Yamaha CX-A5200 11.2 AV Processor Review

Self aware surround sound?

by Phil Hinton
SRP: £2,649.00

What is the Yamaha CX-A5200 AV Processor?

The Yamaha CX-A5200 is an 11.2 channel processor that can decode almost all current formats (excluding Auro 3D) and has other features, such as Surround:AI. You also get the now famous Yamaha DSP programs and on the A5200 these are with CINEMA DSP HD3 technology. The processor feels incredibly well built with a chassis and weight that might fool you into thinking it is a full-on AV Receiver, but there are no amplifiers in here. 

Our review of the Yamaha CX-A5200 also includes the MX-A5200 11 channel power amp for the performance assessment. It’s sold separately but they are designed to be used together in this combination. You can, of course, add any power amp to the CX-A5200 or any processor to the MX-A5200 power amplifier, but for the purposes of this review, we are going to test them together. 

The market for separate processors and multi-channel power amplifiers has slowly compressed over the years with the majority of current models serving the uber high-end market of custom installations and at price tags many AVForums readers just can’t justify. So, it is great to see some manufacturers like Yamaha still producing these high-performance products at reasonably attainable prices. And that certainly doesn’t mean that you are compromising on performance or features.

Both products are current models and have been available for around six months; indeed we have been testing both since February this year and really putting them through their paces with a wide variety of content. We don’t normally test for such a long time, but with the current situation and how well they have performed, we’ve ended up spending some real quality time with them.

The Yamaha MX-A5200 is an 11-channel power amplifier and the review of this unit can be found HERE.

At the time of this review in May 2020 the CX-A5200 retails at £2649 and the MX-A5200 at £2849 

Yamaha CX-A5200 Design

The CX-A5200 certainly looks like a topline Yamaha AV Receiver with the same size and design of chassis. The CX-A5200 is available in black and titanium finishes. It looks traditional with an aluminium front plate with a gloss black upper section. There’s an input dial and power switch to the left, a flap covers inputs and controls in the lower centre with a large digital display above this and to the right of the large volume dial with a pure direct button above this. 

Yamaha CX-A5200

The chassis of the CX-A5200 is well damped with five feet designed to stop resonance issues, the fifth foot being part of the A.R.T (Anti-Resonance Technology) wedge system that supports the entire chassis, including the centre. This system supports the heavy-duty bottom plate of the processor which all adds to the incredibly sturdy build quality of the unit.

Yamaha CX-A5200


Perhaps the only negative you could throw at the Yamaha is the lack of design flair as it all looks incredibly familiar and old fashioned. It looks like an AV Receiver from five years ago and while the build quality, and no doubt the performance, is first class, it just doesn’t set the world on fire in the looks department.  

 

...the only negative you could throw at the Yamaha is the lack of design flair

When using the CX-A5200 with the MX-A5200 power amplifier both units complement each other in the design stakes, with both looking muscular and powerful.

Yamaha CX-A5200 Connections and Control

Around the back of the CX-A5200, we have the business end of proceedings with a well laid out and designed connections area. The way that connections and inputs are spaced and grouped makes for an easy to follow process when wiring up the processor and your chosen power amplifier.

There are a few small changes here when compared to the CX-A5100 we reviewed a couple of years ago, namely, there are fewer component inputs with the output gone and the composite outs have been removed, along with the AM antenna. To make up for these removals we are given a second Bluetooth and Wi-Fi antenna and a third HDMI 2.0 output. 



Yamaha CX-A5200

To the top of the unit, we have the seven HDMI 2.0 inputs and outputs that support HDCP 2.3 copy protection and which will accept 60P 4K 4:4:4 wide colour gamut (BT.2020) video signals with HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) and Dolby Vision compatibility. There is also eARC support. We also have two Bluetooth and Wi-Fi antennas and a network connection on the top row.

Below these to the left side are RCA multichannel inputs, four composite video along with two component video inputs. To the right side are two triggers, remote in and out and RS232 control connections.

The next row of connections includes audio inputs via RCA and a Phono stage for turntable use, as well as three optical and coaxial digital inputs. There are also two RCA zone outputs and then we have the full 11.2 RCA unbalanced pre-outs and two balanced XLR subwoofer outs.

Finally, where you would normally find the speaker binding posts on an AV Receiver we have balanced XLR inputs for audio 4 and then XLR balanced outputs for all channels.

The remote control provided with the CX-A5200 is a brand new design for Yamaha and it now feels more in line with the price point of the processor. It is still a long and slender size but with slightly raised buttons and contours that add a modern feel and touch. And touch is good even though the buttons are only slightly raised, or in the case of some, like volume down, sunken slightly. The feedback on button presses is good and the layout is logical and intuitive in use.

You can, of course, use the app to control the processor and again it is easy to use with a nice graphical interface and access directly to DSP programs and more. I personally don’t tend to use my smartphone to control my AV kit, but for those who like that approach, the app works well.

Yamaha CX-A5200 Features

Almost all the features you would expect to find on a high-end Yamaha Av Receiver are, of course, available here in the CX-A5200.

The major changes over the CX-A5100 are actually on the inside of the processor with the use of 2 of the latest ESS SABRE PRO 384kHz/32-bit (ES9026 PRO) DACs for all channels and there is also a newly redesigned power transformer to maximise the performance of the new ESS DAC. Yamaha claims this allows better performance with enhanced regulation of power, while a thick brass plate dampens unwanted vibrations from the transformer on surrounding circuitry. 

Yamaha CX-A5200

For room integration, there is the latest YPAO-R.S.C. sound optimisation 64-bit EQ calculation and speaker angle measurement tool. This auto EQ system uses measurements around the room and at different heights and angles to create a corrected listening experience for multichannel audio playback. Personally, I have never found YPAO to create an EQ of my room that takes care of all the issues, especially the lower frequencies and subs. It also adds a sheen to the end result that tends to add characteristics of my usually neutral MK speakers which I don’t like. 

As you would expect the CX-A5200 can decode all the major surround formats with the exception of Auro 3D, but this has never really taken off or gained traction with few titles available in the format. What we do get is full DTS and Dolby format support for all their various layers of codecs, including DTS:X and Dolby Atmos 7.2.4 systems. 

More: What are Dolby Atmos, Auro 3D and DTS:X?

On top of this, we also get the now legendary Cinema DSP HD3 processing for those who love the Yamaha DSP programs, taking you to churches, performance venues and theatres around the world. Plus, you get the movie enhancement features and all of these programs can run on top of DTS:X and Dolby Atmos soundtrack playback thanks to HD3. There is also built-in flexibility for speaker set up within the menu system for Atmos positioning and selecting if it is an upward-firing or ceiling mounted speaker. 

Yamaha CX-A5200

New in the CX-A5200 over the previous processor is the addition of Surround:AI which is a new feature seen on the latest AVRs from Yamaha. This uses AI algorithms to analyse scenes by looking at dialogue, background music, steering effects placement and so on to optimise the surround experience and heighten the effects. It’s not something that movie purists will agree with, but there is no doubting that it does what it says on the tin and can produce some interesting results.

 

New in the CX-A5200 over the previous processor is the addition of Surround:AI

When it comes to multi-room audio, we have Yamaha’s MusicCast system in play within the CX-A5200 which means you can add other Yamaha products around your home to create true multi-room systems. Plus, there are also built-in music streaming apps for services such as Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, Spotify and more. I actually used Spotify on a daily basis streaming from the CX-A5200 for background music while working and it works reliably every time you select it. 

How was the Yamaha CX-A5200 tested?

We tested the Yamaha CX-A5200 with the 11-channel MX-A5200 power amp over a period of three months in our reference system. We used MK MP300 LCR, 300T surrounds and two X12 subwoofers. We used JBL control ones as ceiling-mounted Atmos speakers. Sources included an Apple TV 4K, Panasonic 820 4K Blu-ray player and Sky TV with a JVC DLA-N5 4K projector.

Yamaha CX-A5200 Performance

The CX-A5200 and MX-A5200 do remind me of the previous products with a performance that is powerful with bags of headroom and neutral sounding. What you feed the pair is what you get back, so badly recorded music or film soundtracks are shown up as what they are, there is no hiding from the neutrality and ‘this is what it is’ presentation. However, feed them a quality recording and you are rewarded with superb dynamics and power as well as superb speed and transparency. 

No matter what you are listening to, the CX-A5200 is able to reproduce it in a manner that doesn’t take over from the content being played. It is not brash or in your face and while it is muscular and powerful with its presentation with the MX-A5200, there is no colouration or ‘sound’ signature getting in the way, or warmth to cover over the cracks of poor quality content. You truly get what was within the source, and when added to our MK MP300s you have a system that is transparent to the content and presentation, which as a movie purist is what we love around here. 

 

We pushed the MX-A5200 hard at times, but it never once felt it was running out of steam

Spinning up Le Mans 66 on 4K Blu-ray is a real sonic experience with an Atmos track that truly envelops your listening room. The cars are presented as you would expect with a full-on V8 rumble and aggression as the GT40s are thrown around the race track with superb dynamics and transients, taking you from quiet to full speed in nano-seconds and with tremendous headroom. But it is also the quieter, more personal moments that show just what can be done with immersive soundtracks, creating a totally believable restaurant, or the sounds of twilight sat on a runway looking at the sunset and trying to see the perfect lap, it’s out there, can you see it? You are transported to LAX and believe the envelopment of the space you are in. 

The steering precision and placement of effects within a wide and enveloping sound field points to the quality of the components and processing power onboard. Yes, most digital processors these days can place effects and steer objects around the sound mix as they should be. But, there is also the space that is created to place these effects, dialogue and music tracks that the CX-A5200 manages to place with superb clarity, speed and depth. 

The Yamaha is also brilliantly musical as we switch to Rocketman on 4K Blu-ray, with a weight and authority in its presentation that places you within the performance space, or fighting on a Saturday night, with a large ensemble cast all singing and dancing in a way that could quickly overwhelm the soundstage. But the sound mix is faithfully and powerfully reproduced with superb separation and a wide and enveloping soundstage, with excellent weight from the bottom end, and vocals that sound natural. We pushed the MX-A5200 hard at times, but it never once felt it was running out of steam or headroom. It always sounded natural, clear and powerful without any signs of distortion. 

 

...performance from all sources is excellent with superb steering, speed and directionality which improves at every jump up in audio codec being used

Surround:AI is an interesting concept and it certainly adds in a degree of extra space and envelopment and places emphasis on certain effects and the placement of those. This can at times really work well with the intended actions on screen, but at the same time, it is not quite what the director and sound designer wanted you to hear. If you are a movie purist then, like the other 34 DSP programs, this is probably not for you. However, if you like these types of additional programs and the effects they produce, then you will be happy with what is on offer here, and nobody does this kind of thing better than Yamaha.

I could go on for thousands of more words about how great the A5200 products are, but the result will always be the same and it would get boring for you, dear reader. Suffice to say that the performance with 5.1, 7.1 and immersive audio sources is superb. The neutrality and natural presentation is excellent for those who want a ‘warts and all’ presentation of what is on the disc or stream you are watching. There is no added warmth or tone to the sound being produced by the processor or power amp and instead, you get everything as it is intended to be heard. This will obviously not be for everyone, but we really like this style of presentation.

 

...a performance that is powerful with bags of headroom and neutral sounding.

Music performance with two-channel sources, be they high-res or Spotify streaming, is also very good. Again, the presentation is faithful, neutral and natural with bags of power and headroom in reserve, with a clinical and transparent performance. There is superb weight and dynamics on offer, with a strong mid-range and excellent high-frequency response that never gets sibilant or distorted, even at silly high volumes. Stereo separation is excellent with superb clarity and pinpoint precision in the placing of instruments within the mix. Vocals are rich and forward with superb tonality and believability. Instruments sound like instruments with a nice balanced naturalness to pianos, strings and brass within an orchestra. 

Overall, the performance on offer for music and movies is incredibly good at the market position and it should appeal to those looking for a nicely balanced sound that doesn’t add in any warmth or sound signatures to change the reproduction to suit a certain sound or taste. The presentation is neutral, transparent and natural with a superb clinical feeling that you are listening to exactly what was recorded. 

Yamaha CX-A5200 Verdict

The Good

  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound superb
  • Excellent sound quality with all sources
  • Transparent and neutral sound quality
  • Excellent surround steering and placement
  • Very good new remote control
  • MusicCast
  • Built-in streaming applications
  • Superb build quality
  • Good value for money

The Bad

  • YPAO is still not the best EQ system with bass control lacking
  • Menus and set up are still unintuitive

Yamaha CX-A5200 11.2 AV Processor Review

Yamaha has had this section of the market, especially with the 11-channel power amp, to themselves until recently. There is competition with Emotiva introducing their 11-channel power amp, which is a shade cheaper than the Yamaha. However, for 11.2 processors there are only a few options available and all are more expensive than the CX-A5200, so for all the features available, the Yamaha is still considered good value for money and performance.

Movie performance from all sources is excellent with superb steering, speed and directionality which improves at every jump up in audio codec being used. Immersive Atmos and DTS:X is top drawer creating an excellent cohesive soundstage in our reference system. If you enjoy the well known Yamaha DSP effects that have been a feature of their products for well over 30 years now, then the CX-A5200 is fully loaded and also features the new Surround:AI. Obviously I’m more of a purist with my image and sound quality when it comes to movies and I prefer not to be distracted with over the top audio effects. However, Surround:AI is not as in your face or over the top as some of the DSP programs and how it enhances the soundtrack is clever technology. Its mileage will obviously depend on your personal preferences. 

We simply couldn’t fault the sound quality on offer at this price point, either as separate products or used together. It offers a neutral, natural and balanced sound which is free from added warmth or other sound signatures, instead it presents content as it was recorded, warts and all. That does mean there is no hiding place for poorly recorded content and the CX-A5200 will present it in a clinical manner, which may not suit some users looking for more warmth and colour to their audio.

Everything from the build quality to the performance on offer is excellent on the Yamaha CX-A5200 with some decent upgrades over the older CX-A5100. Married to the MX-A5200 you get a very powerful, neutral and dynamic system for a shade over £5500, which is good value for money in our opinion and comes highly recommended. 

Highly Recommended

Scores

Sound Quality

.
9

Features

.
9

Connectivity

.
9

Build Quality

.
9

Value For Money

.
9

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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