Say goodbye to the big black box...
What is the Yamaha RX-S600?
And hello to the decidedly more sexy slimline black box.Whilst there are undoubtedly those of us who love a big beast of a receiver in our lounge or home cinema, there's no denying that the size of the average AVR can be a serious barrier to entry. Not only does the physically imposing nature of a receiver tend to put people and, especially better halves, off the idea but the controls and connections can often seem scary as well. The sight of dozens of buttons beneath a drop down flap and even more potential connections at the rear can strike fear into even the most enthusiastic home cinema fan. If the AVR wants to remain relevant in the modern age, it needs to drop the legacy connections, simplify the interface and slim down the chassis.Enter Yamaha's saucy little RX-S600, which attempts to do just that, with a less imposing footprint and a simplified approach to menus, controls and connections. The RX-S600 is a 5.1-channel receiver that uses a more slimline design, with the minimal number of front controls, an easy to read display, a simplified menu system and a stripped down number of connections at the rear. However, it doesn't skimp on the features, with five HDMI inputs, 192kHz/24-bit DACs, support for MHL and AirPlay, 4K Passthrough, Yamaha's DSP processing and their AV Controller app for iOS and Android. All that crammed into a discreet package that retails for around £379, what's not to like? Let's see...
Yamaha RX-S600 Design and ConnectionsThe RX-S600 certainly has the looks with a gorgeous two tone aluminium front facia that has a glossy top half and a brushed metal lower section. The glossy upper section includes an informative and easy to read display, whilst the lower section has some simple control buttons and a few basic inputs, including a headphone socket and a USB port for iDevice support and charging. There are also the classic twin dials, the one on the left for input and the one on the right for volume. The build quality is excellent and the footprint is suitably minimal with the receiver measuring 435 x 111 x 320mm and weighing in at 7.8kg.
The RX-S600 combines an attractive design with a minimalist and far less intimidating front facia.
The RX-S600 doesn't completely detach itself from the classic AVR look but it's certainly less imposing or, more to the point, intimidating. The sleek chassis and attractive design will certainly make it more acceptable in most people's living rooms. Perhaps one day a manufacturer will have the courage to dispense with the input and volume dials, after all most people will just use the remote. A clean and minimalist front with some inputs behind a flap, some touch sensitive controls and a large and informative display is all that is really needed. Until then though, the RX-S600 is a step in the right direction.
At the rear is a stripped down set of connections with five HDMI inputs, including MHL support on one, and an HDMI output, along with inputs and outputs for composite and component video. Again we would like to see a manufacturer have the courage to completely drop composite and component, seriously when did anyone last use them, and concentrate on more HDMI inputs. There are also optical and coaxial digital inputs, an Ethernet port, analogue inputs and outputs and AM/FM antenna sockets. There are also binding posts for the five speakers and a pre-out for the subwoofer.
The only area where Yamaha's philosophy of a less imposing and more simplistic approach falls down is with the remote control. This is just a pure old school AVR remote, with a mass of tiny buttons that will undoubtedly confuse most users. The remote is just too busy, not that intuitive to use and it lacks a backlight, making it difficult to use in the dark. A more simplified and ergonomically designed remote that was in keeping with the receiver itself would be preferable. Thankfully the free AV Controller remote app is just that and we'll cover it in more detail in the Features section.
Yamaha RX-S600 Menus and SetupThe menu system on the RX-S600 is fairly basic but at least it's easy to follow and simple to navigate through. You access the menu by pressing the setup button on the remote control. Once you're in the Setup menu, you have a choice of seven sub-menus - Speaker, HDMI, Sound, ECO, Function, Network and Language. The graphical user interface may be rather dull and dated but at least it won't terrify anyone. However, again it would be good to see a manufacturer create a slicker, more colourful and graphically interesting menu system that was as intuitive to use as possible.
When it comes to setting up the RX-S600 it's very easy and as soon as you connect the provided microphone, the automated procedure starts. You then just follow the instructions with regards to connection and placement of the speakers and put the microphone in the listening position. The receiver produces a series of test tones and takes measurements to optimise the setup and when it's finished you're ready to go. Yamaha's YPAO sound optimisation software is quite effective resulting in an accurate setup. Although for those who prefer a more hands on approach or just want to check the automated setup, there is the manual option.
Setup is simple thanks to a stripped back menu system and effective automatic speaker optimisation.
Yamaha RX-S600 FeaturesThe RX-S600 certainly doesn't skimp on the features and within its relatively small chassis Yamaha have crammed a lot of really useful technology. There are five channels of amplification, delivering 90 Watts into 8 Ohms with a fully discrete amplifier configuration. There's decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio and a Burr-Brown 192kHz/24-bit DAC for all channels. There's a direct mode for high quality sound reproduction and low jitter PPL circuitry to help optimise sound imaging. The HDMI inputs support 3D and 4K pass through, along with CEC, ARC (Audio Return Channel) and MHL (Mobile High-definition Link) support. The RX-S600 includes Yamaha's extensive digital signal processing (DSP) technology, including CINEMA DSP 3D, virtual CINEMA DSP, compressed music enhancement, adaptive dynamic range control and Silent Cinema. There is also a built-in AM and FM tuner, along with a USB port on the front for iPhones, iPods and iPads, with recharging, even when the receiver is turned off.
The RX-S600 has an Ethernet port, is DLNA 1.5 certified and supports AirPlay which allows you to stream from your Mac, PC, iPod, iPhone or iPad. There's also Internet Radio (vTuner) built-in and the RX-S600 can handle MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV and FLAC. In the case of the latter two, the Yamaha supports 192kHz/24-bit audio playback. Yamaha's AV Controller app is freely available for both iOS and Android and can be used on your smartphone or tablet. It's very well designed, slick and intuitive to use, making it a real alternative to the provided remote control. You can turn the power on and off, adjust the volume, select inputs and DSP modes and operate other functions from your smart device. You can also customise the interface by hiding unused icons and renaming functions. There is no built-in Bluetooth or WiFi, which is a shame and we would definitely like to see manufacturers adding the latter to their receivers. However there is the optional YWA-10 WiFi Adapter for wireless streaming and the optional YBA-11 Bluetooth adapter with support for the aptX audio coding algorithm.
Yamaha RX-S600 Video Review
Yamaha RX-S600 Sound QualityDespite Yamaha's claims with regards to the power of the built-in amplification, it's fairly obvious that the quoted numbers are subject to some fairly heavy manipulation. You certainly won't be getting 90 Watts into 8 Ohms on all five channels simultaneously, not even close. So from an amplification perspective, the RX-S600 is a little underpowered, although in fairness no one is expecting a room shaking performance from a slimline receiver. It is certainly more than capable of filling the average living room with enveloping surround sound which, after all, is what it's designed to do. It's just that at times it lacked the dynamic range you would expect from one of its bulkier brothers. However that's really our only compliant and in all other respects the RX-S600 proved to be a great little performer.
Thanks to the automated setup and microphone, the calibrated soundstage was well balanced with a nicely immersive surround presence. The RX-S600 proved to be quite lively, with a good tonal balance and suitably active surrounds. The result was a very enjoyable experience when listening to a number of our favourite movie soundtracks. A film like The Hunger Games uses subtle surround cues to place you right in the middle of the action and the RX-S600 replicated this very well. It also managed to integrate bass effectively, as evidenced by Pacific Rim, which has some serious low-end action that the RX-S600 managed to handle without throwing in the towel. When we switched to Frozen, the Yamaha proved itself to be equally as capable with musical numbers which is always good to see from an AV receiver.
The same could be said for two channel audio, which is good news given that the RX-S600 supports AirPlay and is DLNA certified. You can use the Yamaha to listen to your digital music collection, up to and including WAV and FLAC at 192kHz/24-bit, so the RX-S600 can bring superior sound quality to your living room. There's also a direct mode for improved audio reproduction. Yamaha have been pioneering digital signal processing for decades and, whilst they are very good at implementing it, we still prefer our audio to largely remain free of digital manipulation. However if that is your cup of tea the RX-S600 comes well featured with CINEMA DSP 3D with 16 different DSP programmes, and a virtual CINEMA DSP feature to add virtual presence speakers. There's also adaptive dynamic range control for listening at night and a compressed music enhancer to get more from your more compressed music files.
The RX-S600 delivered a lively and enjoyable sound but sometimes lacked punch.
- Good sound quality
- Simplified connections
- Attractive design
- Plenty of features
- Great remote app
- More HDMI inputs would be good
- Lacking in power
- Remote control is too busy
- Bit pricey
Yamaha RX-S600 AV Receiver ReviewThe Yamaha RX-S600 is an interesting product that attempts to bridge the gap between the simplified all-in-one systems and the more expensive and imposing fully-featured AV receivers. The RX-S600 uses a fairly simplified and minimalist design, although it remains very attractive and has an excellent level of build quality. There is an easy to read and informative display at the front, along with a few simple controls and some basic inputs. Whilst at the rear is a simplified set of connections including five HDMI inputs. We would have preferred more HDMI inputs, especially at the expense of composite and component inputs, but five should be enough for most people. The remote control is overly complex and has no backlight but, thankfully, the free remote app is excellent.
The menu system is somewhat basic and rather dull but at least it's simple to navigate and won't terrify users. A more attractive and intuitive menu design would be good but setup is relatively easy, with a provided microphone and automated procedure that will have your speakers optimised in no time. The features are impressive, with MHL support, 4K passthrough, AirPlay, DLNA certification and WAV and FLAC up to 192kHz/24-bit. The audio performance of the RX-S600 was impressive, with a lively and enjoyable surround performance. The two channel audio was also very good, making the Yamaha a good choice for movies and music. The built-in amplification wasn't as powerful as we would have liked, meaning that the audio sometimes lacked punch but overall the RX-S600 should be sufficient for the average living room.
As an AV receiver designed to fit into the average living room without dominating proceedings, the slimline RX-S600 fits the bill nicely. It has the smaller footprint and attractive good looks to keep dubious partners happy, whilst also delivering the features and performance to please the AV fans in the household. So if you're in the market for a new AV receiver but don't want the usual big black box, the Yamaha RX-S600 could be just the ticket.
Value For Money8
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