Yamaha RX-V861 7.1 Channel Receiver with HDMI

Great Audio and Video Performance But Needs a Few Feature Additions

Yamaha RX-V861 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver with HDMI - Front View
Yamaha RX-V861 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver with HDMI - Front View. Photo (c) Yamaha Electronics Corporation

With the RX-V861, Yamaha brings many high-end home theater receiver features down to the below-$1,000 price range. HDMI switching and upscaling provides extended video quality, as well as providing more efficient connection options. Also, despite an additional emphasis on video features, audio quality has not been ignored. However, the RX-V861 does lack onboard decoding of the latest surround sound formats (Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD) which some competitors are now offering at this same price point.

Product Overview

1. Video/Audio Inputs

The RX-V861 offers both 3 HD Component video and 2 HDMI inputs. There are 4 composite RCA video inputs.

The receiver has four assignable digital audio inputs (two coaxial and three optical), RCA audio connections for a CD player and CD or Cassette audio recorder, and a subwoofer preamplifier output. This receiver also has dedicated 6-channel inputs that can be used when needing to access the multi-channel audio output from an SACD or DVD-Audio. Player. In addition, the RX-V861 also features an iPod dock connection, and Zone 2 Preamp outputs.

2. Video Outputs and Features

The Yamaha RX-V861 offers Four types of video monitor outputs: HDMI, Component, S-Video, and Composite. In addition, the RX-V861 offer both 480i to 480p de-interlacing, as well as analog and component video conversion to HDMI, with upscaling up to 1080i. Also, the RX-V861 offers direct 1080p input-to-output capability for connection of 1080p sources (such as Blu-ray Disc or HD-DVD players) to 1080p input-capable televisions.

3. Audio Features

The Yamaha RX-V861 delivers about 105 Watts per channel (x7) into 8-Ohms (From 20 to 20KHZ) at .06% THD.

With amplifier frequency response from 10 Hz to 100 kHz, the RX-V861 is up to challenge from any source, including SACD and DVD-Audio. Speaker connections consist of dual banana-plug-compatible multi-way speaker binding posts for all main channels with color-coding for simplified wiring. Front channel "B" speaker terminals also enable the receiver to drive a stereo pair in another room, if desired.

The RX- V861 can be used to power a full 7.1 channel system, or, if desired, a 5.1 channel system in one room, and a 2-channel system in another room simultaneously. However, if you would like to run a full 7.1 channel system in one room, as well an additional 2-channel system in another room, the RX-V861 also has Second Zone Preamp outputs which require the use of an additional amplifier to run a 2-channel system in another room.

4. On-Screen and Front Panel Display

The fluorescent front panel display makes setup and operation of the receiver easy and fast. The Front panel display shows the status of your surround and other settings.

5. FM/AM Radio Tuner

The RX-V861 has a built-in AM/FM tuner section has 40 random presets, and FM automatic scan tuning. Connections for both AM and FM antennas are provided.

6. Wireless Remote Control

The RX-V861 comes with a pre-set Universal Wireless Remote Control that is compatible with most Televisions, VCRs, and DVD Players. A list is provided in the user manual that includes the codes to set the remote for use with other devices.

7. XM Satellite Radio

The RX-V861 is also XM-ready. By connecting an XM Satellite Radio Antenna (must be purchased separately) to the receiver and paying the XM monthly subscription fee, you can access XM Satellite Radio Programming. If you are not familiar with Satellite radio, think of it as being similar to Satellite TV, without having to use an outside dish (although the placement of the XM Radio Antenna near a window improves the consistency of reception. NOTE: XM has merged with Sirius Satellite Radio and is now Sirius/XM.

8. Additional Features - iPod Connectivity, Lip Synch Adjustment, YPAO, and Scene

With the optional iPod dock, in conjunction with the RX-V861, you can incorporate your iPod listening and control right into your home theater system via optional iPod docking station.

In addition, the incorporation of a Lip-Synch adjustment on the RX-V861 allows the user to compensate for audio/video time discrepancies that may be encountered from various audio/video sources.

The RX-V861 also incorporates the YPAO automatic speaker setup function.

The SCENE function allows for preset or customized listening and viewing modes.

Hardware/Software Used

Home Theater Receivers: the Yamaha HTR-5490 (6.1 Channels), Harman Kardon AVR147 (on loan from Harman Kardon), and an Onkyo TX-SR304 (5.1 Channels),

Powered Subwoofers used: Klipsch Synergy Sub10 and Yamaha YST-SW205.

Audio/Video connections were made with Accell, Cobalt, and AR Interconnect cables.

16 Gauge Speaker Wire was used in all setups.

Levels for speaker setups were calibrated using a Radio Shack Sound Level Meter

Software Used

Blu-ray Discs included: Pirates of the Caribbean 1 & 2, Alien vs Predator, Superman Returns, Crank, Stealth, and Mission Impossible III.

HD-DVD Discs included: Serenity, Sleepy Hollow, Heart - Live In Seattle, King Kong, Batman Begins, and Phantom of the Opera

Standard DVDs used included scenes from the following: House of the Flying Daggers, Serenity, The Cave, Kill Bill - Vol1/2, V For Vendetta, U571, Lord of Rings Trilogy, and Master and Commander.

For audio only, various CDs included: HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Lisa Loeb - Firecracker, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite.

DVD-Audio discs included: Queen - Night At The Opera/The Game, Eagles - Hotel California, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Uninvisible, Sheila Nicholls - Wake.

SACD discs used included: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon, Steely Dan - Gaucho, The Who - Tommy.

Content on CD-R/RWs was also used.


The YPAO Results

For beginning my actual performance evaluation I used the YPAO feature provided by the RX-V861 to do the initial speaker level setup.

Although no automatic speaker system setup can be perfect or account for personal taste, the YPAO did a credible job of setting up speaker levels properly, in relation to the room characteristics. Speaker distances were calculated accurately, and automatic adjustments to the audio level and equalization were made to compensate.

After the YPAO procedure was complete, the speaker balance was very good between the Center and Main channels, but I further manually increased the surround speaker levels for my own personal taste.

Audio Performance

Using both analog and digital audio sources, I found the audio quality of the RX-V861, in both 5.1 and 7.1 channel configurations, delivered an excellent surround image.

This receiver provided a very clean signal via the direct 5.1 analog audio inputs from both HD-DVD/Blu-ray disc sources, in addition to the Blu-ray/HD-DVD HDMI and Digital Optical/Coaxial audio connection options.

The RX-V861 demonstrated good stability during very dynamic audio tracks and delivered a sustained output over long periods of time without eliciting listening fatigue.

In addition, another aspect of the RX-V861 was its multi-zone capability. Running the receiver in the 5.1 channel mode for the main room and using the two spare channels (normally devoted to the surround back speakers), and using the provided second zone remote control, I was easily able to run two separate systems.

I was able to access DVD/Blu-ray/HD-DVD in the main 5.1 channel setup and easily access XM or CDs in the two channel setup in another room using the RX-V861 as the main control for both sources. Also, I could run the same music source in both rooms simultaneously, one using the 5.1 channel configuration and second using the 2 channel configuration.

The RX-V861 has the option of running the second zone using either its own internal amplifiers or using a separate external amplifier via Zone 2 preamp output. Specific details on Multi-zone setup are outlined in the RX-V861 user manual.

Video Performance

Analog video sources when converted to progressive scan via component video or HDMI, looked slightly better, but the component video connection option produced a slightly darker image than HDMI.

Using the Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark DVD as a reference, the internal scaler of the 2700 does a good job, in relation to other receivers with built-in scalers, but it does not perform as well as a good upscaling DVD player, or a dedicated external video scaler. However, the fact that you don't need to use several types of video connections on one video display is a great convenience.

Although upconversion of video inputs signals to HDMI is limited to 1080i, the RX-V2700 can pass a native 1080p source through to a 1080p television or monitor. The image on a Westinghouse LVM-37w3 1080p monitor showed no visible difference, whether the signal came directly from one of the 1080p source players or was routed through the RX-V861 before reaching the monitor.

What I Liked About the RX-V861

1. The Sound quality excellent in both stereo and surround modes. Digital audio sources accessible via Digital Optical/Coaxial and HDMI inputs.

2. Incorporation of an XM-Satellite Radio (subscription required) and iPod Control (iPod is controlled by the RX-V861's remote control when connected to the receiver via docking station).

3. SCENE function simplifies listening and viewing mode options. This reduces the need for extra "fiddling around" with manual settings every time a new source is accessed.

4. Dedicated Phono Turntable input provided. This is great for Vinyl Record owners.

5. 1080p Signal Pass-Through and analog to digital video upconversion Looks Good.

What I Didn't Like About the RX-V861

1.No on-board Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Decoding capability. Not a deal breaker at the current time, but may be an issue in the future.

2. No Sirius Satellite Radio connectivity. Several competitors are including Sirius, as well as XM connectivity on their receivers. May not be a deal breaker for most, but if you are a Sirius radio subscriber, not having this feature may be a deal breaker for you.

3. No front mounted HDMI or Component Video Inputs. This would be a great convenience for temporary connectivity.

4. The Speaker connections are too close together. This makes it more difficult when using bare speaker wire, rather than banana plugs.

5. Needs more HDMI inputs. With the increasing number of HDMI-equipped components, two inputs are just not enough, especially in this price range.

Final Take

As mentioned in the introduction to this review, the Yamaha RX-V861 brings many high-end home theater receiver features down to the below-$1,000 price range.

HDMI switching and upscaling provides extended video quality, as well as providing more efficient connection options. The analog to digital video conversion and upscaling functions worked very well. This also simplifies connection of older components to today's digital televisions.

In terms of audio, this receiver performs well in both stereo and surround modes. I found the audio quality of the RX-V861 in both stereo and surround modes to be very good, making it a good receiver for both extensive music listening as well as for home theater use.

However, the RX-V861 does lack on-board decoding of the latest surround sound formats (Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD) which some competitors are now offering at this same price point.

This may not be a deal-breaker, as this capability is only needed if you own a Blu-ray Disc or HD-DVD player that can output a Dolby Digital TrueHD or DTS-HD bitstream form via HDMI, which would require decoding by the receiver, rather than the player itself. If the Blu-ray or HD-DVD player has its own internal Dolby TrueHD and/or DTS-HD decoding, the decoded signal would be accessible via the RS-V861's HDMI or 5.1 channel analog inputs.

Taking all the factors I was able to evaluate regarding both the functionality and performance of the RX-V861, I give it 4 out of 5 Stars.

For more details and explanation of the RX-V861's connections and functions, also check out my Photo Gallery.

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Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.