The kings of height speakers finally lend their presence to Dolby Atmos
What is the Yamaha RX-A2040?The RX-A2040 is Yamaha's mid-range nine-channel audio-video surround sound receiver that sits just below the recently reviewed RX-A3040 in their range. It includes a host of features such as support for just about every surround format, built-in WiFi, AirPlay, Ultra HD 4K upscaling with pass-through and FLAC, WAV and Apple Lossless playback. That's not a bad set of features for £1,499 (November 2014) and there has also been a recent firmware update that has added support for Dolby's new Atmos immersive surround format. Yamaha have been pioneering height and presence channels for years, so are they better suited to handle Dolby's overhead channels than the competition?
DesignIn terms of its design, the A2040 is identical to the A3040 and much of Yamaha's AVENTAGE line. There's the classic AV receiver layout with an input dial on the left and a big volume dial on the right; whilst in the middle is a large and informative display. Underneath the display is a drop down flap, where you will find some controls and additional inputs. The overall design might not be a revelation but the black two-tone effect with a gloss top half and a brushed metal lower section is certainly eye-catching. Although if black isn't to your taste, there is also a version with a brushed silver finish.The A2040 is also well built, measuring an impressive 435 x 192 x 467mm and weighing in at a hefty 17 kgs. That makes it bigger and heavier than many manufacturers flagship models. The build quality and finish are also excellent and the overall construction is very solid. Yamaha use an aluminium front panel and an anti-resonance technology (ART) wedge to help reduce vibrations; along with an H-shape cross member frame and rigid bottom. There are five feet underneath for added stability and further reduction in vibrations and the A2040 also includes a symmetrical power amplifier layout.
The A2040 uses an attractive two-tone finish and a military-grade level of build quality.
ConnectionsAt the rear you'll find a fairly imposing set of connections with a total of eight HDMI inputs (seven at the rear and one at the front), along with two HDMI outputs. There are also a large number of legacy connections with composite and component video covered, along with coaxial and optical digital and analogue audio. There's also an RS232 serial connector, 12V triggers and IR repeaters but annoyingly no direct USB audio input.
Thankfully for those that like to stream their music the A2040 does have you well covered, with a choice of network connection via either wired Ethernet or wireless. There is a provided aerial for the built-in wireless and this makes the UPnP streaming, AirPlay, app control, internet radio and Spotify Connect capabilities of the A2040 something that you might actually use when freed from the need to run an Ethernet cable to your receiver.
A2040 Remote ControlsThe A2040 comes with Yamaha's standard remote control which is reasonably well designed, although some the buttons are a little small. Its two-tone design is quite attractive but better matches the titanium version rather than the black one. The remote is comfortable to hold and simple to use with one hand and includes a backlight; making it easier to use in the dark. However the buttons only light up when you press them and there's no dedicated button to turn the backlight on; so make sure you know the location of the important buttons.
Yamaha provide a free remote app called AV Controller (which is now integrated into the company’s AV Navi universal controller as covered in this recent news story) and it is one of the better examples. It isn't quite as comprehensive as Pioneer’s AV Controller app but it certainly makes a viable alternative to the provided remote control. Thanks to the built-in WiFi, setting up a network connection was easy and we quickly had the app working, which provided all the usual controls plus the ability to change surround settings and DSP modes which was handy during testing.
SetupAs you would expect with a modern AV receiver, Yamaha have included a simple to follow setup procedure that will take you through the process and overall we found everything relatively painless. As we mentioned setting up the WiFi and remote app were straightforward, as it should be, and then it was just a case of connecting all the various speakers and running the YPAO room optimisation software. Yamaha include a dedicated microphone for this purpose that you connect into the front of the A2040 during the setup process. The audio calibration process takes readings from multiple positions in order to measure test tones from all the connected speakers and any subwoofers and thus adjust for the effects of the room. We started with a basic 5.1 and 7.1 speaker setup, before moving onto both 5.1.4 and 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos speaker configurations.
The A2040 was easy to setup, the user interface was well designed and the YPAO room correction was effective.
What is Dolby Atmos?We have been covering Dolby's new audio format for the last couple of years, first in the cinema and now at home. However if you aren't familiar with Atmos, it's a new multi-dimensional audio format that can be included within Dolby TrueHD soundtracks. The encoding adds additional overhead and width speakers in order to create a more immersive surround experience. The A2040 offers the choice of either 5.1.4 (four overhead speakers) or 7.1.2 (two overhead speakers) using the nine available channels. For more information on Dolby Atmos read our handy guide.
Testing the A2040Our review home cinema has four overhead speakers, allowing us to review 5.1.4, 7.1.2 and 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos configurations, assuming the receiver has sufficient channels of amplification. For the purposes of the review, we tested movies with both 5.1 and 7.1 soundtracks before moving to both 5.1.4 and a 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos speaker configurations. We had Dolby’s own Atmos demo disc, as well as the Blu-rays of Transformers; Age of Extinction and The Expendables III, which both have Atmos soundtracks. We also experimented with Yamaha's various DSP modes and listened to an extensive amount of music, with the A2040 in a more purist two-channel configuration.
A2040 Specs & FeaturesWhilst Dolby Atmos is obviously the big addition this year, the A2040 also includes an extensive set of additional features and a seriously impressive set of specifications. For their AVENTAGE line of receivers, Yamaha ensure they use high quality parts designed to work optimally together and the A2040 incorporates an ES9006 Premier Audio DAC from ESS Technology. The built-in WiFi is a welcome addition and there is also the Wireless Direct feature which allows you to stream music directly from your smartphone or tablet via either the remote app's Music Play feature or Apple's AirPlay; as well as control your receiver.
If you do connect your A2040 to the internet, there is extensive support for all the various audio codecs and over both USB and your network, the A2040 can handle FLAC, WAV, ALAC, MP3, AAC and WMA. Along with the AirPlay support, you also get Spotify and HTC Connect. On the video side of things Yamaha have included MHL (Mobile High Definition Link) support and the A2040 can pass through and upscale to 4K/60p with HDMI 2.0. There is also YPAO-R.S.C. (Reflected Sound Control) sound optimisation, with up to eight points of measurement.
The A2040 has an extensive set of features including built-in WiFi, AirPlay and Spotify.
Yamaha A2040 Movie Sound QualityOnce we had the A2040 setup and we'd run through all the various features on offer, it was time to review the most important aspect - the sound quality. When the A2040 first arrived for testing the Dolby Atmos firmware update hadn't been released, so we concentrated on regular 5.1 and 7.1 soundtracks. As we expected from a Yamaha the sound was free of the harshness and aggression that sometimes affects the bigger AV receivers. What we had instead was a smooth and highly cohesive surround field that immerses the listener. The result was that dialogue was always clear and anchored to the centre speaker but music and effects created a wide front soundstage. The surrounds, whether with sides or sides and rears, helped create a nice sense of atmosphere with precise localisation and smooth panning of sounds around the room.
We have recently been using X-Men: Days of Future Past and Edge of Tomorrow as our test discs of choice and the A2040 did a wonderful job of recreating these complex sound designs in the home. The action scenes in X-Men: Days of Future Past sounded superb but dialogue sequences were equally as effective, with a great sense of presence and environment. Whilst the repeated beach attack in Edge of Tomorrow always remained clear and focused, never descending into an audio chaos. This sequence also allowed us to test how the A2040 handles bass and the Yamaha does a very accomplished job. However to be sure we also watched parts of Pacific Rim and Godzilla, both of which gave our low end a thorough work out. Our initial impressions were confirmed, with the A2040 delivering an excellent all-round performance.
After a few weeks the Dolby Atmos firmware update was released, the A2040 automatically updated itself and we setup the receiver for both 5.1.4 and a 7.1.2 configurations. As with our other Atmos receiver reviews we had the Dolby Atmos demo disc and Transformers: Age of Extinction but, thankfully, just before returning the A2040 we also had The Expendables III to watch in Atmos. When you consider how much experience Yamaha have with height and presence speakers, we were expecting a good performance here and weren't disappointed. The combination of surround and overhead speakers was seamless, resulting in a highly immersive experience and The Expendables III showed, more so than the amped up nonsense of Transformers, just how effective Dolby Atmos can be when implemented properly.
Yamaha RX-A2040 Video Review
Yamaha A2040 Music Sound QualityWhen it comes to music, Yamaha are keen to point out that the design elements of their Aventage range of receivers are designed to improve the performance in this area. Now we're not saying that the A2040 will top a dedicated two-channel amplifier but it certainly makes for an effective stereo amp. Yamaha have made impressive inroads when it comes to the performance of their receivers with music over the last couple of years and the A2040 continues this trend.
When it came to two-channel music, the Yamaha delivered enough impact to make it exciting but retained a subtlety to its top end that is unusual for a mass market receiver. Once you take into account the effective streaming capabilities, the 2040 is a genuinely able partner for music. We generally found that the best results were achieved in a two-channel configuration with no subwoofer and the Yamaha running in Pure Direct mode but the performance in a 2.1 configuration was also quite impressive. The AirPlay and Spotify Connect functions yielded excellent results and the 2040 also proofed to be an extremely forgiving performer with compressed audio.
Yamaha's experience with height and presence channels showed when it came to Dolby Atmos.
- Powerful and detailed sound
- Excellent control app and setup
- Attractive design and solid build
- Built-in WiFi
- Dolby Atmos Support
- A little too clinical at times
- Only 7.2-channel pre-outs
- Pricey compared to competition
- No USB Audio
Yamaha RX-A2040 AV Receiver Review
Is it worth buying?
The Yamaha RX-A2040 certainly has the build quality and look that you would expect from a decent AV receiver and the construction eclipses some flagship models from other manufacturers. The A2040 has nine-channels of amplification, built-in WiFi, a great set of features and support for just about every audio format including Dolby Atmos. Yamaha have been pioneering height and presence channels for years, so it should come as no surprise to discover that Dolby's overhead channels were extremely well implemented. The overall experience with movies was excellent with an exciting and powerful performance, whilst music was also well served, even if the sound felt a little clinical sometimes. However the A2040 delivers a great all-round performance and the combination of design, build, features and sound quality make it a definite Highly Recommended.
What are the alternatives?
We were reviewing two other receivers of comparable price at the same time as the A2040, which gave us an opportunity to compare all three. In terms of looks, the Marantz SR7009 probably had the edge, although the A2040 was certainly attractive. The SR7009 also had a slightly more musical quality to its overall sound, although we did enjoy how effective the Yamaha was with Dolby Atmos. The Pioneer SC-LX58 came close in terms of build quality and had a similar audio performance, whilst its remote app is excellent. The Marantz and Pioneer are currently both £100 cheaper than the Yamaha but anyone buying the RX-A2040 certainly won't be disappointed.
Value For Money8
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