AV RECEIVERS

 

AV RECEIVERS

The Aventage line represents Yamaha’s top-end AV receivers, with special attention lavished on everything from construction to internal components and software. The RX-A1080 might be one of the range’s junior models, but there’s nothing junior about its performance …

 

By Deon Schoeman

Another year, and another generation of AV receivers. No other AV product category undergoes as many regular updates and upgrades – and Yamaha’s home theatre receivers are no exception.

Yamaha produces two main AV receiver lines – the mainstream RX-V range, and the fancier (and more expensive) Aventage RX-A family. Both have recently been updated, with the Aventage range only just having become available locally.

There are four Aventage models, with the RX-A880 being the most affordable, and the RX-A3080 occupying the flagship spot.

The RX-A1080 slots in just above the most junior RX-A880 model, but there’s nothing entry-level about this all-new receiver: it has all the bells and whistles that matter, plus some you didn’t even know you needed.

Perhaps more importantly, it’s compatible with most of the important home theatre technologies, including all the latest surround sound and 3D formats, 4K video, and HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2, Hybrid-Log Gamma and Dolby Vision.

It also offers wired and wireless network connectivity, multiroom operation via Yamaha’s MusicCast ecosystem, while it can connect to leading music streaming services, as well as accessing a large database of on-line radio stations, and streaming music files from NAS devices.

There’s even a selection of digital sound-processed sound fields simulating actual venues, together with a surround sound enhancement system Yamaha calls Surround AI.

To ensure that access to this rich feature set is intuitive, the Yamaha not only comes with a sleek and solid remote control handset with backlighting, but can also be controlled via a smart device app.

Let’s take a closer look – and listen.

AT FACE VALUE

The RX-A1080 is a smartly styled AV receiver that looks deceptively uncomplicated and elegant in aesthetic terms. The smooth, all-black finish has become an Aventage hallmark, while the all-metal casing looks and feels robust. It rests on five vibration-absorbing feet.

A large, clear alphanumeric display dominates the top third of the fascia, with a power on/standby button on the left, and a Pure Direct switch on the right.

The lower part of the fascia is home to a pair of large rotary controllers offering input selection and volume control. They frame a hinged, fold-down flap that conceals a fairly comprehensive switchgear array, as well as a USB Type A input, and a line-level RCA stereo input set.

The rear panel offers the usual dense clutter of inputs and outputs, speaker binding posts, network sockets and more, with HDMI being the dominating interface – there are no less than seven HDMI inputs, and a trio of HDMI outputs.

However, the Aventage also makes provision for composite and component video, while both analogue and digital audio are catered for, too. Interestingly the analogue audio input complement includes an MM phono input – testimony to the resurrection of vinyl.

The remote control handset is worth a special mention. It’s a big step up from the usual plasticky designs, with a reassuringly solid feel.

The recessed buttons are located below a soft-touch, rubber-like surface, but still operate with positive precision. And backlighting is automatic, triggered by the lighting conditions and movement of the handset.

UNDER THE COVERS

Being a member of the Aventage family means the RX-A1080 received special attention with regards to its internal circuitry and circuit components. According to Yamaha, it benefits from a beefy power amp section featuring damping heat sinks, custom power transformers, high-performance DSP chips and premium-grade DACs.

On the subject of the latter, the RX-A1080 uses the ESS Sabre ES9007S audio DAC, which offers both high-res PCM and DSD conversion, features both an extended signal-to-noise ratio and up to 120 dB of dynamic range.

It handles a vast array of lossless and lossy music file formats, including WAV, FLAC and AIFF files at up to 384 kHz, and WMA, MP3 and MP4-AAC at up to 48 kHz and a bitrate of up to 320 kbs. DSD compatibility extends to 2,8, 5,6 and 11,2 MHz.

Also of note is an uprated room measurement and calibration system. Yamaha’s proprietary YPAO-RSC uses a supplied microphone, in conjunction with test tones, to measure room acoustics and speaker characteristic, and then calibrates various audio parameters for optimised performance.

The system can either be used to measure a single point, or up to eight different positions, after which it calculates level and delay settings, while also applying EQ adjustments. RSC (reflected sound control) is meant to correct early reflections for optimum sound.

The Aventage’s enclosure features a rigid, reinforced construction, including an H-shaped internal cross member, designed to address enclosure resonance. There’s also a central, fifth foot to further aid stability and combat both internal and external vibration.

SETTING UP

Getting the Yamaha up and running was a relatively quick and painless affair. The rear panel layout makes for clear, unequivocal connections, while the Yamaha also identified and linked up to the listening room network via wired Ethernet without a hitch.

A Wi-Fi Connection was as easily established, but I stuck with Ethernet, which remains inherently more stable, especially when streaming large files.

I’ve always considered the YPAO auto-calibration system one of the more effective and user-friendly systems, and this latest iteration further ups the ante by offering either single or multipoint measurements.

The on-screen directions are easy to follow, and the process is completed with minimum fuss. The results were pretty impressive in terms of accuracy, too and I found little need to tweak any of the crossover or level settings.

The Yamaha graphical user interface has also been further improved, and offers an intuitive gateway to a multitude of settings, including renaming inputs, determining auto-off settings and the like.

Once up and running, the Yamaha recognised the availability of a firmware update, and proceeded to download and install the update – a process which took less than 15 minutes to complete.

All in all, the RX-A1080 was unpacked, connected, set up, updated and ready to rock ’n roll in less than an hour.

IN THE THEATRE

I kicked off the first of several review sessions with the Yamaha by dusting off a Blu-ray copy of <White House Down>, which has a pleasing mix of hard-hitting action, loads of impressive effects, and more than enough atmospherics and dialogue to present any AVR with a decent challenge.

The RX-A1080 certainly rose to the occasion as far as delivering a large, all-embracing and believable surround sound picture was concerned, endowing explosions and gunfire with almost gut-wrenching intensity, and closely tracking the action in directional terms.

At the same time, dialogue was treated with clarity and deference, always ensuring that voices and conversations could be unequivocally understood, even when juxtaposed against an effects-rich backdrop.

One of the highlights of the movie in this regard is the sequence where the Blackhawk attack helicopters are engaged by the terrorists at the White House, while Secret Service agent John Cale (Tatum Channing) and terrorist leader Stenz (Jason Clark) are engaged in hand-to-hand combat.

The action is frenetic, but the soundtrack always remains on point, accurately reflecting the on-screen action, while adding to an overriding sense of realism by resolving fine details with a sense of spatial and directional precision.

Moving on to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the scene where the First Order forces invade the Republican stronghold confirmed the ability of the Yamaha to create a compelling and engaging surround sound experience.

The battle effects were vividly and believably executed, filling the theatre room with sound and creating an impactful and immersive soundspace. Be it the sound of fighters soaring from front to back, canon fire rattling from above or explosions emanating from below and ahead, the Yamaha created a real sense of involvement and believability.

Eric Clapton’s 2013 Crossroads Guitar Festival remains a riveting watch, and one is really spoilt for choice. For me, one of the highlights is Vince Gill, Albert Lee and Keith Urban performing the Rolling Stones classic ‘Tumbling Dice’ – and the Yamaha did the DTS-HD MA surround sound track full justice.

It recreated the on-stage action, as well as the ambience of the venue, to thrilling effect: the interplay between the three guitarists was believably rendered, while the AVR always remained mindful of the importance of dimensional accuracy.

The individual instruments of guitar aces were afforded plenty of space and prominence, but the soundtrack also allowed the contributions of the backing musicians to come to the fore, adding to an enjoyable sense of being there.

The RX-A1080 features an AI Surround mode, which is meant to intelligently consider the surround material being decoded, and then enhance key elements – almost like on-the-fly optimisation.

The result was more impressive when compared to straightforward Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA, with broadened dynamics and a stronger tonal flavour. I found the original more realistic during extended auditions, but I’m sure many Aventage owners will prefer the sound, and leave AI Surround engaged by default.

SOUNDS LIKE …

As the Yamaha offers several embedded streaming services and Internet radio, while also accommodating a wide variety of music file formats, it stands to reason that owners will want to use this receiver not only from a multichannel movie surround point of view, but conceivably also as a stereo amp.

Drawing from the music library on our Synology and Lumin L1 music servers, I auditioned the Yamaha in a 2.1 stereo role, using the Atlantic Technology satellites and subs.

The RX-A1080 offers a Pure Direct mode, but as this bypasses all processing, it also cuts out the subwoofer. That’s fine if your front left and right speakers are full-range designs, but not with limited-bandwidth satellites.

Still, running in 2.1 stereo mode, the immaculately recorded <Hell Freezes Over> by The Eagles sounded crisp and vital, with unequivocal imaging and generous staging. The subwoofer’s contribution was seamlessly incorporated in a satisfyingly linear tonal range, and the overall performance was delivered with polish confidence.

Arabella Steinbacher’s rendition of Mozart’s <Violin Concert No.3>, together with the Festival Strings Lucerne has a lightness of touch and an inherent agility that makes for delightful listening. The Yamaha accurately reflected those characteristics, dutifully spotlighting Steinbacher’s violin, but also doing full justice to the accompanying orchestra.

Dialling into the excellent Swiss Radio Jazz from the Yamaha’s exhaustive catalogue of Internet radio stations further underlined the receiver’s liquid, accessible musicality. It approached the station’s primarily mainstream programming with incisive assurance, effortlessly creating an engaging stage, and paying close and careful attention to finer details and nuances.

Elbow’s ‘K2’ on high-res Radio Paradise sounded even better: loads of energy, a broad tonal spread with powerful bass treatment and clear, layered imaging. The soundstage seemed unencumbered by the position of the speakers, allowing the Yamaha to paint a mesmerising soundscape.

Out of interest, I swapped 2.1 stereo mode for DTS Neo6: Music, and liked the results: the sound image remained front-focussed, but steering some of the music to the surrounds created a more immersive effect. Purists may find it too contrived, but the overall result was musically enjoyable enough.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The RX-A1080 deserves its premium billing, living up to expectations with a sound that’s clean and polished, together with a penchant for accuracy and detail. Surround steering is a specific highlight, as is the ability of the AV receiver to mould the various cinema effects and elements into a cohesive and involving whole.

While movie soundtracks remain its strongest suit, the Yamaha’s appeal also lies in its versatility. It deftly fulfils a stereo music role (including the ability to accommodate a turntable) while offering easy access to leading streaming services.

It certainly stands its ground in music reproduction terms, further aided by being able to render a wide range of lossless and lossy music files.

And then there’s the multiroom angle: for those with several MusicCast devices on a central network, the Yamaha really becomes a hub for content that can be seamlessly spread around the house.

Add niceties such as Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay 2 (itself now multiroom-capable) and voice control compatibility via Google’s Alexa, and the Yamaha RX-A1080 vindicates its acquisition with an extensive list of talents that ensures good value, too.

 

VITAL STATS

Channels: 7.2
Power output: 110 watts/channel (8 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0,06% THD)
Surround sound formats: Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and below
3D surround sound formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X
Audio DAC: ESS Sabre 9007S
Frequency response: 10 Hz – 100 kHz (+0, -3 dB)
Signal-to-noise ratio: >110 dB
HDMI inputs/outputs: 7/3
Analogue video inputs: 2x component, 3x composite
AV inputs: 4
Audio inputs: 1x RCA MM phono, 3x RCA line-level stereo
Audio outputs: 1x 7.2 pre-out. 1x stereo RCA Zone 2 out, 1x stereo Aux (front panel) 1x stereo headphone jack (front panel)
Digital inputs: 3x RCA coaxial, 3x Toslink optical, 1x USB Type A (front panel)
Connectivity: Ethernet, 802.11 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay2, MusicCast
Dimensions (WxDxH): 435 x 439 x 259 mm
Weight: 14.9 kg
PRICE
R30 880
SUPPLIED BY
Balanced Audio

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT
Marantz SR-6011 AV receiver
Oppo BDP-95EU universal player
Atlantic Technologies 7.1 surround speaker system
Optoma HD80 DLP projector
Synology DS-214se NAS

SOFTWARE
White House Down (Blu-ray)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Blu-ray)
Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 (Rhino Blu-Ray)
The Eagles – Hell Freezes Over (Universal WAV)
Mozart – <Violin Concert No.3>- Arabella Steinbacher/Festival Strings Lucerne (Pentatone DSD)

The evolution of home theatre receivers never seems to let up. If anything it’s accelerating as AVR makers squeeze in more and more features. The latest Marantz AV receiver is a good case in point

By Deon Schoeman

Things happen quickly on the home theatre front. It wasn’t that long ago that we replaced our ageing Marantz SR6005 AV receiver with a shiny new SR6011. And here we are, just 18 months later, reviewing the replacement of the replacement of the SR6011.

The SR6013 takes over from the SR6012, and to be frank, you need to be a Marantz connoisseur to pick up the differences. Most of the key features, facilities and performance stats are identical.

In fact, it’s possibly easier to think of the SR6013 as a tweaked and further improved SR6012, rather than a completely new model.

In a nutshell, the key highlights of the SR6013 include multiroom-capable Apple AirPlay2 compatibility, while its HEOS multiroom talents have been extended to include voice control in conjunction with Amazon’s Alexa voice control protocol.

There are extended capabilities on the 3D surround front too, with the SR6013 offering Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DTS:Neural-X and DTS Virtual:X. Although it’s a 9.2 AV receiver (nine internal power amps, and two independently controllable subwoofer channels), the Marantz has 11.2 processing capability.

Less obvious are some tweaks to the internals, including improved circuit components, and the implementation of Marantz’s latest HDAM (Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Module) technology. The receiver still employs current feedback-based amplification.

AT FACE VALUE

As already mentioned, the styling of the SR6013 is identical to its predecessor and features what has become Marantz’s trademark ‘porthole’ display, together with big rotary controllers on either side, and a hinged cover that folds down to reveal a bank of switchgear.

Most users will prefer using the remote control handset, however – or the Marantz AVR Remote app for iOS and Android smart devices, which is even more intuitive, and easier to use in dimly lit rooms (the remote doesn’t offer any backlighting).

In fact, you’ll need to make use of two apps to fully utilise the SR6013’s talents: there’s also the HEOS app, which allows access to the receiver’s extensive array of streaming and multiroom capabilities, and works in conjunction with the Marantz AVR app.

The receiver’s casework is a reassuringly solid, all-metal affair, while the faceplate’s curved cheeks and recessed centre section add visual interest.

Not surprisingly, the rear panel is crammed with a variety of inputs, outputs, connections, aerials and speaker binding posts. To Marantz’s credit, the layout is pretty logical, with colour-coding for the speaker binding posts, while the various inputs and outputs are neatly and (and functionally) grouped together.

UNDER THE COVERS

Without resorting to a long-winded description, the Marantz caters for almost every AV-related connection out there. HDMI remains the interface of choice, with eight HDMI inputs and three HDMI outputs, as well as full HDCP 2.2 support and eARC audio return, allowing 3D audio playback from smart TV-based applications.

Of course, there are also options for conventional composite and component video connections, and the SR6013 makes provision for both analogue and digital audio, including a MM-compatible phono stage.

The Marantz is fully network capable via either wired Ethernet or 802.11 Wi-Fi, and also offers Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay2. Network access allows the SR6013 to find and play back audio files from UPnP-compatible network-attached storage devices.

It also opens the door to a host of streaming services, including Deezer, Spotify Connect, TuneIn internet radio and Tidal. All streaming functionality is controlled via the HEOS app.

The HEOS ecosystem delivers multiroom capability to other HEOS-compatible devices. You can also opt for more conventional wired multizone functionality via RCA, HDMI or by assigning spare channels to a second zone.

On the video front, the SR6013 offers full 4K/60 Hz video pass-through with 4:4:4 colour resoution and full-rate 4K upscaling, together with analogue to HDMI conversion. The receiver is also compatible with Dolby Vision, High Dynamic Range, Hybrid Log Gamma and BT.2020.

The SR6013 offers 11.2 processing but provides nine discrete power amplifiers, each rated at 110 watts/channel. Improved circuit components and the latest HDAM op amp modules are said to have achieved improvements in performance and sound quality.

All-important digital-to-analogue conversion is via AKM AK4458 DACs, while a Cirrus quad-core 32-bit DSP chip looks after digital signal processing.

For a full run-down of features, you can download the Marantz SR6013 product information sheet here.

SETTING UP

For the review, the SR6013 was linked up to the Atlantic Technology surround sound speaker system in the AVSA listening room, and allowed to burn in for the first 100 hours or so before final set-up.

Our trusty Oppo BDP95EU universal deck provided the source signal, while the Marantz also had access to a UPnP music library stored on the network’s Synology NAS. As usual, our Optoma HD80 projector was in charge of visuals.

Network connectivity was via wired Ethernet, although linking up the Marantz to wi-fi was equally painless and appeared to be as stable. As soon as a network link was established, the SR6013 downloaded and installed a firmware update.

The SR6013 uses the latest Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room set-up and calibration software in conjunction with a supplied microphone and an eight-point measuring regimen, which takes about 25 minutes to complete.

The results were impressive and required very little in the way of post-measurement tweaking: the system uses a test signal to measure room characteristics and then sets up the AVR’s key parameters accordingly. I found almost all the settings to be spot on, with just the back surrounds needing a little extra toning down.

IN THE THEATRE

Starting off with The Avengers: Age of Ultron on Blu-ray, the Marantz easily tracked the often complex and intricate effects as Ultron and Ironman confront each other at the tanker graveyard.

Explosions were delivered with an almost tactile sense of force and power, and the amp tracked directional sounds with realistic precision, creating a three-dimensional soundspace that perfectly qualified the on-screen action.

Later, when Ultron attempts to escape in a pantechnicon, the street scenes with Black Widow (Charlotte Johannson) chasing the truck on a motorcycle showed off the same talent for precision as the big truck careens through inner city while Captain America (Steve Rogers) engages Ultron.

Excellent vocal projection throughout ensured that the frenetic action was never allowed to overshadow the dialogue between the characters, while the realism of the effects in both directional and impact terms highlighted just how vital the soundtrack is to overall movie enjoyment.

I know it’s an old, has-been movie by now, but I still rate Live Free Or Die Hard as one of the best action movie workouts for an AVR. There are just so many excellent action scenes, and most are both aurally challenging and visually arresting.

One of my favourite scenes is the mayhem that ensues when John McClane (Bruce Willis) and his hacker charge Farrell (Justin Long) are chased into a traffic tunnel by a machine gun-toting terrorist helicopter.

When the terrorists divert all the traffic into the tunnel from both sides, there’s utter chaos as cars crash into each other and fly through the air. The scene’s climax is when the chopper is struck by MClaine’s airborne patrol car.

The effects are almost visceral in their forcefulness – and the Marantz did well to make the most of them, immersing the viewer in a precisely steered force field of sound that left me out of breath, while endowing the on-screen action with real impact and realism.

There’s more to the SR6013 than crash-bang effects, however. Music playback is a traditional strength of Marantz AV receivers, and the review unit didn’t disappoint in that regard either.

Tasked with recreating the magic of Leonard Cohen’s live sets in various cities around the world immortalised on Songs From The Road, the receiver made the most of the engaging
5.1 TrueHD soundtrack, accurately placing the musicians on the stage and filling the room with captivating music.

The Marantz never had to resort to any hyperbole or exaggeration, but managed to make the music come alive. It displayed a penchant for attention to fine detail, but always carefully and accurately contextualised those details to augment an overriding sense of sonic realism.

I felt as if I was right there, in the concert hall, experiencing not only the music, but the ambience of the venue and the atmosphere of the occasion.

Surprisingly, the Marantz treated the 2.1 stereo soundtrack with equal respect and realism: it couldn’t quite match the 5.1 soundtrack for ambient realism, but still managed to create a strong sense of three-dimensional imaging, broad staging and rich tonality. If anything, the stereo focus added to the impact and focus of the music.

Staying with the music theme, I swapped Cohen for Eric Clapton’s marvellous Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 set. Here, the surround mix was more focussed on the on-stage action, while paying less attention to ambient information.

That said, the resulting sound lacked nothing in terms of realism and managed to closely examine each element of the often crowded stage with clarity and admirable balance.

Clapton and friends’ rendition of the classic, reggae-infused ‘I Shot The Sherif’ was a good case in point: the mix exposed each element of a full but perfectly captured performance.

Steve Gadd’s drum kit was spread wide, while the backing singers remained in superb supportive harmony with Clapton’s unassuming vocals throughout. The keyboards and bass found a delicate balance with Clapton’s articulate solo guitar riffs, too.

The Marantz’s music talents extended to its treatment of CD-quality music from streaming service Tidal, delivering a rich and convincing performance. Access speeds and signal stability our 20MB ADSL line were impressive – and that also went for Deezer and Spotify Connect.

The Marantz easily recognised the Synology NAS on the network, and navigating the content in folder view was a cinch, too. The list of compatible file formats is fairly extensive, and includes MP3, WMA and AAC, as well as WAV, FLAC, ALAC and DSD (up to DSD128).

Interestingly, it couldn’t play back some AIFF-encoded material on the server, though.

THE BOTTOM LINE

It never ceases to amaze me just how much functionality AV receiver makers are able to squeeze into a single chassis. Bar making a decent cup of espresso, there’s almost nothing the Marantz SR6013 can’t do.

Access to its multitude of features is intuitive, thanks to the excellent Marantz AVR app, which is definitely preferable to the remote control handset. And while I thought that having to deal with a second, HEOS app for streaming, the reality isn’t nearly as laborious as expected.

Set-up is simple too, aided by automated room calibration and an on-screen start-up guide. And while I wasn’t able to check out its 4K video features, picture quality in plain old 1080p HD was superb.

But most of all, the Marantz sounds great, regardless of source material. It’s an immersive surround sound performer, delivering its multichannel wares with oodles of energy and precision. And it really comes alive with music, both in surround and stereo.

HEOS-multiroom with Alexa voice control, and AirPlay 2, as well as easy Bluetooth connectivity and user-friendly streaming are the cherries on top of a very impressive AVR cake.

VITAL STATS

Channels: 9.2
Power output: 9x 110 watts (8 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0,05% THD)
Surround sound formats: Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and legacy formats
3D sound formats: Dolby Atmos, Auro 3D, DTS:X, DTS Neural:X
DSP: Quad-core, 32-bit
Audio DAC: AKM AK4458 32-bit
Signal-to-noise ratio: 102 dB
HDMI inputs/outputs: 8/3
AV inputs: 4x composite, 2x component
AV outputs: 1x composite, 1x component
Analogue audio inputs: 6x line-level, 1x phono
Digital inputs: 2x coaxial, 2 Toslink digitalConnectivity: Ethernet, 802.11 Wi-Fi (2,4/5 GHz), Bluetooth, AirPlay 2
Dimensions (WxDxH): 440 x 391 x 161 mm
Weight: 12,8 kg
PRICE
R29 990
SUPPLIED BY
HFX Systems

 

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT
Marantz SR-6011 AV receiver
Oppo BDP-95EU universal player
Atlantic Technologies 7.1 surround speaker system
Optoma HD80 DLP projector
Synology DS-214se NAS

 

SOFTWARE
The Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Blu-ray)
Live Free Or Die Hard (Blu-ray)
Leonard Cohen – Songs From The Road (Blu-ray)
Various – Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 (Blu-ray)

The multichannel, multi-feature complexity of AV receivers usually goes hand in hand with a hefty price tag. But Yamaha’s 7.2 channel RX-V585 links immersive sonics to an extensive features list – for a lot less than expected …

By Deon Schoeman

AV receivers have always been complex devices, stuffed to the brim with multiple amplifiers, D/A converters, DSP chips, video processors and tuners.

However, that complexity has intensified over time – the current batch of AV receivers now also typically include wired and wireless connectivity, multiroom compatibility, object-based surround formats and network streaming.

As a result, the latest generation of AV receivers are able to offer a lot more than making movie watching memorable. They’ve become multi-faceted entertainment hubs, offering everything from music streaming services access to multiroom playback – and more.

You’d expect all of those features and capabilities to be reflected in an equally daunting price tag. However, that’s not always the case: the newly launched Yamaha RX-V585 proves that affordability, at least in relative terms, can be part of the package, too.

AT FACE VALUE

The RX-V585 reflects Yamaha’s typically clean, no-nonsense approach, with a fascia offering oversightly switchgear and a clearly legible display. The all-black receiver’s front panel places the display above the key switchgear, while also accommodating USB and auxiliary stereo inputs.

While it’s useful to have clearly marked, well laid out front panel controls, the reality is that most users will operate the Yamaha using the supplied remote control handset. In this case, the handset also focuses on ease of use, with contrasting and even colour-coded buttons.

The only shortcoming is the absence of any backlighting which makes finding the correct button difficult in darkened rooms. At least the volume up/down and source buttons are finished in white, which makes them more visible.

An attractive alternative is the Yamaha AV Controller app, which allows intuitive and seamless control of the AVR. It’s Android and iOS compatible and is by far the easiest (and most satisfying) way to access and control the AVR. MusicCast has its own app, which handles the multiroom side of things.

The rear panel keeps things simple by logically grouping the various inputs. Thus, the analogue audio and video inputs are located together, next to all the digital inputs, while the HDMI inputs and sole output are arranged in a row above them.

The RX-V585 makes provision for two line-level subwoofer outputs, designed to be used in conjunction with active subwoofers. The presence of two antennas confirms that the receiver is 802.11 Wi-Fi capable, and can also act as a Bluetooth receiver.

For those who prefer the stability and throughput of wired networking, there’s a 10/100 Ethernet port, too.

The seven speaker binding post sets make provision for either a 7.2 setup with back surround speakers, or for a 5.1 arrangement with two channels then freed up to perform height-based surround duties via Dolby Atmos or DTS:X.

There’s also the option of operating these two channels as a second zone in a different room – although, as we’ll see, the Yamaha offers more convenient ways to achieve multiroom functionality. Or, you can opt to bi-amp the front main channels in a 5.1 configuration.

FUNCTIONS AND FEATURES

As I pointed out at the beginning of this review, the RX-V585 is packed with features.

Some you’d expect of most current AV receivers: Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio compatibility (together with older legacy formats), 4K video pass-through and upscaling with Dolby Vision, a selection of DSP-propagated sound fields, and HDMI with Audio Return Channel functionality.

But despite is low-to-mid pricing, the Yamaha offers a whole lot more. Object-based Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround formats are included, as is full networking capability via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. Add Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay and MusicCast, and the connectivity on offer is comprehensive.

Once connected to a network, the Yamaha can access streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal and Deezer. It will also recognise and access music libraries on network-attached server devices. And you can link a source such as a smart device via Bluetooth, and listen to material from that device.

If it’s an Apple device running iOS, hooking it up to the Yamaha is even simpler using Apple AirPlay. Or, you could choose to listen to any of the literally thousands of Internet radio stations. Of course, conventional terrestrial FM and AM radio is also available via the built-in tuner.

Multiroom is an emerging trend in AV receiver terms. Running a second set of speakers in another room has been an option on many AVRs for some time now, but being able to share content with multiple speakers on the same network is a whole new ball game.

Yamaha’s multiroom technology is called MusicCast, and it allows all compatible devices linked to the same network to communicate. In other words, you could play the same song from a server on the network to some or all MusicCast devices on the same network.

In the home theatre context, an interesting application of MusicCast is using wireless surround speakers and subwoofers. Arriving in SA soon, these speakers allow surround sound speaker configurations without running any speaker cables.

MusicCast is also compatible with Amazon Alexa, a voice control protocol used with a variety of Amazon devices. In other words, you could use Alexa to find and play music via the RX-V585.

While purists may frown at the thought, Yamaha’s AV receivers have become synonymous DSP-generated sound fields, based on actual venues such as clubs, stadiums and concert halls.

The idea is to recreate the ambience and acoustic character of these venues to enhance the music and movie experience. Just how effective these DSP effects are depends on set-up and personal preference.

UNDER THE COVERS

Even a fairly modest AVR such as the RX-V585 features close attention to detail as far as circuit layout, component choice and power regulation are concerned.

Fully discrete power amplifiers are provided for each channel, while the analogue and digital sections each get their own power supplies to prevent interference and ensure signal integrity.

Looking after audio-specific digital-to-analogue conversion is a quartet of Burr-Brown 384 kHz/32-bit D/A converters, while the volume control features a sound quality-focussed IC.

Large internal heat sinks reduce operating temperatures, while the chassis has been designed to address vibration.

Yamaha’s specs credit the RX-V585 with 80 watts per channel, which should be ample for small-to-medium rooms and reasonably efficient loudspeakers.

SETTING UP

The RX-V585 was hooked up to our regular home theatre review system, comprising an Oppo BDP-95 universal disc player, Atlantic Technology 7.1 speaker system, and an Optoma HD80 DLP projector.

Once connected to the office network via Ethernet, the Yamaha also had access to the music library stored on our Synology 214se NAS, and we were able to log into Spotify, Deezer and Tidal.

I experienced an unexpected snag when trying to hook up the Optoma projector, however: the projector recognised but could not display the signal received from the Yamaha. I eventually resorted to hauling out our old Sony Bravia FHD television form the storeroom, which didn’t experience any issues.

The issue here may be one of HDMI version compatibility and the fairly long HDMI cable used to link the Yamaha to the projector. That said, our regular Marantz SR-6011 AVR has no problems relaying video to the Optoma using the same cable.

Network hook-up was as easy as plugging in an Ethernet cable connected to the router: the Yamaha then recognised the network, used DHCP to glean an IP address, and promptly looked for a firmware upgrade – which it found and installed.

Like all Yamaha receivers, the RX-V585 employs Yamaha’s proprietary, automated calibration system. Dubbed YPAO (for Yamaha Parametric Acoustic Optimiser) it uses a small microphone and a pre-programmed series of test tones to quickly and easily set speaker distances and levels.

Other set-up options are accessed via the on-screen set-up menu, which is easy to navigate. No rocket science required!

YPAO has got progressively better over the years, and the results are typically spot on, except where extreme room anomalies make accurate measurement problematic. The AVSA listening room posed no such problems.

The RX-V585 was a brand new unit, and so spent its first 50 hours being run in before I sat down for some movie watching – and music listening.

As we don’t have a 4K projector or television, we didn’t test the video capabilities of the Yamaha beyond 1080p levels. Similarly, we preferred a conventional 7.1 setup to a 3.2.2 Atmos configuration in the absence of Atmos speakers.

INSIDE THE THEATRE …

In practice, the Yamaha is a likeable, versatile and user-friendly AV receiver that goes about its movie and music business with unflustered aplomb. As already intimated, it’s easy to operate, either via the remote control, or better still, using the app.

The latter has the benefit of showing all the pertinent info on the smart device screen, and being easy to use regardless of how dim the ambient light is. The remote is a useful backup, and more than viable on its own, though.

I kicked off my review session with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The opening battle scene showed off the ability of the RX-V585 to make full use of the 7.1 channels to create an immersive and thoroughly engaging movie experience.

The effects were powerful and precisely rendered, creating a believable surround sound environment which placed the viewer in the epicentre of the action.

The gunfire, exploding bombs and fighter flypasts were executed with spatial and temporal accuracy, and while the action remained front-focussed (as it should to match the visuals), the left/right, front/back and cross-channel steering allows for a real sense of dimension.

The sound always closely tracked the action, adding to the overall sense of involvement. During the Fathier escape, the thunderous progress of the beasts was closely followed, but the Yamaha also managed to perfectly reproduce the more subtle effects emerging from the mayhem: tinkling coins, rattling cups, the sound of a piano being played in the background ….

Dialogue was always well projected and sounded clear throughout, despite the spectacular effects.

Moving on to Blade Runner 2049, the apocalyptic landscapes were almost eerily underscored by the movie’s sweeping soundtrack during the opening scenes, as K, the Blade Runner, soars over monochromatic vistas.

The overall sense of dread and tension was almost tangible, emphasised by the sound design, which uses thunderstorm effects and long silences to underpin the growing sense of trepidation.

The hollow sound of K’s footsteps in the replicant’s house, the steaming pot on the stove, the closing of the door as the repliicant walks in, and the dimly lit living room all add to the suspense, which escalates into a physical confrontation.

The Yamaha ably expressed the on-screen spaces and ambience, as well as the brutality and the inhumaneness as the Blade Runner prepares to kill Morton.

The imagery and the sound are closely bound and the Yamaha retained that bond cohesively and convincingly. There was a believable sense of pace and momentum, and again, steering was impactful and effective.

The sparse dialogue remained well-projected, while effects steering was impressively seamless, seemingly unrestrained by the physical position of the speakers.

Movie soundtrack superstar Hans Zimmer’s live concert in Prague is hugely entertaining, but it’s also a tough test of any system – especially in multichannel terms.

The recording captures the electricity of the performance, the ambience of the venue, and the excitement of the audience. It also manages to showcase individual performances, while never losing sight of the music as a whole.

The Yamaha made the most of the expansive, wide-open surround soundscape to recreate the sense of space in the concert hall. However, the sonic viewpoint remains that of the audience listening to the performance, adding to the overall sense of involvement.

Despite the dense and busy arrangements, there was a sense of composure and clarity to the Yamaha’s performance which emphasises just how far it punches above its weight. It captured and projected the full impact of the music, yet always remains cognisant of every voice and instrument by making the most of the lucid, accessible mix.

Switching to the stereo soundtrack robbed the sound of some of its immersive qualities. The delivery lacked the substance and the dimensionality, mainly because much of the ambient information became compressed.

That said, the Yamaha managed to make full use the two channels at its disposal and still spread the music deep and wide. The receiver sounded energetic, and its talent for extracting and projecting detail remained undiminished.

In that sense, the Yamaha acquitted itself well in a stereo role, happily tackling the specific challenges of reproducing stereo music as opposed to a multichannel soundtrack.

SOUNDS LIKE

On that subject, it’s worth mentioning that the Yamaha’s Burr-Brown DACS allow it to handle high-def PCM and DSD music files. It will read PCM data streams at up to 192 kHz/24-bit, as well as DSD up to DSD256.

It supports most popular music file formats, including WAV, MP3, WMA, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and DSD.

The Yamaha had no problem recognising NAS devices on the AVSA network, and was able to play all high-res material I threw at it, including DSD. The sound was competent and pacy, with good rendering of detail and a believable, involving stereo image.

I used the Yamaha’s UPnP functionality to look up and play La Segunda’ Sera Una Noche, a Reference Recordings 176/24 WAV-encoded album.

On ‘Nunca Tuvo Novio’, the power of the female vocalist and the timbre of the accompanying cello the singer were reproduced with a truthfulness of sound and ambience that made for entertaining listening.

Staging was accurate, and the Yamaha managed to project a finely delineated sound image that precisely placed each instrument on the atmospheric soundstage. I sometimes felt that some of the music’s cohesion was glossed over, but that may also be due to the nature of the recording.

Certainly, there was plenty of cohesion when listening to Eva Taylor’s rendition of ‘Everybody Loves My Baby’ off the Opus3 label’s DSD Showcase 3. The DSD128 recording is a real sparkler, and the Yamaha was able to make the most of the atmospherics, with the singer up front, backed by the jazz ensemble, and the sound reflecting the clubby atmosphere to a tee.

Tonally, the RX-V585 can err on the bright side, and as a result can be unforgiving of poorer digital recordings displaying a tendency for glare or bite. However, that’s to be expected, given its penchant for accuracy and pinpoint surround steering in the multichannel context.

ALTERNATIVES

For those on a tight budget seeking something more affordable that the RX-V585, Yamaha also has two more affordable models in this latest line-up.

Yamaha RX-V485 is more affordable, but only offers 5.1 configuration

For about R1 500 less, there’s the RX-485, which offers a 5.1 channel configuration, and does without Dolby Atmos/DTS:X. It’s sonically similar to the RX-V585, and has the same per-channel output, while also offering access to streaming services and MusicCast features.

Need to save more? The RX-V385 5.1 AV receiver is slightly less powerful and doesn’t offer any networking features, but is still 4K compatible, and offers Bluetooth connectivity – all for less than R7k.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Yamaha RX-V585 offers a lot of features and capabilities for its modest asking price. Not only can it do a lot, but it does most of those things really well.

Home theatre fans with larger rooms and less efficient speakers will want more power, and while the Yamaha is competent in a music-only role, its real talents are centred around its treatment of multichannel movies, and its outright versatility.

Add its comprehensive network-based streaming and multiroom capabilities, a slick user interface, keen pricing and a super-easy but effective set-up regimen, and the RX-V585 ticks all the important home entertainment boxes.

VITAL STATS
Channels: 7.2
Power output: 80 watts (20 Hz – 20 kHz, 6 ohms, 0,09% THD)
Surround sound formats: Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD Master Audio and below
Object-based surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X
Audio DACs: 4x Burr-Brown 384 kHz/32-bit
Frequency response: 10 Hz – 100 kHz (+0,-3 dB)
Signal-to-noise ratio: >110 dB
HDMI inputs/outputs: 4/1
AV inputs/outputs: 3/1
Audio inputs: 5 (including stereo minijack on front panel)
Digital inputs: 2x coaxial RCA, 1x Toslink optical, USB Type A (front panel)
Connectivity: Ethernet, 802.11 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apple Airplay, MusicCast
Dimensions (WxDxH): 435 x 327 x 161 mm
Weight: 8,1 kg
PRICE
R10 980
SUPPLIED BY
Balanced Audio

SOFTWARE
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Blu-ray)
Blade Runner 2049 (Blu-ray)
Hans Zimmer – Live in Prague (Blu-ray)
La Segunda – Sera Una Noche (Reference Recordings 176/24 WAV)
Various – Opus3 DSD Showcase (Opus3 DSD)

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT
Marantz SR6011 AV receiver
Oppo BDP-95EU universal player
Atlantic Technologies 7.1 surround speaker system
Sony Bravia FHD LCD television
Optoma HD80 DLP projector
Synology DS-214se NAS

Pioneer’s VSX-LX-302 AV receiver may be some way off the brand’s top-of-the-range models, but it offers a surprising level of features, with performance to match – all at a value-added price.

Given how much circuitry has to be packed into a single enclosure, the modern home theatre receiver has to be considered one of the most complex expressions of the consumer electronics art.

Just think about it: multiple, individually amplified channels, digital signal processing, digital-to-analogue conversion, wired and wireless network connectivity, multiroom capability, video processing … the list goes on and on.

In that context, it stands to reason that acquiring a new AV receiver can represent a sizeable investment. That said, it’s also a highly competitive segment, with top brands vying for the attentions of would-be buyers.

AT FACE VALUE

The Pioneer VSX-LX302 is priced in the sub-R15k AV receiver category, but a closer look at the spec sheet suggests that it’s keen to punch above its weight. The design is smart and ergonomically intuitive, with a well laid out fascia and a large, legible display.

Switchgear is kept to a minimum and well labelled in the interests of ease of use, and the presence of USB, HDMI and stereo minijack inputs, as well as a headphone jack, add further convenience.

The rear panel is a lot busier, as one would expect of a full-featured AV receiver. On offer are  no less than six HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs, with the main HDMI output being ARC compatible.

Both analogue and digital audio are catered for. The revitalised interest in vinyl playback is acknowledged via a MM-compatible phono input set.

Network connectivity is confirmed by the presence of an Ethernet socket (dual-band 802.11 Wi-Fi is also included), while there are two subwoofer outputs, a stereo pre-output set for Zone 2 use. Dual antennas provide the necessary wireless connectivity for W-Fi and Bluetooth.

The nine binding post sets include a pair for height speakers to accommodate Dolby Atmos and DTS:X functionality.

While the supplied remote control handset provides full access to the Pioneer’s feature set, the excellent Pioneer remote app (free on both iOS and Android) is an even better option for set-ups making use of the LX302’s network connectivity.

UNDER THE COVERS

Power output is generous, and surround capability not includes the latest Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, but also object-based Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

The 7.2 receiver offers sophisticated D/A conversion via multiple AKM 4458 chips, operating at a maximum resolution of 384 kHz/32-bit. Digital signal processing is performed by a quad-core Cirrus Logic processor.

The Pioneer will play back PCM-based high-res audio files (WAV, FLAC, AIFF and ALAC) at up to 192 kHz/24-bit, and DSD files at 2,8 and 5,4 MHz from USB and network sources. It stands to reason that the Pioneer is DLNA and UPnP compatible, allowing it to access network sources such as NAS drives.

Versatility is further enhanced via on-board DTS Play-Fi, FireConnect and Apple AirPlay, whil TuneIn provides an extensive, searchable list of Internet radio stations. It also offers integrated support for Tidal, Deezer and Spotify music streaming services.

Video is equally comprehensively catered for: the Pioneer supports Ultra-HD pass-through with HDCP 2.2, as well as HDR10, BT.2020 and 36-b it Deep Colour. It’s compatible with Dolby Vision, and upscales video to 1080p and 4K.

If you want the full run-down on technical features, you can find a comprehensive listing and explanation, plus pertinent downloads, here.

SETTING UP

The Pioneer was hooked up to our resident Atlantic Technology speaker system, with source material provided via an Oppo BDP-95EU and a Synology 214se NAS. The unit was brand new, and thus afforded some time to run in, as well as downloading and installing the latest available firmware.

Video playback was via our usual Optoma HD80 1080p projector, so I didn’t try out the Pioneer’s 4K video pass-through or upscaling capabilities.

The Pioneer offers a proprietary calibration system dubbed MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration System) which uses a supplied microphone to measure a test tone sequence, and then identifies, checks and sets up the levels and delay settings for the connected speaker system.

The entire process takes about seven minutes, and the result was impressively effective, ensuring excellent channel integration, flawless low-frequency effects, and seamless surround sound staging.

Of course, you can also set up the surround adjustments manually to better suit personal preference, but frankly the MCACC system worked so well that there seemed little need to tweak the settings subsequently.

PERFORMS LIKE …

Once the Pioneer had been allowed to settle in for 50 hours or so, it delivered a rich and entertaining movie experience. Quantum of Solace on Blu-ray remains one of my go-to movies for both its dynamic soundtrack and impressive action sequences.

The Pioneer rose to the occasion, delivering a fast, agile and eager sound with plenty of impact and impetus. While the receiver tended towards a certain brightness at the upper end of the tonal scale initially, it soon settled down, suggesting that it dserves a slightly longer burn-in period than the 50 hours allocated.

Even then, the overall sonic signature remained clean and open, allowing full and unequivocal access to the sheer impetus and impact of the soundtrack.

The action sequences of this movie are accompanied by such a sonically dense soundtrack that it presents any AVR with a stern challenge – not only in terms of tonal spread, but also to accurately track the on-screen action.

The early action sequences between James Bond’s Aston-Martin and the chasing Alfa Romeos is a good case in point: it’s punctuated by punchy impacts, staccato gunfire and anguished car engines, all linked to fast-paced, almost chaotic footage.

The Pioneer picked its way through all the visual and sonic action with composure and aplomb, zooming into and out of the action with brisk confidence. It never lagged behind the action, and took even the most extreme dynamic swings in its stride.

But the receiver was also adept at recreating ambience and atmosphere, while it projected dialogue with just the right measure of weight and nuance. Most of all, it steered clear of making the surround sound effects seem gimmicky or artificial, instead creating a smooth and immersive sound field that added to an overall sense of realism and engagement.

While the Pioneer’s primary role will be to deliver movies with the necessary gusto and precision, its talents extend to treating music with the necessary deference and enthusiasm, too.

Given its ability to deal with high-res PCM and DSD files, that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, especially given that its arsenal of features includes the ability to select a shorter, optimised signal path via the source direct mode.

Listening to Chris Botti Live in surround sound, the Pioneer made the most of the performance’s energy and verve, recreating the ambience of the venue, and also capturing the enthusiasm of the audience.

The music was presented with plenty of pace and honesty, easily penetrating the multiple layers of the arrangement, while maintaining a strong sense of musical equilibrium. It was able to reflect the presence and stature of the Boston Pops Orchestra while still spotlighting Botti’s virtuoso trumpeting, as well as the slick backing band.

Switching to the stereo soundtrack showed off the Pioneer’s penchant for clarity, imaging and staging: the music was still painted in broad, bold strokes, and there was a pervasive sense of three-dimensionality that came close to the surround mix for immersive quality.

I wasn’t as convinced by the DSP-created surround modes, though: they sounded too contrived, and while they do have novelty value, and may please sports fans or gamers in some cases, I found little reason to select any of the modes above the umolested stereo and Dolby Digital/DTS modes on offer.

Thanks to the proprietary remote app, accessing the LX302’s many features was never overly challenging. That extended to navigating the music and video library on the Synology NAS, and automatically identifying the programme material.

The AVR’s treatment of video was equally satisfying throughout, treating the picture material emanating from the Oppo with honesty and deference to both colour spread and visual detail. Upscaling from DVD to 1080p represented a useful improvement, although it couldn’t match true FHD in fine detail and texture terms.

THE BOTTOM LINE

In many ways, the LX-302 looks and performs more like a flagship AV receiver than a midrange unit. It has features and the prowess to make movies and music come alive, while it delivers is sonic wares with plenty of verve, too.

Add believable surround and stereo imaging, expansive staging and a real talent for musicality to the equation, and the VSX-LX302 also delivers value in spades.

 

By DEON SCHOEMAN
PROS
Loads of features. Great with movies and music. Keen pricing.
CONS
DSP surround modes don’t convince.

VITAL STATS

Channels: 7.1
Power output: 7x 100 watts (8 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0.08 % THD)
Surround sound formats:
– Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio
– Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DTS:Neo
DSP: Cirrus Logic quad-core
Audio DAC: AKM 4458, 384 kHz/24-bit
Frequency response: 5 Hz – 100 kHz (-3 dB)
Signal-to-noise ratio: 106 dB (line in, IHF, A-rated)
HDMI: 7x inputs, 2x outputs
Video inputs: 1x component, 2x composite
Audio inputs: 4x line-level stereo, 1x MM phono, 1x stereo minijack
Audio outputs: 2x subwoofer, 1x stereo pre-out, 1x stereo headphone jack
Digital inputs: 1x RCA coaxial, 2x Toslink optical, 2x USB Type A
Connectivity:
– Ethernet, 802.11 Wi-Fi, A2DP Bluetooth 4.1
– Apple AirPlay, DTS Play-Fi, Fireconnect
Dimensions (WxHxD): 435 x 173 x 371 mm
Weight: 10,0 kg
PRICE
R14 990
SUPPLIED BY
Volco Enterprises

TESTED WITH
Optoma HD80 DLP projector
Oppo BDP-95EU universal player
Marantz SR-6011 AV receiver
Atlantic Technology 7.1 speaker system

SOFTWARE
Quantum Of Solace (Blu-ray)
Chris Botti –Live In Boston (Blu-ray)
Boz Scaggs Live (DVD)