Yamaha RX-A730 Network A/V Receiver Page 2

Yamaha hasn’t fared too well in our video processing tests in the past, and its proprietary solution included in this model isn’t anything to write home about. First, it fails many of our benchmark tests, and this can rear its ugly head in real-world material such as the Vatican staircase scene in Mission: Impossible III—can you say rampant jaggies? Second, if the video processing is engaged, there’s massive chroma clipping. Fortunately, bypassing the video processing completely (by setting it to Direct in the menus) or setting the video output to Through eliminates the problem. If you’re in dire need of an AVR with video processing capabilities, you may want to scratch the RX-A730 off your list.

Let the Fun Begin
Given the RX-A730’s modest power specs, I chose to audition it in my secondary system that includes four Pioneer SP-BS22 monitors, an SP-C22 center (6-ohm load), and an SW-8MK2 subwoofer. If you’re looking for speakers on a budget, this $500 package is an outstanding value and should be at the top of your audition list.

Setting up the AVR isn’t a difficult chore, but if you need to consult the manual, you’ll need to pop the CD into your computer to access the PDF or register at Yamaha’s Website to download it to your tablet. I did an end around and e-mailed the PDF to my iPad to save myself from having to remember yet another user name and password.

1113yamrec.rem.jpgAs my kids have gotten older, I’ve been able to revisit a lot of movies from the past that weren’t age appropriate when they first hit Blu-ray. One such movie is Taken, the kick-ass action film starring Liam Neeson as a father whose unique talents come in handy when a group of human traffickers nab his daughter while vacationing in Paris. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track has all the elements of a reference-quality mix—quiet scenes to test your gear’s low-level resolution and a frenetically paced third act filled with plenty of gunshots, broken glass, and general mayhem.

Out of the gate, the Yamaha impressed me with its ability to render quiet scenes with realistic ambience and immersive traits. When the girls are standing in line at the airport for a taxi, you can hear the traffic panning through the soundstage, and the dialogue reproduction gives you that “being there” experience. When the action kicks in, the AVR proves it’s more than up to the challenge. Gunshots ring true with plenty of pop, revving car engines fill the soundstage, and when a window shatters in the surround speakers, you’ll find yourself looking over your shoulder and ducking for cover—mighty impressive!

Other demo-worthy scenes proved the Yamaha was more than capable to transport you into another world or specific time in history. The T. rex scene on the Jurassic Park Blu-ray packs plenty of punch, and the 23-minute demo sequence of the Omaha beach landing in Saving Private Ryan will impress you with its outstanding frequency extension and encompassing surround envelopment.

To free up some space around the house, I ripped all of my CDs onto my Windows Home Server. Unfortunately, I ripped most of them as WMA-lossless files that most A/V equipment doesn’t support—including Yamaha. Fortunately, HDtracks.com gives you the ability to download a wide variety of audiophile FLAC recordings. Huey Lewis & the News hit it big in my formative years, and whenever I hear one of their songs, it brightens my day. Their 1983 album Sports is their most popular and includes a number of memorable rock ’n’ roll tunes that raced up the charts. One of my personal favorites is “If This Is It.” The laid-back ballad peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 back in 1984, and streaming the track through the Yamaha brought a smile to my face. The vocals were out front and clearly defined, imaging was very wide, and even through the budget Pioneer speakers (designed by the renowned Andrew Jones, admittedly), I was able to achieve that coveted wall of sound.

Toggling the YPAO room correction (Flat, Front, or Natural) changed the output noticeably, and I preferred Flat the best. When I compared the output with YPAO versus Through (which disables the equalizer), it proved that the software tamed the brightness in the room on the high end and smoothed out the bass response on the lows. It’s a great addition to the AVR.

I really enjoyed my time with the RX-A730, and other than the suboptimal video processing and ergonomically challenged remote, there’s not a lot to complain about. Its audio prowess is second to none—especially at its price point—and if you own efficient speakers and don’t listen at insanely high volumes, its rather pedestrian power output probably won’t be an issue. The sub-$700 AVR marketplace is a crowded sector, and while you may find a product or two that offers a more complete video processing solution, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that sounds this good. If audio quality is what you’re looking for, just disable the video processing and sit back and enjoy the music. Highly recommended.