We all like a good sounding bargain...
What is the Yamaha RX-A1040?The Yamaha RX-A1040 AV receiver is a 7.2-channel surround sound amplifier which sits third in line after the RX-A3040 and RX-A2040 in the 2014/15 product range. As an AVENTAGE product it is designed to offer what the company call the highest levels of audio performance. The A1040 is packed with features including streaming internet radio stations, Spotify and more, as well as 4K HDMI2.0 pass through and upscaling. As with all Yamaha AV receivers it also has a full suite of Cinema DSP soundscapes, with some designed on actual venues. There is also a new control app for smart devices as well as WiFi and networking features. The only thing missing is support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
At the time of this review (June 2015) the RX-A1040 is approaching the end of its product cycle and about to be replaced with a newer model in early autumn. The list price is £999 but the Yamaha can be picked up for as little at £699 if you shop around, making it an appealing proposition to those who are not concerned with Atmos and DTS:X but who might pick up a bargain? Well let’s find out…
Design and ConnectionsThe design of your typical AV receiver hasn’t really changed much in the last two decades. You have a box of varying size and usually left and right placed knobs for input selection and volume, a display in the middle and below that a flap hiding more inputs and buttons. The RX-A1040 basically follows that design brief to the letter, but it does add some nice touches along the way.
The front panel of the receiver is made from aluminium and the two knobs are well weighted and feel like sturdy solid metal items; giving them a really nice fluid feel. The colour we have on the review model is also very nice with a titanium finish to the bottom of the chassis and black covering the top third and display. This is also seen in the design of the remote control. We also like the fact that the front panel is not filled with badges for every possible feature within the receiver, rather if something is important enough then the logo is subtly placed on the top edge of the chassis. There is also a good weight to the A1040 with solid isolation feet in each corner and a wedge that Yamaha call an ART also helps isolate the chassis from the rack and stops unwanted vibrations.
Another important part of the design are the internals and the use of what Yamaha call a symmetrical power amplifier layout. This places the amplifier boards to each side of the chassis and the power transformer is placed centrally, in an almost H shape as seen from above. This allows better cooling, less noise transmission and helps keep the channels separated according to the PR brochure, but the actual specifications and methods are not explained in any great detail, which is a shame for the techy individuals wanting to find out more.
Rounding out the front panel is a flap which hides a number of buttons and connections. Here you will find a USB slot along with composite video and stereo RCA plugs. There is also an HDMI socket and a headphone jack and a 3.5mm input for the YPAO Mic. Finally there is a selection of menu buttons, scene select, multi-zone and tuner control buttons.
The sleek design and minimalist feel of the front panel is carried over to the rear of the receiver and it almost feels welcoming to those not used to having to wire up such devices. Some effort has been made to try and make the connections feel logical in their positioning and layout to help those less confident or new to the hobby. The top row of the back panel contains 7 HDMI inputs (a further HDMI input is in under the flap on the front panel) and two HDMI outs.
There are also component inputs and 1 output, 4 composite and 2 outs along with 3 coaxial and optical digital inputs with one out for each. In a sign of the times moment we also find a fully ground Phono stage for adding a turntable as well as 7.1 multi-channel inputs and pre-outs for 7.2 channels. Finally we have the speaker terminals with banana plug access under the plastic guards. We found the fit was very tight with the Cambridge audio plugs we use. For those interested in automated control of the A1040 there are two triggers and remote in and out along with an RS232C port. There is full WiFi support on the A1040 and there is a boaster antenna on the rear and for those who prefer the old school approach, a wired LAN port.
Remote Control and AppThe Yamaha RX-A1040 is supplied with a rather standard remote control which is typical of an AV receiver at this price point. It follows the design cues of the main unit with a black top third and silver body. At the top within the black area are source selection buttons for the 8 AV inputs, 4 audio inputs as well as direct keys for the Phono, USB, Net, Tuner and Multi sources. Also in this area of the remote is a selection switch for the zone a party button and one for HDMI out.
In the main part of the remote body there are 4 direct scene buttons for Blu-ray, TV, Net and Radio and below these are Volume and channel keys along with directional keys and an Enter button. Placed around these are top menu, pop up menu, option, display, return and onscreen keys. Below these are the player controls, DSP & sound settings long with number keys. The remote has a nice weight and sits in the hand comfortably with the main keys within easy reach of your thumb or fingers. We had no complaints using the standard unit.
Also available for Android and iOS devices is the AV Controller App. This allows the same control over the A1040 as the standard remote but in greater detail and clarity thanks to some really well designed graphics and pages. Some of the really neat features include the DSP mode select and the DSP Parameter Adjustment screen, where you can pinch and pull a graphical dome around the listener to create a wider or narrower surround field and effect delays. You can also access the device you are using to stream music to the A1040 as well as a host of other controls such as scene select, options, zone control and so on.
We found the AV Controller App to be our preferred choice of control over the A1040 and never found it laggy or unresponsive at any point. The graphics are really well designed and the page layouts are intuitive to use. As well as the control app there is also an AV SetUp Guide App that takes you through cable connections, setting up the display settings and speaker sizes etc. in an easy to follow and illustrated guide. It is really encouraging to see manufacturers like Yamaha thinking about all their potential customers with these guides and the simplified rear panel designs.
A1040 Specs and FeaturesThe Yamaha RX-A1040 utilises the ES9006 DAC from ESS Technology to achieve clean signals and dynamic range added to the use of high quality transformers and capacitors to provide what Yamaha call professional digital grade audio. Added to this is 7 channels of high quality amplification delivering 110W of power (when 2 channels are driven at 8 ohms). There is support for all major sound codecs including FLAC, WAV 192kHz/24bit, Apple Lossless 96kHz/24bit as well as both DTS MA and Dolby True HD, but no upgrade is available to Atmos or DTS:X. Whether you need these is obviously a question only you can answer and if you do, the A1040 is not the receiver you're looking for.
We get built-in Wifi and an antenna is provided in the box to help boost the reception signal of your router. You can connect wirelessly to the A1040 from a smart device without going through the router allowing use of airplay, direct streaming and use of the control app. Networking is simple and painless with the Yamaha and within minutes we were listening to music via our NAS drive. There are also connections for Spotify and Napster if you have accounts as well as internet radio channels and HTC connect, for those who have it.
Networking and control features are intuitive and slick on the RX-A1040
In terms of video connections the HDMI slots are 2.0 supporting 4K Ultra HD 50/60Hz signal pass-through. It can also upscale lower resolution video to 4K Ultra HD Resolution and output to a compatible 4K display. It also supports RGB, YCbCR 4:4:4, 4:2:2 and 4:2:0 video signals.
At the front of the receiver we have a USB connection designed to be used with Apple iPods, iPads and iPhones which also charges the device while it is being used and the device can be controlled by the A1040 when connected to it. The receiver also supports gapless playback from WAV, FLAC, ALAC and inputs via USB, PC and NAS devices. Yamaha also have their version of a compressed music enhancer which uses their DSP expertise to help restore and enhance poorly encoded audio. Also supported is MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) allowing up to 1080p video and multi-channel audio playback from compatible mobile devices.
YPAO-R.S.C. is Yamaha’s room acoustics calibration software and measures at 8 points to determine the best possible results based on reflection points and acoustics results for your room. It also uses the results within the Cinema DSP settings to tailor them to the exact environment the receiver is being used in. There is also YAO Volume which ensures that volume and detail is heard correctly at lower volumes where it is harder to hear dynamic changes in volume. Results are based on the measurements taken. Another two worthwhile controls are the subwoofer trim settings which help to fine tune subwoofer integration and crossover along with dialogue lift. The lift is useful if you have a centre speaker placed under a flat panel or projection screen. It uses virtual presence speakers to lift voices up to the centre of the screen from the speaker, creating a more believable experience.
Sound QualityThe Yamaha RX-A1040 was tested with a set of MK S150mkII speakers performing LCR duties, with S150T surrounds and two V12 Subwoofers. It was also tested with MK MP150mkII taking over at LCR and with a set of Teufel System 8 THX Ultra2 Speakers. With a good mix of speakers also came a good mix of software with movies on Blu-ray, Netflix and music on CD and via Tidal. Images were projected by a JVC DLA-X700 projector and the disc player was a Panasonic Blu-ray machine.
Movies seemed like the ideal starting point for testing and we were not disappointed with scenes from our favourite test disc at the moment, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. If you have read any of my recent reviews you know that the scene starting as a close up on Caesar’s eyes (and then pulling back as the rain and thunder is mixed with a human choirs faint singing) is well used. The A1040 could have easily lost the edge here with a complicated mix and driving 4ohm speakers at close to reference volume, but it managed to convey the sense of scale, of the rain falling and the breathing of the Apes with excellent authority. It also managed the resulting chase of the deer with deep bass mixed with loud effects careering around the forest floor without losing the dynamics and becoming brittle. Only when really pushed at pretty uncomfortable levels in a room this size did things start to fall apart and the sound become compressed and distorted as the amp ran out of dynamic range and struggled. I don’t think many would push an AV receiver quite that hard in normal circumstances, so the A1040 manages to keep some usable headroom and dynamics to satisfy most movie lovers. Obviously this scene has sounded much better with these very same speakers proving to be even more dynamic and clean, but that was with £8k worth of electronics attached, so the Yamaha manages to punch above its weight at the price point.
Netflix with Dolby 5.1 also fared well with the A1040 and the dialogue heavy House of Cards can still call for the odd moment of highly strung action to be portrayed with excellent panning, effects placement and clear dialogue all in the surroundings of an underground station.
Moving to music and I have to admit to being addicted to Tidal’s ‘Blips and Blops’ monthly playlist. One of the guilty pleasure tracks is heartsigh by Purity Ring which has heavy rhythmic bass with high frequency keyboard effects and electronic high hats, mixed with a playful female vocal. It’s pure cheese, but the Yamaha manages to capture everything, adding scale and weight to the bottom end and never getting sibilant at the high end, even at high volume. Stereo separation is also very good with an excellent wide soundstage.
Another of Tidal’s playlists is the Legends series and this month (June 2015) Michael Jackson features with everything from The Jackson 5 to Xscape featured. ‘I want you back’ is an all-time favourite of mine, with the distorted piano opening, the bassline we all know instantly, the wa-wa guitar to the weedy sounding drums, the A1040 managed to produce this without any issues. The over exaggerated stereo mix and lack of real bass weight could end up sounding like a distorted mess, but the Yamaha manages to produce each layer of the song and the mix without any issues. This was impressive for an AV receiver to manage without sounding shrill and sibilant. Finishing with one of the best albums of the 1980’s – Thriller - and the track ‘Billie Jean’ sounds weighty, yet spacious and projects Jackson’s voice dead centre of the mix, with a liberal splashing of slap echo and the surrounding backing vocals wide in the soundstage, it’s a master class of how to make a pop record. The A1040 again produced everything in an impressive manner at sensible volume levels, so it passes with flying colours as a competent 2-channel performer.
- Excellent 2 channel performance
- Superb multi-channel sound quality
- Bomb proof build quality
- Tasteful design
- Excellent app
- Built-in Wifi and solid network performance
- Menu needs a bit more work to make it as intuitive as the app
- No Atmos or DTS:X update
Yamaha RX-A1040 AV Receiver Review
Is it worth buying?The Yamaha RX-A1040 is an excellent performer with both movies and music. It also has a host of well specified features that add value to the package. It’s built like a tank and while the design is not that original, the finish is excellent and the addition of a decent remote control and superb app make it intuitive to use. It provides a musical 2-channel performance and with movies it punches above its market level. The only possible downside is that it doesn’t have Atmos or DTS:X, but many will argue that isn’t actually an issue at all, not while there is a shortage of content and speaker solutions anyway. The plus point is that the A1040 is approaching the end of its shelf life with a new model replacing it in a matter of months, and if you fall into the Atmos, meh, camp, there might just be some healthy discounting to be done. That means you might just get a bargain with this Highly Recommended AV Receiver.
What are the alternatives?Other products in the same price point and market level include the excellent Denon AVR-X3100W, which is also about to be replaced, as well as the Atmos equipped Marantz SR7009 which is now at this price position.
Value For Money8
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