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?
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.
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 installation 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 progressive-scan conversion with my 576i/50 torture tests, incorrectly flirting with video mode deinterlacing 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.
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.
Yamaha Aventage RX-A3070 AV receiver
+ First-class audio performance
+ Very good video processing
+ Very good network audio
- No support for four-ohm loudspeakers apart from front stereo pair
Tested with firmware: 1.04
Power: 9 x 150W (8 ohms, 20-20,000kHz, 0.06% THD, two channels driven)
Inputs: 8 x HDMI, 2 x component video, 4 x composite video, 1 x analogue stereo (balanced XLR), 8 x analogue stereo (RCA), 1 x phono, 3 x optical digital,
3 x coaxial digital, 1 x USB, 1 x Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM/DAB+ antenna
Outputs: 2 x HDMI, 1 x 7.2 pre-out + Zone 2/3 line outputs redirectable to Front/Rear presence/height, 11 pairs speaker binding posts, 1 x 6.5mm headphone
Zone: 1 x HDMI (redirectable HDMI 2 output), 2 x analogue stereo, assignable amplifiers
Other: 1 x Remote In, 1 x Remote Out, 2 x Trigger Out, 1 x RS-232C,
1 x calibration microphone
Dimensions (whd): 435 x 192 x 474mm
Warranty: Four years (12 months replacement)
Contact: Yamaha Music Australia
Telephone: 1300 739 411