Quality receivers for around $1,000 are becoming more and more common these days, as opposed to in the days of yore, when a receiver that was even marginally good would run you three times as much. The Yamaha V863 reviewed here is no exception. For just under one thousand dollars, you get a full 7.2-channel surround sound receiver, boasting 105 watts per channel across all seven speakers. It features full HD 1080p upscaling, with three HDMI inputs and a single HDMI out. Along with supporting cutting-edge video, the V863 also supports the latest in uncompressed audio formats, such as Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio. It also has iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as HD Radio, XM and Sirius satellite radio compatibility via aftermarket antennas and service plans.
The V863 also has what Yamaha calls their compressed music enhancer, which is a DSP specifically designed to maximize the performance of lower-res audio files, such as those you would purchase from iTunes. While I'm not a huge fan of DSPs, Yamaha's compressed music enhancer actually works. The V863 doesn't feature Audyssey Auto EQ as other receivers do. Instead, it utilizes Yamaha's own YPAO system, which is like Audyssey EQ, and can "tune" your speaker to your room with relative ease. Comparative listening tests show that YPAO offers a few sonic benefits and traits that I didn't hear with the Audyssey, making for a much more robust performance.
The remote is somewhat cluttered and a bit overwhelming for use in the dark. However, Yamaha gets around this by offering "scene" buttons, which are four simple commands that you customize as "hot keys" for your daily viewing habits. While programming is a bit of a pain, once completed, the scene buttons do come in handy.
• The V863 possesses a lively and energetic sound that adds a bit of swing to music and punch to movies.
• Yamaha's various DSPs sound remarkably good for a receiver in this price class. To find significantly better surround sound DSP modes, you need to look at AV preamps costing 200 percent more or higher than this Yamaha RXV863.
• The V836 excels as a multi-channel listening device, be it for music or movies.
• The V863 has more features and options than most competitively-priced receivers, making it a better value for the money.
• The V836 isn't the most ergonomic of receivers, from its design to its remote. It is a bit overwhelming in the buttons department.
• The V836's power, while adequate for most speakers, does fall short at loud volumes with less efficient speakers. You could make an argument for an outboard multi-channel amp for future system upgrades.
• The set-up menus - your door to the V863's bells and whistles - are a bit difficult and counterintuitive.
• Tactilely, the V863 doesn't feel like a thousand-dollar receiver, compared to others in its class. To me, it's a little on the plastic side
For about $1,000, you get an awful lot of features and performance with the Yamaha V863. Don't be put off by its modest looks, as the V863 sounds every bit as good as its similarly-priced rivals and even better than some home theater receivers costing twice as much. It's a good value and a terrific receiver, highly recommended.