I first listened to "Give up the Funk" from Parliament Funkadelic's 2-CD set Tear The Roof Off (1974-1980) [Mercury/Universal]. Lateral imaging was good, with musicians occupying their own spaces from left to right, but the soundstage was slightly compressed; the entire band sounded as if it was only about a foot deep. The trumpets and synths were not overly bright, adding just the right touch of brilliant accompaniment. However, I noticed that the bass guitar, although funky, was a little subdued in the mix and had poor pitch definition. Although the bass would plummet to subterranean frequencies with authority (as on movie soundtracks), its pitch wasn't always clearly discernable.
The Yamaha RX-V2500 clearly revealed the strengths of high-resolution audio formats relative to standard CDs. Consider, for example, the track "Chan Chan" from The Buena Vista Social Club [Nonesuch] on DVD-Audio; I was immediately struck by the cleanliness of tonal textures on this recording. The acoustic guitars were full-bodied and the sound so clean that I could tell when guitarists were using nylon strings on their instruments. The soundstaging was also fantastic on DVD-Audio material, with instruments whose sounds appeared to emanate from far behind the speakers, and with greater threedimensionality than is commonly heard from affordable AVRs. As with the CD tracks I listened to, low bass on DVD-Audio recordings sounded indistinct; the upright bass on Buena Vista Social Club, for example, was buried in the mix.
I next listened to David Chesky's Area 31 [Chesky] and the track "Allegro Molto" in SACD. The soundstage was expanded further than on the DVD-Audio and CD tracks I had heard previously. Imaging was excellent with instruments separated cleanly in the mix. Small scale dynamic shifts segued perfectly and cleanly into large scale shifts without distortion or loss in clarity. The beautifully played violin was expressive, with subtle details devoid of edginess in the upper registers. Surprisingly, subtle details didn't diminish when other instruments joined the melody. The recording was so clear that I could actually hear hall reflections and was able to estimate the size of the recording venue quite easily. Of all the formats I listened to, SACDs sounded the best on the Yamaha RXV2500.
The Yamaha RX-V2500 has the potential to be an extremely useful component at the core of your home entertainment system. Recorded music on CD and high-resolution formats such as SACD and DVD-Audio sounded quite good, but I felt the AVR showed some weaknesses in terms of limited soundstage depth and low bass detail. The real strength of the RX-V2500 lies in its ability to accurately reproduce film soundtracks, where its smooth surround sound imaging, overall tonal accuracy, and authoritative bass make it worth the price of admission.
It's not easy for an AVR to juggle features with performance at an affordable price, but the Yamaha RXV2500 is a winner in its class. Although there are some slight deficiencies that affect music playback, I think most buyers will purchase this behemoth for its superb film playback and multi-room capabilities.