Code Free Version, Kiss DP-470 DVD Receiver, Philips DVDR-985 DVD Recorder,

Video display devices used included: A Syntax LT32HV LCD television and an Optoma H56 DLP video projector.

A variety of loudspeakers, including Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-3, Optimus LX-5IIs, a Yamaha YST-SW205 Powered Subwoofer, and additional speakers, in both matched and mismatched setups were used.

In addition, the use of a CNP-1000 XM-Satellite radio antenna and temporary sample subscription was provided by XM for the purpose of this review.

Comparison audio components used: Yamaha HTR-5490 6.1 Channel AV Receiver, Outlaw Audio Model 950 paired with a Butler Audio 5150 5-channel power amplifier.

Software Used In This Review

A sampling of the software used included standard CDs: HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones: Come Away With Me, Blue Man Group: The Complex and Audio, Lisa Loeb: Firecracker (HDCD), Blondie: Live (HDCD), Telarc: 1812 Overture.

One Laserdisc was used: Godzilla 1998.

DVDs used included: Kill Bill - Vol1/Vol2, Master and Commander, Chicago, Lord Of the Rings Trilogy, House Of The Flying Daggers, Alien Vs Predator, Moulin Rouge, The Mummy, Ed Wood (Region 3 - NTSC), and Crying Freeman (Region 2 - PAL). DVD-Audio/DTS music discs used included: Queen: Night At The Opera/The Game, Eagles: Hotel California, Sheila Nicholls: Wake, Alan Parsons: On Air. Also included: The Corrs: In Blue (Dolby Digital). Portions of other software titles in the above categories were used as well.

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