Yamaha RX-V681 Review
THE VERDICT
With its army of features which include 4K support, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, the Yamaha RX-V681 is about as future proof as you can get. Its great sound quality is the icing on the cake.

Design7.5
Value 8.5
Features9
Ease of Use7.5
Sound Quality9
The Good
  • The Yamaha RX-V681 has great sound quality partnered with an excellent set of features.
The Bad
  • Remote is over complicated. User interface needs to be more intuitive.
8.5Overall Score

Receivers have been stuck in an incremental upgrade cycle the past few years. The newest batch of receivers may finally give folks a real reason to upgrade. Thanks to new technologies like 4K video and Dolby Atmos it’s become more important to have a receiver that’s up to speed. The 7.2 channel Yamaha RX-V681 is one of the latest amps to support the latest tech trends making it one of the most future proof options available.

 

Design

Yamaha RX-V681 Review

The Yamaha RX-V681 doesn’t break new ground in the looks department. It’s basically identical to last year’s Yamaha 679 and the 677 before that. If you lose the remote or don’t have it handy, you can control most of the features of the receiver with the buttons and knobs on its face.


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The remote of the 681 feels a bit cluttered. Whereas many manufacturers have managed to simplify their remotes, Yamaha’s has a dizzying array of small buttons.  If you’ve never used a Yamaha receiver before be prepared to take some time to familiarize yourself with the remote. Yamaha has a control app that’s a free download from the iOS and Android store. It does a good job of letting you control the receiver through your smartphone or tablet and is a solid alternative to the remote.

Yamaha RX-V681 Remote
After spending some time with several of Yamaha’s competitors this year, namely Onkyo, Denon and Pioneer, the user interface of the Yamaha 681 comes up a little short by comparison and suffers from an overall lack of intuitiveness. Like the remote, it will take a little while to get used to.

 

Connectivity

Connection wise, the Yamaha RX-V681 comes with a respectable 6 HDMI hookups. All of these inputs support HDCP 2.2, HDR and BT.2020 so the amp is well prepared to handle 4K video.  The HDMIs are complimented by a healthy grouping of component, analog and digital inputs that are on par for A/V receivers in this price range.

Yamaha RX-V681 Connections

If you prefer to sling your music to the receiver wirelessly, the 681 gives you the option to use WiFi, Bluetooth or AirPlay. A few years ago Bluetooth and WiFi would have required the use of an add-on dongle, however the Yamaha 681 has these features built-in. Both WiFi and Bluetooth were stable during my testing. I had the Yamaha RX-V681 a substantial distance from my wireless router and never experienced any signal loss.  I only experienced one brief hiccup in the Bluetooth signal so overall, the 681 performed well in this department. The  681’s Bluetooth transmission also works both ways. You can send Bluetooth music to the amp or, if you have a set of Bluetooth headphones, its capable of pushing Bluetooth audio to them as well.


RELATED: Yamaha Aventage RX-A1060 Review


Along with these wireless streaming options, the 681 also has built-in MusicCast. Yamaha’s been aggressively incorporating its home grown multi-room system on many of its devices. With the 681 you have the ability to transmit audio from the amp to other MusicCast compatible products such as speakers and sound bars. The separate MusicCast app lets you control the audio playing in multiple zones in your house.

 

Sound Formats

The number of audio formats the 681 decodes reads like a who’s who list for audiophiles. For music, the amp can handle MP3, FLAC, DSD, AIFF, WAV, ALAC and WMA. If you have a flash drive or portable hard drive, you can use the front USB port to easily attach your music device. The Yamaha 681 is also DLNA certified which means you can stream music over your network as well. Dolby and DTS decoding are the norm on all modern receivers. However, their newest object based formats, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are popping up on more and more amps. Both of these formats make an appearance on the Yamaha RX-V681.

 

Setup

Getting the Yamaha 681 up and running is pretty straightforward. Yamaha uses their own proprietary calibration system called YPAO. Unlike Audyssey, it only requires you to place the calibration microphone at only one location in your room. Results from YPAO were solid. My only gripe with it, and I’ve had this problem with most calibration systems (including Audyssey), is that it set my front mains and rears to “large” when they should have been set to “small”. This required me to manually go in and adjust the crossover settings. This isn’t a big issue, but I recommend that after you run YPAO, you double check the calibration settings.

 

Yamaha RX-V681 Sound Quality

So, the big question is – how does the Yamaha RX-V681 sound? In a word – fantastic. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a good test for the amp with its frenetic actions sequences. The 681 displayed good spacial performance with Tie-Fighters zipping easily from left to right and from front to rear. Dialogue was also clean and clear. Turning up the volume, the 681 maintained its composure and showed very few signs of distortion.

 

The 681’s good audio performance continued with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The dragon’s deep rumbling voice echoed around the room thanks to the low frequencies pumped out by the Yamaha 681. The amp also gave my surround channels a good workout by creating a wide expansive sound field.

 

Wanting to change things up a bit, I cued up Ex Machina. Since the movie takes place in a secluded hi-tech mansion it uses subtle audio cues to convey a sense of claustrophobia. The 681’s ability to reproduce these subtleties created a heightened since of suspense and atmosphere.

 

Adele’s vocals from her latest album sounded smooth and natural on Yamaha RX-V681. Having Yamaha’s Aventage RX-A1060 on hand I wanted to compare the two. The 1060 displayed better transparency than the 681 and when it came to movies, greater power reserves. However, this receiver also costs twice as much as the Yamaha 681.


Yamaha RX-V681 vs RX-V581

Both of these amps have 7.2 channels and are very similar in sound quality. In fact, when it comes to sound, you’ll be hard pressed to tell the two apart. On the other hand, the RX-V681 does have some notable advantages over the RX-V581. The 681 has a little more power, a dedicated phono input, an extra HDMI input, 4K upscaling, and powered zone 2. Between the two, the 581 has the better remote and is easier to pick-up and use. The RX-V581 typically costs less than the 681, so if your main focus is sound quality, you may want to save the extra dough and grab the 581. On the other hand, if any of the features outlined above are must-haves for you, then the 681 may be the way to go.


The Verdict

It’s hard to knock the 681. For a mid-range receiver it does just about everything right. It has impressive sound quality and a solid compliment of features. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support gives it an edge over last year’s 679 and MusicCast means it can be the centerpiece of your multi-room audio. Its biggest drawbacks are its user interface and cluttered remote which can be easily overlooked.


Where to Buy:

See Price on Amazon





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