MOVIE PERFORMANCE As with many a previous Yamaha I've tested, I also found the RX-V2600's palette of "extra" surround modes for movies more usable than average, with far less tendency toward clangy reverb or EQ-colored voices than many other A/V receivers. Nonetheless, I still preferred "straight" Dolby Digital EX or Dolby Pro Logic IIx for most listening, as reproducing more closely what the sound-designers and producers (and artists) intended. The Yamaha dispensed plenty of power for even the most demanding sequences from War of the Worlds, a workout for any system.
On the video side of things, the Yamaha RX-V2600 was unique among these three in its ability to upscale any incoming video signal, digital or analog, to the preferred resolution of your HDTV (480p, 720p, or 1080i) and output it via the HDMI or component-video outputs. That proved very valuable. In my system, for example, the receiver took the standard-definition 480p output from my DVD-recorder/TiVo box and scaled it to 720p, yielding two main benefits. First, there was a very minor improvement in picture quality on my native-720p Samsung DLP set, which showed up as a slightly smoother, "quieter" image. Then there was the simplicity and ease of use from having a single HDMI video/audio connection from the receiver to the TV, including full display of the receiver's onscreen menus through the same cable. And this virtue carries to all other video sources, including analog 480i devices such as VCRs.
EASE OF USE Yamaha ships two remotes with the RX-V2600, including a full-system model and a smaller wand for remote zone use. The company's full remote layout has changed comparatively little over the past few model years, probably because it's a good one. I found its handset unfancy, comparatively legible, and easy to use. I had one gripe about the Yamaha's ergonomics, though: There's no easy, quick way to temporarily adjust the individual channel levels. So if, for example, you want to adjust the center channel level to make dialogue more intelligible, or goose up the surrounds a bit, you must thumb several levels deep into the menus. This is mitigated somewhat by six System Memory presets you can customize with surround settings, speaker levels, and other parameters. The first two of these can be recalled via direct remote-control buttons, but calling up any of the other four requires another trip to the menus.
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