Whether it's one-button auto-convergence on your television or the preprogrammed functions on your universal remote control, automatic setup programs are everywhere. Unfortunately, these "push of a button" conveniences rarely deliver on what they promise. Auto-convergence often seems to do more harm than good (if it does anything at all) and universal remotes always require manual tinkering and programming before they behave properly. If there's one area of home theater in dire need of turnkey simplification, it's the setup of a digital A/V receiver and a 5.1 set of speakers.
Yamaha seems to have come to the rescue with their YPAO technology, present in their new RX-V1500 receiver. With the RX-V1500, Yamaha has combined the latest and greatest surround sound decoding with remarkably intelligent software to help you calibrate your system. Every room is different and those differences can greatly affect the recommended settings for a digital surround sound receiver. Yamaha knows this, so the RX-V1500 can do much of the thinking for you and let you focus on the fun stuff: enjoying your system. With power to drive seven speakers, the RX-V1500 is ready for anything you're apt to throw at it.
Although Yamaha's YPAO technology is definitely unique, I'll discuss that in more detail in the "Installation" section below. Worthy of note here is the RX-V1500's wide-bandwidth component video switching and upconversion. The RX-V1500 will upconvert all composite and S-Video inputs to use its component video output. In addition to gaining a small increase in picture quality, the primary benefit here is simplified connection to your display device. If you're using the component video output on your DVD player, the component video output on your HDTV receiver and the S-Video output on your cable box or DVR, the RX-V1500 can take all of those inputs and send them to your display using a single component video cable. The RX-V1500 is HDTV-compatible and can pass 720p and 1080i signals using this method. It should be noted that while this feature is definitely welcome, it will begin to lose its luster once DVI and/or HDMI become standard outputs on all digital source devices.
One thing Yamaha has long been known for is a wide variety of DSP modes available on their A/V receivers. A total of sixteen DSP modes are available on the RX-V1500 and they range in style from "Jazz Club" to "Game" to "Spectacle." Spectacle is what Yamaha considers to be its "largest" sound field and is intended to improve the perceived size of your surround speakers during epic motion pictures. Although Yamaha clearly invests considerable time and energy to offer this gaggle of "enhanced" surround modes, they are wasted on this reviewer. I prefer my sound straight, no ice, no curly straws and no little blue umbrellas. That being said, the RX-V1500 does offer something to fit my stricter tastes: a "Pure Direct" mode for unadulterated audio performance. In this mode, all non-essential systems – including the video circuits and front-panel display are shut down to minimize all potential sources of signal interference. Nice.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
Is it just me, or does "YPAO" make you think of Adam West? I think I saw that word flash across the screen a few times whenever Batman and Robin did battle with The Penguin's evil henchmen. In this case, it stands for Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer. Available only on a select few models in Yamaha's receiver lineup, Yamaha's YPAO technology uses a (supplied) microphone to test and calibrate your speaker system to sound its best in your room.
After plugging in the mic, I set it on the table beside my primary listening position. (One side note here – I'd love to see future iterations of this technology use a retractable cord on the microphone. Its LONG cord is a big, tangled mess just waiting to happen.) With the mic connected, I launched the Auto Setup from the Main Menu. In a matter of minutes, the RX-V1500 had checked my speaker wiring (polarity) and adjusted my settings for distance, size, equalization, and sound level.
Read more about the performance of the RX-V1500 on Page 2.
I ran the Auto Setup twice on my Energy act6 speaker system and once on my RBH
MC-series system. Both sets of speakers are quite different in size and
ability and YPAO did a good job at differentiating small versus large
and accurately recognized the physical distance between the mic and the
speakers. YPAO only made one mistake, and it made it on both speaker
systems. For the Energy speakers, the suggested crossover was 200Hz and
it should have been somewhere between 100-120Hz. For the RBH speakers,
the RX-V1500 suggested a crossover of 160Hz, but the correct crossover
is in the 80-100Hz range. This glitch was easily correctable, but since
crossover is one of the biggest sources of confusion for rookie theater
owners, I consider this a major error. Also, I found that the
Front-based equalization yielded more robust sound than the (default)
Flat setting. The menu is not terribly intuitive, so be sure to click
the left cursor key to find the more desirable Front option.
Menu navigation on the whole was rather frustrating. The number of
parameters that can be adjusted is staggering, which is a good thing.
Unfortunately, the cursor key pad is not fully utilized and navigation
does not resemble now commonplace DVD menu conventions. The central
Enter key is of no use in the OnScreen Display and exiting the menu
system requires that you press a sound field button or keep pressing Up
until you back yourself out of the menu. An Exit key would be a welcome
addition. I'm nitpicking here, but if menus are very important to you,
be sure to check out Yamaha's RX-V2500, which features a Graphical User
Interface (GUI) and (hopefully) better navigation. The supplied remote
fits nicely in the hand and had logical button placement. I'd like to
see better contrast on the button labels and backlighting in the future.
Listening to several music and movie tests, I was thoroughly impressed
with this Yamaha's sound. A good receiver will deliver sufficient power
to your speakers, decode whatever you feed it and then stay out of way.
The RX-V1500 did not introduce any audible distortion while I listened
to several two-channel tracks from Sarah McLachlan's Surfacing album.
The wide and powerful sound stage created during Kevin Costner's
DTS-encoded Open Range sounded impressively clean. For some time now,
I've been using Atlantic Technology's A-2000/P-2000 combination. I was
amazed at how good the RX-V1500 sounded next to these more expensive
If you're in the market for a top-notch A/V receiver and you like
the idea of calibrating your system to sound the best that it can, the
RX-V1500 warrants serious consideration. Aside from the crossover
mishap, Yamaha's YPAO technology is for real and should greatly improve
the performance of the RX-V1500 in any room. The plain and irksome menu
system could use some updating, but its flexibility far outweighs the
clunky navigation. Above all else, this receiver has it where it counts
in the audio department. The RX-V1500 sounded great and allowed my
music and movies to show their true colors, without introducing any of
Yamaha RX-V1500 Digital A/V Receiver
120 watts x 7 channels
THX Select Processing
Dolby Digital EX & Pro Logic Ilx
DTS-ES, Neo:6 and 96/24
YPAO Room Optimizer with Mic
HD component video switching/upconversion
(2) component and (7) S-Video inputs
(5) optical and (3) coaxial digital audio inputs
171/8" W x 6 3/4" H x 17 1/16" D
Weight: 34.2 lbs.