The key advantage this Yamaha RX-V473 model has over the entry-level RX-V373 is the inclusion of DLNA network functionality. This allows you to stream music from sources on your home network without having to hook up cables or plug in USB devices. It’ll read content from PCs and NAS drives and stream internet radio, with format support that includes FLAC 96/24, WAV, MP3, WMA and MPEG-4 AAC. Meanwhile the inclusion of AirPlay functionality makes it easy for you to stream music from iPods, iPads and iPhones, or from Macs and PCs running iTunes.
But it’s not just about streaming music – the network connection also lets you control the Yamaha RX-V473 using a smart phone or tablet running Yamaha’s AV Controller App, available for Apple and Android. This app also features MusicPlay, another method of streaming your tunes.
If you’re not ready for the network revolution, no sweat – the RX-V473 also allows you to connect Apple devices directly to the front USB port. This direct connection ensures clean, undistorted data transfer, plus you can control music playback using the receiver’s remote. The RX-V373 supports iPod and iPhone only but the Yamaha RX-V473 also supports iPad. The USB port also supports media playback from USB memory devices and MP3 players.
Elsewhere the RX-V473 offers five channels of discrete amplification, with power output rated at 115W per channel (1 kHz, one channel driven) or 80W per channel (20Hz -20kHz, two channels driven). There are Burr-Brown 192kHz/24-bit DACs for all channels. Naturally it decodes Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS HD.
True to form Yamaha has loaded the RX-V473 with digital sound modes, chief among which is CINEMA DSP 3D, which attempts to expand the sound to match the height of the sonic image to provide a more realistic and immersive sound field.
It’s backed up by Virtual Presence Speaker, which adds phantom speakers to make the soundstage seem more three-dimensional. Compressed Music Enhancer aims to boost the quality of MP3 and other digital music formats, plus there are 17 DSP modes for movies and music with exciting sounding names like Adventure, Spectacle and Sci-Fi, while on the music side they have names like Hall In Munich, Cellar Club and The Roxy Theater.
The RX-V473 also boasts an automatic setup mode called YPAO, which optimises the sound according to the characteristics of your room. Plug the setup mic into the front port, and it analyses the room acoustics using test tones and sets the audio parameters for you.
For all setup matters, the RX-V473 gives you the choice of using the front display panel or the onscreen system. The latter is the easier to use, although its graphics are rudimentary (the RX-V673 and 773 offer a better more sophisticated design). It lays out the options in a very straightforward manner – the GUI is basically two boxes at the top of the screen, one showing the categories (Speaker, HDMI, Sound, Network and so on), the other showing the submenu. It works well, except the screen disappears momentarily when you move between options, which is a tad annoying.
If offers a pleasing level of manual optimisation tools, including distance, level, equaliser, crossover and phase management. There’s also a new subwoofer trim setting, which according to Yamaha enhances bass output and cleanly separates the bass frequencies. This avoids overlap with the front speakers and create a cleaner and more focused sound.
Most of the network functionality works smoothly, even on our slightly convoluted setup that involves hooking up the RX-V473 via Ethernet to a Homeplug and pulling music from a laptop connected wirelessly to the network. Internet radio throws up a vast array of stations – we tried a few at random and they started streaming instantly. The AirPlay logo popped up in iTunes after a couple of minutes, and the Yamaha played tunes from our laptop without batting an eyelid. It even switches over to AirPlay from another source when it detects a tune being played.
However we did have trouble getting it to play ball with Windows Media Player. The Server menu read ‘No Content’ despite all the settings appearing to be correct on the server, the receiver and the software.
Still, USB playback works a treat and so does direct USB playback from iPod and iPad. The onscreen menus during music playback lack sophistication, using rudimentary graphics, and as a result feel incongruous with today’s flashy smartphone GUIs – but at least they’re clear and informative.
With the remote Yamaha makes the mistake of trying to cram as many buttons onto it as possible. Experienced users won’t be troubled by this but newbies might feel daunted by the barrage of buttons. They’re all tiny, which in turn makes the labelling difficult to read, and the cluttered layout doesn’t make navigation feel particularly intuitive. On the plus side there are dedicated Scene buttons and the important volume controls are easy to spot.