Yamaha RX-V3900 A/V receiver

If the A/V receiver you got for Christmas fails to do enough stuff for you - which hardly seems likely - just go out and buy another one this month, or maybe next month. That's the way it seems to go with receivers, although with most current models finally sporting HDMI 1.3 connections, we might see the flood of new models from the past year or so recede somewhat.

Yamaha has been among those busily at work, as evidenced by the RX-V3900 receiver. It's only third in line to the Yamaha throne (the $5,500 RX-Z11 plays the role of current monarch), yet the V3900 includes among its many features all the usual HDMI 1.3 perks (Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, Deep Color) plus a whole slew of others that are new from Yamaha. The company's proprietary YPAO auto-setup routine incorporates room-correction equalization as well as speaker-size, -level, and -distance settings, and a host of user tweaks. And a media-client mode compatible with Windows Media/DLNA streamers (and with Yammie's own Musicast music servers) can stream music from sources connected to your home network as well as hook you up with both the now-familiar vTuner free Internet-radio service and the not-so-free Rhapsody one.


The V3900 boasts a new Yamaha high-def graphical onscreen display, which I loved. It's the fastest and smoothest to navigate of any I've encountered, and its layout is clear and logical. Yamaha's YPAO performed much as in previous versions I've tried. Channel levels and distances were pretty well spot-on, and the crossover frequencies it selected were entirely reasonable. YPAO's multipoint room-correction EQ created curves resembling those of similar, good-performing systems. That said, while Yamaha's version did tighten the upper-bass octaves appreciably, it didn't deliver the subtle gains in clarity or transparency as effectively as I've heard from my favorite examples of this type of technology. Just the same, YPAO's impact will depend a lot on your room, speakers, and setup.


On the audio side, the V3900's amplifying abilities left me no cause for complaint. During 2-channel listening, I was impressed by the receiver's dynamic prowess and clean, transparent sound. I stumbled onto an interesting 96/24 download (from HDTracks.com) of rockabilly scion Billy Burnette leading a basic rock quartet through the chestnut "Tear It Up" - penned by his father, Dorsey, a half century earlier. The session was captured audiophile-style, live to 2-track, by Chesky Records. It's unusual to find rock music that sounds this transparent and live, and the Yamaha faithfully reflected the original sound. The slap echo of the church space where the session was recorded, the solid thud of the standup bass, and the glassy scrunch of Burnette's tube guitar amp (I'm guessing Fender Deluxe Reverb) each conveyed impressive real-room believability.

I watched nearly two-thirds of Iron Man on Blu-ray Disc before I overdosed on explosive silliness and went to bed. (Does this officially make me a curmudgeon?) The V3900 revealed no weaknesses in reproducing the disc's very impressive Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, displaying headroom to spare on high-impact scenes, even at movie-palace volumes.