Yamaha RX-A870 7.2-Channel AV Receiver Review
A solid receiver that benefits from the inclusion of MusicCast
What is the Yamaha RX-A870?The Yamaha RX-A870 is one of the entry-level models in their AVENTAGE range of surround sound AV Receivers that includes the flagship RX-A3070. The A870 is a 7.2-channel AVR that comes with Dolby Atmos (5.1.2) and DTS:X as standard and also supports 4K, High Dynamic Range (HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma and Dolby Vision) and Wide Colour Gamut (Rec.2020). There's built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, Hi-Res audio support and MusicCast which is Yamaha's excellent multiroom system. That's a decent set of features for a receiver with a listed price of £899 as at the time of writing (December 2017) but it's a competitive market place, so does the A870 do enough to distinguish itself from the pack? Let's find out...
Design, Connections & ControlThe A870 uses a basic design that is similar to the higher-end models in the AVENTAGE range, so you get a minimalist front with a two-tone gloss and brushed metal finish. The A870 uses an aluminium front panel, comes in a choice of either black or titanium and includes large feet designed to add strength and reduce vibrations. It also includes Yamaha's Anti Resonance Technology (ART) wedge, which is a fancy name for a fifth foot under the chassis to provide even more support and isolation. The A870 is well made and in terms of its dimensions it measures 435 x 171 x 382mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 10.5kg.
The layout is fairly typical, with an input selection dial on the left and a volume dial on the right. There's a power button on the top left and a Pure Direct button on the top right, whilst in the middle there's a large and informative display that can be dimmed if necessary. Under this display there are some basic controls for the second zone and the built-in turners, along with buttons for selecting different Scenes. Beneath these controls there is a drop-down panel behind which you'll find a headphone jack, a USB port, an HDMI input, an analogue input using a 3.5mm jack and a connector for the YPAO setup microphone.
At the rear are the majority of the connections and the A870 has a fairly stripped down selection compared to the higher-end models in Yamaha's AVR range. There are seven HDMI inputs at the rear but only the first three and the two HDMI outputs support 4K60p 4:4:4, HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, Rec.2020, and HDCP 2.2. In the case of the main output, it also supports ARC (Audio Return Channel), whilst the other four HDMI inputs support HDCP 1.4. There's a selection 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, along with AM/FM aerials and a DAB+ tuner. There are nine sets of speaker terminals for the seven channels of built-in amplification, along with 7.2-channel pre-outs.
The A870 comes with Yamaha's standard two-tone remote control, which still suffers from tiny buttons and the lack of a backlight. It really is about time that Yamaha redesigned the remote to create something that is more comfortable to hold, has less controls and is simpler to use. All the buttons you'll need are there and the main controls are suitably central but it remains very hard to use in a darkened room. In fact you're better off using Yamaha's excellent remote app, which is available free for both iOS and Android. It has a well designed user interface that is more attractive and more intuitive than the receiver's actual onscreen menus and it's obviously illuminated 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, with 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.
The HDMI connections support high dynamic range including HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision
Features & SpecsUnsurprisingly for a modern AV Receiver, the A870 boasts an impressive set of features with the headliners being Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support. Although it only has seven channels of built-in amplification and limited processing, the A870 still offers a number of different speaker configurations including front height or overhead options. Since this is a Yamaha receiver, the A870 also includes Cinema DSP modes with the option for virtual speakers and it supports 4K60p, 4:4:4, HDCP 2.2, High Dynamic Range (HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma, Dolby Vision) and Rec.2020 on three of the HDMI inputs.
The seven channels of built-in amplification can deliver 110W per a channel, with 7.2-channels of processing and pre-outs to match. There's also an aluminium front panel, ART wedge to reduce resonance, a a new foot design and Burr-Brown 192kHz/24-bit DACs. The receiver comes with a setup microphone and uses Yamaha's YPAO-R.S.C. (Reflected Sound Control) to analyse room acoustics and perform multiple speaker measurements, before calibrating the audio parameters to achieve optimum sound at any of several listening positions.
The A870 has built-in WiFi with Wireless Direct for easy networking, along with Bluetooth for wireless music streaming and a compressed music enhancer. There is also Bluetooth output, allowing you to stream music to Bluetooth headphones and speakers, along with support for DLNA which provides access to network servers, internet radio and music streaming services such as Spotify. The A870 also includes MusicCast which means that the receiver can form part of a multiroom system, allowing you to stream music from the receiver to other devices and vice versa, all controlled with the MusicCast app.
There's also Yamaha's excellent remote app, along with support for AirPlay and an extensive range of audio codecs via either USB or your network. 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, and includes video processing, although you can also just pass the video signal through untouched, which we would recommend.
The A870 is feature-packed and includes Yamaha's excellent MusicCast multiroom system
Setup & TestingThe A870 uses Yamaha's normal menu system which is well overdue for an update and looks decidedly old fashioned compared to the remote app. In terms of the speaker layouts you basically have three choices - 5.1, 7.1 or 5.1.2 - along with options for bi-amping, extra zones and up to two subwoofers (5.2, 7.2 or 5.2.2). You have a choice of two front height (presence) speakers, two central overhead speakers or two upward-firing speakers, with the latter two options relating directly to Dolby Atmos.
The Yamaha is limited to a 5.2.2 speaker configuration not only in terms of built-in amplification but also in terms of processing and pre-outs, which means it can't be expanded to 5.2.4, 7.2.2 or 7.2.4. The YPAO sound optimisation feature is run in conjunction with the included microphone and gives you the choice of a single point measurement or multi-point measurements for increased accuracy. YPAO worked quite well but had a tendency to overly smooth out the sound field, robbing it of some of its liveliness.
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 and DTS:X capabilities in a 5.2.2 configuration. Along with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks, 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, and as part of a MusicCast multiroom system.
The receiver is straightforward to set up and includes the YPAO room optimisation feature
PerformanceThe A870 appears to have had its amplification beefed up since last year's model, at least based on Yamaha's quoted specs. Whilst we all know those kinds of numbers are prone to more manipulation than government statistics, at least on an empirical basis the performance certainly felt a bit more powerful. Considering its price point, this is a muscular receiver that is capable of a big room-filling performance.
That makes it a great choice when it comes to TV dramas and movies, with the Yamaha delivering an immersive sound field on a show like The Punisher which uses a Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack. The receiver added real impact to the bone-crunching action, along with some dynamic surround effects. A chase involving two Ford Mustangs was particularly well rendered with plenty of of low energy bass in the engine sounds and the A870 marshalled the two subwoofers very effectively. However dialogue still remained clear and the sparse score based around a blues electric guitar was also delivered with a pleasing musicality.
This solid overall experience was equally applicable with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack and the epic scope of Interstellar was particularly impressive. The A870 handle the big organ-based score very well, whilst also bringing the soundscape alive as the spaceship plunged into the black hole. The dialogue was mostly clear, aside from Matthew McConaughey's mumbling and Christopher Nolan's deliberate use of overlapped dialogue but that's hardly the Yamaha's fault. What was impressive was the way that the receiver steered effects around the room, creating a cohesive soundstage that really immersed the viewer. The inclusion of Dolby Surround and DTS Neural:X means that you can also upmix non-immersive soundtracks to make use of the overhead channels and the results are often impressive.
However this big and boisterous performance did sometimes come at the expense of a degree subtlety, with some of the more nuanced sound effects being slightly lost amongst all that surround action. As we often do when testing receivers we watched the beginning of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, with its superb sound design delivered impeccably via a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack. The rain and the thunder at the start were very well handled by the A870, as was the cacophony of sound that accompanies the opening deer hunt, but the more subtle breaths of the apes right at the start weren't quite as well defined as they have been by other receivers including higher-end models from Yamaha.
When you consider Yamaha's years of experience in not only surround sound but also height channels, it shouldn't come as a surprise to discover that the A870 is great with immersive audio soundtracks like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. However bear in mind that in terms of speaker configurations, the A870 is rather limited. You can set up a 5.2.2 configuration with two subwoofers and two overhead channels (either actual speakers overhead or upward firing models) but the A870 doesn't have any more amplification, nor does it have any more pre-outs,which suggests that its processing is limited to 5.2.2 channels as well.
Of course if that's all you need then there's no problem but if you want the option of adding two more overhead channels and two back channels for 7.2.2 or 7.2.4 setups, then this isn't the receiver for you. How much this limitation will affect you is largely dependent on the size of your room but for smaller rooms a 5.2.2-channel configuration should offer an immersive experience. The two overhead channels will be sufficient for most environments but if you have a larger room with more space behind you, then you might find you need the extra rear channels and overhead channels to prevent there being any holes in the 360 degree sound field.
Assuming that a 5.2.2 configuration is enough for you then the A870 will certainly please with a well balanced and immersive audio experience that channels effects to the overhead speakers where appropriate. The front soundstage was wide and open, dialogue remained clear and centred to the screen and the bass effects were nicely integrated. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is as over-the-top as the visuals and the A870 does a great job of immersing you in Luc Besson's bizarre future world. There are sound coming from all around you and from above, as the Yamaha expertly delivers the film's complex sound design. The hard-hitting DTS:X soundtrack on Atomic Blonde is equally as impressive, allowing the A870 to strut its stuff as it delivers punches, kicks, gunshots, explosions and car chases. The sense of immersion is impressive but dialogue remains clear and the 80s score is wide and expansive.
Despite all the buzz surrounding immersive audio, it's worth remembering that a receiver might also be called upon to handle two-channel music and in this regard the A870 shouldn't disappoint. We found it retained a pleasing musicality that we'd expect from Yamaha, although we definitely felt that the A870 is better suited to rock and dance, where the receiver's strengths resulted in a convincing performance. The addition of MusicCast is also welcome, not only allowing you to send music to the A870 from other sources in the house but also to send sources connected to the A870 to other rooms as well. The result is a high quality multiroom system that is free from any noticeable delay, easy to setup and simple to control, which helps make the A870 a solid AV receiver that is worth consider for two-channel and multi-channel content.
The A870 delivered the kind of muscular and immersive audio that we expect from Yamaha
- Decent multi-channel sound
- Dolby Atmos & DTS:X support
- Great with music
- Excellent remote app
- MusicCast is very effective
- Limited speaker configurations
- Not all HDMI inputs support HDCP 2.2
- Unintuitive setup procedure
- Menus are overdue an update
- Remote fiddly and lacking a backlight
Yamaha RX-A870 7.2-Channel AV Receiver Review
Should I buy one?The AV receiver market is very competitive, with a number of manufacturers offering highly accomplished models across a wide range of prices. The sub-£1,000 sector is especially strong with most models offering great performance and an impressive suite of features. As a result differentiating one receiver from another is often a matter of tiny margins. The Yamaha RX-A870 is certainly a decent AV receiver, it's attractively designed and well made, with plenty of power in its seven channels of amplification. It has a great set of features that include support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, 4K, Rec.2020 and High Dynamic Range (HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision). The A870 also includes MusicCast, which means it can form part of a very effective multi-room system but the A870 does suffer from a couple of negatives, including the fact that only three of the HDMI inputs support HDCP 2.2 and the receiver is limited to a 5.2.2 immersive audio experience. However in performance terms it delivers the goods, with a muscular sound that manages to also retain a degree of musicality, making it a great all-rounder. The Yamaha A870 is certainly worthy of recommendation but at £899 there are cheaper alternatives.
What are the alternatives?The Denon AVR-X3400H is definitely worth considering because it not only offers a similar performance in terms of immersive audio and multi-room capabilities, thanks to the inclusion of HEOS, but is easier to set up and control. The X3400 also isn't limited in terms of its HDMI inputs and whilst it might not be quite as powerful as the A870 it is £200 cheaper. Another great alternative is the Marantz SR5012 which offers the same features as Denon's X3400 but also adds a bit more power along with Marantz's experience when it comes to making receivers that sound musical. The fact that the SR5012 is £100 cheaper than the A870 also goes to show just how competitive the AVR market is at the moment.
MORE: AV Receiver Reviews
Value For Money8
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.