A Stereo FableOnce upon a time in a store far, far away there were 'stereo receivers'. They were very popular and provided great stereo sound for millions of music fans. Then came home theater receivers with five channels and lots of digital gizmos that almost killed stereo receivers. But some people still want a good stereo receiver -- and a few manufacturers know this. One of the newest entries is the Yamaha R-S700 Stereo Receiver, one of three new receivers aimed right at the two-channel enthusiast.
In the interest of full disclosure, I worked for Yamaha for several years and I own a few Yamaha components, but I am objective, so please read on with that knowledge.
For starters, the amps in the R-S700 deliver 100-watts per channel into a pair of 8-ohm speakers. The receiver is compatible with speakers as low as 4 ohms via an impedance selector switch on the rear panel. The Speaker A, B or A+B switch means two pairs of 8-ohm speakers can be powered simultaneously. Bi-wired speaker connections are also possible with bi-wire capable speakers.
The six analog inputs (CD, Tape, Phono and three Aux inputs and two Aux Outputs) are enough for most systems and the Rec Out feature makes it easy to record one source while listening to another. Rightfully, the R-S700 has no digital audio circuitry – it's an analog only component designed to maintain signal purity and clarity. You'll need to use the two-channel analog outputs of a disc player to connect to the receiver, or upgrade to an outboard digital to analog converter.
The Option Menu has separate settings for each input source. Settings include maximum/minimum and initial volume for each zone, +12-volt Trigger Out settings, Sirius Satellite Radio and iPhone/iPod settings for wired and wireless docking. I tested the R-S700 with the Yamaha YDS-12 wired iPhone/iPod dock, although there are three options for iPod integration: wired, wireless or Bluetooth connection to the receiver. When the player is connected, the receiver's remote control can operate many of the its functions. The R-S700 also features a (composite) VIDEO output to watch iPod videos or streamed content on a television or monitor. iPod/iPhone operation screens are not displayed. Check out the Yamaha iPod/iPhone docking station options.
The Test Drive
I setup the receiver with my Mordaunt-Short Carnival 2 bookshelf speakers and a Morel powered subwoofer with dual 9" woofers.
The R-S700 easily exceeded most of the items on my checklist, particularly audio performance. Its overall sound quality was smooth with excellent clarity and detail and its robust 100-watt amps are more than enough for most bookshelf and floorstanding speakers. The comparatively high damping factor of 240 lent a distinct intelligibility to vocals and musical instruments.
The sound quality of the Yamaha is due partly to its circuit design and layout. The receiver's ToP-ART chassis (an acronym for Total Performance Anti-Resonance Technology) is a valuable, but practically invisible design feature. Simply stated, the power supply and other circuit components are mounted on a composite material that dampens external vibrations that can degrade audio performance. Hey, some audiophiles spend hundreds of dollars, if not more, for separate power amplifier stands that provide similar isolation. The ToP-ART chassis is built in.
Beyond sound quality, its complement of features is useful without being a bother or requiring much adjustment and the front panel is nicely laid out. The white display characters are very clear and easy to read -- in my opinion, a big improvement over an orange or blue display.
The Subwoofer Out on the R-S700 is great for stereo music systems and 2.1 channel home theater systems, however without a way to filter out bass (around 80 Hz) from the left and right channel speakers, its usefulness is limited.
For home theaters, the remote control includes buttons for TV power, channel up/down and programmable controls for almost all DVD/CD players.
Tuner performance was adequate, although not as good at pulling in more distant AM stations as other Yamaha tuners I have used. FM tuning performance was very good.
Its origin dates back more than 35 years, but the Yamaha Continuously Variable Loudness Control continues to be valuable today. By lowering the level of the midrange rather than the typical bass and treble boost, the CVLC improves clarity at low volumes without adding any distortion or other noise. It's a subtle distinction but a very useful feature at all volume levels, especially low level listening. The bass, treble, balance and loudness controls can be bypassed with the Pure Direct feature.