No Atmos? No problem!
What is the RX-V677?AV Receivers are not generally products to get especially sentimental over. They have a few things counting against them to be emotionally attached to. For starters, they have a lifespan that makes two channel products look positively geriatric and this is more pronounced at lower price points. Flagship products often last more than a year but the ‘line’ products will be chopped in or at least receive an update every single year.
Despite this, some AV amps are able to briefly rise above this process and be a little more than the sum of their parts. Pioneer gave us the AX10 with auto setup and the AX5ai with an innovative firewire interface. Sony took some time out from TVs to release the 5000ES and 9000ES with their ‘all digital’ design and Swiss watch construction - and it must be said in the case of the 9000ES especially, really odd looks. At a more terrestrial price point Onkyo redefined the market - and their place in it - with the SR606 from a few years ago which rendered a great many amps obsolete.
Arguably though, it is Yamaha that has had the most of these notable amps. As well as four flagships, the A1, AZ1, Z9 and Z11, there have been some mainstream heroes like the DSP-A5, one of the very first affordable Dolby Digital era receivers. On a personal level, it is the amp that replaced the A5 that stands out - the DSP-AX620. This affordable Dolby Digital/DTS amp (it wasn’t a receiver oddly enough) looked pretty good, sounded excellent - despite missing the then must have format of the moment Pro-Logic II - and was almost entirely indestructible.
I ran one for many years with a complete set of four ohm speakers hanging off it (against the recommendations of the manual) before giving it to a friend in 2005. He took it to Australia where it is still going strong thirteen years after I bought it. As a result I’ve always had a soft spot for Yamaha amps in the 6 series. And so, in 2015, we have the RX-V677 which looks competitive bar the current format de jour Dolby Atmos. Does the 677 deliver the same blend of abilities as its ancestor?
What are the features & specs?The Yamaha is a seven channel design with a power output subject to the same slightly obtuse measurements that AV receivers are measured in these days. Based on the Yamaha figures, the Yamaha churns out 150 watts provided that you only connect one channel and run the amp to roughly the point where it’s about to melt. From the figure that Yamaha claims into two channels, a figure of 55-65 watts into all channels seems reasonable - and for similarly priced speakers, perfectly adequate. I still don't understand why manufacturers feel the need to quote such odd power figures. This amplification is backed up by the company’s famous DSP processing garnered over years of real world experience. Some of it is somewhere between dubious and outright gimmick but equally it is capable of giving some situations - in my experience gaming especially - a welcome boost.
In connectivity terms, the 677 is usefully equipped. Six HDMI inputs and a single output are fitted and these are all able to pass a 4K signals and upscale to this resolution too. The HDMI inputs additionally support the expected audio formats bar Atmos and the 677 supports ARC. As well as HDMI, the Yamaha has a supply of legacy connections which in keeping with other receivers that have passed through the review process recently have been whittled down to a set of connections you might actually need. This means there are some analogue line inputs, four digital inputs and a small number of analogue video connections. While, my inner anorak misses row upon row of inputs and outputs, the reality is that the 677 should handle the requirements of a normal AV system.
While there are no longer acres of video and audio connections, the 677 has some useful additions. Like the flagship AX3040 I looked at last year, the 677 has both an Ethernet connection and built in wireless. This allows for UPnP media streaming, Internet radio, Spotify and Deezer integration and for Yamaha’s logical and well thought control app to be used. These join an FM/AM set if you decide that internet radio is a little too 21st century for you and you want something a little more traditional. The other connection of note is a cut down version of Yamaha’s height channel implementation in the form of two pairs of spring clip terminals that tap off the other seven channels and give you the opportunity to add presence to existing formats. While this is not the same as Atmos, it can at least be used for more material.
What’s good about the RX-V677?The Yamaha’s spec isn’t the most elaborate out there but it has the connections it needs to be entirely up to the job of working with the sort of system it is likely to encounter day to day. With this comes a user friendliness that makes it logical to set up and use. The current Yamaha on screen menus are slightly wearing on the eye thanks to the piano innards acting as a background but they are logical to a fault and very simple.
Also welcome is the ‘Scene’ button system that has been on Yamaha products for a few years now. The four Scene buttons can be set up to perform the most common tasks asked of the AV receiver - watch TV, watch film etc and make the 677 something that less technically enthusiastic members of the household will be happy to use. Like all the current members of the Yamaha range I’ve used, the 677 is easy to tweak if you want to spend an afternoon tuning it to the nth degree but equally, it can deliver of what it is supposed to after about fifteen minutes of paying attention.
Other parts of the 677 are business as usual too. The build is solid for the asking price. The 677 doesn’t feel as tank like as the 3040 but then it is 30% of the cost of the latter. The controls feel solid and well weighted and the speaker terminals and connections all feel robust and strong.
The 677 is easy to tweak if you want to but, equally, it can deliver what it's supposed to after about fifteen minutes of attention.
What’s not so good about the RX-V677?In functionality terms, the Yamaha does the things you would expect in a very logical way but I have found that it doesn’t much like talking to my Panasonic GT60 via ARC at the first time of asking (which interestingly the 3040 wasn’t too keen on either until a firmware update). With ARC allocated to ‘Audio 4’, the HDMI control usually needs to be toggled on and off before Netflix kicks into life. This could as easily be the Panasonic but it generally works with other components.
My only other criticism of the 677 is at the slightly awkward aesthetics. Unlike larger AV receivers in the range the 677 is asymmetric and doesn’t look as elegant or as purposeful as some of the competition. The review sample was in Titanium, which possibly highlights this a little more, but this is not a great looking product. In much the same way, the remote is perfectly useable but a bit of a mass of (non-backlit) buttons and I’d advise using the app if you can.
How was it tested?The Yamaha was connected to a system of 5 Elipson Planet M speakers and a Tannoy TS2.12 subwoofer. Source equipment comprised Cambridge Audio 752BD Blu-ray, Sky HD and a Panasonic GT60 plasma offering Netflix and other on demand services. This meant that the Yamaha saw tests with Blu-ray, broadcast and on demand TV. Additionally, lossless and high res FLAC were tested over network from my NAS. The Spotify integration was tested as well as Tidal patched in via Bubble UPnP - something that worked without a hitch on the Yamaha despite not being part of the spec.
Yamaha continues to use their proprietary YPAO auto setup system and this identified speakers, their sizes and position with commendable accuracy. I personally feel that it tends to set things up a little on the hot side - like you might for a demo to show stuff off rather than to actually live with. This is easily corrected though thanks to those logical menus.
What does the RX-V677 sound like with Film?Installing the Yamaha coincided with a rare and beautiful moment in the present toddler intensive version of my life in that I had the inclination - and the time - to watch Apocalypse Now. While not an absolute reference quality disc, the variation between the levels while the river mouth is attacked to the silences at the PT Boat nears its goal makes for a stern demand for an amplifier and the good news that the RX-V677 handles this with some real talent.
First and most important, with the YPAO tweaked to slightly calmer settings, the RX-V677 delivers the effortless and convincing effects placement that makes the soundtrack a believable accompaniment to the film and not simply an effects machine. The movement of objects and the sense of decay as things fade in and out is extremely good. The clever bit of any processing - be it digital to analogue conversion, upsampling or as here, effects placement - is making sure it doesn’t sound processed.
Compared to more expensive amps, the RX-V677 can harden up at higher volume levels but these are going to be firmly on the antisocial side and I found that even my more spirited listening could be done with the amp firmly in its comfort zone. I did find that the Yamaha is happiest with a little bit of volume on the dial as it can become a little recessed with the level too low but again this is not too severe.
How does the RX-V677 sound with broadcast material?Denied the full bitrate HD soundtracks and fed plain old Dolby Digital and stereo signals, the Yamaha doesn’t radically change its behaviour. Effects placement is still convincing and the RX-V677 is good at keeping dialogue clean and intelligible even on some of the slightly iffy mastering that can plague modern TV series. Neither is this solely about action. The rather splendid Wolf Hall on the BBC was a good excuse for the Yamaha to show off its consistent ability to create a believable space around the images on screen.
Once again, the slightly recessed performance at lower levels is present and this is more of an issue with stereo broadcasts. Below a given volume setting, I didn’t find that the Yamaha generated a centre image that was intelligible enough to be much fun to listen to. This is not a phenomenon unique to the RX-V677; for me at least, it happens at some point to every amp making a signal by extrapolating what two other signals are doing but the RX-V677 seems a bit less composed than some other (admittedly more expensive) models I’ve used in the same situation. Of course, the solution is completely straightforward; either give the volume a little twist upward or press the ‘Straight’ button and revert to stereo for late night/early morning stuff.
The RX-V677 delivers convincing effects that make the soundtrack a believable accompaniment to the film and not an effects machine.
How does the RX-V677 sound with Music?As a capable UPnP streamer, Spotify Connect player and a 192kHz decoder, the Yamaha has an impressive amount of digital firepower at its disposal and like the effects placement, the clever bit of this is that it works very unobtrusively. With D’Angelo and The Vanguard’s Black Messiah - an album I’ve gone from admiring to seriously enjoying - the Yamaha is assured and exciting. The big and complex arrangements of musicians are laid out in a way that makes sense and is entirely believable. Furthermore, with the processing off as much as possible - direct isn’t possible down to the need for a sub to help the Elipsons along - the Yamaha has a soundstage and one that fills the front of the room convincingly.
It still isn’t perfect; something with mighty low end like the D’Angelo album is pretty good but proper analogue bass still doesn’t have the detail and sheer presence that Yamaha’s own stereo amps can generate but this is to its lasting credit, more than a way of filling awkward silences or playing something inoffensive at a party. This is a genuinely enjoyable amp to listen to.
- Powerful and involving sound
- Excellent control app
- Well built
- Slightly ungainly appearance
- A little recessed at lower volumes
- Can be unwilling to engage ARC
Yamaha RX-V677 AV Receiver ReviewFor all the excitement that myself and fellow reviewers have for higher-end equipment, this price point is one that in many ways represents the upper reaches of what a ‘normal’ (or whatever passes for normal) person might spend on an AV amp - and this is still vastly more expensive and complex than most people would bother with. £500 is not money you lose down the back of the sofa. Manufacturers know this, which is why it's a keenly contested price point and one I’ll be visiting more over the course of the year.
There is no doubt in my mind that the RX-V677 sets an impressive benchmark to begin with though. This amp combines good real world functionality with enough processing wizardry to give a lounge a sense of what a film soundtrack can do. It is refined when you need it to be and exciting when you don’t. It isn’t perfect at lower listening levels and equally, it won’t fill a barn but for real world, terrestrially priced home AV, the RX-V677 is a very, very capable piece of equipment.
Value For Money8
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