Yamaha RX-V663 review: Yamaha RX-V663

For most home theater enthusiasts, mid-range AV receivers are the best value. They offer superior sound compared to the undersized entry-level models, include the most important features available on the higher-end models, and still manage to cost between $ 400 and $ 600.

The Yamaha RX-V663 falls into the middle class, and if your primary concern is sound quality, it’s one of the best AV receivers we’ve ever heard, outperforming the Sony STR-DG920 in our head-to-head comparison. Unfortunately, we found it difficult to recommend it in the end due to its drawbacks. For example, there are only two HDMI inputs, while every other mid-range receiver includes at least three, many include four. Most competitors also offer 1080i or 1080p analog upconversion, but the RX-V663 is limited to 480p and its video processing is below average. We also ran into a few other quirks, such as an incorrect auto-setup warning and poorly designed rear panel layout. As much as we liked the sound of the RX-V663, overall we thought most buyers would be better off with the competing Pioneer VSX-1018AH or the Onkyo TX-SR606.

Design
The RX-V663 has a simple, boxy AV receiver shape, with only a slight angle in the middle to break it. In the upper half, there’s a centered orange LCD display, which we found to be easily readable from about 8 feet back. Directly below are several small buttons, which allow access to less frequently used functions such as “Memory” and “Zone 2 Control”. On the far right is a large volume knob and below is a front panel input that includes both S-Video and an optical digital audio input. In the lower half, below the LCD display, are four “Scene” buttons (which we’ll explain shortly), along with a couple of additional knobs for selecting a source or DSP (digital sound processing) mode. It all comes down to personal preference, but we preferred the glossy look of the Pioneer VSX-1018AH over the RX-V663.

AV receiver remotes are often a mess, but the RX-V663’s clicker is actually pretty good. There is a directional pad in the center and just to the right are the main controls for the volume. The Source buttons are well separated, as are Yamaha’s “Scene” buttons. All in all, it is one of the best remotes for a receiver.

Yamaha clearly pays a lot of attention to its “Scene” functions, and while the idea is promising, we haven’t found the current implementation that useful. The idea is to choose a preferred DSP mode for specific listening scenarios, such as watching a DVD. As we generally prefer to leave DSP modes off, we didn’t find this useful. We would prefer that the Scene functions also allow us to set a default volume level for each scenario.

Your TV may be high definition, but your RX-V663’s menus are out of the VCR era.

The RX-V663’s on-screen display is just white text on a black background (think VCRs, circa 1991). This is pretty much the standard at this price point, although it’s worth pointing out that the competing (and cheaper) Sony STR-DG920 includes a basic graphical user interface.

An unusual design drawback is the anomalous rear panel layout of the RX-V663. For some reason, the audio and video inputs for each device are separate, so, for example, you’ll run the yellow composite video cable from your Nintendo Wii to the far right, while the red and white analog audio cables go to the far left. It is likely to cause a tangle of tangled cables on many home theater systems, as well as forcing you to separate many cables joining video and audio connections.

Setting up
The Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO) automatic speaker calibration system determines speaker sizes and volume levels, measures distances from speakers to the listener, confirms that all speaker cables are properly connected, and uses equalization to balance the frequency response of all speakers.

Starting the auto-setup program is as easy as plugging in the included microphone, but note that we received an inaccurate error warning during testing.

Plugging in the optimizer microphone (supplied) automatically brings up the auto setup menu on our display, so it was easy to get started. After the YPAO ran its tone series, it presented us with a “Warning” message. Initially we couldn’t figure out what the problem was, but after consulting the owner’s manual we worked our way through the on-screen menus to see that the YPAO had determined that our front left speaker was wired out of phase (red / + and black / – connections have been reversed).

By checking the connections at the ends of the speaker and receiver, we found that the wires were, in fact, positioned correctly. We have no idea why the YPAO made a wrong reading, but that doesn’t seem to affect the installation results otherwise. We completed the setup with no further problems, but we bet novice users would have been confused.

Features

Main features
Dolby TrueHD + DTS-HD MAYupOn the screenText
Analog conversion480pRename sourceYup
Selectable output resolutionNoSatellite radioSirio + XM

The RX-V663 is underpowered when compared to the competition. For key features, this means that instead of getting analog upconversion to 1080p or 1080i, which nearly all of its competitors have, you’re stuck with a simple 480p upconversion. And as previously mentioned, the RX-V663 only has a simple text-based on-screen display, rather than the simple GUI on the Sony STR-DG920.

Connectivity
HDMI inputs2Optical audio inputs3
Component video inputs3Coaxial audio inputs2
Maximum number of connected HD devices5Analog stereo audio inputs2
Composite AV inputs5Multichannel analog inputs7.1
Maximum number of connected video devices5Phono inputNo

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