Modern AV receivers can handle far more than just surround sound. In particular, the latest models from Yamaha's Aventage series are packed with all sorts of technical finesses and features and promise high quality hi-fi sound and a diversity that was unthinkable only a short time ago. Here we focus on the higher end model RX-A840 and let you know why we give it both a Recommended and an Editor's Choice badge.
Very good sound is just as important as a large and crystal-clear image for a great movie experience, and in the best case you have a full-fledged multi-channel speaker setup. Now, to drive the speakers you also need an amplifier, preferably one that matches a modern home theater environment. And one that has enough in- and outputs and settings in order to be adapted to any individual needs. This is where the RX-A840 from Yamaha comes into play. A device which - as it turned out in our test - is offering flexibility and variety rarely seen in equipment like this. And the best part is, you don´t need an instruction manual as thick as the Bible to install it or setting it up, because the most important settings are done by Yamaha's AV magicians automatically!
Build Quality and Design
Do not be fooled by the rather simple and classic presentation of the new Yamaha Aventage series. For beneath the discreet black surface it hides a beast. The casing is trimmed to perfect functionality and therefore feels very solid and rigid. If you look closely, you´ll discovered a fifth 'foot' in the middle of the underside, which further underlines the strict procedure Yamaha implemented in terms of stability. However, this is by no means a fifth wheel on the wagon, but prevents the case from vibrating during operation, which in turn may adversely affect the sound.
Although equipped with all sorts of inputs and outputs on the front and rear, the RX-A840 is still visually unassuming. For example, all the front controls are recessed or cleverly integrated or hidden under a flap and don´t tarnish the tidy appearance at all. Only the two large, round control knobs for volume and source selection sticks out and immediately catches the eye and suggest that this is a multi-channel receiver.
Hooking It Up
The RX-A840 almost offers more connections than you can count. First, there are the nine speakers connectors that can be configured in several different ways. Here, the receiver gives you the option to bi-amp the front speakers. Alternatively, it offers a separate Zone 2 output, enabling you to play back any source in, for example, the kitchen or dining room.
Two subwoofers can be connected, so that a full 7.2 system is supplied with corresponding signals if that´s the case. If you only have a front system (Left-Center-Right) and use only three speakers you can create a virtual surround experience using the Virtual CINEMA FRONT feature. If this mode is selected the integrated digital signal processor, with the help of existing reflective surfaces in the room, simulate a credible soundscape at the rear. A great feature for the home theater lovers who still haven´t gotten around to install a complete multi-channel setup.
On the input side everything is available, from eight HDMI inputs, four digital inputs and six analog audio inputs, up to two component video inputs (YUV), whatever the heart desires of demanding home cinema fans. On the output side, almost the same variety as with the inputs is available.
If you have a large amount of equipment - everything from laser disc players, set-top boxes, game consoles, DVD players and Blu-ray players - you´ll easily find a port for it on the RX-A840, eliminating the constant need to connect and disconnect the devices because there´s not enough inputs. Even two playback devices, like a TV and a projector for example, can be operated in parallel on the RX-A840. Of course, all HDMI ports correspond to the latest standards. That is, they are fully 4K and 3D compatible. One of the two HDMI outputs also features an Audio Return Channel (ARC) so audio from the TV can be played back using the 840. Signals on all video inputs, including the analog, can be scaled up to full Ultra HD resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels) to be able to fully exploit even the most modern high-resolution 4K displays.
Under the big front flap you´ll find a USB port which can be used to play video and audio files from Android or iOS devices, allowing you to watch and listen to the content on your phone and tablet using the Yamaha. Friends of the good old vinyl record will be pleased to know that the RX-A840 have a phono MM input. If you like listening to the radio, the Yamaha receiver have both a traditional AM / FM tuner, as well as full Internet Radio compatibility.
Now that we have covered the traditional inputs, we´ll have a look at the network-based playback functions. To use these the receiver must of course be connected to the home network. This can be done either via cable or wireless via WLAN. Unfortunately the RX-A840 lacks a built-in Bluetooth receiver but this is easily fixed by adding the Yamaha YBA-11 Bluetooth Wireless Audio Receiver.
In addition, our test model also features the popular AirPlay feature that lets you play iTunes music wirelessly. As if that was not enough, the RX-A840 can, thanks to DLNA compatibility, also access the content that is stored on media servers directly. This means you can store your music library on a NAS (Network Attached Storage), a network hard drive, and access it through the receiver without the need to turn on any additional devices.
You have no personal music collection, but listen to a lot of music on one of the many music streaming services? In this case, the Aventage RX-A840 receiver supports three of the biggest music streaming services: Spotify, Rhapsody and Pandora. Spotify works particularly well thanks to the Spotify Connect feature. Here you can use your smartphone or tablet with the Spotify app as a remote control, and works similar to AirPlay. That is, you select a song on your phone and press the small speaker icon at the bottom right. That’s about it, because immediately the song will no longer be played back on the phone, but on the Yamaha.
Setup and Calibration
The setup of the Yamaha receiver is very simple, because after all playback devices and speakers have been connected to the 840, the supplied measuring microphone just needs to be plugged in and placed at the listening position, and the YPAO starts automatically. Here, the receiver asks, at the beginning of the measurement process, whether to calibrate one or more (up to 8) listening positions. If you are mainly sit alone or with one other person close to each other while watching movies, then a single measurement position should be enough. If you´re watching in large groups however, then it is advisable to carry out several measurements to find the best compromise for all positions. When the measurement is started it´s best to leave the room in order to avoid disturbing noise or reflections that can lead to measurement errors. If you make a mistake when connecting the speakers (like reversing polarity), the YPAO registers this and alerts you to any possible inconsistencies. In addition, the system registers whether a subwoofer is connected or not and automatically decides how to deal with the bass frequencies.
The most important settings are easily done with the YPAO. Of course it is up to each owner of an Aventage receiver to adjust the settings as they desire. In my experience, the setting of the YPAO works really well and any further adjustments are in most cases not necessary.
Settings that go beyond the ones made by the YPAO still have to be made manually though. For example, all inputs can be freely configured and provided with their own labels and icons to customize the receiver to your individual preferences. Or, if you have only one TV and a Blu-ray player, all other inputs can disabled. This is more practical than you might think at first and has the consequence that unused inputs no longer appear in the menu, and you no longer have to browse through devices that aren´t available to find the desired source. To add more convenience, the Scene buttons can be found on the remote control and above the front panel flap. These can not only select the right inputs, but will also automatically turn on the corresponding device and load the sound settings.
As I find the included remote control a bit underwhelming, the Yamaha AV Controller App is a godsend when it comes to controlling the RX-A840. This can of course be downloaded for free from the respective app stores for Android or iOS.
Surround Sorcery and Straight Sonics
Now we´re ready to test the sound of the RX-A840, but to give it the best chance possible to perform optimally we let it 'simmer', or 'break-in' as most people would call it, for about 100 hours before we indulge in an extensive listening test.
So, four days later, we popped in the animated film ‘The Incredibles‘ from Pixar Animation Studios in the Blu-ray player for our first soundcheck. This movie is ideal for a test, because it goes from whisper soft to very loud, covering everything and provide a wide variety of different effects. Without changing any settings made by the YPAO, the sound, from the moment I pressed the play button, was perfect, and that actually surprised me. This is because I have seen this movie so many times, but the story never pulled me so quickly under its spell. The reason must lie in the perfect synergy between the amplifier and speakers, which all spread finely resolved details around the room. Every little detail is just as precisely reproduced as the bigger events, such as all the explosions and super powers with which The Incredibles rescue the world from total destruction. The effects are rendered with a dynamic and a power often heard from significantly larger and more powerful AV gear. This is made possible by the amazing power reserves, which is measured at 160 watts per channel. Even after continuously increasing the volume until my ears reached their limits, the Yamaha never sounded distorted or like it was running out of power. Every time I asked the RX-A840 for more it answered with a sarcastic yawn and just blew my mind.
For the second part of the listening test, RX-A840's skills in music playback is put to the test, and we start with the high-fidelity "Straight" mode. When this is activated, all sound-altering circuits are turned off so that the incoming signal in the Yamaha is only amplified, nothing else. This mode should be used if you want to listen to your favorite songs as clean or "straight" as possible.
Going a step further is the mode "Pure Direct". This mode disables the LED panel and uses all available power for amplification of the signal, any additional functions not related to the reproduction and that is not required are switched off. This is, in other words, a mode for purists (hence the name, I guess) and provides an additional sound enhancement according to Yamaha. And here the Japanese have not promised too much, because the receiver sounds right from the first second, clean and just beautiful. Just the way it should be.
But despite all the precision and accuracy I won´t let it distract me from experimenting with the extensive DSPs on the 840 – and this gorgeous all-rounder has a whole lot of them! You will find six of them just for music, from large and small concert halls for Classical music to the famous Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles. The latter is particularly suitable for playing rock music. No wonder, as it was originally built for exactly this purpose. It actually works so well that I can imagine The Rolling Stones playing on stage. If you play music that was actually recorded at The Roxy Theater, like ‘Live at the Roxy’ with Bob Marley & The Wailers, it works less well. The explanation is quite obvious if you think about it, since the spatial information of the recording (The Roxy venue) gets processed with additional DSP trying to simulate said venue – it´s simply overkill. This is not meant as a critique of the RX-A840, but rather a small side note to anyone who uses the DSPs.
The selection of DSPs for movies are about as many as the music DSPs. Even video gamers are offered two modes (Action Game, Roleplaying Game). I would also like to mention a movie mode, Mono Movie, for old movies with only one sound channel. This mode process the sound so that it sounds "like in the atmosphere of a good old movie theater". A great feature that friends of old classic movies will appreciate.
The RX-A840 from Yamaha's Aventage series offers everything needed in an AV receiver for demanding movie and music fans: good looks, excellent build quality, extremely easy setup, comprehensive features and superb sound. For the price of $899.95, the Japanese multi-channel specialists gives you a receiver that in terms of performance, connectivity, flexibility and sound quality was until recently reserved for much higher-priced AV devices.
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- IN THe bOX
- 100 W x 7-channel powerful surround sound
- AirPlay®, HTC Connect™, Pandora®, Spotify, SiriusXM Internet Radio, Rhapsody®
- FLAC, WAV 192 kHz/24-bit, Apple® Lossless 96 kHz/24-bit playback and gapless playback compatibility
- 4K Ultra HD video up conversion using Yamaha video processing
- Support for HDMI® 2.0 specification (4K Ultra HD 50/60p compatible)
- YPAO™ - R.S.C. with multipoint measurement
- HDMI Zone B for audio/video streaming to another room
- Easy control with Yamaha AV Controller App
|Rated Output Power (1kHz, 2ch driven)||110 W (8 ohms, 0.9% THD)|
|Rated Output Power (20Hz-20kHz, 2ch driven)||100 W (8 ohms, 0.09% THD)|
|Dynamic Power per Channel (8/6/4/2 ohms)||130 / 170 / 195 / 240 W|
|Surround Sound Processing||CINEMA DSP||Yes (3D)|
|Dialog Level Adjustment||Yes|
|Virtual Presence Speaker||Yes|
|Dialogue Lift||Yes (no presence speakers required)|
|Virtual CINEMA FRONT||Yes|
|Dolby Digital Plus||Yes|
|Dolby Pro Logic IIx||Yes|
|DTS-HD Master Audio||Yes|
|Audio Features||Pure Direct||Yes (with video on mode)|
|Compressed Music Enhancer||Yes|
|YPAO sound optimization||Yes (multipoint)|
|Adaptive DRC (Dynamic Range Control)||Yes|
|Initial Volume & Maximum Volume Setting||Yes|
|Audio Delay||Yes (0-500 ms)|
|192kHz/24-bit DACs for all channels||Yes (Burr-Brown)|
|Video Features||HDMI 2.0 Spec Support||Yes|
|4K Ultra HD Pass-through and upscaling||Yes (60p / YCbCr 4:4:4)|
|HDMI 3D pass-through||Yes|
|HDMI Audio Return Channel||Yes|
|HDMI upscaling||Yes (analog to HDMI / HDMI to HDMI)|
|Deep Color/x.v.Color/24Hz Refresh Rate /Auto Lip-Sync||Yes|
|Wi-Fi||Yes (with Wireless Direct)|
|DC Out||Yes (USB DC output 5 V / 0.5 amp)|
|Extensive Connection||HDMI Input/Output||8 (1 front) / 2 (simultaneous)|
|HDMI CEC||Yes (SCENE, device control)|
|Network Port||Yes (AirPlay®, HTC Connect™, Pandora®, Spotify, Rhapsody®, SiriusXM Internet Radio, DLNA® 1.5, vTuner)|
|USB Input||iPod® / iPhone® / iPad®, USB memory, portable audio player (MP3, WMA, AAC up to 48 kHz / 16-bit, FLAC / WAV up to 192 kHz / 24-bit)|
|Front AV Input||HDMI (MHL support), USB, analog audio, composite|
|Digital Audio Input/Output: Optical||2 / 0|
|Digital Audio Input/Output: Coaxial||2 / 0|
|Analog Audio Input/Output||5 / 1|
|Component Video Input/Output||2 / 1|
|Composite Video Input/Output||5 (1 front) / 2|
|Tuner Section||FM/AM Tuner||Yes|
|User Interface||On-screen display||Graphical user interface|
|SCENE||SCENE (four sets)|
|App Control||Yes (iPhone / iPad, Android™ phone / tablet, Kindle Fire™)|
|Web Browser Control||Yes|
|Remote Control Unit||Yes|
|Zone Control||Zone 2 Audio Output||Line output|
|Powered Zone||Zone 2|
|Zone B Video Output||Yes|
|+12V Trigger Output||Yes (1)|
|Remote (IR) Input/Output||1 / 1|
|General||Standby Power Consumption (IR only)||≤0.1 W|
|Auto Power Standby||Yes|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||17-1/8” x 6-3/4” x 14-1/2” (with antenna: 17-1/8” x 9-1/4” x 15”)|