Which Receivers Route Digital Audio to a Second Zone?

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Q I’m looking to buy a new receiver and was checking out Yamaha’s RX-A1030. A problem with that unit, however, is that it doesn’t appear to route signals from an optical digital input to its second-zone output—a feature that I require. (Other than that, the RX-A1030 has everything I need.) Is there another option on the market that can do this? Researching receiver specs is very tiring because specific info is hard to find. —Pete via email

A Relax—I’m here to help with your research. I agree that looking over receiver specs can be draining—in many cases, the information presented on manufacturer websites can be vague, and sometimes even misleading. But there are still ways to dig out specific details you’re looking for.

Looking at other AV receiver options in the same price range as the Yamaha, I noted that the Marantz SR6008 ($1199) “supports 2nd zone output from digital sources.” And it also has a Zone 2 HDMI output that lets you independently route digital AV signals from any of its 6 HDMI inputs to a second room.

Stepping up a bit in price—and features—there’s Denon’s AVR-X4000 ($1399). The company’s specs for this model indicate that it offers “Digital to analog conversion for multi-zone outputs,” with the processing applied to optical and coaxial digital and HDMI inputs. As with the Marantz SR6008, the Denon has a matrix HDMI switcher that lets you send video and audio (2-channel only) to a second zone via HDMI.

If you’re set on sticking with Yamaha, it appears that the company’s step-up model from the RX-A1030, the RX-A3020 ($1499), has what you’re looking for. Yamaha’s specs indicate that the 3020 can play digital audio sources connected to its coaxial/optical inputs in a second zone using either the receiver’s built-in amp channels or via its Zone 2 preamp outputs. The 3020 also has second zone HDMI output with independent source selection if you prefer to go the HDMI route.