A recent post on the Home Theater Forum started me thinking. With all the home theater in-a-box systems on the market, are the days of separate audio/video systems numbered? Surely HTIB solutions are good at attracting first time home theater fans to more equipment, but is the fallout of these all-in-one units going to keep people from looking at better equipment down the road?
I personally feel consumers of the all-in-one home theater gear may start off with a system that is easy to install and inexpensive, but, like most of us, this will only whet their appetite for bigger and better equipment.
The person that can't program a VCR clock may be content with an integrated HT package because of its simplicity, but the benefits of selecting separate components for processing, amplifying and switching audio and video signals are plenty. First, the choices of options to fit the application are greater. For example, if a consumer is interested in wiring up more than one set of speakers to cover multiple rooms, a quality receiver can provide extra audio outputs. Additionally, if a DVD changer or writer is sought after, one can be added into an existing A/V system. And, as equipment fails or requires replacement, a home theater system with separate components can be changed without replacing the entire package as required by home theater in-a-box equipment.
To demonstrate the ease of building a basic 5.1 surround system with a modest investment, I set up a new entry level A/V receiver from Yamaha's new RX concert series. Hyped as a powerful yet affordable digital home cinema receiver, I proceeded to evaluate the RX-V430 A/V receiver from the perspective of a newcomer to the home theater world.
For an inexpensive receiver, the RX-V430 has many of the same quality features found in units higher up in the Yamaha RX line. First, Yamaha's proprietary 32-bit LSI YSS-938 DSP chip decodes Dolby Digital and DTS as well as all digital sound field processing. This multi-faceted chip takes the place of multiple circuits in previous receivers. The advanced YSS-938 chip is the same one found in Yamaha's $2,800 flagship receiver. The Quad-Field Cinema Digital Surround Processor, also shared by other platforms, has 21 surround programs with 41 environment variations. These sound fields give the characteristic reflections of a particular space, such as a concert hall, jazz club, rock concert or movie theater. These programs, or "effects" if you will, are well played through 6 speakers, but can also be enjoyed without rear speakers using Virtual Cinema DSP, or through headphones in the Silent Cinema mode. Beginners starting out in home multimedia could very well use these functions with a two-channel speaker arrangement until a 5.1 array is added down the road.
The RX-V430 automatically chooses the best quality input connected when a source is selected. This "auto priority input selection," as it is called, will use a digital audio connection over an analog audio connection when available. A similar decoding selection is made with the auto decoder down the hierarchy from multi-channel to matrix to stereo decoding. The auto priority and decoding conveniences heighten listening pleasure without any programming needed from the listener.
The unit supports six channels of input to take advantage of an external decoder such as for DVD-Audio or SACD playback. This forward thinking feature opens the door for future 5.1 multi-channel formats and is rarely found on budget minded receivers. It's this type of integrated technology in Yamaha receivers that supports the notion of home theater out of the box.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The faceplate of the Yamaha RX-V430 is reminiscent of other Yamaha products with simple round buttons controlling the basic functions. I find this minimalist approach attractive and useful. There are no bells and whistles detracting from the fundamental look of the unit. More advanced features can be accessed with the versatile remote control that features built-in preset codes to operate other A/V equipment.
Read more about the RX-V430's performance on Page 2.