Review: Yamaha R-S700 Two-Channel Stereo Receiver

Back to the Future

The front of the Yamaha R-S700 stereo receiver
The Yamaha R-S700 stereo receiver delivers a solid performance with two-channel output. Yamaha

A Stereo Fable

Once upon a time in a store far, far away, there were 'stereo receivers' a plenty. These examples of modern equipment were very popular and provided great stereo sound for millions of music fans. Then came home theater receivers with five channels and lots of digital gizmos that almost killed stereo receivers. But some people still wanted a quality stereo receiver – and several manufacturers knew this. One such example is the Yamaha R-S700 stereo receiver, which takes aim at enthusiasts who are mostly focused on two-channel output.

In the interest of full disclosure, I've worked for Yamaha for several years and own a few Yamaha components. But as an objective reviewer, you can read on for honest impressions.

The Basics

Yamaha stereo receivers have enjoyed a good reputation going way back to the 1970s. I've seen used Yamaha CR-820 stereo receivers with the distinctive silver front panel (circa the mid-1970s) for sale at TV repair shops before (in great condition, too). The R-S700 is a throwback to the 1970s-era Yamaha receivers with its clean, uncluttered front panel and finely-machined knobs and controls. But the notable differences include updated features and a jet-black faceplate.

The Yamaha R-S700 is capable of delivering 100-watts per channel into a pair of 8-ohm speakers. This receiver can be compatible with speakers as low as 4 ohms via an impedance selector switch on the rear panel. The Speaker A, B or A+B switch means two pairs of 8-ohm speakers can be powered simultaneously, which offers some added flexibility. Bi-wired speaker connections are also possible with bi-wire capable speakers.

The six analog ports (CD, tape, phono, three auxiliary inputs, and two auxiliary outputs) are enough for most systems, and the Rec Out feature makes it easy to record one source while listening to another. Rightfully, the Yamaha R-S700 has no digital audio circuitry – it's an analog only component designed to maintain signal purity and clarity. You would need to use the two-channel analog outputs of a disc player to connect to the receiver or upgrade to an outboard digital to analog converter (DAC).

Upgraded Features

A key distinction between the 70s-era Yamaha receivers and the R-S700 is the multi-zone/multi-source feature, which allows someone in a separate area listen to a completely different source than that of the main room. The R-S700 receiver's non-powered Zone 2 output requires an amp and two speakers in the second zone. It comes with a separate Zone 2 remote control to operate the receiver from another room. Keep in mind that multi-zone operation requires running speaker wires and IR (infrared remote) control wires from Zone 1 to Zone 2, which may require professional installation.

The options menu has separate settings for each input source including: maximum/minimum and initial volume for each zone, +12-volt Trigger Out, Sirius Satellite Radio, and iPhone/iPod settings for wired and wireless docking. I tested the R-S700 with the Yamaha YDS-12 wired iPhone/iPod dock, even though there are three built-in options for iPod integration to the receiver: wired, wireless, and Bluetooth. When the player is connected, the receiver's remote control can operate many of its functions. The Yamaha R-S700 also features a composite video output to watch iPod videos or streamed content on a television or monitor. Just keep in mind that iPod/iPhone operation screens are not displayed.

The Test Drive

The best stereo receivers share three essential characteristics: great sound, well-built components, and are simple to operate. They tend to include the most important features, but with a minimal front panel, clutter and/or need to fuss with on-screen menus and system adjustments. The R-S700 was put through the paces to find out how it stacked up against expectations.

I set up the receiver with the Mordaunt-Short Carnival 2 bookshelf speakers and a Morel powered subwoofer with dual 9" woofers.

The R-S700 easily exceeds most of the items on my checklist, particularly with regards to audio performance. Its overall sound quality is smooth with excellent clarity and detail. It's robust, 100-watt amps are more than enough for the most bookshelf or floor standing speakers. The comparatively high damping factor of 240 lends a distinct intelligibility to vocals and musical instruments.

The delightful sound quality delivered by the Yamaha R-S700 stereo receiver is due in part to its circuit design and layout. The receiver's ToP-ART chassis (Total Performance Anti-Resonance Technology) is a valuable yet practically invisible design feature. Simply stated, the power supply and other circuit components are mounted on a composite material that dampens external vibrations, which can result in a degradation of audio performance. Some audiophiles are known to spend hundreds of dollars – if not more – for separate power amplifier stands to provide similar isolation properties. The Yamaha R-S700's ToP-ART chassis is built in, saving much money and effort.

The left and right channel amplifier circuits are also symmetrically arranged, which leads to an overall better sound with improved channel separation. High fidelity doesn't happen by accident; it is usually the result of attention to design detail, and those details make all the difference.

Beyond sound quality, the Yamaha R-S700 stereo receiver's complement of features is useful without being a bother or requiring much adjustment. The front panel is quite nicely laid out, with white display characters being distinctly clear and easy to read. In my opinion, it's a notable improvement over orange- or blue-colored displays.

The Subwoofer Out on the R-S700 is great for stereo music systems and 2.1 channel home theater systems. However, without a way to filter out bass (around the 80 Hz frequency band) from the left and right channel speakers, its usefulness can seem limited. For home theaters, the remote control includes buttons for TV power, channel up/down, and programmable controls for a large selection of DVD/CD players.

The R-S700 stereo receiver's tuner performance is a tossup. Although it's not as proficient at pulling in the more distant AM stations (as with other Yamaha tuners), the FM tuning performance is excellent.

Yamaha's Continuously Variable Loudness Control (CVLC) continues to be valuable today, despite its origin dating back more than 35 years. By lowering the level of the mid-range output, rather than the typical boosting of bass and treble levels, the CVLC improves clarity at low volumes without adding any distortion or noise. It's a subtle distinction, but a very useful feature at all volumes – especially for low-level listening. The bass, treble, balance, and loudness controls can also be bypassed with Yamaha's Pure Direct feature.

The End

The Yamaha R-S700 stereo receiver can still be a top pick, with its more up-to-date features and solid audio performance. At a suggested retail price of US$549, this receiver can be an excellent long-term investment for many. The Yamaha CR-820 receiver seen in the TV repair shop sold for more than $200, despite it being more than 35 years old. Such is the testament to quality equipment – if you want to read more, check out the Yamaha R-S500 review

So how does this fable end? With stereo music lovers living happily ever after!