7 with the lot, please...
The Yamaha Aventage RX-A3060 is the seventh generation of the company’s top-of-the-line AV receiver. It’s about as fully-featured as receivers get, yet still scrapes in under the $3000 price-point.
Fully-featured, here, means eight HDMI inputs, nine amplifier channels, the ability to add two more power amp channels externally to provide full 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos/Dolby Surround/DTS:X sound, and even a phono input for turntables. Plus much, much more.
Each of those amplifier channels is rated at 150W into eight ohms across the full audio bandwidth with less than 0.06% distortion.
As is Yamaha’s habit, a setting must be applied if any of the speakers has a nominal impedance of less than eight ohms, in which case loudspeakers of four ohms are supported for the front left and right channels, and six ohms for all the rest.
The amplifiers are highly configurable, so some can be redeployed to additional zones, to bi-amp the front speakers and so on. With 11 sets of binding posts you can have a couple of speaker configurations wired up at the same time and just switch between them (most easily by using the ‘Scenes’ function discussed overleaf). For example, you could have one set as 7.2.4. and another as 5.2.4 plus a powered Zone B. Notice the correct use of ‘.2’ here — this is a rare receiver in which the two subwoofer outputs are actually capable of carrying different signals. You can set two subs to left and right, or to front and rear, or just have them carry the same signal.
The HDMI inputs are all rated to full support for Ultra High Definition video, including up to 60p and with 10 or 12 bits of resolution (covering High Dynamic Range and lots of colours). In addition to passing this through, it features full upscaling.
One of the features of a premium receiver is support for legacy equipment. So the RX-A3060 still has an abundance of analogue video and audio inputs (barring only S-Video, which nothing supports any more, except for a few projectors).
For networking there is an Ethernet port, but it also has Wi-Fi built in, along with Bluetooth. The Bluetooth function supports the AAC codec in addition to SBC, so you’re likely to get the best sound quality from Apple Bluetooth devices. The network functionality includes Spotify Connect, full audio DLNA player and renderer capabilities, Apple AirPlay, Pandora and internet radio.
Yamaha has a kind of wizard to guide you through set-up, actually an app for iOS and Android called AV Setup Guide. This kind of runs through the set-up pages of the manual, but loads the settings you make in the app into the receiver via the network. This culminates in running the YMAO auto-calibration system.
The receiver comes with a plastic device by which the calibration microphone can be situated at the four vertices of a roughly 300mm-per-side tetrahedron for a series of measurements. From this the receiver is able to determine the horizontal angle and the height of the speakers. It did that with great precision, as it likewise calculated the room EQ, distances and levels necessary for a fine surround field. As usual, it was all over the place with speaker sizes, making a couple of the competent (but not that competent) ceiling speakers ‘Large’. Once more, repeat with me: always check the speaker sizes after an auto calibration! And change them to the correct sizes. Since this receiver permits independent crossover frequencies for each speaker pair, it’s feasible to set the front stereo pair to ‘Small’ with a 40Hz crossover, even if you’ve got decent-sized floorstanders.
Make sure you choose ‘No’ for ‘YPAO Volume’ at the end of the procedure. Let’s allow Yamaha to explain how it screws up the sound: “If YPAO Volume is enabled, the high- and low-frequency levels are automatically adjusted according to the volume...”, going on to say that this makes for natural sound. In fact, it’s highly unnatural, since it counteracts the natural working of the human ear.
There’s also a kind of mini-wizard for setting up a wireless network, unless you’ve already plugged in Ethernet. This gives a bunch of options, including loading in settings from an iOS device, or using your router’s WPS button. I just selected an access point from those presented (2.4GHz sites only), but if you’re using the app, follow its instructions.
Don’t forget to get it networked, as aside from enabling a bunch of useful network audio functions, this also allows control from Yamaha’s excellent AV Controller app (iOS and Android), and for the receiver to join a Yamaha multiroom system using MusicCast.
One other kind-of set up feature is worth special attention, too — Scenes. There are four ‘Scenes’ keys on the remote, but up to a dozen are accessible through the menu. Each scene gathers together a bunch of settings under that one selection. So let’s say you use your universal disc player for movies, CDs and SACDs. You might want the movie discs to have a nice dollop of Dolby Surround applied and to have your front speakers pass off bass below 40Hz to the subwoofer, and let the EQ do its stuff to deliver, say, Yamaha’s ‘Natural’ EQ curve. But when a stereo SACD is playing, you’ll want two channels only, with no EQ, no subwoofer, no processing. There are two ‘Setting Patterns’ available in the speaker set-up menu. You can set one for multichannel and the other for stereo, setting subwoofer preferences for each (nil in the latter). Then set one Scene to one of these, another Scene to the other. Then you can just press a single button to get everything right according to which disc you’re playing. Neat.
Scenes can also include Input setting (e.g. switch to the turntable input and switch off all audio processing), other audio settings, lip sync adjustments and video settings. You can select groups of items that you don’t want adjusted by the Scene button as well, so this is very flexible.
Once again, despite reservations about impedances and such, the Yamaha RX-A3060 receiver proved itself to be a first-class performer. It powered all speakers with exquisite delicacy and control, yet with brutal levels of power when required. I would have liked to check the DTS:X functionality, but I still have yet to acquire a disc with this format. I expect it will work well because Dolby Atmos worked brilliantly. Especially well given that it is able to run a 5.1.4 system using the built-in amplifiers, and could go to 7.1.4 by adding some surround rear speakers and a stereo power amp.
Dolby Surround — the latest version of the decoder which will now turn anything from two channels and up into full 7.1.4 sound — continues to make me think that my previous resistance to in-home surround processing (for movies and TV shows, anyway) was misguided. With some two-channel programs from free-to-air TV, I found the surround field simply amazing. Not as good as a discrete multichannel soundtrack, but uncomfortably close. If I was going to hazard a percentage, I’d suggest that a clean, recent stereo soundtrack with embedded ProLogic-style cues probably comes up to around 75 to 80% of the surround effect of a full-blown Atmos soundtrack.
Meanwhile, stereo sound was also very fine indeed. There’s a Pure Direct mode which basically eliminates everything in the way of processing and resulted in a performance that was very close indeed to a minimalist audiophile rig.
The network audio functions tempt one to move completely away from optical discs and rely entirely on the network. For your collection of high resolution audio, no problems up to 192kHz and 24 bits in two channel. Nor for up to double-rate Direct Stream Digital, although with a wireless connection DSD128 was choppy for a minute until the buffer caught up. Probably best to use a wired connection if you’re using this format.
Heck, it even works with DTS. If you rip a DTS 5.1 ‘CD’ to your network storage as though it were a regular CD, you can feed this to the receiver via DLNA and the receiver will see through the PCM disguise and decode the 5.1 channels to surround sound.
Multichannel FLAC is still not supported, nor multichannel DSD. I guess that remains the final frontier.
Apple AirPlay worked — or it did when I switched to a wireless network connection. When I started I had the receiver wired into the network, and while it was visible to an iPad Mini and iTunes on a Windows computer, connections failed. With a wireless connection, the performance was flawless. As it was (with both connection methods) with Spotify and DLNA. I used my favourite software to send music to the receiver as a DLNA ‘renderer’. It delivered the goods complete with gapless playback and the aforementioned 5.1-channel DTS.
Yamaha tends to use video handling to differentiate its receivers. The RX-A3060 can do full conversion up to whatever you want — including 4K — or just pass through the video. It includes decent but imperfect automatic deinterlacing on both 576i/50 and 1080i/50. I tend to use a trusted Blu-ray player to do this job, but the Yamaha rescued me a number of times with less competent PVRs. In general, though, it allowed the original signal to pass through.
But do you always know what you’re getting, signal wise? Sometimes it can be hard to tell by the senses alone. So how do you know, other than by the manufacturer’s say-so, that a particular AV receiver really does pass through the entire signal? Now, a brand like Yamaha is hopefully one that you can trust. But as it happens, a coincidence of equipment allowed me to check, since I had on hand the Epson EH-TW9300W projector (reviewed elsewhere in this issue), and this can display a quite comprehensive panel of signal information. So with the Ultra HD Blu-ray version ‘Deadpool’ running from a suitable player through the receiver, I was able to see that the signal incoming to the projector was 3840 by 2160 pixels progressive at 23.97 hertz, with 12 bits depth, colour at 4:2:2 resolution, and a colour space (used for interpretation, not all necessarily delivered) of BT.2020.
And the receiver could overlay its own on-screen menus even over that, avoiding the irritation of having to wait for a display to resync every time you pop up the ‘On Screen’ or ‘Option’ menus. The text and graphics were resolution-appropriate, even at 4K, and a nice modern, clean-looking font was in use. Not that it matters at all for performance, but it’s a nice touch.
So long as you don’t insist on using four-ohm loudspeakers beyond the front stereo pair, the new Yamaha top-of-the-line single-box networked AV receiver will do everything you want — and do it in style.
+ Excellent all round performance
+ Good video handling
+ Very useful ‘Scenes’ function
- Support for 4-ohm speakers limited to front stereo
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