Yamaha RX-A8A Aventage 11.2 Channel AV Receiver Review
11.2 Channel AV Receiver Review
AUD $6,299 RRP
Yamaha's then-current flagship AV receiver, the RX-A3080, caught us by surprise when we reviewed it back in 2019. With enough power to give many a more expensive rival a run for its money, it offered exceptional value for money – particularly given its middle-range asking price.
Well, a lot has changed since then, and with the Aventage range enjoying its tenth anniversary – and I suspect a little of not wanting to be outdone – Yamaha duly decided that it was high time to dip/plunge its proverbial toe into mega-receiver territory once more.
Enter the RX-A8A, a behemoth that commands an asking price more than double that of the RX-A3080. As with all the models in the 2021 Aventage range (RX-A2A, RX-A4A and RX-A6A), the RX-A8A has been rebuilt from the ground up. It is the culmination of three years of research and development, and Yamaha says that the RX-A8A is the best AV receiver it has ever created.
The company explains that the beating heart of a receiver is its power transformer. The Japanese manufacturer's receivers have traditionally shared a power supply between the primary and secondary windings – which respectively control current and voltage amplification. The new design employs separate power supplies for each winding. The result is a significant reduction in both noise and interference, Yamaha claims. This allows the RX-A8A to both reveal everything from the smallest audio detail to the most powerful transient swing, it's said. Newly adopted film capacitors from German company WIMA have been used across the power amp stages. Yamaha apparently chose the capacitors for their ability to inject a sense of energy into mid and low range frequencies.
With twice the strength of the RX-A3080, the new chassis combined with an isolation plate significantly reduces transformer-borne vibration. By separating both transformers and power amplifiers, Yamaha's engineers have further reduced vibration and noise that can mask sonic detail, they say.
High slew rate amplifiers have also been used, giving the RX-A8A the ability to respond to rapid changes in input level. Tests conducted by the Japanese manufacturer show that measured response has been doubled, making it equivalent to Yamaha's MX-A5200 eleven channel power amplifier. The new symmetrical structure of the RX-A8A has given engineers the freedom to further separate the left and right power amplifiers. We are told that the result is a reduction in crosstalk, improved fine detail and greater stereo separation.
Not to be outdone, the RX-A8A's preamplifier section has been redesigned. The single-layer printed circuit board has been expanded to four layers, giving engineers greater freedom to position and orient components. The effect is a reduction of noise and negative interaction between the analogue and digital circuits, it's claimed.
The brain of the RX-A8A is Qualcomm's QCS 407 DSP (Digital Signal Processor) chip with a quad-core CPU. Delivering seven times the power of conventional designs, the chip has plenty of capacity to spare, allowing it to be upgraded via software updates, giving the design a measure of future-proofing. Working with this is the same dual Sabre ES9620 DAC package of Yamaha's CX5200 flagship preamp, and the company says it delivers a performance dangerously close to hi-fi separates. The design goal is said to be to strive for realism, musicality and true sound, “setting the sound free from the speakers.”
The RX-A8A decodes DTS HD Master/ DTS:X, DTS Virtual: X, DTS Neural/Neo: X, DTS: X Pro, Dolby Pro Logic II/Dolby Surround, Dolby Height Virtualiser, Dolby True HD and Dolby Atmos. While Auro 3D is slated for future release, IMAX doesn't appear to be supported.
HDMI 2.1 is also on the list for the upcoming update, enabling support for both 4K and 8K video at up to 120 and 60 frames per second, respectively. It also comes with support for HDR10+, VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), QFT (Quick Frame Transport) and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) at 40 Gbps. We're told QMS (Quick Media Switching) will follow.
The RX-A8A supports a range of multi-room audio features, including Yamaha Music Cast, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, Internet Radio, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer and network audio streaming. Supported file formats include MP3, WMA, MPEG-4 AAC, ALAC up to 24-bit, 96kHz, FLAC up to 24/384, WAV, AIFF up to 32/384 and DSD up to 11.2MHz. Up to four separate zones of audio are available, including video on Zone B, an AM/FM tuner, Alexa compatibility and – somewhat of a rarity in today's AVRs – DAB+ radio.
The RX-A8A sports Yamaha's new 64-bit Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO). The high precision processing employed by YPAO, which is claimed to improve steering of the rear channels, is said to offer a wider and more open front soundstage and reduce low-frequency noise. A proponent of digital signal processing, the Aventage supports 24 DSP modes in addition to surround AI. Format agnostic, Surround AI analyses the incoming signal and applies the most appropriate DSP based on the content. Many of the improvements Yamaha have been made to reduce noise and increase power.
'Distinctive' is perhaps the best way to describe the RX-A8A. It doesn't sport the slim lines of and touch screens of some of its competitors, but nor does it possess the more traditional design of its predecessor. It's a design I suspect you're either going to love or hate; regardless, it looks better in person, and I found myself warming to it almost immediately. At 435x192x477mm and weighing 21.4 kg, this behemoth will dominate all but the biggest AV racks.
The front panel is characterised by its large, centrally mounted volume dial, the smaller source control dial on the far right all but disappearing against the high gloss panel. Controls are kept to a minimum, a power button, headphone input, USB input and YPAO microphone input located on the bottom of the chassis. Unfortunately, the on-screen display is tiny – and challenging to make out from three metres, even with prescription glasses.
Even the often overlooked top of the unit has been revamped, with a high gloss grill complete with the Aventage logo. Interestingly it is made from plastic and not metal, something for which I presume Yamaha has a very sound reason, given the company's general attention to detail. The fifth foot – which has become synonymous with the Aventage line of receivers – has been crafted from iron and weighs 5kg. It has been relocated towards the receiver's front and now sits directly beneath the power supply for increased stability and reduced power supply-borne vibrations.
The back of the RX-A8A hosts seven HDMI inputs and three HDMI outputs with support for eARC. Other connections include three optical inputs, three coaxial inputs, six analogue audio inputs, 11.2 channel preamp outputs, one component video input, two composite video inputs, phono input, XLR terminal, network input, two twelve-volt triggers, remote (IR) input and output and AM/FM antenna input. Solid speaker binding posts and rabbit ears (2.4/5 GHz) round out the connections.
In addition to the power cord, the box also contains the YPAO microphone and stand, quick start guide and remote. Yamaha has chosen to carry over the remote from the RX-A3080; this is not necessarily a bad thing given that it remains one of the best AVR remotes I've encountered! Finished in matt black, the longish remote has a rubbery feel to its front. Buttons are easy to find, with plenty of room between them. Picking up the remote will activate the backlit buttons, a welcome feature.
Downloading and following the instructions for Yamaha's AV setup app dramatically simplifies the process of getting up and running. After asking a series of questions, the app guides the user through both the installation and setup process, applying the most suitable speaker template based on the information provided.
YPAO presents users with the option to take measurements from single or multiple listening positions, in addition to measuring the height and angle of speakers. Unlike Anthem's ARC or Dirac Live, which runs from a laptop, YPAO calibration is conducted directly from the receiver using the on-screen menus. While this does greatly simplify the calibration process, it comes at the cost of some flexibility and more advanced options. Be that as it may, the ability to EQ only lower frequencies is a new and very welcome addition. The on-screen menus lack much of the polish of the likes of Denon or Marantz yet are both sensibly laid out and easy to work with.
Yamaha's RX-A8A is a sonic powerhouse that can deliver huge dynamic swings with taut, controlled bass. The sound field it creates is massive, with effects steered expertly around and within the listening space. There's a natural character to the sound that doesn't seek to embellish or exaggerate.
For example, the 4K Blu-ray of Man of Steel has an outstanding Atmos soundtrack that will showcase the best of them. The RX-A8A's power amplifiers revelled with the Atmos soundtrack, delivering a gutsy performance with abundant impact and dynamic range. With the power rating distributed equally to all channels, no speaker was overlooked. Rather than just supporting the front channels, each speaker had an equal presence, creating not only a powerful but cohesive sound field.
The same could be said with the 4K Blu-ray of Transformers; the big receiver does not need much push to play both loudly and cleanly. I easily achieved peaks of 105dB in my small listening space, with the RX-A8A still sounding as though it had plenty of power in reserve. Of course, this will vary depending on the speakers and the size of the listening room; nonetheless, it's a testament to the power of the onboard amplifiers. Though the Yamaha wasn't able to achieve quite the same effortless power as my far more expensive JBL Synthesis SDR-35 – nor, for that matter, hi-fi separates – I wasn't left wanting.
The RX-A8A created a massive sound field, easily able to fill my listening space. What surprises, however, is its ability to place objects precisely within the big recorded acoustic that it conjures up. These often seemed to emanate from fixed points in space rather than the speakers themselves. Granted, it's not up to the likes of Trinnov, for example, but it came surprisingly close to my JBL Synthesis SDR-35 – no easy feat, given it comes in at less than half the price.
The RX-A8A lacked some of the detail and finesse of Denon's X8500 or AVC-A110, but then again, it may just trump the AVC-X8500 in brute strength. Vocals remained firmly planted on the screen, never getting lost during the film's more frantic moments. Yamaha's Surround AI did make dialogue more distinctive but came at the cost of a narrower front soundstage.
With the 4K Blu-ray of Terminator Dark Fate, these aspects make for a highly immersive and enjoyable viewing experience. Where I've often felt YPAO has left the bass somewhat flabby or bloated, there were no such criticisms here. Bass was powerful yet taut and controlled. It's not quite on the same level as the likes of Dirac or ARC, but it's surprising how close it comes. And for truly end-game bass, it's hard to beat the 4K Blu-ray of Blade Runner 2049. As K's craft flies over in the opening scene, the bottom end was tight and articulate – avoiding the flabby mess that lesser AVR's will turn this into.
Yamaha's new RX-A8A is both a powerful and formidable product, particularly at its asking price. With plenty of power on tap, it turns in a profoundly dynamic performance. In fact, it's one of the most powerful AV receivers I've had through my listening room at this price point. Coupled with its ability to create a massive sound field with pinpoint placement of effects, it's hugely dynamic and an immensely gratifying and engaging listening experience.
As these units are so popular that we couldn't access a review sample from Yamaha, we give special thanks to Shaun O'Brien from Selby Acoustics, who was kind enough to loan us a Yamaha RX-A8A for this review.
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.