Yamaha RX-A3050 9.2 AV Receiver Review
Feature packed and future-proofed
What is the Yamaha RX-A3050?The Yamaha RX-A3050 is the Japanese manufacturer's new flagship AV receiver for 2016 and includes nine channels of built-in amplification. The receiver can deliver 175W per channel and it also has processing for up to 11.2 channels, with all the necessary pre-outs. The A3050 supports Dolby Atmos already and will, thanks to a future firmware update, also add DTS:X processing. The receiver has 8 HDMI inputs and 2 HDMI outputs with support for ARC, 4K, HDCP2.2 and, again thanks to a planned firmware update, support for High Dynamic Range (HDR). As befits a flagship model, the A3050 uses an aluminium front panel, an 'anti-resonance technology wedge' and includes sound tuning with high quality audio components.
The A3050 also supports Yamaha's new MusicCast multiroom system, allowing you to easily connect the receiver to other devices in the MusicCast network and share musical content. If that wasn't enough the A3050 also includes built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, along with an AM/FM tuner, internet radio, a remote app, music streaming services like Spotify and support for AirPlay. Naturally being a Yamaha receiver, the A3050 also includes YPAO sound optimisation and extensive Cinema DSP modes. That's certainly a lot of features and at a price of £1,999 as at the time of writing (February 2016), it won't break the bank either. So let's see if the Yamaha RX-A3050 matches up to its illustrious predecessors.
DesignThe basic layout of the A3050 doesn't deviate from the standard AV receiver configuration but Yamaha has still managed to deliver a product that has an attractive design. The combination of a glossy black section and a matte black section, combined with a brushed metal finish, really gives the receiver a high-end appearance and the titanium version is even more eye-catching. The build quality is excellent with the H-shaped cross member frame giving the chassis plenty of stability whilst the 'anti-resonance technology wedge' (basically a fifth foot at the centre) reduces vibrations. There's also a symmetrical power amplifier layout and an aluminium front panel that helps give the receiver a feeling of balance and quality. The RX-A3050 measures 435 x 192 x 474mm (WxHxD with the antenna up) and weighs in at 19.6kg.
There is an input selection dial on the left hand side, with the power button just above it, and a large volume dial on the right, with a Pure Direct button above that. Both dials provide resistance when being turned, which gives a solid and well engineered feel to them. Sandwiched between the two dials is a large and informative display, that can easily be read from across the room, or dimmed if necessary. The front panel has a clean and minimalist appearance, in part because everything else is behind a large drop-down flap. Here you'll find all the buttons you need to set up and control the A3050, should you ever misplace the remote, along with some additional inputs. These include a headphone jack, a USB port, an HDMI 1.4 input, a composite video input, stereo analogue inputs and a 3.5mm jack for the YPAO setup microphone.
The A3050 is built like a tank but manages to also look surprisingly attractive for an AV receiver.
Connections & ControlAside from the few connections behind the front panel that we've already mentioned, all the rest are at the rear and here you'll find everything you could possibly need. Starting with the most important, there are seven HDMI 2.0 inputs and two HDMI 2.0 outputs that all support 3D, 4K60p 4:4:4, Rec.2020, HDCP 2.2 and, in the case of the main output, also support ARC (Audio Return Channel). Thanks to an upcoming firmware update, these HDMI inputs and outputs will also be able to pass HDR metadata, which makes the A3050 suitably future proof.
Aside from that there's the usual array of legacy connections with composite and component video covered, along with coaxial and optical digital inputs and analogue audio inputs that include a phono stage. There's also an RS232 serial connector, 12V triggers and IR repeaters but no direct USB audio input. There is a provided aerial for the built-in wireless and Bluetooth, although if you'd rather use a wired connection there's also an Ethernet port. There are speaker terminals for the 9 built-in channels and 11.2-channel pre-outs but Yamaha have dropped the multi-channel inputs this year.
The A3050 comes with the same remote control that Yamaha has been using for a few years now. It is reasonably well designed, although some of the buttons are a little small and there are quite a lot of them. Its two-tone design is attractive but better suited to the titanium version of the A3050 rather than the black one. The remote is comfortable to hold and simple to use with one hand but strangely doesn't include a backlight - which seems like a major oversight on a flagship receiver. It also makes using the remote very tricky in the dark, especially with all those tiny buttons.
Thankfully there is a solution to the problem of a lack of backlight on the remote control in the form of Yamaha's excellent free remote app, which is available for both iOS and Android. The app uses a well designed user interface that is more intuitive than the receiver's actual onscreen menus and it obviously lights up making it more practical in the dark. The app itself is responsive, effective and includes all the buttons that you need to control the receiver. It also has different pages for Zones, Inputs, DSP modes and Scenes, making it easy to select exactly which configuration you want and tailor the DSP processing to your personal tastes.
Yamaha RX-A3050 Unboxing Video
Features & SpecsIt's fair to say that the Yamaha RX-A3050 is about as feature packed a receiver as you're likely to find. First of all it supports Dolby Atmos and, thanks to an upcoming firmware update, it will also be able to handle DTS:X. The latter is quite flexible in terms of speaker placement but, considering that Dolby Atmos has a set series of speaker configurations, it makes sense to use the same one for both. Of course Yamaha have been pioneering height channels for decades and as you'd expect, the A3050 also includes Cinema DSP modes and the option for virtual speakers. In terms of additional future-proofing, the receiver can also support Ultra HD 4K with 4K60p 4:4:4, HDCP 2.2 and Rec.2020. Thanks to another upcoming firmware update, it will also support HDR.
The Yamaha uses high performance ESS Technology 192 kHz/32 bit ES9016 DACs to produce a sound stage with up to 124 dB of dynamic range, along with low distortion and noise levels. In addition, high-quality ESS ES9006 DACs power the presence channels. There are 9-channels of built-in amplification, with 175W per a channel, and 11.2-channels of processing with pre-outs to match. The A3050 uses Yamaha's YPAO-R.S.C. (Reflected Sound Control) to analyse room acoustics and perform speaker angle measurements, before calibrating the audio parameters to achieve optimum sound at any of several listening positions. The A3050 comes with a setup microphone and Yamaha's proprietary four position plastic base for angle measurements.
The A3050 includes built-in WiFi and is Wireless Direct compatible for easy networking. It is also Bluetooth-compatible for wireless music streaming and includes a compressed music enhancer. There is also Bluetooth output, allowing you to stream music to Bluetooth headphones and speakers. The A3050 includes support for DLNA and offers a number of network functions including internet radio, music streaming services including Spotify and access to network servers. The AV Controller app allows for easy setup and control of the receiver and allows you to make detailed adjustments to DSP parameters. There is also HDMI zone switching and intelligent amp assign for multizone functionality.
There is also support for AirPlay, along with a USB port at the front for iPod and iPhone connection. The A3050 supports an extensive range of audio codecs via either USB or your network and these include FLAC up to 192kHz/24bit, DSD up to 5.6 MHz, AIFF up to 192kHz/24bit, WAV up to 192kHz/24bit, ALAC up to 96kHz/24bit, MP3 up to 48kHz/320kbps, MPEG-AAC up to 48kHz/320kbps and WMA up to 48kHz/320kbps. The receiver also supports gapless playback, allowing you to listen to music without any interruptions. The Yamaha includes video processing should you need it, although you can also just pass the video signal through untouched. Finally the A3050 supports MusicCast, which we'll cover in more detail in the next section.
The A3050 comes with a host of features including Yamaha's excellent MusicCast multiroom system.
What is MusicCast?So what exactly is MusicCast? Well its a multiroom audio system that has been developed in-house by Yamaha. The manufacturer has built a new system from the ground up that is designed to be reliable, stable and effective but what really makes MusicCast different is that it's included across almost their entire range of products, allowing you to build a multiroom system without having to buy all new units or lock yourself into a single ecosystem. MusicCast is available on Yamaha’s new receivers like the A3050, amplifiers, as well as their soundbars, mini systems, wireless music speakers and HiFi active speakers.
All MusicCast products include the MusicCast chipset and support for both WiFi and Bluetooth. There are access point networking functions inside all MusicCast products, allowing them to create a network with your wireless router or directly with each other; allowing MusicCast to create a network, no matter what. The system is also designed to be easy to setup, all you need to do is download the MusicCast app to your smart device. Then you connect the MusicCast product to your network and press connect to pair it with your smart device. It’s that simple and once you’ve started, you can also easily add more MusicCast products to your system.
What does this mean in practice? Well for a start if you have the A3050 you can connect it to the MusicCast network, allowing you to access other devices with that network. You can listen to audio from other devices and vice versa, so for example if you were listening to a CD using the A3050 and you wanted to do something in another room where there was a musicCast speaker, you could just listen to the CD from there. The system is compatible with codecs up to 192kHz and even DSD up to 5.6MHz, so you don't have to compromise on audio quality either.
You can even add other Bluetooth products to your MusicCast system, all you need to do is connect your existing Bluetooth product to the A3050 via Bluetooth for example and you can send music from the non-MusicCast product to any connected MusicCast product in your network. MusicCast also supports Apple AirPlay and Spotify, making it one of the easiest and most comprehensive multiroom systems to expand. We found that in testing MusicCast was easy to setup and control and the network was stable and robust with no apparent latency. You can find out more about MusicCast in our dedicated review.
Setup and TestingWe have always found Yamaha's menu system to be slightly fractured and often less than intuitive and so it proved with the A3050. In terms of the menu itself you scroll down through options along the left hand side of the screen and then through another set of options along the bottom. We actually found that using the remote app made more sense because all the different features were more intuitively laid out, making it easier to navigate the entire system. We feel that Yamaha's menu system is getting somewhat dated and could really do with a complete redesign along the lines of the menu system used on the Denon and Marantz receivers. Perhaps Yamaha could get the guys that designed the remote app and the MusicCast app to have a go?
In terms of the speaker layouts you basically have a number of choices - 5.1, 7.1, 5.1.2, 5.1.4 and 7.1.2 - along with options for bi-amping, extra zones and up to two subwoofers. You have a choice of two front height (presence) speakers, two central overhead speakers or two upward-firing speakers; the latter two options relate directly to Dolby Atmos but choosing them isn't immediately obvious and required us to go through the manual. Once you have chosen your specific configuration you can then run the YPAO sound optimisation feature in conjunction with the included microphone and stand. The system gives you a choice of a single point measurement or multi-point measurements (up to a maximum of eight), along with additional height measurements.
We started our testing in a two channel configuration before moving on to a standard 5.1-channel setup for both movies and multi-channel music. After that we used a full 7.1-channel speaker layout before testing the Dolby Atmos capabilities using a 5.1.2, 5.1.4 and then a 7.1.2 configuration. Since the A3050 only has nine channels of built-in amplification but can process a total of eleven channels, we also added an extra two channels to run a full 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos configuration. Along with Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio, we also tried out Yamaha's various DSP modes. In addition we tested the receiver's ability to stream content from music services and our network server, as well as forming part of a full MusicCast multiroom system.
Yamaha RX-A3050 Video Review
We have reviewed a number of Yamaha receivers recently, so we had a good idea of what to expect, and last year's RX-A3040 certainly impressed when we tested that model. The A3050 takes what the previous generation had achieved and builds on it, delivering an equally assured performance but adding a greater degree of future-proofing. Just like last year's model, the A3050 supports Dolby Atmos but it will also be adding DTS:X soon, which means you can choose between either of the new immersive audio formats. The A3050 doesn't support Auro-3D but since there very few Blu-rays that actually support that format, it isn't really a great loss.
Once we had set the A3050 up we began by listening to regular 5.1- and 7.1-channel soundtracks like Jurassic World and Tomorrowland and the Yamaha delivered an impressive performance. As with previous models it delivered a sound that was free of any harshness or aggression, producing a well balanced and smooth performance that still retained plenty of dynamic range to keep you on your toes. The front soundstage was very well defined, with plenty of width and presence, whilst dialogue was nicely anchored to the centre. There was a distinct sense of clarity that ensured dialogue remained clear and localisation was precise.
The receiver did an excellent job of handing over from the front to the sides and rear, creating an enjoyable surround experience. The Yamaha produced a cohesive sound field and effectively steered sounds around the room. There was a nice sense of tonal balance about the overall audio, with the processor and amplification combining to produce an experience that was both controlled and entertaining. The result was a genuine sense of space and environment that was underpinned by some very impressive bass, giving effects the low frequency kick that they need. If you feel like experimenting with the various Cinema DSP modes, you might be surprised how effective some of them actually are but overall we prefer to leave our audio unprocessed, especially with today's new immersive audio formats.
Since the A3050 delivered such an impressive performance with 5.1- and 7.1-channel soundtracks and given Yamaha's decades of experience with height or presence speakers, it came as no surprise to discover the receiver is just as adept when it came to Dolby Atmos. Although we listened to content in a number if different configurations, we primarily used a 7.2.2 speaker layout because that seems the most likely choice for owners unless they plan on adding extra amplification. We listened to a number of new Blu-rays with Dolby Atmos soundtracks including Everest, Sicario and Sherlock: The Abominable Bride, along with some of our old favourites like Gravity and Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.
The results were genuinely impressive taking the good work the receiver did with the basic 5.1- and 7.1-channel soundtracks and adding a greater sense of spatial awareness. It isn't that there are loads of sounds coming from above, although that does happen on occasion, but there's a sense of a three-dimensional hemisphere of sound around you, creating a more realistic and visceral audio experience. This is best demonstrated during the opening bomber raid in Unbroken, where you can hear the flack exploding within a three dimensional space around the room. The A3050 was an accomplished performer with Dolby Atmos and although the DTS:X update hasn't been released yet, we can see no reason why the Yamaha won't be just as effective with that format.
It's often been said that AV receivers that are good with surround sound can sometimes struggle when it comes to two channel audio but this certainly isn't the case with the A3050. However before we tested its stereo capabilities we began by listening to some multi-channel music which, unsurprisingly, the Yamaha handled with great aplomb. As soon as we moved on to stereo, either in a pure two-channel configuration or as a 2.1-channel setup, the receiver impressed with a lovely musical performance. We listened to a range of music that included M83's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, Suede's new album Night Thoughts and David Bowie's moving farewell Black Star. The A3050 handled them all with ease, delivering a clear and detailed mid-range, a suitably deep bass and a well defined top end. This was probably best exemplified on the opening track of Night Thoughts where the combination of drums and strings was very effective. The AirPlay and Spotify Connect functions also yielded strong results and the A3050 proved an extremely forgiving performer when it came to compressed audio.
The A3050 is a class act with a powerful but assured sound that takes full advantage of immersive audio.
- Powerful and assured sound
- Attractive design and solid build quality
- Great performance with Dolby Atmos
- Excellent future-proofing
- MusicCast is impressive
- Intuitive and effective remote app
- Menu system is confusing
- No backlight on the remote
Yamaha RX-A3050 9.2 AV Receiver Review
Should I buy one?
The Yamaha RX-A3050 represents the manufacturer's flagship AV receiver for this year and as such it includes just about everything you could want. The design is attractive and the construction solid, with a well engineered feel to the entire unit. There is an extensive set of connections at the rear, including HDMI inputs and outputs that support 4K, Rec.2020 and HDR, thanks to a future firmware update. The receiver currently supports Dolby Atmos and will also add support for DTS:X, again thanks to a firmware update. The A3050 includes built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, along with a host of features and extensive file support. It also forms part of Yamaha's MusicCast multiroom system, which proved to be easy to setup, very flexible and highly effective. In fact there is little for us to complain about aside from a lack of backlighting on the remote control and a menu system that is less than intuitive. However the excellent remote app certainly goes some way towards mitigating both of these issues.
The menu system aside, setup was relatively straight forward and the YPAO sound optimisation feature proved very effective. As a result the A3050 was a class act with both 5.1- and 7.1-channels, delivering an assured performance with plenty of detail and dynamic range. The receiver produced a cohesive sound field that effectively steered effects around the room, whilst retaining a sense of tonal balance. The front soundstage was open but retained clarity when it came to dialogue, whilst the bass was nicely integrated. All of these attributes were merely expanded when we moved on to Dolby Atmos, with the Yamaha creating a sonic hemisphere that added to the reality of the audio experience. The receiver is also very adept with two-channel music, making it a great all-rounder. In fact you'd be hard pushed to find a better AV receiver at this price point and with its combination of power, processing and features, the Yamaha RX-A3050 should definitely be on your short list.
What are my alternatives?
There a number of alternatives to the Yamaha RX-A3050, starting off with Pioneer's SC-LX89 which offers a similar set of features for about the same price. However if you're looking for a bargain then the Marantz SR7010 AV receiver is a serious contender. It offers an impressive set of features, along with future-proofing, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro-3D and a great performance; all for just £1,399. Alternatively there's Denon's AVR-X6200W which offers much the same level of features as the SR7010 but for around £1,499. If you can afford a bit more then you should definitely consider Denon's excellent flagship AV receiver the AVR-X7200WA which costs £2,499 but includes just about every feature we can think of and has already been upgraded for DTS:X.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,999.95
Value For Money9
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