Originally Posted by mcarbo
Are Yamaha receivers worth a look? Or is there anything I should avoid like the plague?
You might want to look at the product-specific threads to see if the make and model you have chosen has a bit of lemon in it.
As others have pointed out, the automated system tuning facilities (Audyssey, MCACC, YPAO) are hot topics. I'm using an AVR with Audyssey Multieq and find it to be advantageous. On the one hand my speakers were good enough that corrections on the order of only 5 dB were all that was needed, but it did fine tune the system and give a stronger sense of naturalness.
I'm under the impression that Audyssey XT32 is the most generally highly regarded of the bunch. The various automated system tunders have their own proponent and experiences threads here on AVS.
The best and most comprehensive automated system tuning facilities command strong price premiums. I know of one refurb AVR with XT32 that is about $700, but as new products, you're talking more like $1K. Without XT32 a similar AVR would be $100s less.
It's kind of an interesting world. If you run them in direct mode or even turn on the bells and whistles but leave them zeroed out, these modern AVRs are very clean and uncolored. So now the "best sounding" AVR is the one that has inverse coloration that is tailored to your speakers and room.
One piece of hype to not be distracted by is power wars. Many will want the comfort of AVRs produce high power with sine waves and resistive loads on the test bench. AVRs that can pull this off can weigh twice as much or more than others that can't perform so well on the test bench, and are priced accordingly. However, music has a lot less average energy than sine waves, and the lighter, cheaper AVRs work out well as a practical matter. There is a similar argument about driving low impedance speakers. It turns out that the same argument applies and mainstream AVRs work will with speakers whose impedance dives down to as little as 3 ohms or less over part of the audio band.
AVRs are a highly competitive market segment and any AVR that can't cut it runs the risk of being queen of the store room and a bozo on the audio forums. The companies who do well in this market are delivering what the market actually needs, or they will die. AVRs now have a tremendous amount of effective technology in them. Most controls and switches have been replaced with settings on menus. The good news is that features implemented in software won't be subject to oxiditaion or get loose like the old-time feature-laden receivers did.