Yamaha RX-V481 Review
The Yamaha RX-V481 offers great sound quality at an affordable price. With features such as HDCP 2.2, WiFi, Bluetooth and MusicCast it’s one of the top 5-channel receivers around.

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Sound Quality9
The Good
  • The Yamaha RX-V481 has enviable sound quality combined with a stout suite of features. Yamaha's new MusicCast system adds multi-room functionality to an already great receiver.
The Bad
  • In our tests we encountered minor bluetooth drop-outs. No Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. Only 4 HDMI inputs.
8.6Overall Score

The 5 channel Yamaha RX-V481 is the step-up model from the Yamaha RX-V381 . While there aren’t huge differences between the two, the 481 does have a tad more power and it also throws WiFi and Multi-Zone support into the mix. All the while it keeps the same great sound quality that we liked about the 381.


Yamaha RX-V481 Review

Yamaha RX-V481 Review

Design & Features

If it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it.  This pretty much describes the Yamaha RX-V481. If you’ve used a Yamaha amp the past few years then you’ll feel right at home with the 481 because outwardly, not much has changed. The design of the box is simple. The front has the usual accoutrement of knobs and buttons that you’d expect.  You’ll also find headphone, auxiliary, and USB inputs on the front.

RELATED: Yamaha RX-V381 Review


The rear of the Yamaha RX-V481 sports a simple layout. It includes three analog inputs along with three digital inputs (1 optical and 2 coaxial). An ethernet input also makes an appearance on the 481 which allows you to make a wired network connection if needed. Along the top is a row of HDMI inputs. This year all the HDMIs support HDCP 2.2 copy protection which will become a crucial feature for future 4K content.  HDR and  BT.2020 which provide for a wider color gamut are also supported.


Curiously, the Yamaha 481 has two fewer HDMI inputs than last year’s 479. However, for most entry-level systems 4 inputs should be enough. The 481 will pass through a 4K signal, but if you’re looking for it to upscale video to 4K, you’re out of luck on this model.


The remote for the 481 maintains the status quo from last year’s 479. The button layout is solid without a lot of button clutter. Overall, it’s not too shabby as AV remotes go. Yamaha also supplies an app called the AV Controller which has the same functions of the remote except you can use it on your tablet or smart phone. The app lets you really go in and customize your listening experience by adjusting the DSP settings on the amp. The app is serviceable on smart phones, but looks and works better on tablets.


The RX-V481 decodes the standard home theater formats, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. With only 5 channels you won’t be able to enjoy Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. The 481 can also handle several hi-res music formats such as  DSD, AIFF, FLA, WAV and Apple® Lossless.


The Yamaha RX-V481 does have multi-zone support although it is slightly limited. For instance, you can power two stereo channels in a separate location, however this leaves you with only 3-channel output in the main room. Both rooms also have to use the same audio source. This isn’t the end of the world, but keep this in mind if you’re looking for an AV receiver that lets you run separate audio sources in two different rooms.


WiFi & Bluetooth Built-in

Along with the built-in ethernet port, the Yamaha RX-V481 includes built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. Whip out a bluetooth enabled smartphone or MP3 player and you can stream your music directly to the amp. If you have a newer iOS device the Yamaha 481 can copy your WiFi settings from it which greatly simplifies the network setup process. In seconds I was streaming music to the receiver. The audio quality via bluetooth was about as good as expected. I did note that on a couple occasions I experienced a couple signal drop-outs during bluetooth playback.

RELATED: Yamaha RX-A2060 Review

The 481 is also MusicCast compatible. MusicCast is Yamaha’s multi-room audio system in the same vein as Sonos. Yamaha has a whole slew of audio devices from AV receivers to sounds bars and speakers which are MusicCast compatible. This means you can play your tunes throughout your home as long as you have the necessary equipment.


Setup & Calibration

Yamaha’s gotten pretty good with assisting first time users with their AV setups.  If you have a tablet, Yamaha offers an AV Setup Guide which is a free download from the iOS and Google Play stores. It walks you through the entire setup process from speaker connections to calibration.


Like all of Yamaha’s receivers, the RX-V481 uses their YPAO calibration system to get your speakers up to snuff. Place the measurement mic in the room and the receiver will handle the rest. YPAO blasts a series of test tones around your room and uses those results to make adjustments based on your room’s acoustics and speaker capabilities. If you have a sub in the mix, it also prescribes the ideal crossover frequency for your speakers. Audyssey has been the king of home calibration systems for years, but honestly I’ve gotten good results from YPAO. Its results are on par with what I’ve achieved with Audyssey. Some people may choose to skip calibration, but I’ve listened to the amp with and without. Trust me when I say you want to use the YPAO calibration. The sound is clearer, cleaner and more authoritative.


Sound Quality

I would like to say that I was surprised by the sound quality of the Yamaha RX-V481, but over the years I’ve come to expect excellent sounding amps from Yamaha. At this point, I would be stunned if they released an amp with sub par sound quality.


Kicking back with Stars Wars the Force Awakens on blu-ray gave me the opportunity to give the RX-V481 a proper shake-down. When Rey and Finn kicked the dust off the old Millennium Falcon, the 481’s low-end kicked into hyper-drive. As they’re being chased by the First Order’s Tie Fighters the scene is exhilarating with blasters bouncing around from the surrounds. As the Falcon skimmed the desert floor sand seemed to swoosh behind my head.


Next up was Jurassic World on blu-ray. When Indominous Rex makes its big screen debut, it sounded impressively thunderous. Later on in the flick when the Raptors are chasing down Rex in the forest, the rustling leaves flying behind me and the snarling grunting beasts made me feel as if I was part of the chase.


Music playback on the RX-V481 is solid. It’s not as good as a dedicated 2-channel amp, but for an entry level receiver it manages to take care of business. If you’re streaming compressed audio files you will notice a slight improvement in the audio reproduction thanks to the 481’s compressed music enhancer. It does give compressed files a richer mid-range and beefier low-end, but it’s not night and day.


Overall, the Yamaha RX-V481 displayed nice detail on most music we threw at it. The 481’s treble and mid-range was better than expected for an entry-level unit. The vocals of Paige Duddy of the brother sister duo XYLØ, were haunting and hypnotic when coming thru the 481.


The Verdict

The Yamaha RX-V481 is a nimble receiver with great sound quality and an excellent set of features. If you’re dead set on sticking with a 5-channel setup, the 481 is one of the top options available.


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