Two-year warranty: Yamaha's two-year warranty is standard, although it's better than the one-year warranty offered on Pioneer's competing receivers. And if you're really looking for peace of mind, Marantz's NR1403 and NR1603 feature three-year warranties.
3D pass-through, audio return channel, standby pass-through: The RX-V573 supports all three of these HDMI features (each of which is explained in more detail here), but while they're all useful, you can largely ignore them when making a buying decision, since almost every newer receiver supports them.
iPhone/iPad-friendly USB port: The USB port on the front panel supports iPhones, iPods, and iPads, so you can connect those devices directly using a standard cable and navigate your music collection onscreen. We also had success using the USB port with a standard USB drive filled with music.
Powered second-zone audio: The RX-V573 has basic multiroom functionality, with the option to assign the surround back channels as a second zone. If you're really interested in multiroom functionality, Onkyo's TX-NR616 is the most featured in this price range, with powered second-zone audio, unpowered second-zone audio, and unpowered third-zone audio.
Other features: The Yamaha RX-V573 lacks the ability to upconvert analog video signals over its HDMI output, but that feature isn't nearly as important as it used to be, since analog video devices are pretty rare. It lacks support for Dolby Pro Logic IIz processing, allowing for "height" channels, but we don't think the minimal sonic benefits are worth the extra effort. The RX-V573 doesn't have any THX certification, but that's not worth factoring into a buying decision, since the Yamaha has solid sound quality.
Setup and calibration
Yamaha has its own automatic speaker calibration technology, dubbed the Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO). Plugging in the (supplied) Optimizer microphone automatically brings up the onscreen menu. Press the "Start" button and YPAO sends a short series of test tones to all the speakers and the subwoofer. The RX-V573's tones were louder than any in recent memory, but the entire operation takes just a couple of minutes to complete.
YPAO only takes measurements from a single mic position, making it faster and easier to use system than the Denon, Marantz or Onkyo's Audyssey setup programs that require the receiver's owner to move the mic to three to six positions in the room. And even with fewer measurements, the results of the RV-V573's calibration were inline with what we get with most receivers.
Sound quality evaluations for AV receivers (and other amplifiers) are controversial. Some say all AV receivers sound the same, others disagree, and we're not likely to settle that argument anytime soon. CNET's sound quality evaluations are strictly subjective, with resident golden-ear Steve Guttenberg comparing similarly priced models in an identical listening environment using the same speakers.
While the RX-V573 power specifications closely match the 5.1 channel RX-V473's, the 7.1 channel model sounded better in our auditions with our Aperion Intimus 4T Hybrid SD reference 5.1 channel system. We did notice some small differences in the auto setup and calibration results of the two receivers (the RX-V573 had a lower subwoofer-to-speaker crossover setting, for example), but the differences in sound were more significant than that. The RX-V473 had a somewhat leaner tonal balance, and the subwoofer volume was set lower.
In any case, the RX-V573 aced Peter Gabriel's vocals on his "New Blood: Live in London" concert Blu-ray, which sounded more full-bodied than they were on the RX-V473. Subtle ambiance cues of the concert hall sounded realistic, and the front and surround speakers created a seamless soundscape. The Raconteurs "Live in Montreux 2008" Blu-ray amply demonstrated that the RX-V573's power reserves were up to the job of playing rock nice and loud without distress. Patrick Keeler's drum dynamics and power were first rate, and Jack White's electric guitar really cut through the dense mix.
Returning to the "Master & Commander" Blu-ray, we cued up the scenes where the wooden ships pummeled each other with cannon balls. The RX-V573 unfailingly delivered the blasts and crashing impacts of naval battles; it had the poise of a more expensive receiver. The Blu-ray's sound over the RX-V573 was on par with our reference Denon AVR-1912 receiver, and that's high praise indeed.
Two-channel music from CDs was definitely up to snuff when we played Keith Jarrett's "Koln Concert." It's a solo piano recital, but the spacious soundstage and crisp piano sound, along with Jarrett's off-mic "vocalizing" were all faithfully reproduced by the RX-V573.
What about Yamaha's other AV receivers?
If you're sold on the Yamaha brand, the company offers several other AV receiver models in its RX-V line. For most buyers, the step-down RX-V473 is a better value, as it's nearly identical to the RX-V573, except it's limited to five channels, rather than seven (7.1 is rarely worth the effort). However, the reality is that Yamaha's line isn't very competitive compared with other manufacturers. I'd say the low-end RX-V373 offers the best value; it only offers basic functionality, but most people don't need extra features, and its $250 street price is relatively attractive.
On its own, the Yamaha RX-V573 is perfectly serviceable AV receiver, albeit with a crummy remote and an archaic user interface. But competing receivers offer more features, most importantly more HDMI inputs, for less money without any significant drawbacks. Unless you find the RX-V573 at a significant discount, you'll be better served with another receiver.