When we set up our first head-to-head listening tests with the latest crop of 2013 AV receivers, Yamaha's RX-V475 ($400 street) came out on top, besting Pioneer's VSX-823-K ($400) and even Denon's $600 AVR-E400.
But edging out its competitors in our subjective listening tests isn't quite enough to make the RX-V475 our top pick at the $400 price point. Differences in AV receiver sound quality tend to be subtle, and factors such as room acoustics and your choice of speakers have a much larger impact on the sound quality you'll hear.
Despite its advantage in sound the Yamaha trails the other models in nearly every other area, with a difficult remote, five HDMI inputs rather than six, and a skimpy selection of wireless and streaming audio options. And if you don't care about built-in networking features (and we're inclined to agree), it's tough to argue with Marantz's NR1403 ($400), which comes in at nearly half the size, sounds great, and has six HDMI inputs.
The Yamaha RX-V475 wouldn't be our first choice for a $400 AV receiver, but it's still a solid value, especially if you prize sound quality enough to overlook its downsides.
Design: Big and too many buttons
Like most multichannel receivers, the RX-V475 is a hulking box of black metal. From the front its subtle two-tone design is nice enough, especially the softer, matte black finish on the bottom, but the excess of front-panel buttons mostly spoils its look. Overall, it's tough to hard to find any of the "big box" receivers attractive compared with Marantz's slimline NR1403.
The included remote is one of the more baffling we've seen. To start with, there are two power buttons at the top, with only tiny labels letting you know that one of them is for controlling other devices. Next up is a grid of small, numbered buttons. If the "1" button is in the HDMI section, it selects the "HDMI 1" input...and you have to remember which device that is. There are also two "star" buttons, but no one could reasonably know what they stand for without diving into the manual. ("Change the external device to be controlled without switching the input source.") And that's just the top third of the clicker. At least you can replace it with a quality universal remote.
You can also control the RX-V475 using Yamaha's smartphone app, available for iOS and Android. It can perform standard functions like adjusting volume or selecting inputs, but it's most useful with networking features; it's much easier to browse Internet radio stations on your phone than onscreen. Unfortunately there's no search for Internet radio, so you're still stuck doing a lot of scrolling.
Features: Lightly equipped, but enough
The Yamaha RX-V475 has a reasonable feature set for the price, although its competitors offer more.
The RX-V475's five HDMI inputs will be enough for most home theaters, although for the same price the Onkyo TX-NR525, Pioneer VSX-823-K, and Marantz NR1403 offer six. One of the RX-V475's rear HDMI inputs is MHL-compatible, which means you can use it with Roku's Streaming Stick, among other devices. It's well-stocked with other ports, including four digital audio inputs (two optical, two coaxial), but those don't matter as much now that nearly every device uses HDMI. There is a handy front-panel minijack input, which is unique among receivers at this price.
Like every other receiver at this price, the RX-V475 lacks both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Yamaha sells accessories for both, but they're very expensive: $70 for Bluetooth, $100 for Wi-Fi. You're generally better off buying a third-party Bluetooth adapter or wireless adapter. If you're looking for built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, you'll need to step up to the Onkyo TX-NR626.
To take advantage of the RX-V475's networking features, you'll need to connect the receiver via Ethernet. Its networking features are decent, including AirPlay, Pandora, Internet Radio, and DLNA compatibility, although the Denon AVR-E300 and Onkyo TX-NR525 offer more for the same price. In any event, while the networking features worked fine in our testing, frequent streamers will likely want a dedicated streaming device that offers more services and a more responsive interface.
The RX-V475 lacks some features found on other AV receivers, but most buyers won't miss them. It's a 5.1-channel AV receiver, rather than 7.1, so you can't run surround back channels, powered second-zone audio, and Dolby Pro Logic IIz "height" channels. There's no analog video upconversion, but again, that's not important since nearly all devices use HDMI.
If you're looking for more detailed feature comparisons, check out our giant AV receiver spreadsheet, which will compare the Yamaha RX-V475 with other 2013 models as we review them.
Setup: Quick speaker calibration
Unlike with Denon's new Setup Assistant, there are no initial guided onscreen instructions when you fire up the RX-V475. Yamaha does include automatic speaker calibration, specifically Yamaha's Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO), and plugging in the supplied Optimizer microphone does automatically bring up the onscreen menu. Yamaha's onscreen display is text-based and looks awfully outdated, but that's actually pretty standard for receivers at this price. All of the measurements are taken from just one mic position, which is faster and easier than Denon's or Onkyo's Audyssey setup programs, which require multiple mic positions and running test tones again and again to complete the setup.