HiFi Stereo Amplifier with MusicCast
On paper Yamaha’s R-N803D looks like a do-it-all solution loaded with clever stuff. While it is in essence a stereo amplifier, Yamaha’s description of it as a networked receiver emphasises its inclusion both of traditional radio sources (DAB+ and FM) and of networking plus online playback. Music Cast plays a large part in the latter set of abilities — Yamaha’s multiroom platform includes Airplay and DLNA network playback, Bluetooth streaming, and app control of playback from internet radio and online music services.
Let’s check its fundamental role as an amplifier first. It’s quoted at 2 × 145W at the AV electrical standard of measuring into 8 ohms at 1kHz allowing up to 10% THD, but still scores 2 × 100W with the more hi-fi criteria of 0.019% THD from 20Hz to 20kHz into 8 ohms. Yamaha makes some solidly hi-fi claims for the amplification — its Top-ART (Total Purity Audio Reproduction Technology) design concept uses carefully symmetrical and short signal paths, and the chassis boasts a special ‘Art Base’ resin frame to absorb vibration. The final output is via four bipolar power transistors per channel.
There are two sets of speaker outputs, A and B, which can be run simultaneously, though as on the lower R-N303 D model Yamaha again includes restrictive impedance limitations when doing so. In normal operation, you’re limited to one set of 8-ohm speakers, nothing lower, and this rises to 16-ohm speakers if you want to drive both together. Given that Yamaha has only 6-ohm speakers on its books, this is clearly a limitation too far. On the N803 D, however, you can change the speaker impedance setting through the front panel menus, allowing four-ohm speakers to be driven, or two sets of 8-ohm speakers.
For source selection you can rotate the left knob through all the available options, but there are a heck of a lot — 20 in all, including, surely unnecessarily, each streaming service in turn (including Pandora, see below), and Airplay, which is self-selecting anyway, so that’s a bit longwinded. But the physical remote control has separate buttons for each source, and best of all you can select using the Music Cast app.
Inputs are there plenty: four line-level inputs (the CD input is mysteriously separate to the others), a surprising two of which are blessed with record-out sockets also, a function seemingly disappearing on many amps or replaced by pre-outs, which are useless for recording. There’s a phono stage for your turntable, hoorah, plus two optical digital and two coaxial digital inputs. The USB slot on the front will play files from sticks, but not directly from smart devices, though it can charge them while you Airplay or Bluetooth your tunes across. For radio there are DAB+, FM and AM tuners with two antenna connections; of course, there’s internet radio via the Music Cast app. The only obvious omission is there being no USB-B input to play direct from computer.
Packed as it is with abilities, when you unpack the N803 there is some indication of where the money has been saved. The front fascia may be aluminium, but the knobs are plastic, and feel it. The binding posts for the speakers on the rear are lightweight and were soon pulled to slight angles by our heavy-gauge speaker cables, especially the posts we’d left slightly unscrewed after having to prise out their centres to make banana plug connections possible.
Yamaha has made one clever decision in that regard, supplying a plastic but stylish remote, which will after all be your main interaction with the unit. Yamaha tends to put as many buttons on a remote as can possibly fit in the space, so it’s all a bit fiddly, but this one is at least logically organised, with volume controls given a modicum of priority in both size and position.
It updated as soon as powered up and Ethernet networked, and we connected to it using the Music Cast app, and were also impressed later when we opened Yamaha’s AV Controller app by mistake (left over from a previous review) and this other app also spotted the 803 and immediately opened Music Cast for us — nice thoughtful work across the range. More localisation might be friendly — the first streaming option is a big white Pandora square, a service which died in Australia a year ago, and Yamaha’s Australian site has a similarly redundant ‘supplement for Pandora flyer’, which then tells you it is available in the USA only (“this country” it calls the USA).
Otherwise Music Cast supplied its usual fine and easy control over streaming and source selection. Some services, such as Spotify Connect, will pop you out to that separate app; others, like internet radio, can play within the Music Cast app.
Power: 2 x 100W (into eight ohms, 20Hz to 20kHz, 0.019% THD)
Inputs: 4 x line-level, 1 x phono, 2 x coaxial, 2 x optical, USB-A, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Music Cast (Airplay, Bluetooth),
Outputs: Subwoofer out, speakers out, Bluetooth out, control trigger out,
Dimensions: 435 x 151 x 392mm (with antenna up: 435 x 215 x 392mm)