- Written by Gabe Lowe
- Published on 14 May 2009
As is always the case, all the features in the world can't trump performance, and in the RX-V3900's case, they don't need to. It has been a long time since I used my trusty old RX-V992 as my primary receiver, but this one reminds me of why I bought a Yamaha in the first place. The audio performance of this unit was outstanding all around. Take this for what it's worth: I found myself listening to more music on this receiver than I normally do. The warm, dynamic sound is intoxicating.
In addition to the effects I discussed earlier, there are two modes that eliminate processing on audio signals, "straight" and "pure direct". They are basically the same thing, although the latter will also turn off some video circuitry in the receiver which is supposed to limit signal interference even more. Either way, the resulting audio is unprocessed, making it as faithful a reproduction of the originating material as possible. This is a real test of the receiver's amplifiers, which were awesome during the course of this review. I was able to drive my speakers quite loudly without any hint of distortion or clipping. All that resulted was crystal clear sound, no matter what kind of music I threw at it.
Yamaha includes a couple of features they call Adaptive Dynamic Range Control (DRC), and Adaptive Digital Signal Processing (DSP) Level. When engaged, Adaptive DRC modifies the dynamic range based on the current volume output level of the receiver. As the volume lowers, the range is compressed to allow for better night time viewing. This is an improvement on standard DRC because it is a gradual modification based on volume rather than simply having to set the DRC to something like "max" or "min". The Adaptive DSP function is interesting in that it actually modifies the values of the DSP program you have selected also based on volume.
Again, the intent here is to allow the DSP effects to work as intended even at low listening levels. I found it largely effective. I watch a lot of my shows late at night after my kids (and sometimes wife) go to sleep. I kept both the Adaptive DRC and the Adaptive DSP engaged all the time, and was pleased with the results. I was able to enjoy things like Fringe and Lost, which have many suspense filled scenes in which the volume goes from low to high very quickly. I didn't feel like I was compromising at all by keeping the volume rather low. These features worked as advertised.
I was pleasantly surprised by the video performance of the RX-V3900 as well. The Anchor Bay Video Reference Series solution found in this receiver did an excellent job at scaling video for output to my 1080p HDTV. I set my Toshiba HD-DVD player to output signal at 480i over HDMI so I could make full use of the receiver to both upscale and deinterlace the video to 1080p.
I began with a couple of scenes from the Director's Cut release of Stargate. My testing process started by setting the receiver's video output to "through" instead of "processing". This setting simply passes the 480i signal through to the television, which then scales and deinterlaces the video. After viewing a scene, I then set the receiver's setting back to "processing", and re-watched it. The differences were even more noticeable than I had anticipated. The scene at the beginning, in which they first unearth the stargate takes place in the Egyptian desert. With the processing engaged, the colors seemed more accurate, and the image overall had a much crisper quality. The harshness of the heat and terrain appeared more vivid with the VRS system doing its job. Next, I reviewed several clips from the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers. When the people arrive at Helm's Deep, there is a sweeping shot of the fortress city from above. With the processing engaged, it seemed more film-like both in terms of colors and clarity, as well as in terms of smoothness of the panning. A pan in film looks less smooth than one in video, due to the difference in frame rates, so a good deinterlacer will not introduce artificial smoothness to these types of shots.
I am glad to say that the VRS solution does not. The other thing that is apparent from the A/B tests was that images appeared much softer and less defined without the processing engaged. That may speak to the quality (or lack thereof) of the upscaler in my TV, but nonetheless, the VRS system once again made me a believer. Finally, I tested the performance of deinterlacing 1080i sourced material. For this test, I used both HDTV signals as well as a couple of HD-DVDs. I must say, that the differences between engaging the processing and not with these sources were extremely subtle, if at all noticeable. All in all, I felt the video processing portion of the RX-V3900 did a great job.