Known as one of the few manufacturers who constantly make high quality stereo receivers, Yamaha now offers new models, that not only feature great functionality but also added network capabilities.
Distinctive Look & Design
In terms of design, the new Yamaha models (ending with a 1) have had some minor changes compared to the previous generation. The clean lines and the rectangular shape of the front panel is still there, but to adjust the sound characteristics (EQ) and to select the active inputs they´ve now gone for rectangular buttons instead of rectangular rotary knobs. This may lessen the somewhat retro look and feel, but the receiver still manages to kept the distinctive style of being a Yamaha.
These buttons are placed in the center of the front panel, and above them is a dot-matrix display with eight small, round buttons. On the left side of the front panel you´ll find the standby, speaker selection (A / B / A + B) and a 6.35-mm headphone output, while the right side is reserved for the two controls wheels/knobs – one for adjusting the volume and one for navigating through the menus.
In comparison to more expensive receivers, the rear panel of the Yamaha R-N301 is a bit on the modest side, but still contains all that is necessary. To connect analog sources the 301 has four inputs and one output, and digital sources are connected to either the coaxial and/or optical input (one of each). Connecting to a local area network is done by using a standard Ethernet port (RJ45), and a total of eight terminals are provided for speakers that can be used to connect either two pairs of speakers or one pair in a bi-wire configuration. Finally, there are inputs for FM and AM antenna, USB-A port and a non-detachable power cable.
Given that this is one of the basic Yamaha stereo receiver models, the housing is characterized by a slightly smaller depth, while the top and sides are made from a single piece of sheet metal with a large number of slots for cooling and ventilation. Behind the front panel is a printed circuit board for the control keys, and behind them is some empty space, which is useful for cooling the receiver. A closer look reveals that Yamaha have chosen to use high quality components from Texas Instruments, Zentel Electronics, Jamicon and STMicroelectronics, all highly reputed in the audio industry.
The R-N301 is in keeping with what we´re already accustomed with when it comes to Yamaha in general. In addition to the multilingual instructions manual they include indoor FM and AM antennas, as well as a full size remote control that can be used to control other devices from Yamaha.
Although the R-N301 lets you connect up to four analog and two digital sources, an important piece of functionality in the receiver is the option to connect to a DLNA certified local network. This way it is possible to play music and audio files using network storage (NAS) and any other locations where you have music in digital format. If streaming is performed with a PC, it is necessary to install a software server, like Serviio for example. In line with modern trends, R-N301 supports streaming 192/24 FLAC and WAV files over the network, which is a great achievement for a device at this price range.
Another plus is Yamaha’s free Network Player Controller app, which allows you to control the receiver with your smartphone or tablet. Already in its fourth version, this application has reached full maturity and has virtually no weak points, at least nothing worth complaining about. All the controls are carried out smoothly, and is intuitive and logical. The application options are really great – from the selection of the source and content, to controlling the volume and creating playlists.
During music playback the R-N301 does not create a very big sound stage, but the definition of colors and tones is very good. In terms of color and warmth, Yamaha’s new generation is miles ahead of the often cold and too sharp tones that characterized the older models, and the unit we tested had a very pleasant and balanced sound.
In addition to using analog and digital sources and streaming over the network, R-N301 allows you to listen to FM and AM radio stations, as well as internet radio using the vTuner service and music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. It has less functionality compared to the R-N500, reflected in the absence of a preamplifier for a turntable and USB-A port for playback directly from a portable hard drive and USB memory, and users of Apple devices will be able to use the AirPlay wireless connection. If you want to use a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection, R-N301 allows you to add external adapters, the YWA-10 (Wi-Fi) and YBA-11 (Bluetooth).
Yamaha has offered an even more affordable model with the R-S201, but this unit will only satisfy users that are happy with analog inputs and radio tuner. Therefore, we believe that R-N301 delivers comprehensive functionality and features – everything a modern stereo receiver should have. In addition, the sound quality is a pleasant surprise and is only slightly below the more expensive models, making the Yamaha R-N301 a compelling choice for anyone looking for a stereo receiver with high functionality and very good sound.