What is the Yamaha R-N803D?
Of course, if there is a manufacturer that is well set up to successfully try and combine all the functionality present in the 803D, Yamaha is as good a choice as any. The 803D combines functionality from the MusicCast family of components, the more advanced stereo amps and then the company’s AV Receivers. This could all be a match made in heaven or it could just as easily be a product that never truly knows what it wants to be. It seems like as good a time as any to work that out.
This amplifier is a class A/B unit and although Yamaha quotes a selection of peculiar measurements on its website, will produce 100 watts into eight ohms with a good, low distortion figure. This should be sufficient to handle most speakers that the 803D is likely to encounter. There is also a switchable speaker A/B output to connect a second pair although this is tapped from the same amp stage so your two pairs of speakers will need to be reasonably benign. Volume is on a rotary encoder and shows levels in a manner more in keeping with AV Receivers.
The reason for this is that the 803D differs from any other Yamaha stereo amp and indeed most rivals in that it is equipped with the YPAO EQ software that is more commonly encountered on Yamaha AV Receivers. This performs the conventional distance calculations and can then tweak the output of the 803D and the speakers to be more linear in-room. There is also a function called YPAO volume that works to fill out the performance at lower levels to sound richer and more convincing. Both of these can be switched in and out of on the fly.
From there, the Yamaha adds four digital inputs – two optical and two coaxial – which are 24/192kHz capable. USB sticks can also be read. This is joined by a DLNA 1.5 spec network renderer. This is also 192kHz capable and will additionally handle DSD. Since we last looked at a Yamaha streaming module, it has gained streaming services like I do weight over Christmas. The 803D now has integral support for Spotify, Deezer, Juke, Tidal and Qobuz. Should this not cover your particular service, the Yamaha has AirPlay and Bluetooth so you can stream them direct. All decoding is handled by a variant of the ESS Sabre DAC. Finally, as befits a device described as a receiver, the R-N803D is fitted with an FM and DAB+ tuner and can also access internet radio services.
This is an enormously comprehensive specification but the Yamaha isn’t done there. Yamaha has equipped it with MusicCast which allows it to be selected as one room in an all MusicCast system and share network audio around the house. The R-N803D is also a MusicCast Hub which means that sources connected to the Yamaha can be sent to other locations around the house. Key to this all working in a manner that isn’t entirely frustrating is the control app. This is available for iOS and Android and, as we have noted in the reviews of recent MusicCast devices, it works very well. Yamaha has clearly designed it from the ground up to handle multiple rooms and it is impressively logical as a result. The only slight criticism I can make of it is that the search function for streaming services is a little on the slow side. There is a conventional IR remote handset too.
It also manages to feel pretty solid. Compared to something like the Cyrus ONE which has two rotary controls and a single button on the front panel the Yamaha has seven rotary controls and fifteen buttons but they all manage to work seamlessly and with a pleasant sense of precision to them. The remote is a full size device that works well although – as we’ll cover – the volume ramp only really comes into its own at higher levels. The 800 series and below in Yamaha’s range don’t feel as wonderfully hefty as the higher spec models but this still a well assembled piece of kit.
How was the R-N803D
With the streamer section running, the way that the Yamaha goes about playing the 24/48 remaster of Peter Gabriel’s So is very convincing. The way that the opening Red Rain is delivered is composed, detailed and has a pleasing flow to it. For a device using an ESS Sabre, the Yamaha is a comparatively warm sounding device but not to the extent where it becomes bloomy or sluggish. It is extremely easy to listen to the Yamaha for an entire day, moving through a wide selection of material and it won’t jangle a nerve so much as once. It has a musicality and togetherness that is consistently appealing.
You can of course point to rivals like the Audiolab M-ONE and Rega Brio in particular and note that the Yamaha simply doesn’t have the bite and sense of drive that these two amps do. This can be balanced against the refinement and space that the Yamaha brings to its performance (as well as the armada of extra features). What is more surprising though is that despite the notional 100 watts at its disposal, the Yamaha doesn’t feel anything like as potent as the Cyrus ONE and even the Rega feels like it has more power at its disposal. Part of this is down to the volume control – as a decibel related device, it will always have less immediate power on hand than a conventional pot but will still produce usable gain where those amps will generally have run out.
Interestingly, the YPAO software can go some way to correcting this. Running the setup with two speakers arranged in a conventional position across one wall, the amount of ‘correction’ that is applied is relatively low but the results are fuller and richer than without and sounds more convincing at lower volume levels. It also helps thinner and more aggressive recordings sound better with it engaged as well, although high-res material can sound a little over full and bloomy when it is engaged. Given you can switch in and out of YPAO from the app at any time, I think it is a useful feature to have available. This usefulness will only increase if you can’t have the speakers against the same wall.
The only area that the R-N803D really falls short is the headphone amp. This has limited gain and when used with a pair of Bowers & Wilkins P9s it never sounds truly right. The dynamics are a little limited and there is a graininess to the treble that is not enjoyable. Switching to a more sensitive pair of Audio Technica ATH-MSR7s is slightly better but still not comparable with most similarly priced rivals. If you really need excellent headphone performance, this probably isn’t the amp for you. Equally, both the Bluetooth and AirPlay implementations are excellent and round off the biblical connectivity nicely.
We have covered MusicCast on a few occasions before so there is no need to re-cover everything it does here. Suffice to say that the R-N803D is able to join a system that makes most rivals look very limited by comparison. With everything from compact speakers, to sound projectors to active speakers, you can assemble whole house audio that meets whatever needs you might have. Simply to try it, I was able to send the Gyrodec playing via the phono stage to a WX-AD10 on a completely different system in another room. Latency is nigh on perfect and it genuinely conveys a sense of the analogue at the same time.
- Truly biblical specifications
- Refined, accurate sound
- Easy to use
- Can feel a little lacking in outright power
- Poor headphone amp
Yamaha R-N803D Network Receiver Review
The thing is though, the R-N803D is not a normal amplifier. It does so many things that the Rega and even the Audiolab cannot get anywhere near that it seems a little pointless to make a like-for-like comparison. The Yamaha needs fewer external sources to do what it does, it can handle room situations that rivals cannot, and it will do so as the hub of a supremely flexible multiroom system. The R-N803D might not be the champion of a single area but its mastery of so many of them means it is entirely worthy of recommendation.
Ease of use
Value for money
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.