Yamaha Aventage RX-A6A A/V Receiver Review Page 2

I streamed a range of Atmos-soundtracked movies and TV programs during the Yamaha's residency in my system with nary a complaint, and with all the Atmos (or DTS:X) object-based surround virtues eminently on display. In the interest of thoroughness, I also cued up Air Force One, a film that has benefitted from Atmos remixing as much as any classic I can think of. I quickly got sucked into the action, forget- ting my reviewer's duties except to wonder at how lifelike Atmos made the on-board ambience in the movie's earlier, expository scenes, and how visceral its thrill-a-minute denouement.

While listening in plain ol' stereo seems almost uncalled for given Yamaha's DSP- surround prowess (see the next section), thoroughness required examination, and the RX-A6A did not stumble. Close- listening sessions via high-res Tidal and Qobuz proved that the ample power already noted was equally evident in full-range (no subwoofer) stereo playback. The Yamaha had no difficulty pushing my fairly low-sensitivity main speakers to club-like levels with pristine sound quality.

Listening: Spaces
I've been a fan of Yamaha's multichannel-DSP-surround technologies for years— decades, in fact. Minimalist audiophiles may sneer, but the firm's DSP recreations of actual and idealized acoustic spaces are second to none—and this was equally true back when Yamaha wasn't the only one doing such work. While most A/V receivers feature the odd "Hall" and "Nightclub" modes, the RX-A6A provides an even two dozen DSP programs, most of them remarkably convincing with careful setup and tuning. An album of concertos for two keyboards (harpsichords) by the great Spanish baroque composer Antonio Soler (24-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Qobuz) sounded magisterial on the Hall in Vienna program (originally derived from that city's Opera), a bit more intimate on the Hall in Amsterdam setting (the famed Concertgebouw), but most appealing of all via the generic Chamber program, which aptly conjured up a chateau's grand salon, where I almost felt myself among the bewigged and powdered nobility.

1121yamaharec.remYamaha enables listeners to adjust a handful of DSP-surround parameters including room size, initial delay, and overall effect level. The longer you listen, the more modest you tend to make these settings. Or at least, I did; after many hours of musical grazing, I determined that my favorite "all-purpose" mode for classical music was the Amsterdam program, with delay, size, and level all dialed back a few ticks each. (If memory serves, this is the same go-to I ended up with on the last Yamaha AVR I reviewed.)

Nor is this stuff's usefulness limited to "serious" music. Cueing up Stevie Ray's "So Excited" from the Live at El Mocambo DVD and dialing in the RX-A6A's Bottom Line program (from the New York club of fond memory) delivered the low-ceilinged, dead-ish, flat-echoey sound I remember, and amped up the excitement by a factor of five, bringing me about as close to the live SRV experience as I'm going to get—in this world, anyway.

Extras & Ergonomics
The RX-A6A's streaming features are set up and controlled by the company's MusicCast app. Along with Spotify, basic internet radio, and a client for your home network's DNLA server (if you have one), it offers popular services like Pandora, Tidal, and Qobuz (as well as multiroom operability with other MusicCast-compatible Yamaha components). I used the last two extensively with fine results. Of course, you could use each service's native app with similar functionality, streaming via AirPlay 2 from your iPhone or iPad, but MusicCast delivers same-screen access to many of the receiver's functions without having to switch between apps.

The RX-A6A's backlit remote control is generously spaced and sprinkled with useful tactile cues like bumps, hollows, dots, and grooves for easier in-the-dark-navigation. Pride of place goes up top to "Scene" keys numbered 1-8. The Scene system lets you store eight combinations of input, surround program, tone and YPAO-EQ settings, and even speaker array and level settings—plus video options, including 8K upconversion—all easily recalled with a single keypress. (The Scene functions remap for each of the RX-A6A's up to three remote zones, too, to which end the MusicCast app provides 8 Scene keys. So, as long as you have a phone or tablet with the app in each room, you're good to go.) You can in effect reconfigure the receiver entirely under each Scene, which is a powerful tool indeed.

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Yamaha's remote does not include direct-access keys for most inputs or surround programs. The exceptions are Tuner, Net, USB, and Bluetooth inputs, and Pure Direct (stereo, no sub), Straight (unprocessed stereo or surround), and Party, which sends stereo of the main- zone source to all zones. Unless your life is a lot more fun than mine, this seems like a waste of a remote key.

If you want to browse DSP- surround modes, you must bring up the main menu, scroll to the Sound item, scroll to DSP Program, and then select from the list: a minimum of six keystrokes! And the situation for selecting inputs is similar. To be fair, both Program and Input get up/down remote-key pairs, letting you step through the many choices without visiting the menus. And to be even fairer, the MusicCast app can access scrollable lists of both functions. Another minor beef: Yamaha locates the volume up/ down keys at the lower right of the remote, where I found them slightly awkward to reach.

One feature I appreciated was the RX-A6A's Information option. This brings up a series of up to six linked screens that display just about every setting and parameter, both audio and video, you might think of, including incoming data types and bitrates. Unfortunately, this is only accessible via the receiver's Options menu (and at the bottom at that) via yet more keypresses. A direct-access "Info" button on the remote—in place of that Party button, perhaps?—would be nice.

For those without height speakers in their system, Yamaha's Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization feature lets the RX-A6A conjure up "virtual" height- and surround-back speaker options from a physical 5.1-channel layout. This worked better than you might expect, yielding a modest but discernible verticality in both the front and back of my room. The price was a very faint sheen of "phasey-ness" over some music or on sounds like bells. While I wouldn't use it for all movies, other listeners will make their own choices, and the RX-A6A's Scene memories mean you could have it both ways at the press of a button.

There's also something Yamaha dubs Surround:AI, which is said to "...create the optimal surround effect for the scene of the content." This claims to adjust dialog, music, and effects—to deliver a "compelling sense of realism." Surround:AI tended to slightly goose the dialog, surround channels, and bass, adding a bit of EQ and perhaps some delays and other DSP virtualizing. But the effects were subtle, and perhaps it might be beneficial when used with modest speaker systems.

Conclusion
I could write a great deal more about this richly featured receiver, but a quick summary will have to do. The RX-A6A's audio quality proved beyond reproach, and it has ample power for most any system and user scenario I can imagine. On the ergonomics side, the Yama- ha's thoughtful Scene memories, tremendous customization options (including video processing ones, which I haven't even mentioned),

and useful listening modes make it nearly ideal if what you want a system you can set up once and then forget. Add in 11.2-channel processing and extensive streaming and connectivity options, including those forthcoming HDMI 2.1 features, and the RX-A6A registers as a high-performance AVR that's as future-ready as you could want.

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COMMENTS
bikdav's picture

After reading this review, It would be interesting to hear this receiver as the “hub” of a high end audio system. Could it be a good alternative to separates?

EB1000's picture

The new Yamaha A line suffers from many annoying bugs, like YPAO speaker distance error if more than 3 measurement points are used. Gene from Audioholics did some initial testing on the A6A and some of the channels scored a poor 65dB of SINAD, far below CD quality requirements of 96dB. I've listened to the A6A and to the Onkyo RX50, post YPAO and Dirac calib, and the RX50 which costs a third of the price, sounded way better!

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