Yamaha RX-V3800 AV Receiver Page 2

There are three component inputs and four HDMI 1.3a inputs, with one output for each. The V3800 has the ability to convert all incoming analog video signals from to HDMI. It should be noted though that you can't convert a digital signal (HDMI) for output over the component output. The unit also employs a video processing solution from Anchor Bay, which "upconverts" analog 480i/p signals up to1080p.

Another evolution in AVRs has been the adoption of automated setup and equalization programs to assist the end user in getting the most out of their purchase. While Denon and Onkyo use a solution provided by Audyssey, Yamaha has its own proprietary setup program called YPAO (Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer).

When I first set up the unit, I went old school and used a copy of DVE on HD DVD and my trusty old Radio Shack SPL meter. Only after living with the unit for a week did I employ the YPAO, which worked much better than I expected. First off, it nailed the distances on my speakers to within a half of a foot, and when checking the speaker levels with my SPL meter, the auto tones balanced all seven of my speakers to within 1dB of each other. Color me impressed! The only foible I found was that YPAO set my front speakers to Large, which they aren't, and the crossover to my sub 110 Hz. I did some listening with the YPAO active vs. inactive and preferred the sound of my manual setup with all of my speakers set to small and my subwoofer crossover to 80 Hz as recommended by THX, which is how I spent 90% of my reviewing time with the unit.

The V3800 provides a GUI that allows you to set up the unit to suit your individual audio/video system, which even comes available in six languages for any linguists out there. It took me a few hours of playing around with the menu system to get comfortable with its layout. I currently own a Denon AVR and have owned an Onkyo in the past, and while I wouldn't call the user setup on either of those groundbreaking, they were much more intuitive for me to learn than the Yamaha's GUI. I had to rely on the user manual much more than I cared for. And something must have been lost in the translation from Japanese to English because it took me way too long to figure out how to get certain functions to work properly. But with enough patience and trial and error, I eventually figured my way around their system. After living with the unit for almost a month now, I feel like an expert and thankfully won't have to venture into the manual again anytime soon.

One thing the Yamaha does annoyed me during daily use. When using the HDMI output, when running changes are made to the volume or surround modes, for example, these aren't displayed on-screen. If you change the volume during a movie over HDMI, you have to look at the front panel display, which has very small characters that are difficult if not impossible to read from any distance away.

Remote Central
Yamaha provides two, yes two remote controls for the V3800. In addition to the main remote control, there is a Zone 2/ Zone 3 remote if you need to change inputs and/or volume from a different zone. This is an IR remote though, so in order to use it from a separate room you need to run an IR receiver to that room back to the main location where the amp is hooked up.

The "main" remote is about what you would expect from an AVR in this price range. It's backlit and is decently laid out and does an admirable job of controlling the main unit. It does fall short in a lot of ways though. First, the backlight only highlights the keys, so even though you can see the key in the dark, you have no idea what the button will do when you hit it! Luckily, the volume +/- buttons are the largest on the remote so at least you can easily recognize them. After using the remote for a few weeks though I remembered why I purchased my MX-700 Universal remote oh so many years ago. While the AVR manufacturers try to provide a remote that will be a "jack of all trades" type experience, the "master of none" comes to the forefront all too often. If you spend this kind of coin on an AVR, spend a couple hundred bucks more and get yourself a good universal remote.

The Video in an Audio/Video Receiver
One of the many benefits of HDMI is the simplicity of hook-ups- one cable to rule them all. Everything hasn't gone according to plan though with HDMI. First, we're already on version 1.3a of the spec, and who knows how many more will follow. Second, if you have ever had HDCP issues with HDMI or its older cousin DVI, you would long for the days of component cables. Third, if you use longer cable runs (in excess of 10 meters), you may need to mortgage the house in order to find a cable that has the capability of carrying a 1080p signal without any dropouts. And finally, the actual connector itself isn't the most robust and tight fitting concoction ever created, especially for those of us who change out our equipment as often as we mow our front lawns (according to my wife, I need to mow more and upgrade less).

But with all that being said, I still like the HDMI interface. First of all, the back of my AV rack has never looked so clean. Instead of a myriad of cables coming out of each source component, and it's nice to run just one cable from my source to the AVR, and then have one HDMI output running to my projector. And if you want hi-res audio from Blu-ray and HD DVD, HDMI is not only the simplest connection it offers the most functionality.

The Yamaha's video processing is built around a solution from Anchor Bay and not only offers HDMI switching, but upconversion to 1080p as well. After living with it for several weeks, I can't say that I am entirely thrilled with the way the video capabilities are implemented.

It only upconverts 480i/p, and only over analog . When the incoming signal is 1080i/p or 720p, the signal is passed through without processing. On the plus side though, I ran a boatload of tests with resolution patters using both 480i component upconverted to 1080p as well as 1080i signals running directly from the HD DVD version of DVE. In these tests, I noticed no loss of detail with the Yamaha in the video chain when transcoding and/or upconverting component signals to HDMI. But on a more subjective note, I did notice that my cable feed (Comcast) was slightly sharper with my Denon upconverting the signal to 1080p than the resulting 1080i passthrough with the Yamaha. I realize that this is very subjective on my part, but my wife noticed the same and mentioned it to me.

HDMI signals are all passed through with no processing whatsoever, regardless of the resolution. Using the resolution test patterns on the HD DVD of DVE, I was able to see that there was no noticeable loss when a 1080p output was sent over HDMI through the Yamaha. 480i HDMI signals aren't processed at all, which is a real letdown. But does this really matter? For DVD, not really. A good upconverting DVD player can be bought for under $200. But if you have a 480i signal being sent from your cable box over HDMI, then you will have to rely on your processing in your display to scale this signal correctly. In my particular case, my JVC projector doesn't handle 480i signals very well at all, so I would have a hard time with this particular receiver in my system for this reason alone.