Yamaha Aventage RX-A2040 AV Receiver Review


Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rich, powerful sound with gobs of detail
Dolby Atmos capable
UHD-ready with 4K scaling and HDMI 2.0
Minus
No HDCP 2.2 DRM to handle future UHD content
Basic remote isn’t backlit

THE VERDICT
Yamaha’s one-step-down AVR delivers top-notch performance and features at a somewhat less than flagship price.

Choosing the perfect AV receiver for your home theater can be as tough as it was for Goldilocks to find the perfect bowl of porridge. Of course, we all want lots of features and plenty of power, but not if that means wasting money on bells and whistles we’ll never use or power we don’t really need. I find that in a single brand’s receiver lineup, it’s often the model just below the flagship that represents the best balance between price and performance. At that level, you still get just about every feature and most of the power available from the top model but with a substantial cost savings to sweeten the deal. Yamaha’s Aventage RX-A2040 appears to fall right into that type of sweet spot. At $1,700, it’s $500 less than the RX-A3040 flagship, but it still comes with most of that model’s features and can deliver more than 93 percent of its claimed two-channel power spec.

Despite playing second fiddle in Yamaha’s receiver lineup, the RX-A2040 is truly loaded, boasting nine amplifier channels, each of which is rated to pump out 140 watts. There’s a full package of wireless connectivity apps (including AirPlay, HTC Connect, and Wi-Fi) and a host of other onboard apps (including Spotify, Pandora, and SiriusXM). Surround modes are bang up to date, too, with Dolby Atmos having just been added through a post-launch firmware upgrade. The RX-A2040 can also handle Ultra HD video, with HDMI 2.0 inputs and outputs along with a UHD scaler. However, as with most receivers we’ve seen from the 2014 model year, it lacks the HDCP 2.2 DRM (digital rights management) capabilities that will probably be required to pass some future UHD content. This could be a deal killer if you plan to use the RX-A2040 with a UHD (4K) display and sources (such as a forthcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray player), although one workaround would be to route your UHD sources directly to the display with a second HDMI link to the receiver just for the audio signal.

Like most recent high-end AVRs, the RX-A2040 is a handsome beast, with two large rotary knobs flanking a flip-down door that covers lesser controls, along with a set of front-panel inputs. With the door up, the only other visible switches are the main zone power button and a button to engage the Pure Direct listening mode. At 37 pounds, the receiver is pretty hefty, so the weight is supported by five feet instead of the usual four—an Aventage hallmark. Yamaha describes the central foot as an Anti-Resonance Technology Wedge, designed to dampen chassis vibrations that could affect some internal components.

Setup
Unboxing and setting up the Yamaha went smoothly: I simply put it on the shelf below the everyday receiver in my rack and moved the cables over one at a time. The eleven pair of loudspeaker binding posts are all arranged neatly along the bottom center of the back panel, a layout that stops thick speaker cables from dangling in the way of other cables with less robust connectors. One minor consideration is that the binding posts aren’t spaced for 0.75-inch double banana plugs, which meant that I had to switch some of my speaker cables over to the more common single bananas.

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While many other receiver brands have been cutting back on their input options, Yamaha still gives you a pretty comprehensive set of connections. In addition to the eight HDMI inputs (one with MHL for smartphones), there are three component video inputs, five composite video inputs, and six analog audio inputs, including one with multichannel capabilities, plus a phono input for a turntable. S-video fans, however, are out of luck. Even though there are just nine power amp channels, the eleven pair of connectors allow you to configure and connect a couple of different setups, although you won’t be able to run them all at the same time. For example, you can have front height speakers connected, but you won’t be able to play them and the second-zone speakers simultaneously.

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For most of my evaluation, I connected the RX-A2040 to my PSB Synchrony One main, center, and surround speakers, with my M&K 350THX handling the subwoofer duties. This was my first encounter with a Yamaha setup GUI in a few years, and I found the menus to be generally intuitive and easy to navigate, although they do assume that you have a basic knowledge of the terms and procedures associated with AVRs.

Rather than employing a third-party speaker-alignment package like Audyssey, Yamaha has long used its own proprietary YPAO speaker calibration system. The version that comes with the RX-A2040 can measure the room from up to eight different seating positions, using the supplied microphone. While the alignment procedure generally went smoothly, with each speaker in turn being sent a sweep tone, I did find it curious that YPAO decided that both my Synchrony One C center-channel speaker and Synchrony S surround speakers were good down to 20 hertz. That was kind of a stretch, so after the automated calibration was completed, I followed up in the manual settings to make a few adjustments. To be fair, when it really gets down to critical listening, I generally prefer to do most of my auditioning with any EQ circuits like YPAO switched off. After all, my aim is to get a handle on the true sound of the receiver, not what the calibration program thinks my speakers should sound like. For the same reason, I like to turn off other sound adjustment features, such as YPAO Volume, Music Enhancer, and Extra Bass.

COMPANY INFO
Yamaha
(800) 292-2982
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
hk2000's picture

I'm in the market for a new receiver or pre-pro, and this receiver seems to have a lot of the things I need, but the lack of HDCP2.2 makes it already obsolete! I don't want to turn this into a brand comp., but Onkyo has been including HDCP2.2 on many of their receivers since last year. I don't know about you, but if I'm buying a receiver, the last thing I need is to be already looking for a solution to a very-near-future issue. S&V would do a great service to the readers if you were to provide a comparison chart of the top -or near top- receivers from the various major brands.

Thanks.

dommyluc's picture

Yeah, I have to agree with hk2000. Yamaha releasing this unit without HDCP2.2 is really dumb, and inexcusable since Onkyo and other companies have been including it for a while now. I am sure that consumers may be able to find units with HDCP2.2 and nearly all the other major features of this Yamaha unit - Atmos, streaming, 4K video, etc. - at a much lower price. And I thought that a magazine like S&V would consider non-inclusion of HDCP2.2 to be a deal-breaker for a receiver that promised 4K video compatibility. And does S&V even KNOW if the upcoming UHD disc players and satellite and cable boxes are even going to include multiple HDMI outputs so one can run a cable to both the display for video AND the receiver for audio? The electronics companies didn't exactly do a stellar job of including multi-channel analog outputs on Blu-ray players so that people could get the hi-def codecs on equipment without HDMI inputs, so why should we expect them to do any better in this regard?

Warrior24_7's picture

My original post was deleted and the the article seems to have been edited. When the article first appeared, Dobly Atmos and HDMI 2.0 were not mentioned as features. I questioned that in my response, then my response disappeared and the article now has been edited to mention these two features! Lol!!

Rob Sabin's picture
Hmm. This review originally appeared in our May magazine issue and has been published in print as it's seen here, with comments on its Atmos capabilities and HDMI 2.0 and HDCP status, since April 3rd. Not sure what happened here...
javanp's picture

This receiver was released fairly early last year and was one of the first, if not the first, receivers to be compatible with Atmos (although that compatibility came after its release via firmware update). They'll be releasing another receiver this year presumably that has the HDCP2.2 functionality, along with DTS UHD. If they had waited for both of those things, along with every around-the-corner technology, they'd never be releasing anything. And I don't see how it's a deal breaker. For the first few years, there are going to be loads of people that need a HDCP2.2 workaround. As such, there will be plenty of source devices that will have multiple HDMI outs, just like with 3D blu-ray. I got, and still have actually, a 3D blu-ray player with 2 HDMI outputs since my receiver wasn't compatible.

For me this was a great buy because my receiver died and I wanted something with Atmos

lttrader2's picture

Are the power ratings shown for 5 channel and 7 channel actually this low? It seem like a huge drop-off from the 2 channel ratings. Lesser powered receivers from Sony, Onkyo, and Anthem retain much higher wattage than these results would indicate.

Bob Ankosko's picture
Yes, the numbers are correct. Mark Peterson, who conducts “Sound & Vision’s lab testing, offers the explanation below. Please also see “How We Test Audio” for more insights. We have also added Mark’s full lab notes, which were previously missing due to a posting error. Our regrets and apologies for that oversight.

I believe nomenclature that has different meanings in different situations is causing confusion. In the context of our amplifier power output measurements, "continuous" refers to a repetitive 1 kHz sine wave of at least one second in duration. We apply this signal to the specified number of channels, all in phase with one another. This is opposed to "burst" tests which generally demand full output power for only a tiny fraction of a second at a time, then have a much longer period of inactivity before the next short burst comes along.

As an example, using a 1 kHz sine wave, there are by definition 1,000 cycles every second. In our continuous power tests, every one of these cycles is sent to the amplifier in a "continuous" fashion. This is a brutal test as it doesn't give the power supply section even a fraction of a second of inactivity to recharge and regain composure, but it does give insight into the ultimate capabilities of the critically important internal power supply.

In a common version of a burst test, only the first 10 cycles or so are sent to the amplifier, leaving the amplifier idling for the time it would have taken to amplify the next 90 cycles, and allowing the power supply to recover. Even though it's only a fraction of a second until the next 10-cycle burst comes along, this makes the test vastly less stringent and much larger output power numbers generally result. This is especially apparent when multiple channels are driven simultaneously. While it may be argued that burst tests can made to more closely mimic the demands of actual program material, the downside is that there is little consistency in our industry as to how long these bursts should be and how often they repeat, so it's virtually impossible to compare power output numbers derived via burst signals from different sources.

During our continuous sine output test, the Audio Precision test system ramps up the level step-by-step until 1% distortion is exceeded. The total sweep takes 10-15 seconds and maximum power is output for a second or two. This is not to say that the amplifier can output this level of "continuous" power indefinitely. Consumer products built to withstand full continuous power output for more than a matter of seconds are rare, as actual program content is highly unlikely to put such demands on them. Professional and laboratory gear is another matter and are designed for different applications with different size and price expectations.

Protection schemes have gotten vastly more complex over the last few years as more and more digital processing power has become available. If it's mentioned in the Measurement Box that protection engaged while performing our power output tests, then signal flow was interrupted by the protection scheme. In other words, the unit under test cried "uncle" and at the very least stopped amplifying the test signal, and may have powered-down completely. At one time this was the main method of protection and its action is readily apparent by the lack of sound coming from your speakers.

In the current era, however, DSP chips can be programmed to respond to less-than-dire conditions that the designer deemed as unusual, but that don't require complete shut-down for protection. This might be to meet various international thermal/safety/energy conservation requirements as well as the usual goal of self-preservation. The unit's reaction to these conditions can now be substantially less obvious. In a nod to what the auto industry labels "limphome mode", some modern AVRs will drastically reduce power output instead of shutting-down completely. This allows the consumer to finish watching their movie, albeit with drastically reduced performance, even when the AVR deems something to be amiss. Some manufacturers appear to define "amiss" as the admittedly unusual condition of having continuous in-phase sine waves applied to all channels simultaneously, such as with our power tests.

When this is the case, power output is radically reduced without any outward indication that the unit has deemed it prudent to modify its performance. This would not necessarily be perceived by the consumer as being in classic shut-down/protection mode except that the maximum volume level that could be attained would be markedly decreased. As this type of protection behavior is not consistent from model-to-model or brand-to-brand, and as there is no clear front-panel indication when it has been engaged, we can't in all fairness call-out when it might be happening so we simply publish the resulting numbers and let them speak for themselves.

MusicViking's picture

The numbers might be correct, but I suspect that the tests were performed with Eco Mode on.
I have just bought one 2nd hand and though it is less powerful than the NAD I had before it seems more powerful than the figures unless Eco Mode is on. When that is on power output is almost a joke.

Warrior24_7's picture

The VSX-90 blows this thing away and it's only $700.

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