Yamaha Aventage CX-A5100 Surround Processor Review Page 2

The process takes about 15 minutes to measure eight positions and is well worth the effort, for various reasons. First and foremost, it nailed the distance of my speakers from my main listening position to within 1 inch and saved the time of having to enter this information manually. Furthermore, it did a commendable job of setting speaker levels in my room, which I verified with my SPL meter.

But always double-check all the settings. The YPAO software initially set my center speaker to large and my front left and right to small, which was a head-scratcher, considering that all three are identical M&K S150 speakers. Additionally, it set two of my four Atmos speakers (Atlantic Technology IC-OBAs) to large as well. I manually set all of them to small and set all crossovers to 80 hertz per THX’s recommendation.

Additionally, when I went through and looked at how each speaker was set via the EQ, I noticed that there were only very slight changes made to my main speakers and virtually none to my dual subwoofers. This could be because my room is treated already and was in little need of adjustment, though YPAO as executed here won’t EQ bass frequencies below 31 Hz, where some rooms might have issues. For those inclined, with the proper calibration equipment, the EQ can be set manually with a plethora of adjustments at your disposal. If I owned the Yamaha, this would definitely become a winter weekend undertaking in order to squeeze out every ounce of audio performance.

I Heart Object-Based Audio
Setup of the unit wasn’t difficult, given my experience with Yamaha products in the past. I hooked up the CX-A5100 via XLR connectors to a couple of Parasound amps, the A 51 for the five main channels and the ZoneMaster Model 1250 for the back surrounds and Atmos channels (using XLR-to-RCA cables). Source components used in the evaluation included a TiVo Series 3 HD DVR (HDMI), Squeeze- box Touch (coax digital), Oppo BDP-103D (HDMI), and a Windows Home Server to stream various FLAC files over Ethernet. One thing I noticed right away after getting things running was that the CX-A5100 was somewhat sluggish in connecting to my HDMI sources, taking as much as 10 to 15 seconds to lock down the new signal when I switched between my Oppo disc player and TiVo. This was annoyingly slow compared with my Marantz reference pre/pro. Perhaps Yamaha can speed things up with a future firmware update.

I didn’t catch the first season of The Flash until it made its debut on Blu-ray, and it was definitely worth the wait. The show features a great ensemble cast, an interesting story line of how Flash obtained his powers, and a mix of cool audio effects that sound fantastic in the Blu-ray’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation. As the show opens, a young Barry Allen and his mother are sitting on the living-room floor with all hell breaking loose around them. Some type of supersonic battle is happening, with flashing blurs and hurricane-like wind, and the CX-A5100 transports you into young Barry’s world. The wind engulfs the room, and you can hear his mother’s cries very clearly from the center speaker. Next thing you know, Barry is instantly whisked out to the silent nighttime street as the young kid doesn’t realize how his life has forever changed. With DSU (Dolby Surround Upmixer, which takes stereo or non-Atmos multichannel soundtracks and scales them up for the Atmos speakers), the Yamaha performed flawlessly in re-creating the hectic environment—and that was the first of many exhilarating audio experiences with this pre/pro.

San Andreas is a mediocre (at best) summer action movie, but it includes one of the most engaging Atmos tracks to date. It takes full advantage of the format by placing sounds throughout the room in order to draw you into the picture. The first scene includes a helicopter rescue of a car that has rolled over an embank- ment. The sound mix places you right in the compartment of the car, creating the morbid feeling that you’re about to fall to your death. Once the helicopter arrives, the overhead speakers really spring to action, serving up that “you are there” experience to the nth degree—and this is just a warm-up for what’s in store for you later. The Yamaha really showed its prowess with movie soundtracks, and I dare anyone to watch San Andreas in Atmos and not get the bug to upgrade. Yes, it’s that good.

Two-channel performance was almost as enjoyable but didn’t quite reach the jaw-dropping level I hoped for. That’s not to say the Yamaha sounded bad here—it featured a smooth presentation, clear vocals, and an engaging experience—but compared with what I’ve heard in my room from the Krell Foundation ($6,500, review at soundandvision.com) or my Marantz AV-8802A reference pre/pro ($4,000), it wasn’t quite as transparent and alive. This was apparent not only with high-resolution files downloaded from HDtracks but also with ripped CDs on my server as well as some SACD and DVD-Audio discs I played.

One song that stood out was Marti Jones’ “Second Choice” (Live at Spirit Square, Sugar Hill, 1996). The recording blew me away with crystal-clear dynamics, just like I’m used to with the Marantz, but the two pre/pros definitely sounded different. I switched through the various YPAO settings (Manual, Flat, Natural, and Through). Flat sounded the best with prioritized vocals, but the pluck of the bass guitar and the kick of the drum were slightly more laid-back than I’ve grown accustomed to over my past six months with the Marantz. Still, it was just a different sonic signature, and some may prefer the smoother sound of the Yamaha.

I’ve really enjoyed my time with the Yamaha CX-A5100, and frankly, I could live with this pre/pro in a heartbeat if I hadn’t recently upgraded. The two-channel performance sounds fantastic (if slightly different from what I’m used to), and for movies, which are my passion, this beast kicks some serious tail. With the promise of a DTS:X upgrade in the works (which may be in place by the time you read this), it has everything a movie buff needs to get away from the real world. Highly recommended.

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Charlie Ecco's picture

can you compare side by side the MCX-A5100 to Marantz AV7702MKII

Jonasandezekiel's picture

Hi David. You're probably not going to read this, but in case you do, why did you downgrade your rating for this processor, the 5100, over the 5000, which you gave a perfect five stars? (In audio performance) What changed in your opinion? You seem less impressed with its two channel performance, over the previous model as well....why is that?

frans callebaut's picture

i have a yamaha cx-a5100 but have only the space for a 5.1 system. so in my room it's impossible to mount height speakers or upwards speakers on my excisting speakers. can i simulate the presence of height speakers( which i have not) with dts neural-x which the cxa51100 has ?
kind regards,
frans callebaut