Yamaha Aventage RX-A3060 A/V Receiver Review

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PRICE $2,200

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Nine amp channels, 11.2 (7.2.4) pre-outs
Automated angle and height calibration
Minus
No Auro-3D

THE VERDICT
Yamaha’s new flagship receiver packs nine amp channels into a well-built package.

Buying an A/V receiver has always been a challenge, even to the well informed. Incoming technologies add still more complexity. Sometimes, however, they also generate new priorities and narrow your choices. Sure, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X require you to add more speakers and make your system more elaborate. But if you want to run those formats in their most effectively enveloping configurations, your shopping expedition for a receiver has suddenly become a lot simpler.

Within Yamaha’s Aventage line, the RX-A3060 reviewed here, with its nine onboard amps and 11.2-channel processing, is the only model that can run the new height-enhanced surround formats in 7.2.4 channels; only an outboard stereo amp is required to complete the setup. If your goal is a mere 5.2.4 channels, eliminating the back-surrounds but keeping the four height channels, you have this and one additional choice, the RX-A2060 ($1,700), also with nine amplifiers built in, but without the upgradeability to 7.2.4.

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The Smarter Stepper-Upper
The RX-A3060 is the flagship model in Yamaha’s higher-end Aventage line, rated at 150 watts into 8 ohms with two channels driven. In past reviews, I’ve discussed the vibration-controlling H-frame construction, separate power supplies for digital and analog circuits, and other build-quality features that account for some of the high-end price tag. This is the best receiver Yamaha knows how to build.

Ever in search of something new, I couldn’t help noting that this is the first receiver I’ve reviewed that includes angle and height measurements of speaker positions, in addition to distance, in its room correction program. Yamaha’s YPAO offers it as an option that can be used or ignored while you set up the receiver. As Yamaha explains: “By using a quad-point microphone platform for the room calibration, the YPAO system can precisely identify where each speaker in the room is located in relation to the listener, both horizontally and vertically. Without angle and height measurement, the system can pinpoint only distance from the listener, with no data on where the speaker is. By knowing the horizontal angle and vertical height of the loudspeakers, the receiver can more accurately map or place object-based sound elements into the 3D space of the room.”

If you want the full setup, you’ll first be directed to do the usual measurements for one or more seating positions, with the setup mic mounted (ideally) on a tripod at ear height. Then you remove the mic from the tripod, attach the quad-point platform (which looks like a three-legged starfish) to the tripod, and take additional measurements with the microphone attached to one leg then the next. For the final measurement, attach an included column to the center of the platform, which when you place the mic on top, raises it about 8 inches. The program ran uneventfully except for claiming (incorrectly) that my front left height speaker was wired out of phase. My best guess is that the acoustic irregularities of my six-sided room and asymmetrical speaker placement confused YPAO.

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Another unusual feature is Yamaha’s own MusicCast multiroom system. It allows any of the receiver’s sources—including phono, FM, and Bluetooth-connected devices—to be streamed to other MusicCast devices, including standalone wireless speakers, AVRs, stereo amps, HTIBs, soundbars, and powered monitors.

Of course, this receiver is Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay capable and supports Spotify, Spotify Connect, Pandora, Rhapsody, and SiriusXM streaming services. And your flagship-receiver bucks will buy four zones of joy. On the video side, this model is Ultra HD capable, including HDCP 2.2 DRM for Ultra HD Blu-ray and incorporating HDR10 (but not Dolby Vision) support.

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Associated equipment included five Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.4 speakers and four Klipsch RP-140SA Atmos elevation modules, an Oppo BDP-83SE universal disc player, Micro Seiki BL-51 turntable, Shure M97xE cartridge, and Denon PRA-S10 stereo preamp serving as phono preamp. Movie demos were with DTS:X soundtracks on Blu-ray, in 5.1.4 configuration.

DTS:X Times Three
The RX-A3060 is audibly and recognizably a Yamaha, with a crisp top end that keeps its cool under duress and effortless dialogue reproduction. Dynamically, this is a receiver, not a muscle amp, but it should have no trouble running speakers whose sensitivity is on the low side of average, as you’d expect from a $2,000-plus receiver.

117yamaharec.rem.jpgFor movie soundtracks with height channels, I favored the receiver’s Standard movie mode, which the manual says “emphasizes the surround feeling without disturbing the original positioning of multichannel audio.” The result was some of the best 5.1.4 I’ve ever heard. What fascinated me was how differently each movie deployed my system’s four height speakers.

Giving my growing Atmos library a rest, I settled in to watch a trio of DTS:X titles. In London Has Fallen, the strategy was to fill the overhead channels constantly and aggressively. Some effects—let’s say, fighter jets zooming by—offered height-specific sensations, but most of the height effects just gave basic surround envelopment a little lift. The first half-hour challenged the Yamaha’s dynamics with a barrage of (fictional) terrorist attacks on London landmarks.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot sends Tina Fey to Afghanistan as a war reporter, a role that takes full advantage of both her comedic and dramatic gifts. Here, height effects were more differentiated as height-specific. A recurring nightclub scene showed off the receiver’s extraordinary aptitude for envelopment. It simulated the space believably and aced the phat throb of bass waves bouncing off the walls of that conjured space.

In The Big Short, the sound mixer got inside the head of Christian Bale’s socially challenged investment genius, using snatches of height-enhanced music to inveigle the listener into his peculiar walled-off consciousness. This was a surprising and innovative exercise in using height channels for character development. Dialogue in this high-spirited movie veered from conspiratorial sotto voce to fullthroated yelling, and back again, demonstrating (for the umpteenth time in my experience) how well a Yamaha can deliver low-level intelligibility.

Fantastique Voyage
Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique came on a 5.0-channel hybrid SACD with Daniele Gatti leading the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in its own hall, with which I am familiar. I compared the receiver’s Straight mode (with YPAO) with its Pure Direct mode (without YPAO). Although I’d found that YPAO caused a fair amount of tonal shift during informal warmingup demos, it was less pronounced with this high-resolution content. The luminous strings in this deliberately light-textured recording were better imaged in room-corrected Straight, warmer in uncorrected Pure Direct—but these were marginal differences. Either way, the Yamaha delivered this best-case material gorgeously, reminding me of the hall’s stately reverb. A great receiver makes all of its most significant modes sound good.

Toward the Curve is a series of pieces for “piano + surround sound electronics” by various composers at the Oberlin Conservatory, performed by Thomas Rosenkranz for a 5.0-channel Pure Audio Blu-ray (coupled with a CD). Imagine Keith Jarrett improvs embellished with occasional quotes from well-known classical works; then imagine John Cage’s acoustically generated prepared-piano sounds and a riot of electronic samples rocketing around the soundfield. The receiver’s contribution was to anchor the lively natural piano in the front of the soundfield so that the acoustic and electronic effects could frolic around it. While this material would blow minds on any decent system, the Yamaha handled the acoustic instrument’s rich overtones in an especially vivid and painterly way.

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The Beatles’ Hey Jude LP (most of whose contents ended up on the Past Masters compilations) confounded my expectations for the appropriate mode. My vinyl pressing, at least, is somewhat bright and thin. And my early spins were on collegeera speakers with polite paper-diaphragm tweeters and no room correction. So I assumed that the warming effect and room-agnostic ideology of Pure Direct would be the best way down memory lane. But I hadn’t reckoned on the room-corrected Straight mode putting some extra zing into the psychedelic drone of “Rain.” It also moved the bottom end of Sir Paul’s bass into the subwoofer, the ideal home it always deserved.

The Yamaha RX-A3060 starts with an amp that sounds good in every mode that matters—the basis of my five-star Audio Performance rating—with enough channels to run all but the more elaborate configurations of surround sound as it exists today. Added to that is a solid wireless feature set, including the unique plus of the company’s own MusicCast multiroom capability, which turns the Yamaha into the musical nerve center for the entire home. The result is a state-of-theart, top-of-the-line receiver. Feast your ears.

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Specs
Power Output: 9 x 150 watts (8 ohms, 2 channels driven)
Auto Setup/Room EQ: YPAO-R.S.C. (proprietary)
Video Processing: 4K passthrough, scaling, HDR10
Dimensions (WxHxD, Inches): 17.13 x 7.5 x 18.63
Weight (Pounds): 39.9
Video Inputs: HDMI 2.0a (8), component video (3), composite video (5)
Audio Inputs: Coaxial digital (3), optical digital (3), stereo analog RCA (8, 1 front), phono (1)
Additional: Wi-Fi antenna (1), Ethernet (1), USB (1), AM (1), FM (1)
Video Outputs: HDMI 2.0a (2), component video (1), composite video (1)
Audio Outputs: 11.2-channel pre-out (1), stereo analog RCA (2)
Additional: RS-232 (1), remote (in/out), trigger (2)
Price: $2,200

(soundandvision.com, https://goo.gl/Mrxw4W)

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