By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Yamaha is updating its selection of A/V receivers priced at more than $1,000 with the introduction of its first three models with HDMI 1.3a inputs and ability to decode all mandatory and optional surround-sound codecs authorized for use on HD DVD and Blu-ray discs.
The three models are also the company's first with 1080p up-scaling from any connected video source, a 120Hz refresh rate for connection to new, reduced flicker LCD TVs, and 24Hz frame-rate compatibility for use with high-definition discs and compliant displays.
The flagship $5,499-suggested RX-Z11 is also the industry's first model with THX Ultra2 Plus, signifying the inclusion of THX Loudness Plus technology. That technology lets home theater users turn down the volume without missing the deep bass, ambient sounds and surround effects typically heard only at reference-level listening levels.
The 11.2-channel flagship RX-Z11 isn't due until November, but the $1,699-suggested 7.1-channel RX-V3800 is due in September, and the $1,299 7.1-channel RX-V1800 is due in August. They will join four other A/V receivers launched earlier this year at $199, $299, $499 and $999. An existing $1,000+ receiver, the $1,699-suggested RX-V2700, will remain in the line until the end of the year.
All of the three new models are XM-ready with Neural Surround decoding, with the Z11 adding step-up THX-Neural Surround. All connect to Apple iPods via an optional $99-suggested iPod docking station, which enables the A/V receivers' remote to control the iPod and its menu through an on-screen interface. And all three incorporate updated YPAO Sound Optimization technology, which automatically analyzes the acoustics of the room and adjusts speaker response to optimize sound quality at the listening position.
All three also feature compressed-music enhancer circuitry and support for HDMI 1.3a's 30-bit and 36-bit Deep Color capability. The flagship adds support of xvYCC, or extended-gamut YCC, over HDMI cables if the high-definition disc software is encoded with it. The flagship is also the only model in the 2007 lineup to feature HD Radio, which previously appeared in a $1,899 receiver discontinued last year.
The flagship Z11 features 11 amplifier channels (7x140 watts plus 4x50 watts), with the 50-watt channels and newly redesigned proprietary Cinema DSP HD3 processing able to deliver height information to front and rear presence speakers.
The Z11 also includes auto lip-sync, five HDMI inputs, including one on the front panel, and two HDMI outputs. It also features network capabilities, including support for Windows Vista OS's Windows Media Player 11 and Microsoft PlaysForSure, to stream MP3, WMA, WAV and AAC music stored on a networked PC or NAS (network-attached storage device). It also connects to the Internet with the PC off to stream Web radio stations, and it networks with Yamaha's MusicCAST music server.
The Z11 also features Ethernet connection compatible with IP-based home-control systems from the likes of AMX and Crestron and adds Web browser control from a PC or PDA. Consumers can also view a variety of iPod, XM or HD Radio metadata on the browser. Control via RS-232C port is also available.
Two USB inputs, one in front, one in back, compatible with Microsoft's Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) delivers playback of MP3, WMA, WAV and AAC audio files from a portable MP3 player or USB drive. The rear USB port offers connectivity to an external HDD drive.
The 11 amplifier channels can be configured in a variety of ways, including biamping of select channels and addition of external amps. Resulting configurations include 7.2 channels in the main room and two channels in each of the second, third and fourth rooms.
The new $1,699 V3800, rated at 7x140 watts, features the Z11's network capabilities but not IP-based control through its Ethernet port. Both models, which also feature second-zone video output, are not the company's first networked receivers. Last year, the company introduced the $1,699 V2700 receiver and the $649 N600 with Ethernet-network ports.
The V3800 differs from the new flagship receiver in part through its lack of xvYCC support and support for only two presence channels (for the front) instead of four.
The V3800 and 7x130-watt V1800 feature four HDMI inputs and flexible amplifier configuration, enabling the seven internal power amplifiers to power up to three zones simultaneously.
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