Receivers

Yamaha RX-A2000 7.1 A/V Receiver

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction to the Yamaha RX-A2000 7.1 A/V Receiver

I've been using a Yamaha receiver in my home theater for well over a decade. The fact that I've been happy with the sound from this receiver for so long though, speaks volumes for the quality Yamaha built into their receivers back then. A while back I had the opportunity to review one of Yamaha's entry-level receivers, the RX-V665. While the feature-set was impressive for the price, the overall sound and build quality was about what one would expect from a low-priced receiver, namely, sort-of-OK. This trend toward features at the expense of quality has been increasing, even among the best receiver manufacturers. Last year, Yamaha announced an all-new line of receivers dubbed "Aventage" that would buck that trend with a no-holds-barred emphasis on sound quality. Recently I had the chance to review the second-from-the-top of the Aventage line, the RX-A2000. Given my history with Yamaha receivers and the hype surrounding this all-new line from Yamaha, I was excited to try out the A2000 to see if it lived up the hype and the heritage.

Specifications

  • Design: 7.1 A/V Reciever
  • Power Output: 130 WPC x 7, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, into 8 Ohms
  • THD+N: 0.06% at Full Output, All Channels Driven
  • Video Connections: HDMI 1.4a (7 rear in, 1 front in, 2 out, Zone B Capable), Component (4 in, 1 out), Composite, S-Video (Shared, 5 in, 1 out)
  • Audio Connections: RCA Stereo (5 in, 1 out), Optical (4 in, 1 out), Coaxial Digital (3 in, 0 out), 7.1 Multi-channel (1 in, 1 pre-out all channels)
  • Optional: iPod, Sirius Satellite Radio, Bluetooth
  • Other Connections: Ethernet (Internet Radio, Sirius Internet Radio, DLNA 1.5, Firmware), 12V triggers (2), USB, RS-232, IR (2 in, 2 out), 2nd & 3rd Zone (HDMI Video, Stereo Audio), Headphone Jack (6.3mm)
  • Dimensions: 7.1" H x 17.1" W x 16.9" D
  • Weight: 41.9 Pounds
  • MSRP: $1499.95 USA
  • Yamaha

Design

The Yamaha RX-A2000 is loaded with virtually every feature one could want in a modern receiver: HDMI 1.4a switching and the concomitant support for 3D & Audio Return Channel (ARC), 1080p scaling from virtually all sources by the HQV Vida chip, HD Radio, Internet Radio, Satellite Radio, Pandora, Blue-tooth Dock (optional), iPod support (a remote control app and available docking), Web control (and thus control via almost any smart-phone or tablet PC), multi-zone, every sound format known to man and then some, up to 7 channels of amplification (up to 9.2 with outboard amps), and a full-featured room correction / auto-EQ system. Really, I can't think of a major feature that the A2000 lacks that its competition has.

On the other hand, at least one stand-out feature that is uncommon among the competition is inclusion of two full-featured 12V triggers for all channels, and/or a separate device. Many receivers, if they have 12V triggers for external amps, have them for only some of the channels (e.g. zone 2 or 3, front L/C/R only, etc.) The RX-A2000 can be configured to trigger external amps for the main amp section, zone 2, zone 3, or all of the above. This is a nice feature if you have good quality external amps, or think you might want to upgrade to external amplification in the near future, as it automatically turns external amps on or off, synchronized with the A2000's power or source status. Heck even if you only have 2 channels of external amplification, this will allow you to set up all of the total possible 9.2 channels, and have them switched by the A2000.

Aesthetically, the RX-A2000 is a nice looking receiver. Of course it's the standard brushed black box that so many receivers are, but I find the understated elegance of Yamaha's new "A" line to be quite pleasing. All front panel ports and buttons are located behind a fold-out door, which is flanked on either side by two large knobs - source & volume. The front panel door also hides an impressive set of input jacks for temporary connection of camcorders, smart-phones, your old pong console, etc.

Both volume and source knobs have a decent feel to them although most people may never even lay hands on these knobs these days. The volume level is prominently shown on the front panel display - which is nice - as well as on the TV, which is nice and not so nice. Seated about 19 feet from the receiver, I can read the volume display on the receiver. However if the TV is also on, the volume bar & attenuation (-dB) level are displayed on the TV in a huge dark grey bar that spans about ⅔ of the width of the screen. While it's great to have the volume shown on screen for those whose receivers are out of view, this volume bar is a little much. At a minimum it should be on a transparent background, rather than a dark grey bar. Ideally Yamaha would provide the ability to choose whether the volume is displayed on the TV screen or not.

On to the business side of any receiver: the rear panel:

The RX-A2000 has no fewer than seven HDMI v1.4 inputs (eight including the front panel), and two (simultaneous – not independent) HDMI monitor outputs. In addition, those of us who refuse to let go of our older equipment will be happy to see that there are four sets of analog A/V inputs, each of which includes component, s-video and composite video, as well as digital (2 coax, 2 optical) and analog (2 ch) audio. There are amplifier pre-outs for all channels, and speaker terminals for no fewer than eleven channels, even though the A2000 can only be configured for up to 9.2 channels using an outboard stereo power amplifier. This turns out to be very convenient if you use the multi-zone feature, as you can hook up all your speakers simultaneously, even though some will end up sharing amplifiers (more on that later). Regardless, the 11 terminals are Zone 2(3) L/R, Surround L/R, Surround Back L/R, Center, Main L/R, and "presence" L/R. The binding posts for speaker wire are of good quality, but users of dual-banana plugs take note: they are too far apart for the standard dual plugs. I have lots of both types on hand, so this was not an issue to me, but may be an inconvenience to some.

The remote for the RX-A2000 is, well, not excellent. (insert figure5) There are some good things about it: the tactile response of the buttons is nice, and it sits in my hand comfortably. Other than that, if falls short in my opinion. It has a tiny back-lit display, that hardly serves any purpose that I can tell. The layout of some of the most-often used buttons (e.g. sound modes, audio decoder selection, zone selection) leaves a lot to be desired. In fact the layout of some of these buttons is downright terrible, with some functions on the main surface of the remote and some associated functions under a pop-up cover. Any buttons under a cover should be only those used VERY infrequently, but that's not the case. For example, the zone selection button is under the pop-up cover, yet the power button to turn on the various zones is on the main surface. With three zones in my house, I find myself popping the cover on the remote way too often. The receiver comes with a second, smaller remote, but I don't find myself using it much, because too many of the features are on the main remote. I suppose if I had more time with the unit and really customized all the SCENE buttons to my specific tastes, I might use the secondary remote more. Then again probably not: I would just program my Harmony universal remote to handle everything.


Setup of the Yamaha RX-A2000 7.1 A/V Receiver

Not to put it too briefly, but initial setup was a snap. These days though, that's to be expected. All mid- to high-end major brand receivers these days have some sort of automatic room calibration/correction/equalization system, and Yamaha's latest version of the YPAO (Yamaha Parametric Audio Optimization) system is very good. It nailed my speaker distances (including the sub - which is uncommon) and levels. I have a small sat/sub system running right now, and YPAO chose a slightly high 160Hz for the cutoff for each speaker. I prefer the cutoff at around 100Hz with these speakers. I've found this over-estimation of small speaker cutoff frequency to be quite common with automatic calibration systems, and the crossover adjustment was easy enough to fix.

YPAO also creates three equalization patterns (flat, front, and natural), and a fourth customizable pattern, called "manual". Each of the three YPAO patterns is created for your specific room, and can then be used as a template for the "manual" pattern if you wish to tinker with further customization. This user-customizable feature is a stand out feature for Yamaha's YPAO. MCAAC allows similar (but different) adjustment of the EQ patterns. Audyssey offers no adjustment unless you purchase their kit which comes with a calibrated mic, special software, and a hefty price tag (somewhere north of $2000 for the pro cal kit only). If you are an EQ tweaker and can't afford the Audyssey pro system, YPAO may be for you. If on the other hand you prefer a more "set it and forget it" system, then YPAO doesn't offer much more than any of the other auto-EQ systems out there. Each is slightly different and each claims to be the best. I haven't found much consensus on room correction systems among my peers: different people tend to like the sonic results of each for different reasons. So in the end it comes down to features and personal preference. I was very impressed with the sonic results of YPAO in the RX-A2000, but more on that later. Here I'll focus on features.

If you plan on customizing the "Manual" EQ pattern, you'd better take notes to keep track of what you're doing, as there are many parameters to tweak. For each speaker, there are 7 "bands". These are not like traditional EQ bands though, as each band can be customized via three adjustable parameters: frequency, gain, and q-factor. Each band is like a bell-shaped curve. "Frequency" adjusts where the center of the bell-curve lies in the frequency range. "Gain" adjusts how much power (dB, really) each band has (i.e. height of the bell curve). "Q-factor" adjusts how wide each band (bell curve) is. "Frequency" for the 4 lowest bands can be adjusted from 31.25Hz to 16kHz in ⅓ octave steps, for 28 steps. Bands 5-7 have the same step size, but their range is limited to 500Hz-16kHz. Gain is adjustable from -20 dB to +6 dB in 0.5dB steps, and Q factor is adjustable from 0.5 to 10.0 in ⅓ octave steps. The subs have only 4 bands each to adjust. Yes, the RX-A2000 can accommodate two discrete subs, and each can be EQ'd. Each sub band's center frequency can be set from 31.5 to 250Hz in ten ⅓ octave steps.

You can really tweak the frequency response EQ curve for each speaker a lot with these parameters. The Q-factor is key, as it adjusts the width of the band from very broad to very narrow (less than ⅓ octave depending on the frequency). A very narrow band (high q-factor) with a strong negative gain, is effectively a notch filter. All of this customization of your EQ pattern can really get out of hand quickly if you don't know what you're doing, and let's face it, many people don't know how to tweak each band to get the overall EQ curve they want. Not without a lot of frustrating trial and error. However, YPAO combined with a good free EQ software package like Room EQ Wizard would allow you to really fine-tune your system to your ear's delight.

As noted above, the RX-A2000 has 7 channels of amplification built-in. It is configurable up to 9.2 channels, and up to 3 zones, but you would need to add some external amplification to achieve 9.2. Whatever speaker configuration you use, you'll need to configure the amplifiers appropriately. Yamaha has designed a very nice, intuitive amplifier configuration utility. From the amplifier configuration screen in the on-screen GUI, you can choose from ten different pre-determined amplifier/speaker configurations. They are 7ch Normal, 7ch + 1Zone, 7ch + 2Zone, 7ch +Front, 7ch + FPR, 7ch + FPR + 1Zone, 5chBi-amp, 5chBi-amp +FPR, 5chBi-amp + SB, and 5chBi-amp + SB + FPR. For brevity I'll just describe two of these configurations. The "5chBi-amp + SB + FPR" setup is interesting. Here, four of the seven internal amps go to bi-amping the front L/R speakers. The remaining three internal amps are assigned to the center and the surround channels, and external amps are used for the surround-back channels and the front "presence" channels

The set up I used is "7ch + 2ZONE."  This means my main room is set up for standard 7 channel audio (front L/R, center, surround L/R, surround-back L/R) and two additional zones with two speakers each.

Yes, that adds up to 11 speaker channels. This is accommodated by the fact that Zone2 and the surround-back channels share amplifiers, and Zone3 and the surround channels share amplifiers. So, when Zone3 is active, I lose the surround speakers in the main room, and when Zone2 is active, the surround back speakers shut off. This is acceptable to me, since rarely will anyone be watching a surround-sound movie while someone else is listening in a different zone. However, this gets to one of my complaints with the RX-A2000 Aventage receiver. Yamaha seemingly provides a great interface for assigning the amplifiers to your appropriate speaker configuration, but then they lock you in to pre-defined configurations. For example, in my experience, if one has external amplifiers in one's HT arsenal, they are usually of much higher quality than those found in most if not all A/V Receivers. Thus, you'd want to use those high quality external amps on your main channels first, and use the internal amplifiers on "less important" channels like the "Presence", surround-back and surround channels. However, Yamaha does not provide an amplifier configuration like this in the RX-A2000. Instead it seems like they chose to prioritize the internal amps over any external amps, even to the point of providing the user the ability to use the internal amps to "bi-amp" your front speakers. This just seems like an implausible set-up to me.

The only configuration that comes close to what I would have expected to be the base-normal for external amplification is the "7ch + FRONT" set up. With this configuration the front L & R speakers are assigned to external amplification and the resulting extra internal amplification is then assigned to the front "presence" channels. There's no ability to choose where the extra two internal amps are applied. For example, what if I would like them to be shared with a second zone? What if I don't want or have "front presence" speakers? Yamaha came so close to greatness here, but ultimately missed the mark in my opinion. That said, all of the pre-amp outputs on the RX-A2000 are "hot" regardless of which amplifier configuration you choose. So you can always use external amplification for any of the channels, and that will unload the power supply and result in more dynamic power to the remaining internally amplified channels. But depending on your set up, you may have some internal amplifiers that go unused.

Setup of other features like video, network, and HDMI was all fairly straightforward. While the RX-A2000 has very good video processing, there are very few available adjustments. Network setup was completely automatic - I did nothing and it worked fine as soon as I connected the receiver to my router. I will note though, since it seems to be a fairly common oversight by owners on the various discussion groups, to take care in the HDMI setup if you expect to have full HDMI 1.4 functionality (e.g. ARC, pass-through). Make sure you set "HDMI Control" to on, and that you set "control select" in the HDMI settings to the appropriate HDMI output (HDMI out1 or out2) to match where your TV is connected to the receiver.


Yamaha RX-A2000 7.1 A/V Receiver In Use

The first thing I ran through the RX-A2000 was the 3D Blu-Ray "How to Train Your Dragon" from DreamWorks (a Samsung exclusive promo disc). The 3D video was passed through to my Samsung PN58C7000 3D plasma display flawlessly, and the Dolby TrueHD was stunning. If you haven't seen this movie on your system yet, it's full of great demo material. The surround channels and bass are both very active in this film, and the Yamaha delivered the lossless audio track with aplomb. From very dynamic effects like swooshing wings and immense explosions, to more subtle effects like footsteps in the forest and whispered dialog, the A2000 rocked the house. Clear, crisp, detailed, powerful, immersive. Seriously, this receiver sounds really, really good with dynamic movie soundtracks.

Next up was one of my favorite demo DVD's, "The Dark Knight." I love the scene where the Joker blows up the hospital. The bass in that explosion is really awesome, and thanks to the subwoofer EQ'ing that the A2000's YPAO did, it sounded better than normal in my HT room. There are definitely better sub EQ's out there, but for something that's built-in to a mid-range priced AVR, this version of YPAO does an excellent job. The 480i video of The Dark Knight was deinterlaced and upsampled to 1080p by the Yamaha. I've never noticed a dramatic improvement in upsampling of DVD video with any device. The RX-A2000 did a fine job of it, but as with any upsampling, don't expect blu-ray quality just because your TV detects a 1080p signal coming to it.

Then, I sampled the streaming capabilities of the RX-A2000. I have the free DLNA server software Serviio running on my Windows XP machine, which serves up all my digital media from a 1TB hard drive. The Yamaha easily detected my DLNA server and I could browse by folders, genres, albums, author/artist, etc. I have most of my music stored in high bitrate MP3, and some stored in FLAC. Both file types were recognized by the Yamaha and played fine. My FLAC rip of Bernstein's "Ode to Freedom" performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony was awesome. What a treat to be able to play my FLAC collection directly through my receiver, losslessly, with the disc sitting on the shelf. In addition to the DLNA client, the Yamaha also has a very extensive internet-radio capability. Virtually any radio station that has an online stream can be found and played on the RX-A2000 if it's connected to the Internet. Additionally, the A2000 can stream music from the online music service Rhapsody, Pandora, and Sirius Internet Radio.

I also tried plain-old FM radio. I am a FM radio junkie. I really enjoy listening to radio, be it classical, news talk, or rock'n'roll. Yamaha has a history of making excellent FM tuners. So with two older Yamaha receivers in my household that can pull in some great quality FM radio from San Francisco (50 miles away) I had high hopes. Additionally, I was looking forward to trying out HD radio, knowing that a local NPR station was broadcasting in HD. Initially, I was disappointed. The RX-A2000 found only one station. Regardless of stations 50 miles away in San Francisco, there are many local stations to be had, and the RX-A2000 could only get one. I had a $300 Yamaha receiver from 2003 or so that was grabbing about eight stations, no problem, using the same antenna.

It turns out that Yamaha was aware of the issue and had already released a firmware fix. I was able to download the firmware to a USB thumb-drive and update without issue. After the fairly easy firmware update, the tuner was able to auto-tune seven stations. It missed two that the old Yamaha had, but found one that the old receiver did not. Alas, the sole local HD radio station was not one of the stations found by the A2000. Nor was it able to get any HD stations from San Francisco. So I was unable to evaluate the HD radio performance, much to my dismay. But for those stations it did find, FM quality was very good. Interestingly, even though these were analog stations, not digital HD-radio stations, the tuner behaved like a digital tuner: it would either lock on, or totally drop out. No static or noise in-between.

As with most network-connected A/V receivers these days, the Yamaha RX-A2000 has a web-based interface available. To access the web interface, simply enter the local IP address of the receiver into any web browser on your LAN (e.g. 192.168.X.Y). The web interface allows you to control the power of each zone, the volume for each zone, and the source for each zone. You can also set the surround decoder, and select from the four main scenes.

I used this a lot, as it doubles as a smart-phone remote control app, simply by using my Android phone's built-in browser when the phone is connected to my LAN. This was very convenient, especially when I was taking advantage of the multi-zone feature of the RX-A2000. I could be out on the patio and decide to power up the receiver and pipe some FM music to the patio zone, or stream some MP3s from my server to the living room, all while my wife was listening to a CD in the main HT. The Web interface was not optimized for a smart phone, but it worked well enough. I'd like to see a purpose designed Android app for the Yamaha, but until then, this worked well. I did find a Yamaha receiver widget on the Android market, but this had very limited functionality.

The multi-zone feature in the Yamaha RX-A2000 is great. Once I got it set up, which was actually very straight forward, I was very impressed. Granted, without external amplification, the A2000 must sacrifice its surround and surround back amplifier channels to power zones 2 and 3. But for my uses, this is totally acceptable. I must say at this point though that the poorly written user manual combined with the vast number of features, options and settings finally did me in while trying to play different sources on multiple zones simultaneously. I searched the manual, and online forums, but I could not seem to get all three zones playing three separate sources simultaneously. It turns out that you cannot play more than one source from the same "category" simultaneously. For example, you could not play one FM station in one zone, while playing another FM station (or HD station) in another zone. This seems obvious, as there's only one tuner. What wasn't obvious to me at first was that Internet radio and DLNA streaming are in the same "category" of sources - they are both "network" sources. So you cannot, for example, stream MP3 music from your local server via DNLA in Zone2 while playing an Internet (or SIRIUS) radio station in Zone3 or Zone1. You can however play a CD in zone1, an FM/HD radio station in zone2 and an Internet radio station in Zone3 - all at the same time.


Yamaha RX-A2000 7.1 A/V Receiver On the Bench

Video

Note: Several of our video bench tests were left out of the overall score for this receiver. Unfortunately the Sony BDP-S570 blu-ray player that we initially thought was a viable reference player, in fact does negatively affect the video signal. Rest assured though, that all tests that are reported & scored were triple-checked for veracity. For all future A/V receiver video benchmark tests, an Oppo BD-P83, 93, or 95 (or equivalent) will be used. However, an Oppo was not available during the review period of the RX-A2000. -KC

Video performance by the RX-A2000 over HDMI was very good. As can be seen in our receiver video benchmark score chart, the new Vida chip by HQV did very well both on our standard video tests and on de-interlacing. It also will pass through your HDMI video signal virtually untouched if you so desire, which is not the case for all HDMI A/V receivers on the market today. 1080/60i material was properly decoded to 1080/24p.

Component video source was a different story, however. Although deinterlacing was still excellent, core video performance was lacking when the A2000 was fed a component video signal. The receiver cropped 3 pixels on the right and 1 pixel on the left. Also it did not pass whiter-than-white nor blacker-than-black signals, and it lost high frequency horizontal chroma resolution. However, most users will use HDMI exclusively, and for them, the RX-A2000 offers very good video performance.

I have a fairly old computer which I like to have connected to my HT for the occasional game or video. The graphics card has dual DVI outputs, both of which can output 1080/60p video. Normally I connect my PC to my plasma TV directly. I attempted to run the PC's DVI signal through the RX-A2000 with the use of a DVI-HDMI adapter. The Yamaha did not like this. I was unable to get the computer's display to pass through the Yamaha. Not only that, but it caused significant confusion to Windows and the Nvidia GPU (GeForce 7600GT). Granted this GPU is not HDCP compliant, so the HDMI handshaking probably did not go well, and it represents a problem with my computer (running Windows XP) rather than the Yamaha receiver. However my Samsung plasma had no issues accepting the DVI signal from my PC.


Conclusions about the Yamaha RX-A2000 7.1 A/V Receiver

I have a high bar for Yamaha, given my history with them. While I was impressed with the features (for the price) of the RX-V665 last year, I was underwhelmed with its sound quality. This year, Yamaha promised flagship sound quality at a very tempting price in their new "Aventage" product line. While overall I was very impressed, there are definitely some areas for improvement: This receiver is not high on the user-friendly scale. If you're an A/V receiver novice, there's a steep learning curve to figure out all the features, options, and settings. The manual is very poorly written and organized, which does not help matters at all. For example, even this reviewer was stumped and had to contact Yamaha technical support to solve what turned out to be a fairly simple problem. The amplifier assignment feature is close to greatness, but ultimately falls short by locking you in to pre-defined configurations. I would really, really like to see Yamaha fix the amplifier assignment feature. Many of these things could be fixed with firmware updates, and a re-write of the user manual.

All that said, the many positives of this receiver far outweigh the few negatives. Both the feature set and sound quality of the RX-A2000 are top notch. Now that it's finally set up, I really enjoy listening to and using this receiver. The HQV Vida chip offers fantastic (for HDMI) video processing. Finally, the RX-A2000 is as future proof as any CE product can be, with a thorough upgrade path via amplifier pre-outs for all channels, two 12V triggers for external amps/devices, and easy firmware updates via USB or direct via the Internet. All this for under $1500 SRP - that's a great deal in my opinion. Despite its usability shortcomings, the Yamaha RX-A2000 is a bargain. You would be hard pressed to find a better bang/buck ratio in the current AVR market.