Trying to keep up with the latest formats, codecs and tech on the AV receiver front seems nigh impossible, thanks to an ongoing quest for performance enhancement. Yamaha’s latest flag bearer links loads of muscle to a long list of features and robust build quality. What more could one ask for?
Versatility, power and tech – those are the cornerstones on which Yamaha’s Aventage AV receivers have always been built. They are the royalty of the brand’s home theatre product range, designed to meet the demands of fastidious home theatre fans.
These days, those demands extend much further than sonic urge and the latest surround sound codecs, though: AV receivers are also expected to perform network and streaming functions, deliver multizone and even multiroom functionality, and provide wireless connectivity.
With so many talents, it stands to reason that a user-friendly interface is vital to accessing all those features, as is an intuitive room calibration system that allows the receiver’s performance to be optimised for specific acoustic environments. Finally, stereo fans will want their AVR to deliver on the two-channel music front, too.
It’s the kind of jack-of-all-trades expectations list that can trip up some AV receivers. However, Yamaha’s top-flight Aventage models have always managed to juggle most of those AV balls successfully – and that’s certainly true of the current top-of-the-range RX-A3080 model.
AT FACE VALUE
As much as Yamaha tends to introduce a new line-up of receivers every year or so, those with familiar with the brand’s AVRs will instantly recognise the RX-A3080, and its range-topping status.
It’s a large, robust-looking beast of a home theatre receiver, but with some sleek sophistication mixed in for good measure. The execution is almost minimalist, with just two rotary controllers (for volume and source selection), small buttons for power and Pure Direct mode, and a large, bright LED display.
A secondary set of switchgear, inputs and outputs is concealed behind a hinged cover. The control set essentially duplicates the key functions provided on the remote control handset, together with a headphone input, USB Type A port, and the minijack for Yamaha’s YPAO room calibration microphone.
At just short of 20kg, the A3080 is hefty machine, supported on no less than five feet, including a fifth, centrally mounted wedge meant to further reduce mechanical interference and resonance.
Predictably, the rear panel is a busy place. Besides the usual array of HDMI inputs and outputs, supported by component and composite video for legacy components, two aspects are particularly noteworthy.
Firstly, there’s an MM-compatible phono input for those keen on dabbling in some vinyl playback. Also of note are the XLR balanced stereo input and output sets, which promise a lower noise floor, as well as greater tolerance of longer cable runs.
Depending on the number of active channels in use, the A3080’s amplification can be configured to bi-amp the main, front left and right speakers – useful in installations where the main speakers are challenging to drive, or where stereo-mode fidelity is a priority.
Similarly, the Yamaha can be set up two additional zones. And then there’s MusicCast, which allows any source linked to the A3080 to be wirelessly shared with other MusicCast-compatible devices on the same network. You can out more about MusicCast here https://europe.yamaha.com/en/products/contents/audio_visual/musiccast/index.html
Finally, the A3080 comes with a slim and sexy, all-metal remote control handset with soft-touch controls and intelligent backlighting. But the best way to control the receiver’s considerable spread of capabilities is via the Yamaha AV Controller app, which puts the full spectrum of features at your fingertips.
UNDER THE COVERS
As befits a range-topping AV receiver, the RX-A3080 has been designed and constructed to exacting standards. I’ve already mentioned the robust, all-metal casework and the fifth, wedge-shaped support to further address resonance and vibration.
The big AVR gets the circuit components to go with its lofty aspirations, including a generous power transformer, and the latest ESS Sabre ES9026Pro DAC chipset. It also features advanced digital signal processing, and carefully selected and vetted circuit components.
The Yamaha can play back almost every conceivable lossy and lossless audio file, including WAV, FLAC, AIFF, ALAC, WMA and MP3. It copes with PCM data up to 384 kHz/32-bit, and plays back DSD up to 11,2 MHz.
On the video front, the A3080 offers upscaling to 4K and native 4K pass-through, HDMI eARC, and compatibility with HDCP2.2, HDR10, Dolby Vision and BT.2020
The Yamaha was set up in a 7.1 configuration, using our usual Atlantic Technology 7.1 speaker system. I also hooked it up to our studio network via Ethernet, and once the resulting Internet connection was established, the receiver automatically identified and downloaded new firmware.
Next, I ran the latest version of Yamaha’s YPAO room calibration system, now featuring multipoint measurement and 64-bit equalisation. The brand has always been a top performer in this department, and the latest version is both easy to use and effective.
It also has so-called 3D capabilities to operate in conjunction with object-based surround formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to run YPAO: just plug in the supplied microphone, initiate the automated measurement regiment at up to eight different points, and the Yamaha does the rest.
As has been my prior experience with YPAO, the results were both accurate and effective, and certainly allowed the RX-A3080 to show off its sonic talents to impressive effect.
The good thing about the RX-A3080 is that it can be as brutal or as refined as it needs to be. Put it in command of an action movie, and it creates an almost combative sonic landscape that completely immerses its audience in a torrent of sound.
Fortunately, the big Yamaha also has the refinement and the composure to effortlessly maintain control, projecting dialogue and presenting detail with an incisive clarity of purpose that adds to the realism and immediacy of its performance.
It’s certainly able to to harness all that audio muscle for a more noble sonic cause when required, happily swapping its more usual surround role for stereo music duties. In that mode, it can be a subtle and perceptive performer, never overstepping the mark and always remaining in unruffled control, while capturing the essence of the material it’s presented with.
The Yamaha AV Controller app makes it easy to access and enjoy the A3080’s comprehensive feature set, underlining how vital the intuitiveness and functionality of a control app is.
Because of the colourful and logical user interface, finding and playing and Internet radio stations is a simple affair, as is navigating the music content of a NAS device.
You can also log into streaming services such as Tidal, or hook up your iDevice using Apple AirPlay, or non-iOS devices using Bluetooth. There’s even voice control via Amazon’s Alexa system.
But the RX-A3080 shines brightest when required to do what it’s likely to be tasked with most of the time: making movies come alive. I usually tend to watch selected scenes from a spread of moves when reviewing an AVR, but the Yamaha’s performance was so compelling that I ended up watching more than a few from start to finish – it’s that good!
One of the stand-out titles during these extended auditions was Mad Max: Fury Road – a movie where the effects are system-challenging, but don’t serve to simply dress up a thin storyline or poor cinematography.
The Yamaha always retained firm control over proceedings even under the sustained onslaught and often almost physical impact of the battle scenes, the snarling machines, the gunshots and the explosions.
It created a solidly focussed, expansively rendered surround sound image that was utterly immersive and convincing, even without the benefit of any height speakers or object-based surround decoding: just plain old 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.
The audio perfectly and precisely mirrored the on-screen action, adding to an addictive sense of engagement that had me riveted to my seat for the duration.
Moving on to David Gilmour’s Live At Pompeii performance, a reprise of the legendary Pink Floyd concert, the Yamaha underlined that its talents extend into the stereo realm.
I deliberately selected the two-channel audio option, and was rewarded with a generously dimensioned, precisely imaged performance. The A3080 believably captured the ambience and energy of the concert, faithfully portraying every aspect of the detailed mix.
The front-biased staging of the stereo mix made for greater authenticity without losing the ambience and atmosphere of the ancient arena, nor the electricity of the performance. As a result, it was easy to become part of the audience, rather than simply watching the Blu-ray.
The receiver’s muscle and pace ensured that the momentum and flow of the music was sustained: Gilmour’s guitar had just the right amount of bite and grit, and the percussion were delivered with punch and slam.
The soaring keyboards and passionate backing vocals were the final ingredients of a soundstage saturated with glorious sound.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Modern AV receivers have to be multifaceted, multi-talented components to compete in a crowded, price-sensitive segment. The RX-A3080 is a cut above in functional and sonic terms, presented in robust casework, and intuitively accessed via Yamaha’s excellent control app.
This latest version brings further improvements to the YPAO calibration system, which ensures the Yamaha performs to its full surround potential, even in difficult environments, while it also steps up a notch in terms of its stereo capability and overall musicality.
Add multizone and MusicCast-based wireless multiroom capability, an extensive features list that includes a catalogue of digital signal processing-induced sound fields, as well as a measure of future proofing via firmware updates, and the Yamaha RX-A3080 easily warrants its flagship positioning.
Power output: 150 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 ES9026Pro Ultra
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, 1x XLR balanced stereo
Audio outputs: 1x 7.2 pre-out. 1x stereo front XLR 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 474 x 192 mm
Weight: 19.6 kg
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Mad Max: Fury Road (Blu-ray)
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David Gilmour – Live At Pompeii (Blu-ray)
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