This week we tested the Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D network stereo receiver. In addition to being equipped with a Hi-Res audio compatible ESS SABRE 9006 DAC, this model is compatible with Hi-Res Audio, benefits from streaming and MusicCast multiroom functionality, and is capable of developing 2×100 Watts in hi-fi conditions. For the first time, Yamaha has installed its YPAO RSC auto calibration system in a network stereo receiver. A marketing tactic or a real asset?
Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D: design
The Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D is a direct descendant of the AV receivers in the Yamaha Aventage range. At 2×100 W into 8 Ohms, its power output is equivalent to that of the Yamaha MusicCast RX-A870, a model with which it also shares the same size and weight. The Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D benefits from an optimized ToP-Art conception and components specifically designed for hi-fi applications. The 803 features a class AB amplifier and a large EI power transformer, with a filtering capacity of approximately 11,000 µF. On paper, this receiver should be a good match for any compact speaker or midsized floorstanding speaker (2- or 3-way).
Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D: functions
The Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D has a retro feel to it, with square buttons and rectangular dials. While it doesn’t go as far as to include a vintage VU-meter, this receiver can nonetheless manage two pairs of speakers (A/B) simultaneously. In addition to tone settings (low/high), the Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D also offers a loudness setting. The EQ process reinforces lows and highs while reducing mids. The balance between the three registers is thus variable. The aim of a variable loudness setting is to subtly enhance the perception of lows and highs at low volume levels.
Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D: YPAO calibration
The Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D network stereo receiver’s chief virtue is its speaker auto calibration system. Apart from a few high-end hi-fi receivers (Lyngdorf), auto calibration is not typically available for AV receivers. In reality, installing several speakers in the same room very often provokes interactions and acoustic mishaps, and using a microphone to measure and correct the signal is one way to enhance the restitution. Consequently, Yamaha has decided to equip the Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D network stereo receiver with its YPAO auto calibration technology and the microphone that goes along with it. Once the microphone is connected to the front of the receiver, further instructions appear on the receiver’s LCD display.
The receiver sends pink noise of increasing intensity through the left speaker and then through the right speaker, followed by a series of sine waves covering the full audio spectrum, which are captured by a microphone positioned where the listener would typically be. The auto calibration system then invites the user to save the measurement in order to apply the acoustic correction it has calculated. The “before and after” transformation is undeniable. Less mids, less highs, more lows (notably in the upper bass register) and a clear change in the acoustic phase. This is the type of balance that we like–round, generous and reassuring yet precise. On the other hand, voices were less centered and more dispersed.
Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D: compatible sources
The Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D network stereo receiver is equipped with analog line inputs and phono MM inputs. Any analog source may be connected: CD player, cassette player, FM tuner, or turntable with or without an integrated RIAA preamplifier. The receiver’s analog tuner (FM) and digital tuner (DAB) grant the user access to a vast array of radio stations. The FM tuner is particularly sensitive, and reception quality is very good thanks to the included wire antenna, whereas the digital tuner (DAB) did not pick up a single station.
The optical and coaxial inputs (4 total) may be connected to a UHD display (the display’s PCM stereo mode must be activated), a set-top box or any source equipped with a digital audio output. It’s the integrated ESS Sabre ES9006 DAC which takes charge of the digital-to-analog audio conversion.
A flash drive or an iPhone may be connected to the USB port on the front of the receiver to play files stored on these devices. For flash drives, all the standard audio formats are handled, including FLAC (up to 24/192) and DSD (DSF files).
The Yamaha R-N803D receiver’s integrated Bluetooth controller allows music to be streamed from a smartphone, tablet or computer. The aptX codec is not handled. However, the Bluetooth controller is bidirectional, which means that a pair of Bluetooth headphones may be used to listen to the source being played by the receiver. Very practical for listening to a TV, for example.
Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D: audio streaming
This is obviously one of the receiver’s biggest assets. Audio streaming consists of listening to audio files or music streaming services via a home network. A mobile app is a requirement for those wishing to control the receiver via the user-friendly interface of a smartphone or tablet. The Yamaha MusicCast mobile app enables audio streaming with a variety of sources: smartphone, local audio server (DLNA sharing software on a computer, NAS), music streaming services including Deezer, Spotify (Connect protocol included), Qobuz and Tidal, and Internet radio stations. The only thing missing is the Google Play Music streaming service.
Yamaha MusicCast is not only the name of Yamaha’s control app, it’s also the name of its multiroom streaming technology. The Yamaha control app may be used to play the same music simultaneously on the Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D receiver and any other Yamaha MusicCast audio player (wireless amplifier, AV receiver, wireless speaker, soundbar, etc.). Once each device is paired with a room, groups of audio playback devices may then be created.
Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D: Airplay but without Chromecast Built-in
With an iPhone, iPad or computer running Mac OS, AirPlay technology may also be used to stream music. In this case, audio resolution is limited to 16 bits / 44.1 kHz (lossless CD quality) and all there is to do is tap the AirPlay icon in any iOS music app and choose the Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D as the playback device. This is a way to get around using the Yamaha MusicCast app, but it also means that its multiroom function (simultaneous playback on several devices) can’t be used. As we previously mentioned, Google Play Music is not handled by the Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D receiver. While certain manufacturers have chosen to integrate Google’s streaming technology into their devices, Yamaha has not (yet) made the leap. It is thus not possible to tap the Chromecast icon of an Android audio app to play music with this receiver. However, it is possible to purchase a Google Chromecast digital media player and connect one of its digital inputs to the Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D.
Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D: listening impressions
We connected the Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D to Elipson Prestige Facet 8B and Focal Chorus 615 speakers using a Norstone Skye MC cable. We connected an Ethernet cable to the receiver in order to update it at the beginning of our test.
We appreciated the neutrality of the restitution, as well as the consistent liveliness and rich mids. This meticulous exploration of the mids ensured optimized spatialization and did not interfere with the overall harmony of the sound message. The highs are very smooth, and they add a convincing sense of depth to the restitution. The width of the soundstage leaves nothing to be desired. Since the 803D receiver adopts a conservative stance with regard to dynamic range, it unfailingly preserves the coherence of the sound, even at high volume levels. From FLAC 24/96 audio files to FM radio stations, the receiver was steadfastly efficient with all audio sources and musical genres. The timbres of stringed instruments (acoustic guitar, violin) were well restituted, and the receiver’s sense of timing worked just as well with wind instruments.
Yamaha R-N602: the sound signatures are very similar and these two receivers share the same DNA. The differences are in the details, with the 803 offering more serenity, along with better timing, more energetic lows, and more transparent mids. The Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D features YPAO auto calibration.
What we liked:
- The rich and transparent mids
- The YPAO RSC auto calibration
- The wide selection of inputs
- The bidirectional Bluetooth transmission
What we would have liked:
- Chromecast Built-in
- An update for the aging mobile app
More spacious and assertive than its younger brother, the Yamaha R-N602, the Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D network stereo receiver is clearly the winner, especially considering the minimal price difference. The auto calibration function offers a real advantage for users whose living rooms present complex acoustic characteristics.French