Yamaha MCR-640 review

The Yamaha MCR-640 CD player and receiver system comes with glossy speaker cabinets that look the business Tested at £500

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Seems at first glance to offer a lot for the money, and has a built-in iPod dock, but this is a somewhat humdrum set-up, and sounds too shut in


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    Seems a lot of kit for your cash

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    piano- black speakers look impressive

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    iPod dock


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    We can’t help feeling it’s bulkier than it needs to be

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    sound is rather too shut in and plummy

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A lot of systems have their own twist to set them apart from the pack. In the case of the Yamaha, there are two. One is that this is part of the company's Piano Black range, with a speaker finish drawing on the company's piano-making experience; the other is the fact that the main electronics come in two parts.

What we have here is a DAB/FM receiver, the R-840, complete with two line inputs and an iPod dock, and claiming a power output of 2x65W.

Double the fun? Double trouble?
Plugged into it, using conventional analogue phono leads for audio and a multipin mini-DIN-terminated control cable, is a standalone CD player, the CD-640. The two are the same size, and so will stack or sit side by side.

There are basic disc-management controls on the player, plus a USB input to allow memory devices to be played. The receiver has large input and volume controls, prominent tone and balance knobs, and a few ancillary buttons scattered around.

All of which leaves us with one simple question – why? The system needs two mains sockets, and while we can see the logic in having the USB input on the CD player, so the same DAC can handle the digital sources, Yamaha's still doubling up: the receiver DAB, and thus another DAC and yet an analogue iPod dock.

True, the receiver has Pure Direct switching, bypassing the tone controls, but it's not as minimalist as the simple controls on the front panel would like to suggest.

The NS-BP300 speakers, meanwhile, look the business, with their glossy cabinets, big 13cm bass driver tuned with a rear-venting port and 25mm soft-dome tweeter. Even the clip-on grilles are classy, being shaped around the drivers rather than just a rectangular lump of acoustic cloth on a simple frame.

Never entirely convincing
You can buy the system without the speakers and save about £70, but that would seem to miss the Piano Black point. Mind you, whether used with the standard speakers or some decent budget alternatives, the Yamaha is never entirely convincing.

The sound is over-rich, lacking in top-end bite and openness, and rather subsumed in excessive bass warmth to give a presentation that's more 1960s radiogram than modern micro.

Driving rock suffers from a rather one-note character in the bass, and fails ever to spring free from the speakers, and while swapping for some speakers with a bit more drive helps a bit, things never quite get beyond easy listening and into miniature hi-fi.

This system is a bit of a disappointment in a sector of high achievers. We've heard much better from Yamaha systems in the past.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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