Test Report: Yamaha RX-A3000 A/V Receiver Page 2

PERFORMANCE
I am bound to say that the new Yamaha showed itself to good "aventage" from the get-go. I heard a welcome clarity and unforced openness from just about everything I auditioned, whether two-channel or multi. My 2-channel choices included 96/24 tracks by the slightly "outside" French jazz pianist Benoît Delbecq and his trio (Songlines Recordings), which the RX-A3000 delivered at realistic club levels with headroom to spare, as heard in the clear textures and free dynamic energy on aggressive piano lines and snare drum accents.

Yamaha has been a leader in DSP for surround from digital audio's earliest days, and its proprietary Cinema DSP options have long ranked among the most sophisticated, and genuinely usable, surround-processing (as distinct from surround-decoding) algorithms. For example, the RX- A3000's tenure at my place coincided with last season's MLB playoffs, and I had it in use for several games on my "big" system. I quickly found that the RX-A3000?s "Sports" program supplemented the broadcast Dolby Digital 5.1 mix quite effectively, adding substantial breadth and envelopment to the crowd and ambient elements, with only a very minimal tonal shift to announcers' voices.

With its lush, big-shouldered DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, Robin Hood, the latest product from the Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe spectacle factory, is a perfect foil for Yamaha's Cinema DSP palette. Like most of its Yamaha predecessors for the past decade or so, the RX-A3000 provides for "presence speakers" positioned above and astride the front left/right pair (more or less equivalent to the "height" channels employed by both Audyssey DSX and Dolby PLIIz). I deployed my usual two- way on-walls here and was rewarded by a demonstrably bigger, deeper front-stage image. For example, in Chapter 4 of Robin Hood, when the band on horseback comes cantering diagonally down a hillside, Cinema DSP Action mode produced a clearly broader, taller, big-screen-ier spatiality than did Straight mode.

Overall, the Yamaha's extensive palette of surround options proved its value, and even the quite aggressive Spectacle setting (which seemed particularly fitting for Crowe and friends) produced only a faint hint of tonal coloring to dialogue - faint enough that without some fairly extensive replaying comparisons, I doubt I'd have noticed it. (The RX-A3000 seemed noticeably better in this regard than earlier Yamahas I've tested.)

No self-respecting flagship A/V receiver today is complete without a network connection, and the Aventage line is down with this requirement. After I connected the RX-A3000 to my home network via its rear-panel LAN port, it offered up my media library (via TwonkyMedia, a DLNA- compatible Mac-platform software media server), includ- ing high-rez FLAC files downloaded from services such as HDTracks, without a hiccough. With such files becoming a key source of the highest-quality stereo music available, this is an increasingly important feature.

The Yamaha proved its worth here as well. Anton Webern's landmark Opus 30 is a set of brief orchestral variations whose gossamer musical architecture demands true concert-level playback, with unrestricted dynamics and transparency - even though it never once gets "loud." (Otherwise, as the softest statements fade from notice, the structure of the abstract yet sharply focused musical argument becomes utterly lost.) The RX-A3000's highly appropriate "Hall in Vienna" Cinema DSP setting contributed dimension that somehow eased the neural processing necessary to follow this demanding music - without meddling with tonal colors or textures.

The RX-A3000?s video bag of tricks proved equally top-shelf. Our usual battery of test-disc patterns and clips failed to turn up any discrete artifacts, which did not surprise me given the HQV silicon?s track record. And Yamaha's is an unusually flexible system: You can upscale analog video to analog video, analog video to HDMI, and even HDMI to HDMI.

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