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Yamaha RX-A3040 AV Receiver Review

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It's got Dolby Atmos but it’s the little things that make the difference

by Ed Selley Oct 28, 2014

  • SRP: £2,000.00

    Yamaha RX-A3040 - What is it?

    So then, Dolby Atmos. The amount of material generated by it on this forum alone is considerable and as the first new format since the launch of Blu-ray, in an absolute sense it represents the first solid reason to upgrade your sonics since that point (this of course making the huge assumption that 3D, ARC and the other useful little features that manufacturers have been adding over time haven’t swayed you already). Quite how successful Atmos is going to be in practise given the public’s proven reluctance to go beyond five speakers in their lounge and the rather demanding nature of how Atmos makes use of extra speakers is yet to be seen but with DTS also getting in on the action, the ceiling is the new battleground for the keen cinephile.

    While this is a brave new world for some manufacturers, others have been giving themselves something of a head start when it comes to speakers at altitude. Ten years ago, Yamaha released the DSP-Z9 which offered a then unheard of nine channels of amplification, including two height channels. Since then, Yamaha has been plugging away at height channels and this means that with Atmos requiring similar speaker placement, this decade of data is likely to come in handy.

    At the same time, with the best will in the world, Atmos isn’t going to become a massive part of your viewing overnight (if indeed it ever does) so any Atmos receiver has to offer plenty of ability in other areas too. Thus far, many receivers I’ve had pass through under test have offered considerable functionality but haven’t always made it work as well as you might hope. Can the RX-A3040 deliver in everyday terms while we wait to see if Atmos will include films that don’t just have Mark Wahlburg in them?

    Yamaha RX-A3040 - What does it look like?

    Yamaha RX-A3040 Yamaha RX-A3040 - What does it look like?
    If you own a Yamaha RX-3030, you will be in a position to play a challenging little game called ‘what’s different about the 3040.’ The latest amp is a revision of the previous model and unless you look at them with a degree of concentration, you’re not going to spot the differences. The 3040 is a nine-channel amp with processing for eleven - although at the time of writing this doesn’t include Atmos which will be added by firmware update in due course.

    Of course, this being a high end AV receiver, connections are plentiful. There are no less than eight 4K capable HDMI inputs and two outputs along with enough legacy video connections to keep your older devices happy too. This includes a few sensible items like coaxial and optical inputs, component video connections and analogue RCA inputs but also includes a phono stage as well which always strikes me as almost heroically pointless on a product of this nature but shows that Yamaha is at least keen to cover all the bases. Conversely, there is no direct USB audio input which may be an irritant to some.

    One of the more useful fitments to the 3040 isn’t an audio connection though. Unlike its predecessor, the 3040 is fitted for network connection via both wired Ethernet and wireless. A wireless aerial is supplied and setup is WPS capable. This suddenly makes the UPnP streaming, app control, internet radio and Spotify Connect that the Yamaha boasts on the spec sheet something that you can use unconditionally rather than if you have run network connections to your AV system.
    Yamaha RX-A3040 Yamaha RX-A3040 - What does it look like?
    In power terms, the RX-A3040 is technically well down the leaderboard of heavyweight one box amps as it generates 150 watts into eight ohms with two channels driven - Yamaha quotes no figures into the full nine channels that the 3040 is technically capable of driving and it is not unreasonable to assume that figures under full load will drop a little. In the Yamaha’s defence however it is important to note that their figures (quoted into an 8 ohm load and on a 20Hz-20kHz sweep) are less heavily massaged than some of the notionally more powerful competition and the amplification used to produce is it more conventional class A/B which generally turns in lower figures than class D.

    The main differentiation between Yamaha and the competition has traditionally been the DSP system that they have now been honing for thirty or so years. The 3040 is no exception to this and has any number of preset DSP options but additionally has customisable modes that can be accessed via the app (more of which later). A number of these settings remain gimmicky if I’m being unkind and specialist if I’m being more charitable but equally others can work wonders at giving bland material a boost. Equally, there is a Pure Direct mode that turns of all of this off.

    Externally, the 3040 is effectively identical to the preceding 3030 but this isn’t a bad thing. As part of the ‘Aventage’ line of products, the 3040 has clean styling, pleasant proportions and a straightforward set of controls that make it logical to use. It also feels well-built with high quality materials used in all the important places. The controls feel well weighted and the display is easy to read at a distance. I’m probably the only person that feels this way but I do miss the old orange displays though as they were so distinctively Yamaha but the 3040 is a nice piece of industrial design.

    Yamaha RX-A3040 - What does it come with?

    Yamaha RX-A3040 Yamaha RX-A3040 - What does it come with?
    The Yamaha is supplied with the now traditional three way ‘boomerang’ for setup using the company’s proprietary YPAO system along with mic, FM/AM aerial and wireless adapter. A standard remote handset is supplied which is logical enough to use but has the standard army of tiny identically sized buttons and rather unusually for an amp at this price, no backlighting. This seems extremely mean until you consider that the wireless aerial means that the control app is a realistic possibility for day to day to use.

    Yamaha RX-A3040 Yamaha RX-A3040 - What does it come with?
    Here Yamaha has pulled a bit of a blinder The Yamaha AV Controller app (now integrated into the company’s AV Navi universal controller as covered in this recent news story) is only the second app after Pioneer’s AV Controller that I’d use in preference to the remote in terms of speed and actual control advantage of control over the IR handset. Unlike the Pioneer app however, I had full use of the Yamaha controller in a little under five minutes after unboxing rather than after an unpleasant hour and a bit of swearing at my computer. As well as standard control, the app allows for DSP adjustment on the fly which begain to yield some useful performance boosts after some trial and error.

    Yamaha RX-A3040

    the 3040 has clean styling, pleasant proportions and a straightforward set of controls that make it logical to use

    Yamaha RX-A3040 - Any downsides?

    As receivers at this price point go, the Yamaha is a competitive proposition. I had assumed that the eight HDMI inputs would be sufficient for most needs but a conversation in a recent podcast suggested that it may actually be the bare minimum for some of the keener gamers and equipment hoarders. The lack of direct USB connection for a PC is only partially offset by the UPnP functions and streaming service support and means using the 3040 as a partner for computer audio is at a disadvantage compared to some rivals .

    There is also the slight elephant in the room that the 3040 is an Atmos amp but as yet Yamaha has not released the software to make this happen. Given that some of the competition does have Atmos up and running, if this format is the be all and end all for you (and at this point you must really like Transformers; Age of Extinction), the Yamaha is still a work in progress rather than the finished article and this is without considering the (faint) possibility that Auro becomes a workable format too.

    Yamaha RX-A3040 - How do you set it up?

    The Yamaha has seen a fairly lengthy and extremely busy test session. It has been used with a Cambridge Audio 752BD Blu-ray, Sky HD and Panasonic GT60 Plasma as fixed partners with power supplied via Isotek Evo 3 Aquarius. It has also seen use with the Arcam AirDac, Chord Hugo and Parasound Halo A21 and A31 Power amps. Speakers used have included my old fixed speakers- Mordaunt Short Mezzo 1 front and rears and Mezzo 5 centre and new fixed speakers of five Elipson Planet Ms with Tannoy TS 2.12 sub in both cases. The Yamaha was also used to test the Tannoy Mercury pack that passed through last month as well as a full set of Neat Motive SX speakers. Material used has included Blu Ray, DVD, HD and standard definition broadcast material as well as on demand TV and music via various platforms as well as lossless and high res FLAC via UPnP.

    Yamaha RX-3040 - Performance with Film and TV

    Yamaha RX-A3040 Yamaha RX-3040 - Performance with Film and TV
    Once you have the Yamaha up and running - a process that is largely painless - the RX-3040 is almost entirely familiar to anyone that has used one of the company’s larger AV receivers before and this is no bad thing. The most important and by far the most consistent aspect of the performance of the 3040 is the complete absence of harshness, strain or aggression to the way that the 3040 goes about its business. In the distant past, this had connotations that were less welcome. Yamaha amps tended to sound a little soft and lacking in the sort of pin you to the seat dynamics that some brighter and more exciting competition could manage.

    The 3040 has evolved to keep this utterly unflappable smoothness but honed it so that when the sensory overload that is the ‘Hero’s Duty’ scene in Wreck it Ralph is in full effect you could never ever describe it as being soft or warm but at the same time the control, cohesion and absolute unflappability makes the performance truly cinematic. The Yamaha fills a space in a way that can only really be achieved with exceptional amplification under the control of excellent processing.

    The processing takes a little listening to before you start to appreciate what a class act the 3040 is. If your idea of great home cinema is every speaker you have connected throwing out the maximum amount of energy at all times, the Yamaha probably isn’t for you (or at least, you’ll have to heavily abuse the settings). If you want a real sense of the space that the director was trying to convey, there isn’t much out there that does a more convincing job than the 3040. This is as effective with the real word spaces of The Silver Linings Playbook as it is with spaceship collisions in Prometheus. This perception has also been impressively consistent across the multiple speaker packages that it has been used with. If you live for explosions, there is a sense that the Yamaha might still be a touch too relaxed for you but as an all-rounder, this is a seriously accomplished amp.

    Yamaha RX-A3040 Yamaha RX-3040 - Performance with Film and TV
    Of course, even if I wasn’t reticent about trying to hang speakers on my ceiling (and believe me, I am), the Yamaha’s performance with Atmos is an unknown at this point. I’m sorry if at this stage, the performance with Atmos is the clincher but given how the 3040 decodes everything else, I can’t see it being poor in this regard - especially when the pedigree that Yamaha has with height channels is taken into account. I would stress that even if Atmos goes mainstream, unless you intend to repurchase everything you have up until now, the handling of the formats as they were pre Atmos matters and the Yamaha is seriously accomplished with them.

    Nothing changes too radically when the Yamaha is used for broadcast and on demand TV work. The 3040 excels at finding information in the mix be it stereo or 5.1 and making sure it is where it needs to be in order to sound wholly convincing. In my test system AV Receivers run all the time and this means that the Yamaha has had some wholly unexpected moments to show some genuinely lovely surround performance. Did you know that QPootle5 on CBeebies has some rather marvellous effects panning whenever the… whatever the characters are, roar around in their spaceships? Well, if you have a son that rises at dawn and a 3040, you will.

    Yamaha RX-A3040
    The processing takes a little listening to before you start to appreciate what a class act the 3040 is

    Yamaha RX-3040 - Performance with Music

    Yamaha claims that many of the design elements of the Aventage models are with a view to improved music performance and while the 3040 won’t worry a two grand stereo amp, there is a general ability in stereo that is a step forward over older models. With the Balearic bliss of Rayko’s Rebirth, the Yamaha has enough punch to make it exciting but there is a sweetness to the top end that is unusual in AV products. When you add in the well sorted streaming section, the 3040 is a genuinely capable partner for music. The most effective results are gained with no sub and the Yamaha running in Pure Direct mode but the performance in 2.1 is also perfectly acceptable. The AirPlay and Spotify Connect functions also yield strong results and the 3040 is an extremely forgiving performer with compressed audio.

    Conclusion

    9
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Powerful and assured sound
    • Excellent control app and setup
    • Solid build

    Cons

    • Possibly a little too civilised at times
    • No USB Audio
    • Atmos not currently available
    You own this Total 9
    You want this Total 8
    You had this Total 0

    Yamaha RX-A3040 AV Receiver Review

    Yamaha RX-A3040 Conclusion
    At this stage of AV Receiver development, the formula has been evolving long enough that we pretty much know what to expect when we take delivery of a new one. Atmos is a relatively big deal as the first new audio format in a fairly long period of time but it is one new feature to add to an already vast list. As we have discussed at length in the podcasts, we don’t even know how successful Atmos will be in terms of takeup and media. We have to judge an AV receiver as much on how it performs in real world terms as we do in extremis.

    And it is the real world performance that makes the Yamaha RX-A3040 an amp you need to be looking at if you are shopping at this price point. Put simply, every single convenience feature is actually convenient. From the painless wireless setup, to the excellent app to the utterly logical menus, the Yamaha is the first receiver I have tested in the era of the ‘smart hub’ that makes good on the promise of convenience. All this would matter for nothing if the 3040 didn’t perform sonically but it offers superlative sound quality across stereo, broadcast and Blu-ray. Even if our worst fears are realised and Atmos comes to nothing, the Yamaha offers performance that should make all your listening a deeply satisfying experience.


    The Rundown

    Sound Quality

    9

    Features

    9

    Connectivity

    8

    Build Quality

    8

    Value For Money

    8

    Verdict

    9

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