What happens when you take the best attributes from the previous generation of Yamaha RX series A/V receivers and add the latest technology? You get a brand spankin' new model, the Yamaha RX-V2500. The 7.1-channel RX-V2500 is exciting because it brings together a powerful and clean 130Wpc multichannel amplifier, an extremely intuitive new graphic user interface, and support for up to three HDTV display inputs. These new features put the roughly $1100 Yamaha RX-V2500 near the head of the pack in this price class.
The Yamaha RX-V2500 features: 192kHz/24-bit DACs, ToP-ART Amplifier Technology (ensuring a clean and pure signal path), and a powerful YSS-930 DSP chip for surround sound processing. The RXV2500 is versatile in output connectivity capabilities, supporting a presence speaker in the front channel, two sets of front channel outputs (called A and B), Zone 2 and 3 output, and a surround back channel output. There is a caveat, though: you cannot use the presence speakers and surround back channels simultaneously. The RX-V2500 supports all of the latest decoding formats, such as Dolby Digital, DTS, and THX Select, as well as an impressive number of DSP formats. For video, the RX-V2500 supports component video up-conversion (which converts all non-component video input sources to component video output), as well as supplying several HDTV inputs. For tweaking the audio, there is a parametric EQ for all seven channels, a selectable 9- band subwoofer crossover, and the automated Yamaha Parametric Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO) speaker setup system, which is described in more detail below.
The newly modified GUI (graphic user interface) found on the Yamaha RX-V2500 is not only intuitive, but a joy to use. The GUI allows users to set speaker distances/levels manually or automatically via the YPAO setup program. I connected my optimizer microphone to the AVR and in five minutes, after a series of pulses, blips, and bursts of white noise, my system was calibrated for speaker distances and levels. The YPAO program also analyzes the frequency response of your room and applies corrective EQ in each channel, adjusting EQ so that your speaker system will produce the flattest frequency response possible in your room. However, my experience has been that YPAO frequency response correction gives better results in some rooms than others; in my room, I consistently got better overall sound by overriding YPAO equalization settings.
The remote control allows you to access every feature of the Yamaha RX-V2500, either through dedicated buttons or by using the setup GUI. The remote control supports a feature called learning remote, and with this feature the Yamaha remote can quickly "learn" commands already programmed from other remote controls. The remote control also features macro support, allowing you to perform a series of A/V component operations with the press of a single button. Although the remote is backlit, the buttons can be hard to read in the dark, a minor inconvenience compared to the overall versatility of this remote.
I enjoyed the RX-V2500's DSP modes when watching cable TV. Most cable programs broadcast their shows in Dolby Surround, which means that I was able to watch my favorite programs in surround sound, but the DSP modes can also upconvert stereo signals into a workable 5.1-channel surround sound mix. Impressed by the sound heard while watching cable TV, I next tested the AVR on DVDs. The Chronicles of Riddick [Universal], recently listed as one of the "Best Looking DVDs of 2004" in our sister magazine The Perfect Vision, not only looked fantastic thru the RX-V2500, it sounded spectacular. Dialogue was clean and clear without being overly bright or harsh. The soundstage overlap from front to rear channels was seamless, a quality vital for movie playback to sound believable. If you enjoy ample low bass response, the RX-V2500 will certainly please (though its bass clarity leaves something to be desired). Even so, the amp drove my reference speakers right down to their lower limits (which fall around the mid-20Hz range) without even breaking a sweat. I had to limit my movie watching, though, to early evenings to keep my neighbor from calling 911 and reporting that Riddick had just crashed a spaceship into the side of our apartment complex. Even when I turned up the volume to near earsplitting levels, the dialogue and action remained clear and distinct-a feat only genuinely powerful AVRs can pull off. Headphone surround simulation is supported, allowing you to watch a movie whenever the need arises, without disturbing others.
To test the component video inputs, I played the Digital Video Essentials test pattern of the American Flag in loop mode. I alternated between a signal output running directly into my display and a signal running through the Yamaha RX-V2500 and into the display. The best any AVR can do is relay the video signal void of any distortions or colorations, and the Yamaha RXV2500 passed the signal cleanly and without introducing artifacts.