YAMAHA AVENTAGE

Does Yamaha’s lat­est range­top­ping Aventage re­ceiver go fur­ther than its pre­de­ces­sors? Yamaha Aventage RX-A3070 AV re­ceiver

Sound+Image - - Contents - Stephen Dawson

Our full re­view of Yamaha’s top RX-A3070 in­te­grated AV re­ceiver.

Yamaha’s top-of-the-range one-box AV re­ceivers have an al­most em­bar­rass­ing record of win­ning Sound+Im­age Awards — in­deed, each 30x0 model of the Aventage range has been gonged in this way. So here’s the lat­est RX-A3070, from Aventage Se­ries 8, if you’re count­ing. Does it still rule the roost?

Equip­ment

The ba­sics first. There are nine am­pli­fiers in the RX-A3070, each with 150W, with pre­outs avail­able to sup­port a full 7.2.4 Dolby At­mos speaker ar­range­ment if you’re pre­pared to sup­ply a fur­ther two power am­pli­fier chan­nels.

Also there are eight HDMI in­puts, and all of them sup­port HDCP 2.2 so that you could, I guess, plug in eight Ul­tra HD Blu-ray play­ers. As fur­ther down the range there are com­pos­ite and com­po­nent video in­puts, but their re­spec­tive out­puts have been dropped. This is likely a cost only to those who were us­ing com­pos­ite or com­po­nent for a sec­ond zone.

The front panel has also lost the com­pos­ite video in­put of the A3060, but re­tains the two RCA plugs for stereo ana­logue.

Fi­nally, the AM tuner has been dropped, the FM re­tained, and DAB+ added. That’s a prob­lem for ru­ral ar­eas, but very wel­come for cities. Even talk ra­dio on AM can be al­most un­lis­ten­able on a qual­ity sys­tem. If AM it is, I’d rather use a por­ta­ble ra­dio.

There are other un­der-the-bon­net im­prove­ments. For ex­am­ple, this re­ceiver packs the ESS Sabre ES9026PRO DAC. That’s an eight-chan­nel, 32-bit unit with a noise+THD floor at -110dB. (Eight isn’t eleven, of course, so per­haps two are used.)

Con­struc­tion is im­pres­sive, with an alu­minium front panel, cross brac­ing and, like all Aven­t­ages, a fifth anti-res­o­nance leg at the cen­tre of the base.

Per­for­mance

Un­like some brands, Yamaha re­ceivers don’t fea­ture an on-screen wiz­ard tak­ing you through ev­ery step of the setup. How­ever, they have an app which does es­sen­tially the same thing. (It also has the full man­ual built in.) You in­stall the app — AV Setup Guide — to your An­droid or iOS de­vice, and then fol­low the wiz­ard there. The first time you run it you se­lect the model of your re­ceiver and then wait a mo­ment while it down­loads all the data it needs re­lat­ing to that model. Then it goes through the set-up process in de­tail, in­clud­ing con­nec­tions and, of course, con­nect­ing to the net­work. Af­ter that, it con­nects via the net­work to the re­ceiver to feed it the data so far, and man­age the rest.

If you’re ex­pe­ri­enced, you prob­a­bly won’t bother with that, but it’s nice to have some­thing to help if you’re feel­ing a lit­tle un­cer­tain. But even the ex­pe­ri­enced may want to take ad­van­tage of the full man­ual avail­able through the app. This is a PDF near­ing 20MB in size, and the app just hooks into

the web­site hold­ing it. That can be slow, so I used the fa­cil­i­ties of the iPad Mini 4 to im­port it to iBooks, so that it was al­ways fully loaded and ready for ref­er­ence.

The speaker set-up is as al­ways crit­i­cal, and Yamaha has con­tin­ued with the most de­vel­oped ver­sion of its YMAO sys­tem, which per­mits mul­ti­ple po­si­tion mea­sure­ments along with the op­tion to use a set of four mea­sure­ments, one at each apex of a fixed tetra­he­dral shape, to es­tab­lish the heights and an­gles of the speak­ers. The more they know about the pre­cise po­si­tions of your speak­ers, the bet­ter Dolby At­mos, Dolby Sur­round and DTS:X work.

After­wards I did a lit­tle tweak­ing to get the sizes of the speak­ers I pre­ferred.

While I was in the speaker set-up sec­tion, I took ad­van­tage of two speaker ‘Pat­tern’ set­tings that were avail­able. You see, Yamaha’s ‘Scene’ sys­tem con­sists of a num­ber of col­lec­tions of op­tions — sound mode, in­put, video mode and so on — all of which can be in­voked sim­ply by select­ing the Scene. Four of them have their own keys on the re­mote. One of the op­tions that can be in­cluded is the speaker pat­tern. Since there are two, at the touch of a key you can switch be­tween two rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent speaker set­ups. One scene might be for Ul­tra HD Blu-ray watch­ing, with a full 7.2.4 speaker sys­tem (you will have pro­vided power amps for the ex­tra two chan­nels), while the other might be for all other home en­ter­tain­ment watch­ing, with a 5.2.4 sound in the main room, and a pair of am­pli­fiers re­leased for a sec­ond zone.

I set Pat­tern 1 to 5.1.4, and Pat­tern 2 to 2.0.0 for stereo lis­ten­ing. I had two of the scene keys both switch to the UHD disc player in­put, but one was Pat­tern 1 for mul­ti­chan­nel ma­te­rial, the other with Pat­tern 2 for stereo.

The sound was su­perb. The power seem­ingly lim­it­less. At one point I was us­ing the re­ceiver with a pair of high end in­stalla- tion speak­ers. Lots of driv­ers, in­clud­ing an eight-inch woofer, with a nec­es­sar­ily shal­low en­clo­sure. As a re­sult, it was quite in­ef­fi­cient. Them be­ing stereo only, and fairly high end, I skipped all the usual stuff and just went straight to Pure Di­rect mode for play­back.

The sound was won­der­ful. Great stereo, and a sur­pris­ing amount of bass, at least in the mid-bass fre­quen­cies. But to get sat­is­fy­ing they needed an enor­mous amount of power. This re­ceiver was happy to de­liver it, cleanly, purely. Even though the speak­ers were only four ohms. The re­ceiver does have that un­for­tu­nate Yamaha quirk: only the front speak­ers are of­fi­cially sup­ported to four ohms.

Mul­ti­chan­nel — in­clud­ing height — ma­te­rial from Blu-ray and Ul­tra HD Blu-ray discs was de­liv­ered with author­ity and imag­ing pre­ci­sion. But even as I type this, the other end of the scale — Man­dolin con­cer­tos by Per­golesi, Ce­cere and Guil­iano on vinyl — are be­ing re­pro­duced with a gor­geous, sup­ple del­i­cacy. Hav­ing also re­cently re­viewed the Aventage A770, we note that the phono am­pli­fier here seems to have greater gain.

That was in ‘Pure Di­rect’ mode, of course. Like­wise when I re­dis­cov­ered my long un-played Ja­panese press­ing of Pink Floyd’s An­i­mals and found a stereo im­age very dif­fer­ent in char­ac­ter, in feel, to the dig­i­tal ver­sion I usu­ally en­joy (pic­tured left on the Yamaha Con­troller app). Not bet­ter, dif­fer­ent, bring­ing back the air of ana­logue lay­ers of sound, along with a slight sac­ri­fice in pu­rity and trans­parency. Fun!

The video han­dling is bet­ter than that pro­vided by the en­try-level Aventage mod­els. Like them, you can sim­ply leave pro­cess­ing switched off, and in that state the re­ceiver can still ap­ply an over­lay when you want it to do some­thing (us­ing the On Screen or Op­tion keys). Even over a sig­nal run­ning with every­thing Ul­tra HD Blu-ray has got: 2160p/60, HDR, BT.2020 colour. If you want to use the re­ceiver’s own video pro­cess­ing, there isn’t the lim­i­ta­tion of the re­ceiver switch­ing back to the na­tive res­o­lu­tion when pro­duc­ing its menus. It just pops them right up with­out any hes­i­ta­tion, which means that they’re easy to use.

It may seem triv­ial, but if you’re us­ing a home the­atre pro­jec­tor that takes be­tween five and ten sec­onds to resync when the video sig­nal changes, one does be­come re­luc­tant to use menus if they cause a video sig­nal change.

The A3070’s pic­ture pro­cess­ing is more ex­ten­sive than the ba­sic mod­els. In ad­di­tion to as­pect ra­tio and res­o­lu­tion, it has half a dozen ‘Pre­sets’ (which you set your­self, be­cause they start ze­roed out) of­fer­ing Edge En­hance­ment, De­tail En­hance­ment, Bright­ness, Con­trast and Sat­u­ra­tion. I didn’t use them, but it might be use­ful to have them avail­able in some cir­cum­stances.

The pic­ture qual­ity pro­duced us­ing the pro­jec­tor’s scal­ing was gen­er­ally pretty im­pres­sive. At one point I was us­ing a fairly ex­pen­sive front pro­jec­tor. I passed through the na­tive 576i/50 out­put from a DVD to it and the re­sult­ing pic­ture was rather soft and seem­ingly a touch un­sta­ble, as though it were flick­er­ing at some barely sub­lim­i­nal level. When I set the re­ceiver to con­vert it to 1080p, sud­denly it sharp­ened up and sta­bilised, look­ing about as good as DVD can on a big pro­jec­tion screen.

But of course, the re­ceiver can up­scale to UHD. It pre­serves the frame or field rate, so 1080p/24 goes to 2160p/24, 576i/50 goes to 2160p/50. The re­sults were very im­pres­sive. It slipped a cou­ple of times in the pro­gres­sives­can con­ver­sion with my 576i/50 tor­ture tests, in­cor­rectly flirt­ing with video mode dein­ter-

lac­ing for a sec­ond in a cou­ple of places, but in gen­eral it cor­rectly de­tected the na­ture of the ma­te­rial and dein­ter­laced it prop­erly.

But with my stan­dard 1080i/50 test, which al­most al­ways tricks dein­ter­lac­ers, it flicked into the wrong mode for the very briefest in­stant at the hard­est point — per­haps half a sec­ond — and that was it. The rest was per­fect. That was rather a con­trast to the per­for­mance of the A770, say. I’d say that Yamaha has em­ployed dif­fer­ent video pro­cess­ing in the two units.

One rare fea­ture which I like (although I’ll ad­mit that very few would care) is that the re­ceiver de­codes DTS au­dio fed from the net­work. These are DTS ‘CDs’ I’ve ripped as though they were stan­dard au­dio CDs. The only dif­fer­ence in the dig­i­tal data, as far as the de­coder is con­cerned, is a DTS flag. If the de­coder is on the look­out for it, the data gets de­coded to 5.1 sur­round sound. If not, it gets de­coded to PCM and thus be­comes go­daw­ful noise. Most do the lat­ter. Yamaha re­ceivers do the for­mer.

But that’s only the start of it. It de­codes DSD, of course, and FLAC up to 192kHz sam­pling, and Ap­ple Loss­less for those im­mersed in Mac world, plus the usual lossy for­mats. It still balks at mul­ti­chan­nel DSD or FLAC, but I can’t crit­i­cise, since so do nearly all the al­ter­na­tives (the only ex­cep­tion so far: one very ex­pen­sive Sony re­ceiver we re­viewed four years ago).

All the other stuff? Fine in­deed. Ap­ple Air­Play, yes. The re­ceiver was promptly found by iTunes on my var­i­ous com­put­ers, and by both an orig­i­nal iPad Mini and a cur­rent model iPad Mini 4. DLNA soft­ware run­ning on three dif­fer­ent An­droid de­vices found it and played per­fectly. Play­back of run-on tracks was per­formed gap­lessly. Spo­tify on all my var­i­ous de­vices found it also. Beau­ti­ful, sta­ble net­work per­for­mance. Also sup­ported is Tidal, Deezer and in­ter­net ra­dio. And Blue­tooth (with SBC and AAC but not aptX).

The high­est bit-rate stuff it ac­cepts — DSD128 — flowed through with­out in­ter­rup­tion both via the Eth­er­net and the Wi-Fi con­nec­tion. It’s prob­a­bly about time that Yamaha went dual-band, if only to cater for the crowded ra­dio waves in many homes, but my re­view­ing area is prob­a­bly as crowded as they get, yet still it worked.

Con­clu­sion

Again, Yamaha has pro­duced a fit­ting pre­mium home the­atre re­ceiver. There are very few that will find the Yamaha Aventage RX-A3070 any­thing short of en­tirely sat­is­fy­ing.

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