A year ago we reviewed Yamaha’s RX-V657 receiver and were so impressed by its performance that we gave it our Budget AVR of the Year award. But recently we learned Yamaha was replacing the RX-V657 with a more full-featured receiver called the RX-V659. We just had to sample the new model to see how Yamaha had updated an affordable TPV favorite.
First, let’s review the basics. The RX-V659 is a 7.1-channel, multizone, XM satellite radio-ready A/V receiver that puts out a conservatively rated 100Wpc. New in the RX-V659 are a built-in phono section and a connection socket for Yamaha’s YDS-10 iPod dock—both features included without any increase over the original receiver’s $549 price.
The RX-V659 impressed us with its smooth treble response, natural midrange, and hearty bass. The Yamaha did a particularly nice job with vocal tracks, capturing the dark, smoky lilt of Patricia Barber’s voice on “Bye Bye Blackbird” from Nightclub [MFSL, SACD]. We also appreciated the way the receiver kept its composure in scenes with blockbuster dynamics, such as the XF-11 spy plane crash sequence from The Aviator.
Despite these core strengths, the RX-V659’s sound left us with mixed feelings, primarily because we thought it sounded slightly less transparent than the original RX-V657 had. We can’t say for sure, but this may have to do with the fact that the RXV659’ s YPAO (Yamaha Parametric Acoustic Optimizer) room EQ system seemed to undercut the receiver’s natural clarity to some degree. But in fairness, owners might never notice these small shortcomings when listening to the RX-V659 on its own; they only became apparent through direct comparison with the reference AVR in our audio lab.
Though the RX-V659 may not be quite the sonic “giant killer” the RX-V657 was, it will appeal to listeners who prize its flexible surround sound modes, smooth sound, natural warmth and big-hearted dynamics. TPV