Yamaha RX-V581 Review
THE VERDICT
The Yamaha RX-V581 has a very good set of features highlighted by Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and MusicCast. It’s also fairly future proof with its support for 4k video. All of this plus it has solid sound quality.

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Design8.5
Features9
Value9
Sound Quality8.5
The Good
  • The 7.2 Channel Yamaha RX-V581 has a boat load of features. The 581 fully supports 4k video as well as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. MusicCast opens up the door for all sorts of multi-room audio possibilities.
The Bad
  • No component inputs. Also, when compared to last year’s 579 , it has two fewer HDMI inputs. No 4k upscaling.
8.8Overall Score

When you hit Yamaha’s 2016 RX series, the Yamaha RX-V581 is the first of these new amps to feature both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. It also features full 4K support on all of its HDMI inputs. The 7.2 Channel receiver is capable of delivering about 80 watts of power per channel and is also MusicCast compatible. The end result is a feature rich AV receiver with solid sound quality.

 

Appearance & Design

Yamaha 581 Review

The look and feel of the receivers in Yamaha’s RX line has remained unchanged the past few years. The front has the normal array of buttons that you’d expect to find such as input select, scene select, pre-sets and of course the volume knob. Unless you lose the remote (or your smart phone) you’ll probably never use most of these buttons. In fact, the only times I used anything on the front of the 581 was to hit the connect button to setup MusicCast and to plug in a USB drive.


RELATED: Yamaha RX-V681/strong> Soundbar Review


 

I like what Yamaha’s done with their remotes the past couple years. Gone are the button cluttered remotes of year’s past. In their place are less complicated and more user friendly controllers. The included remote isn’t the only method you have to issue orders to the 581. Yamaha’s AV Control app, which is a free download from the Google Play and iOS app stores, gives you a good amount of control over the amp including the ability to adjust and modify the listening modes and DSP settings. Yamaha’s control app is one of the best that you’ll find among AV receivers.

 

Yamaha RX-V581 Connectivity

I was slightly disappointed when I took a peek at the back of the Yamaha RX-V581. Gone are all the component inputs. Also, when compared to last year’s 579, it has two fewer HDMI inputs. On the plus side, all of the HDMIs support HDCP 2.2, 60p 4:4:4, HDR (High Dynamic Range) and BT.2020. This combo of features means the 581 should handle 4K video with ease. It will pass through a 4K signal, but if you want upscaling features you’ll need to upgrade to the Yamaha RX-V681.

Yamaha RX-V581 Connectivity

Wireless Features

WiFi and Bluetooth have become ubiquitous on modern AV receivers at this price point so it’s no surprise to see both coupled with the RX-V581. WiFi setup can be a breeze if you have a newer iOS device. The Yamaha RX-V581 is able to copy the WiFi settings from your iOS device so there’s no need to type in your password.  If you don’t have a wireless network in your home, the 581 has a Wireless Direct feature that allows you to connect wirelessly to the amp. The only thing you need is the Yamaha AV control app installed on your phone or tablet. AirPlay and Bluetooth also make appearances on the 581 which gives you two more streaming options.

 

For streaming services, you’ll find Spotify, Pandora and internet radio. The Yamaha RX-V581 is DLNA compatible as well, so you can stream music from a PC or a Network Attached Storage Device. The 581 can also decode a substantial number of hi-res audio formats such as  DSD, AIFF, FLAC, WAV, and Apple® Lossless. You can stream these across your network or via a flash drive plugged into the front USB port.

 

If you need multi-zone support, the 581 is able to send 2-channel audio to a 2nd room and play 5-channel audio in the main room. The one caveat with this is that the 2nd room audio has to mirror the audio in the main room.

 

MusicCast

Towards the end of my time with the 581, Yamaha shipped me a pair of WX-030 MusicCast speakers to demo. It was the first time that I had a MusicCast capable receiver and a set of MusicCast speakers in my possession at the same time. We’ll do a full review of the WX-030 speakers at a later date, but in the meantime I want to give my first impressions of MusicCast.

Yamaha MusicCast

First of all, setting up MusicCast is simple. The app will automatically detect devices that you add to the ecosystem. During setup you can assign a name/location for the speaker so that it’s easier to identify once you’re in the app. From that point on using the app to send music to the speaker is extremely easy and if you’ve used a Sonos speaker before then you’ll definitely notice some similarities.

 

I haven’t had the opportunity completely dive into the features of MusicCast just yet, however there is one feature that I found to be rather cool. During my review I started watching Mad Max: Fury Road. By linking the 581 with the WX-030 speaker in the MusicCast app, I was able to stream audio from the movie to the speaker. Essentially, you can stream the audio of anything connected to the amp, to a compatible MusicCast speaker.

 

This opens up tons of possibilities for multi-room listening which I’ll discuss when we have a chance to do a thorough breakdown of the WX-030.

 

Setup

Setting up the Yamaha RX-V581 is straightforward, but Yamaha’s AV setup guide makes it even easier for first timers. The guide, which is optimized for use on tablets, walks you through the entire setup process from start to finish. If this isn’t your first time setting up an AV receiver then you can just dive right in to the setup yourself without using the guide.

 

Yamaha’s YPAO calibration system is tasked  with dialing in your speakers and making acoustical adjustments.  The entire process only takes a minute or two and unlike Audyssey, you only need to place the mic in one position. The results were solid, although it mistakingly labeled my fronts as large.

 

Streaming music to the RX-581 via one of its multitude of streaming options is a simple process. In the past, Bluetooth on Yamaha receivers could be a little difficult to get up running. With the 581 I had no such issues. After I pressed the Bluetooth button on the remote it was just a matter of pairing the amp with my phone. AirPlay and internet streaming worked equally well.

 

Sound Quality

I previously reviewed the Yamaha RX-V481 prior to sampling the Yamaha RX-V581. Sound wise there’s not a huge difference between the two. Both output the same amount of wattage (about 80 watts/channel with 2-ch driven at 8 ohms). However, where the 581 edges out the 481 is in its addition of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Cuing up Mad Max: Fury Road on Blu-ray gave the 581 ample opportunity to flex it’s muscles.

 

The entire sound track of Fury Road growls from start to finish with a relentless low-end punch that never ceases. When compared to the 481, the 581 seemed more assertive and authoritative in the bass department. One thing I did end up doing is bumping up my center channel level in the settings menu. YPAO had the levels a little too low for my taste which resulted in dialogue getting lost during heavy action scenes.

 

Dolby Atmos again shined during my listening tests with impressive sound imaging that truly engulfed my listening area in sound. Activating and then deactivating the Atmos speakers during my listening tests revealed just how much fuller the sound stage was with Atmos enaged. The interesting thing about Atmos is that it not only produces sound above you, but in some instances it also produces sound in other areas of the room. For instance, when watching Mad Max: Fury Road, some sounds popped up directly behind me even though there weren’t any speakers present.

 

Moving over to music, the RX-V581 displayed impressive detail and agility with most tunes. Good treble response and a beefy detailed low-end made the amp extremely enjoyable to listen to. It’s mid-range was solid although I felt it could have used a little more detail and subtlety. Despite this, the 581 is still a solid musical performer.

 

The Verdict

The Yamaha RX-V581 is a solid amp. It has very good sound quality combined with a strong set of features. 4k support, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X make it a solid option for many home theater arrangements.


Where to Buy:

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