Yamaha Aventage RX-A3020 Receiver Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

 
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Yamaha Aventage RX-A3020 Receiver Review

Yamaha Aventage RX-A3020 Receiver Review

by Sonnie Parker



The year was 1990 and we had just recently moved into our new double wide mobile home. I walked in that evening and exclaimed to my wife that we were going to have surround sound. She gave me that strange look like she was going to surround my head with her hand if I had bought another piece of stereo equipment. This was a big moment in time for us… or maybe it was more of a big moment in time for me. Either way, I assured her that she was going to love it after I got it all setup. I never will forget it because we had one of those stubborn-headed arguments over where we would place the surround speakers. We already had the Klipsch Forte speakers for our mains, and now we were adding four of the smaller KG-1’s, two for the front surrounds and two for the rear surrounds. She was not admiring all of these speakers in her new home, no matter how hard I tried to explain to her how much we would enjoy it.

I had visited Cohen Electronics that day and listened to several laserdiscs through one of Yamaha’s flagship DSP receivers and was blown away by what I heard. This was all very new to me, as I was mostly into car audio back in the mid to late 80’s. We purchased our first stereo system in 1984, but surround sound was not anything we had ever heard of or paid much attention to. What I heard at Cohen’s was amazing and I had to have it. The problem was we were on very limited income and it was a major hurdle for us to even have the audio system we had, which was the same one we purchased in 1984, other than the original EPI speakers that were replaced by the Forte’s. The Yamaha receiver was very expensive, but the DSP part of it had me mesmerized, and I was willing to do just about anything to have some of what I was hearing in that store, in my home.

Enter the Yamaha DSP-100U processor… a piece of equipment that I believe is still stored somewhere here in our home, possibly in our attic. While we were not going to be able to afford the expensive Yamaha receiver plus the needed speakers, we could manage this small processor and a 4-channel amp, along with four KG-1’s… all on the credit card of course. I would figure out a way to pay for it later, although it was only about half of the cost of the receiver.

Fast forward 23 years later and finally… I now have the current flagship Yamaha receiver in my system. Granted, I did purchase a Yamaha RX-V1700 receiver back in early 2007, but it did not last long due to a few missing features and some minor quirks that irritated me. The one positive thing I remember about it was that I liked the sound of it in my system, which at the time included the SVS SBS-01 speakers. I had read that the Yamaha receivers leaned more towards a bright sound, but I was pleasantly surprised at how laid back the sound was with the SBS-01 speakers. The warm sound may have been attributed to how YPAO (Yamaha’s Auto-EQ) equalized the speakers and rolled off the high end. I think back on that time of owning that receiver and wonder how I let certain features affect my decision on whether or not to keep it. With the flagship receivers of today, it seems it really is more about features and functionality than it is about sound, because they all sound very good. That is provided the auto-equalization system included with the receiver can give you a fairly good response in your room… or you have some other means of obtaining a respectable response.

Having recently finished my review of the Denon 4520 receiver, and deciding to permanently keep it in my system in favor of the Onkyo 5508 processor with separate amps, I was anxious to try out another receiver with similar features and pricing. Yamaha was gracious enough to allow me the opportunity to review their current top of the line receiver, the Yamaha Aventage RX-A3020. I was extremely curious to see if the Denon might perhaps be in a receiver league of its own, or if there are other contenders out there that can handle my MartinLogan speaker system. I also was very interested in seeing how YPAO compares to Audyssey. We have heard so much more about Audyssey and its development over the last few years, possibly because it is non proprietary to the receivers in which it is included. Audyssey seems to have garnered a lot of attention and it gives me the perception that there has been more interest in the brands that include it. No offense to Yamaha owners, but I simply do not notice as much discussion about Yamaha as I do Onkyo and Denon. Of course I do not see as much discussion about Pioneer, Sony, Marantz and all the others out there either. None the less, we will find out at least a little more about the Yamaha and YPAO during this review.

Major Features

• Powerful 9-channel surround sound, 150W per channel (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.06% THD, 2ch driven)
• CINEMA DSP HD3 expands the sound field vertically for more thrilling and realistic surround sound
• Anti-Resonance Technology (A.R.T.) Wedge helps to ensure that vibrations do not affect sound quality
• H-shape cross member frame and rigid bottom frame/double bottom construction
• Zone HDMI ensures flexible multi-room AV configuration
• High-resolution Music Enhancer further heightens musicality from the original content
• HQV Vida high-class chipset “VHD1900” for HD/SD video
• Network functions such as AirPlay and AV Controller App
• 4K pass-through and upscaling for next-generation high resolution images
• HDMI (eight inputs - with one on front - and two out) with 3D and Audio Return Channel
• YPAO R.S.C. (Reflected Sound Control) sound optimization with multi-point/speaker angle measurement
• Front panel USB digital connection for iPod, iPhone and iPad
• ECO mode operation for about 20% less power consumption
• Dialogue Lift and Dialogue Level Adjustment for natural dialogue and vocals
• Full LED backlight, learning and preset remote unit
• Aluminum front panel offers visual and aural benefits

Full List of Features and Specifications
Features

Other Notable Audio Features
• 9-channel powerful surround sound
150W per channel (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.06% THD, 2ch driven)
165W per channel (8 ohms, 1 kHz, 0.9% THD, 2ch driven)
• HD Audio format decoding: Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio; Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD High Resolution Audio
• Rigid bottom frame/double bottom construction
• Heat sink with anti-vibration and anti-thermal properties
• DAC on pure ground circuitry
• High speed thermal feedback power amplifier
• Ultra low jitter PLL circuitry helps optimize sound imaging
• Intelligent assignable amplifiers for surround back - Front Presence or Zone 2
• Phono input for vinyl playback

Other Notable Video Features
• 4K/full HD 1080p video upscaling from analog and HDMI input
• HDMI: Eight inputs (one on front) and two outputs (assignable for zone)
• Analog-to-analog video upconversion
• Variable video adjustment functionality
- Auto noise reduction (mosquito, block and temporal noise) with customization capability
- Auto resolution enhancement (detail and edge enhancement) with customization capability
- Auto contrast enhancement
- Video signal control (contrast, brightness, saturation)
- Six preset memories

Other Notable Advanced Features
• HDMI front panel input for devices such as camcorders and digital cameras
• DLNA 1.5 certified
• HD Radio™
• Pandora
• Rhapsody®
• SiriusXM Internet Radio
• Charging of iPod, iPhone and iPad via USB when AV receiver is off
• New design YPAO microphone for more precise measurement
• Ability to store and choose between two speaker setting patterns
• Audio delay for adjusting lip-sync (0-500 ms)
• Macro, learning and preset capable remote unit
• Background video feature

Other Notable Surround Realism
• HD Audio decoding with CINEMA DSP HD3 (23 DSP programs)
• Virtual dialogue lift even without use of Presence speakers
• Channel expandability with external amplifier (11-channel expandability, bi-amping)
• Adaptive DSP level

Other Notable Zone Control
• Zone 2/3/4 on/off and control on front panel
• Zone GUI (song/station select, album cover art display, Zone tone controls/Zone balance, short message)
• Zone 2/3 video assign (component, S-Video, composite)
• System backup/recovery function
• Zone mono, Zone volume, tone controls and balance
• Party Mode
Specifications



MSRP $2,199.95
Amazon $1,995.95

iPhone App
Android App


The 3020 will be reviewed with the following equipment:

MartinLogan Prodigy Loudspeakers (Mains)
MartinLogan Theater (Center) and MartinLogan Ascents (Surrounds)
Custom Built Subwoofers (Dual front and rear)
Behringer DSP1124p (Parametric EQ on Subs)
OPPO BDP-93
DirecTV C31 Mini-Client (Networked to our DirecTV Genie)
Denon DP-300F
Panasonic PT-AE8000U Projector
128" Elite 2.35:1 Screen
Universal MX-890 Remote Control

Test equipment used is a miniDSP UMIK-1 Mic (calibrated by Cross Spectrum Labs).
Software is of course Room EQ Wizard, available free here at Home Theater Shack.

The Yamaha RX-A3020 is a 9.2 channel receiver offering 11.2 channel expandability. It includes 9 powered channels with 2 subwoofer preouts. It also has 11 preamp outputs, in case you want the typical 7.1 setup plus front wides and front heights. You will obviously need an extra 2 channel amp to take full advantage of the 11.2 setup. It is rated at 150 watts per channel, 2 channels driven at 8 ohms. Dynamic power is given as 175/220/295/410 at 8/6/4/2 ohms respectively. Daniel Kumin with Sound+Vision Mag tested this unit at 63 watts per channel with 7 channels driven (8 ohms), 67 watts per channel with 5 channels driven (8 ohms), and 194/275 watts per channel with 1 channel driven (8/4 ohms). It appears there is about a 42% increase in the tested power of 1 channel from 8 ohms to 4 ohms. Considering my ML’s are rated at 4 ohms, I will assume I can simply apply that same percentage to the tested 5 channel power, which results in about 95 watts per channel… or 89 watts if I use 7 channels and bi-amp the front speakers. Naturally the real test will be how the receiver performs when presented with the ML speaker system under consistently heavy loads. We will see.


Cosmetics

I like the look of the Yamaha… it is clean and neat without a lot of distracting buttons. When I was placing it in my cabinet I noticed the top one-third of the unit appears to be plexiglass, which gives it a very classy look. The overall unit is exactly the same height and width of the Denon 4520 I removed, adding only a few inches to the depth. There is a control knob on the left side and a larger volume knob on the right, both having a nice feel about them, not being the typical smooth type knobs. The front half of each knob is finished with a soft rubber type grip that has a slight concave shape. One of first things I noticed after powering it on was the huge lettering on the display. There is some irony to this because it is one of the reasons I was not fond of the last Yamaha receiver I had in my system several years back. The display is also dimmable in 4 steps and easily readable from my listening position. I actually had no issues reading it from anywhere in the room, it was that clear. The remote control is just another remote that is more than likely to be ignored... big, heavy, clumsy, not well laid out and hard to read... a real tosser. I used it, but only because I did not feel like taking the time to program it into my own remote.




Connections and YPAO Setup

There were no surprises here… connections were very straight forward and simple. I was able to get the unit connected right up within a few minutes, including bi-amping the front speakers. Yamaha conveniently labeled the bi-amp channels ‘Extra SP 1’. There was every kind of connection under the sun on the back.



The On Screen menu seems to be nicely laid out and fairly simple to navigate for me, although not quite as intuitive as some others I have used. I wanted to give the iPhone app a run, but it requires WiFi, and I could not get a good enough connection in our home theater room so that I could give it a spin.

Yamaha has their own proprietary auto equalization system, YPAO (Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer). Prior to running the YPAO setup, I made sure to set the ‘Amp Assign’ properly to allow bi-amping the mains, the proper selection being ‘7ch BI-AMP’. I also went through the speaker configuration and turned off the Surround Back since I do not have any installed. The 3020 accommodates a dual subwoofer setup, and as I was setting the speaker configuration I noticed there is a ‘SWFR Layout’ option that allows me to select ‘Left + Right’, ‘Front + Rear’ (which I selected) and ‘Monaural x2’. I ultimately tried YPAO for each selection and could not determine any benefit to being able to select a layout, the measurement results yielded the same regardless of the choice.

I proceeded with the YPAO setup, which is a very simple process. Plug the mic in the front panel of the unit and press a couple of buttons on the remote. Pink noise and warble tones are sent through the speakers for the various measurements. Below are the REW frequency response graphs before and after YPAO.



Graph 1 shows the raw unprocessed frequency response with no filtering. This is with the gain on the sub amps dialed down low enough for YPAO to be error free for the sub level during setup.

Graph 2
adds the YPAO Flat results, with all the settings YPAO recommends and no other adjustments. It is apparent that YPAO, like all other auto-eq systems, has trouble with adjusting the lower end, especially when there is already a large peak in the response. I am not sure why it does not correct any of the response variations between 400Hz and 5kHz.

Graph 3 shows my adjusted settings, which includes turning the gain up on the sub amps to get the response from 10-20Hz up to the level of the overall response. I also changed the Front and Surround speakers from Large to Small and set the crossovers for each. The gold trace is the further results of my adding one filter in my Behringer 1124p parametric EQ to tame the large hump at 45-50Hz... and bumping the gain on the sub amps up a little more.

Graph 4 shows a rerun of YPAO Flat with the added Behringer PEQ filter. I was hoping maybe since YPAO did not have to deal with the big hump at 45-50Hz, it would do a better job in the low end. Yet, it seems to have made it worse.

Graph 5 shows YPAO Flat vs Manual, plus a few more filters in the Behringer PEQ.

Graph 6 shows YPAO Through vs Flat on the Front speakers only. YPAO does a pretty good job from about 40Hz up to around 400Hz and then it just quits, as though it has used up all of its available filters.

Unfortunately, YPAO misses on equalizing multiple subs. I was truly shocked that Yamaha did not get this right. YPAO measures the subs separately for distance and levels (which it should), but it also measures the subs separately for equalization. Unless you are one of the very lucky exceptions that has a room with subs situated just right, it will be nearly impossible to equalize subs independently and then combine their equalized responses to result in a flat response. I have tried on fifty-eleven occasions, numerous different subs, numerous different multiple sub locations… and I cannot make it happen. YPAO should instead get the distance and levels between the two subs set, then measure all subs together to determine the filters needed for equalization, which is what Audyssey does… and it works. I thought maybe the SWFR Layout selection of ‘Monaural x2’ would combine the channels, but no such luck. Graph 5 above shows what happens when you flub the dub as Yamaha has done. I got the subs all nice and equalized using several parametric filters (with all subs combined) and rerun YPAO, which in turn messes up the response.


Ultimately, I was able to obtain a fairly reasonable response using the Manual Parametric EQ in YPAO... setting my own filters (and using the Behringer 1124p PEQ on the subs). The Parametric EQ is actually a very nice addition to the YPAO system, as it proved to be very useful for my setup.



Below is a comparison between the Denon 4520 response before I disconnected it, and the Yamaha 3020… level matched at 1 kHz.



My suggestion if you have multiple subs and they are equal distance from the main listening position, is to use only one sub output on the 3020 and split them to your amps (or parametric EQ). This way the 3020 will be equalizing the combined response of all subs in your system. If the two subs are not the same distance from the main listening position, you could use something like the miniDSP 4x10, which would allow you to set the distance/delay of each sub... and it provides a parametric EQ as well. If you have large peaks, it is always good to try to eliminate those prior to running the auto-eq.

An interesting feature of YPAO is Angle Measurement. A triangular microphone base is used to place the microphone in three different locations so that the angle of each speaker can be measured from the listening position. This will correct the speaker parameters so that Cinema DSP can create more effective sound fields. I used the angle measurements, and although the unit will provide you with the results, this is something that I believe would be difficult for anyone to measure the effectiveness of its use.




Listening and Viewing

Prior to disconnecting my Denon 4520 and connecting the Yamaha 3020, I decided to listen one more time to a couple of tracks off of the Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here SACD… particularly Wish You Were Here and Shine On You Crazy Diamond: Parts VI – IX. The latter sounded so incredibly good I had to start it over and listen to it again. Then I grabbed my Spears & Munsil Blu-ray and ran through the demonstration material, so that I could try to get a good visualization of my current video as well as hear the True HD and DTS intros. I wanted to have somewhat of an immediate comparison once I got the Yamaha connected, although it still took me quite a while before I was able to get to that point.

After getting the 3020 setup, I had a listen to the same material again. I did not notice any significant differences… it sounded very much the same to me… very good indeed. I thought maybe I would notice a bit of a difference in the 3 - 4 kHz area, but it did not happen. Perhaps if I could have been able to A/B the two units I would have noticed it, since there was about a 6 dB different there. I suspect enthusiasts with more discerning ears would have noticed some differences.

For video, the HDMI handshake is good… much faster responding during channel changes and skipping through commercials while viewing the DVR than it is on my Denon. I am not sure what makes the Yamaha better, but it is noticeably appreciated.

I had all the episodes of Vikings on History channel recorded from the first of the season and watched them while the Yamaha was in my possession. This show is unique in that it has so many different sounds…it has bass, it has dynamic range, it has fire crackling in the home and camp, and sounds of the wilderness and the sea. The 3020 presented all the delicacies of these sounds without any compromises. There were numerous other DirecTV programs, Blu-ray movies and DVD concerts that I watched while the 3020 was connected to my system for a little over two full months. I even enjoyed experimenting with some of the unique sound fields on various material. I never once was disappointed with anything I watched or listened to. It did what it was supposed to do… it delivered a very clean sound and visual experience, never stressing or wavering at any point.


Conclusion

If I did not already have the Denon 4520 in my system and paid for, I would consider the Yamaha 3020 (or the now released 3030 with the newer ESS DACs), and save a few bucks. The 3020 has every feature I am aware of that is available to receivers, and it is a quite capable receiver, even able to handle my MartinLogan speakers with ease, which tells me it will probably be able to satisfy all but the elitist audiophiles who demand class A power. My only disappointment was with the YPAO auto equalization, particularly the dual subwoofer equalization and the fact that the only way for me to get reasonable response results was to use the Manual PEQ along with my Behringer PEQ. None the less, I did get the response to a satisfactory point and that is what counts. It would be nice to see Yamaha work on improving the auto-equalization portion of YPAO so that it can better compete with Audyssey. It seems we all want more comparative and competitive options when it comes to buying fully a featured receiver to drive our home theater systems. If you are in the market for a new flagship receiver, the Yamaha 3020 (or 3030) deserves your consideration.

For discussion of this review, please use the Yamaha Aventage RX-A3020 Receiver Review Discussion Thread

Cedar Creek Cinema

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