Truth be told, I’m not much of a digital guy. I can’t remember a world without computers and the Internet, but I’m still more drawn toward vinyl. I have a Spotify account which I basically use to preview new albums before buying a hard copy or as background noise when I’m working or doing dishes. For my purposes, Spotify quality was plenty good enough, but obviously it’s not going to be as good as something like Tidal’s Hi-Fi mode. Listening to the new Arctic Monkeys album on release day was about as easy as it gets with the R-N803, since Spotify is one of the services that comes built-in. In terms of sound it was about what you’d expect: highs and lows were muted, mids were adequate, basically just your run-of-the-mill stream. The real point is though, the R-N803 made it so incredibly easy to pull up that album with essentially no effort on my part. I went from wanting to hear the album before buying it, to actually listening to it in a matter of ten seconds.
That’s the real power of the R-N803. It has so many built-in options for streaming services, such as Tidal, Deezer, Pandora, Napster, and SiriusXM. Not to mention it’s allegedly an Alexis-capable device, although I couldn’t test this function since my paranoia overcomes my desire to have always-listening microphones in my house. If there’s a streaming service that isn’t natively supported by the R-N803, there’s always Bluetooth, and although BT isn’t exactly the highest-fi choice, it still works flawlessly and sounds good enough to enjoy the music. With the Yamaha MusicCast app, you can control multiple different MusicCast-enabled devices, at least in theory. I couldn’t get my R-N803 to connect to the app, despite following the simple directions and devoting way more time than I’d like to admit trying to troubleshoot it. I gave up and never got it working, although I can’t say I feel like I missed anything.
Finally, for me the real test of the R-N803 is the phonostage. I like that Yamaha has the Pure Direct function that bypasses the tone controls. I kept this pressed, although I did play around with the thin rotator knobs that Yamaha is famous for. Hard not to fiddle with a switch when there’s a switch available for fiddling. I started with Father John Misty’s latest album God’s Favorite Customer, the first FJM album I’ve liked since the debut. Bass was deep and resolved, and I actually found myself really enjoying the sound. Mids didn’t have that buttery smoothness of my Cambridge Audio CXA80, and the phonostage didn’t quite extend everything like the Schiit Audio Mani did, but the Yamaha was more than adequate. It was neutral in a good way, not too clinical but not too soft, either. It really suited FJM’s wonderfully produced folk sound nicely.
The R-N803 is not for your seasoned audiophile looking to eke out one more extra tiny iota of sound from that hi-res file. There’s a reason I’ve focused on features instead of sound in this review. The R-N803 is for a particular kind of person, maybe new to the audiophile world and looking for an easy way to dip his toes in. It’s the perfect starter receiver, with solid performance, above-average sound, and features galore.
I left out a lot of interesting bits and pieces simply because there’s just too much to say. In the end, if you’re looking for the convenience of an all-in-one box, or just getting your head wrapped around all this overly confusing audiophile stuff, the R-N803 is your easy ticket to good sound.
Specs & Pricing
Type: All-in-one network receiver/player
Power: 100Wpc into 8 ohms, 160Wpc into 4 ohms
Inputs: Four RCA stereo, optical, coaxial, USB, Ethernet, phono
Outputs: Headphone, subwoofer
Dimensions: 17 1/8" x 6" x 15 7/16"
Weight: 24.3 lbs.
YAMAHA CORPORATION OF AMERICA
6600 Orangethorpe Ave.
Buena Park, CA 90620