Audio Review – Yamaha R-N301 Network Receiver, Great for Wired AirPlay Streaming

I listen to music a lot in my home office. I play music from my iTunes library and from a CD player (yes, I’m nostalgic), and I have a full stereo setup, with bookshelf speakers on my desk. I long ago realized that you can have much better sound with a real receiver than with even expensive speakers that you plug into a computer. And it’s a lot more flexible too, allowing you to connect other inputs.

I used to run my music from my iMac, through a Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), then into a receiver. But as part of my recent decluttering operation, I wanted to get rid of that extra link. I also didn’t want to have to be able to play music through my iMac; I sometimes work on my laptop seated away from my desk, with my iMac asleep. I wanted a standalone receiver that could accept music from my iPhone via AirPlay. So I’ve switched to a different receiver, the Yamaha R-N301. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) This receiver has an onboard 24-bit/192kHZ DAC, and sounds comparable to the previous setup with the Cambridge Audio DAC.

Yamaha r n301
I had first bought this receiver to use in my bedroom, to replace a Denon Ceol, which was supposed to be a wireless AirPlay receiver. (It was, for a few months, then it stopped working. It was repaired, still didn’t work, and I got a refund.) The Yamaha R-N301 is an AirPlay receiver as well, but it doesn’t have wifi; it only works with AirPlay if it’s connected via Ethernet, or if you buy an optional wifi receiver that you can connect to it.

After my experience with the Denon Ceol, I realized that the problem with these devices’ wifi capabilities was probably related to their hardware; more specifically their antennas, because another AirPlay device in the same location as the Denon Ceol worked fine. A number of people I heard from had had similar problems with third-party AirPlay devices, so I decided to give up on wireless AirPlay. Wired AirPlay, while not ideal, because of the need to connect an ethernet cable to a devices, is actually an improvement. There are no dropouts, and the device is always available. The only downside is that you need to get an ethernet cable to it.

There’s a simple way to do this: use powerline adapters. These devices connect to AC plugs; you connect one to your router or ethernet switch with an ethernet cable, plug the second in where the device you want to access is located, and connect an ethernet cable between it and the device. I use Netgear 500 Mbps adapters (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), but if you’re just streaming music, you don’t need them to be that fast; 200 Mbps would be enough.

So, back to the Yamaha receiver. I don’t intend this to be a review of its sound quality; it sounds as good as a $300/£200 amplifier can sound. It has all the standard features of a receiver of its kind, but also offers digital optical and coaxial inputs, along with ethernet. And it has two speaker zones; while this is not something I need now, I may want it in the future, if I move the receiver someplace else. And then playing music via AirPlay, its display shows the name of the track that’s playing, though it can be hard to read, as it scrolls along on a display of about twenty characters.

I like Yamaha’s audio hardware. I’ve had their AV receivers for many years (I recently bought the RX-679 (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) to replace an older Yamaha AV receiver that I had.) Their stuff is well made, and I’ve never had any problems.

So if you want an AirPlay receiver that uses ethernet, the Yamaha R-N301 is a good choice. There are other brands that sell similar devices, and they start at around the same price point, and they’re probably just as good. I’m happy with my choice, and if you need a device to stream music to via AirPlay, this is a great option.

24 thoughts on “Audio Review – Yamaha R-N301 Network Receiver, Great for Wired AirPlay Streaming

    • I’ve used their iOS app a bit with the AV receiver I have, but the app is pretty useless in my experience. Do you find it practical?

      This would be a good option for multi-room play, if you want full stereos in each room.

    • I’ve used their iOS app a bit with the AV receiver I have, but the app is pretty useless in my experience. Do you find it practical?

      This would be a good option for multi-room play, if you want full stereos in each room.

  1. Kirk,

    So you removed the DAC from the playback chain, and you were ok with your decluttering at the expense of sound quality.

    I used to fire up 3 AirPort Express units to play the same music throughout the house via AirPlay. But once I discovered the difference even an inexpensive DAC (such as Shiite Bifrost) can make in sound quality, I don’t use AirPlay anymore.

  2. Kirk,

    So you removed the DAC from the playback chain, and you were ok with your decluttering at the expense of sound quality.

    I used to fire up 3 AirPort Express units to play the same music throughout the house via AirPlay. But once I discovered the difference even an inexpensive DAC (such as Shiite Bifrost) can make in sound quality, I don’t use AirPlay anymore.

  3. Kirk so with this receiver you can run an ethernet cable to it (with the other end connected to one’s home router or gigabit switch of course) and stream directly to it from iTunes via airplay? Airplay will recognize it just like it would an apple tv or airport express? There by streaming directly via say a cat 6 cable to the back of the Yamaha and then using the internal DAC of the Yamaha ? I have been trying to find out if this was possible for a year now. “Airplay” enabled receivers can in fact REPLACE the Airport Express’ function in the chain?

  4. Kirk so with this receiver you can run an ethernet cable to it (with the other end connected to one’s home router or gigabit switch of course) and stream directly to it from iTunes via airplay? Airplay will recognize it just like it would an apple tv or airport express? There by streaming directly via say a cat 6 cable to the back of the Yamaha and then using the internal DAC of the Yamaha ? I have been trying to find out if this was possible for a year now. “Airplay” enabled receivers can in fact REPLACE the Airport Express’ function in the chain?

  5. Am I right in assuming that, if anything, Apple’s decision to pull out of the router business makes this an even more appealing option for music streaming? I have a twenty-five year old Denon amp that is on its last legs and am trying to figure out whether to repair it or replace it.

    • Given the cost of new amps, I’d go for new. It is a good option for streaming, instead of connecting to something.

  6. Am I right in assuming that, if anything, Apple’s decision to pull out of the router business makes this an even more appealing option for music streaming? I have a twenty-five year old Denon amp that is on its last legs and am trying to figure out whether to repair it or replace it.

    • Given the cost of new amps, I’d go for new. It is a good option for streaming, instead of connecting to something.

  7. Thanks for recommending this. I purchased a R-N301 a little before Christmas and like it quite a bit. The set up was quite simple. I used one of my old AirPort Extremes, which had an ethernet out port, to link it into my house network. It’s now driving speakers in both my kitchen and my living room. The Yamaha app is quite useful to me since I’m doing most of my listening in the kitchen, which is at the other end of the house from the amp and it’s great to be able to turn the amp on, change inputs, and control volume without having to go into the living room (it’s too bad that it doesn’t also control which speakers are being used).

    I really like the option of storing net radio stations as presets on the amp and using my iPhone and iPad as a remote (as opposed to streaming the stations from my iPhone to the AirPort I had hooked up to my old amp. The process of entering the stations into the amp’s registry is a bit clumsy, but (fortunately) it only has to be done once.

    I’ve also been testing a trial subscription of Spotify on it. It’s been a bit of a learning curve figuring out how to get Spotify, my iPhone, and the Spotify function on the amp to play nicely together, but I think I’ve got it figured out.

  8. Thanks for recommending this. I purchased a R-N301 a little before Christmas and like it quite a bit. The set up was quite simple. I used one of my old AirPort Extremes, which had an ethernet out port, to link it into my house network. It’s now driving speakers in both my kitchen and my living room. The Yamaha app is quite useful to me since I’m doing most of my listening in the kitchen, which is at the other end of the house from the amp and it’s great to be able to turn the amp on, change inputs, and control volume without having to go into the living room (it’s too bad that it doesn’t also control which speakers are being used).

    I really like the option of storing net radio stations as presets on the amp and using my iPhone and iPad as a remote (as opposed to streaming the stations from my iPhone to the AirPort I had hooked up to my old amp. The process of entering the stations into the amp’s registry is a bit clumsy, but (fortunately) it only has to be done once.

    I’ve also been testing a trial subscription of Spotify on it. It’s been a bit of a learning curve figuring out how to get Spotify, my iPhone, and the Spotify function on the amp to play nicely together, but I think I’ve got it figured out.

  9. A year out and I still love this thing and am much indebted to this post for suggesting it.

    I see that Yamaha released a firmware update in December that, allegedly, improves Spotify access. Perhaps predictably, the Spotify discussion forums had a number of early posts expressing second thoughts about the wisdom of applying it (the tide seemed to be turning in the more recent posts). So, a question for Kirk and other owners of the receiver: have you done the update and how did it go?

    • I sold mine and upgraded to the R-N803, which was just released last year. I don’t use Spotify, but I have no problems at all with this device.

  10. A year out and I still love this thing and am much indebted to this post for suggesting it.

    I see that Yamaha released a firmware update in December that, allegedly, improves Spotify access. Perhaps predictably, the Spotify discussion forums had a number of early posts expressing second thoughts about the wisdom of applying it (the tide seemed to be turning in the more recent posts). So, a question for Kirk and other owners of the receiver: have you done the update and how did it go?

    • I sold mine and upgraded to the R-N803, which was just released last year. I don’t use Spotify, but I have no problems at all with this device.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.