Yamaha RX-A3080 AV Receiver Review

What happens if you watch T2 in Surround:AI?

by Phil Hinton
SRP: £2,199.00

What is the RX-A3080?

The Yamaha RX-A3080 is the latest flagship AV Receiver from Yamaha for 2019. If you have been following the AV Receiver market for any length of time you could be forgiven for thinking that this is the same product from five years ago in terms of the design and layout. Things have certainly taken a back seat when it comes to the model refresh cycle. Indeed, at one point I actually forgot that this was a new unit in for review as I have had an A3050 in my system for a number of years now and basically forgot I had set up and had been using the A3080 for a few weeks instead. Still, this is good from an ergonomics and intuitive angle as it took me no time at all to get stuck into using the RX-A3080 and enjoying its performance.

So, if you are an owner of a Yamaha receiver, like the A3050 from a few years ago, and looking to upgrade, what are you getting that is new in the A3080 and can it still be described as a flagship product? Let's find out.

Yamaha RX-A3080 Video Review

Watch our full in-depth video review:

Design & Connections

Yamaha RX-A3080
So, not to waste any time beating around the bush, the design of the A3080 has been around for at least the last five years and has no major changes around the front to report. It is a nice design with a glass section to the top of the front plate which houses the large, central display with Power, AI notification light and Pure Direct buttons placed either side of this.

To the bottom left is the input selector knob and to the right side is a large volume dial. In the middle of these is a large metal flap that covers over more connections and menu buttons. We will look at these in more detail later in the review.

The chassis of the A3080 is made from metal and well screwed together with an excellent level of build quality. The front face is aluminium, which helps with adding a nice rigid feel to the unit.

It also features an Anti Resonance Technology (A.R.T.) Wedge, which is a fifth foot in the centre of the unit that is designed to dampen vibrations from the power transformer and elsewhere. The A3080 is available in the black finish here or the lighter, titanium-silver finish.

Around the back are the connections.
Yamaha RX-A3080
For new users, the rear end of the Yamaha A3080 may be a daunting sight with all of its connections and binding posts. However, it is logically laid out with each type of connection placed within an area of similar connections. So all the HDMI ports are to the top, component video is below these with analogue inputs to a section on the left rear side and pre-outs to the right. Network and control are placed to the top right with digital and XLR connectors to the bottom left and the speaker binding posts take up the rest of the back plate. The layout is logical enough but not colour coded like the Denon approach, so some care is still required to make sure you wire up your speakers correctly.

Moving back to the top of the connections we have the 7 HDMI inputs and 3 outputs. These are all HDCP 2.2 compliant and full bandwidth at 18Gbps with support for 4K 4:4:4 60p signals and HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG pass-through. The three outputs can be designated to separate displays in either the same room or in a separate room for Zone 2 so you can watch different content. ARC is available on output 1.

Below the HDMI ports are 4 composite and 2 component inputs with assignable audio inputs, analogue inputs for stereo devices and a dedicated phono input with ground. Added to this are three optical and three coaxial digital inputs along with a balanced set of stereo XLR inputs which are unusual on an AVR of this level, but are here for use with Yamaha’s own disc player. Finally, in this section of the rear is the DAB/FM antenna. Moving to the top right of the receiver we find the control section with an RJ45 network port, two 12v triggers and IR in and out, along with an RS-232C port.

While the RX-A3080 is only a nine channel AVR, it does have full 11.2 decoding and pre-outs so you can add a separate two-channel amplifier or even do all your channels of amplification off-board via the pre-outs. There are also balanced XLR outs for outputting the front left and right channels into a balanced connection on a separate amplifier.

Finally, we have the 11 sets of binding posts that will accept spade, bare wire and banana plugs for all channels. These are not laid out in the logical manner you would expect, so make sure you can clearly see which channel is which when wiring up your system.

Control

Yamaha RX-A3080
Finally, Yamaha has seen fit to provide the 2019 Aventage range with an all-new remote control, and it is almost perfect.

Gone are the hundreds of small fiddly buttons that made everything overly complicated to use and in comes a rubberised feel with slightly raised buttons for main controls only. This is the one thing that we don’t like as the buttons are not raised enough to make it simple to know which key is which in the dark without looking down. Muscle memory is important when it comes to using AV kit in the dark.

The remote is backlit and it comes on every time you pick it up. The most used keys are positioned to the centre of the remote body with the directional and Enter keys. Setting, List and Back keys are also here and use icons to tell you what they are. Below these are small Home, Top Menu and popup buttons for use with a player and below these are the Program and Volume rocker controls. Small keys between these are used for the AI, Surround Decoder and Enhancer. Mute is a small key under the Volume rocker and Straight mode is under the Program rocker.

At the top of the remote are 8 keys you can assign as Scenes along with Source input selection keys and direct access for Tuner, NET, USB and Bluetooth connections.

Overall, it is a welcome addition to the 2019 AVR range and a huge improvement over what was offered in previous generations. The slight issue with the small rise in the rubberised keys is something we got used to over our months of long term testing the A3080.

Features

The A3080 is a 9.2 channel AV Receiver so you can have a 7.2.2 Atmos set up using the provided amplification, or a 7.2.4 set up by adding a separate two-channel power amp. It has 11.2 decoding built-in along with the usual suite of Yamaha DSP sound fields for you to play around with.

In terms of power, Yamaha doesn’t divulge all-channels-driven data, but with two 8 Ohm channels driven you will see 150W per channel according to Yamaha’s own figures. In testing, we had no issues with the power on tap for all types of content using our MK MP300 4 Ohm reference system.

The Cinema DSP HD3 processing also works along with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive formats adding extra presence and width to those formats.

New for 2019, in terms of features, is the Surround:AI which Yamaha claims uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to create the optimal surround experience for individual content types. This AI instantaneously analyses scenes and focuses on distinct sound elements such as dialogue, background music, ambient sounds and sound effects, to automatically optimise the surround effect in real time. When switching to Surround:AI there is a small AI logo that lights up just left of the main display.

Yamaha has always put the quality of its DACs at the centre of the performance of their higher-end products and that is no different here with the use of ESS SABRE PRO ES9026PRO Ultra DAC for the main channels and SABRE ES9007S DACs for the presence channels. These use technologies to reduce noise and ground effects, giving the A3080 clean and crisp sound quality from all sources.

YPAO-R.S.C. (Reflected Sound Control) analyses your room acoustics with the included microphone to automatically adjust the audio to fit with your room's acoustics. It employs R.S.C. to correct early reflections and YPAO 3D provides automatic sound parameter optimisation that maximises the 3D sound field with CINEMA DSP HD3 as well as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. The system uses a 64-bit high precision EQ calculation to reach its results. While we found it turned up the same results as we achieve with the traditional pink noise and SPL meter, the bass results are again the weak point for us in this system which lags behind the likes of Audyssey and DIRAC for outright performance.

With the A3080’s wireless system it is also possible to use MusicCast speakers, like the 20 or 50 as wireless rear speakers in your system. MusicCast can also be used as a multichannel music system for your home with the A3080 as its hub. Plus, the AVR has all the major streaming services built-in and syncing your accounts and playlists is incredibly easy.

The A3080 can also be controlled with the AV Controller app which is available for mobile and tablet use, as well as full voice integration with Alexa on MusicCast.

One of our longest running complaints about recent Yamaha AV Receivers has been the dated looking menus which, thankfully, on the A3080 have been given a refresh in terms of the design.

Everything now looks and feels contemporary with a traditional list to the left which opens up to provide more detailed levels of the menu to the right side of the screen.

Here you can set up speaker systems and patterns along with assigning the power amplifiers depending on your speaker arrangements. You can manually set up the distance, levels and crossovers as well as use the EQ and test tone built-in. You need to connect the mic for the full YPAO set up procedure.

As you can see, it is possible to dig down deep into the menu system and make all sorts of adjustments to performance, which is great for a die hard AV enthusiast but, at the same time, the menus could be incredibly daunting for those less experienced with such a setup and system. As such, even after the designer facelift, we find the A3080 menu system to be tad intense and not as user-friendly and accommodating as some of the competition out there. But you can’t argue with the flexibility on offer during set up, and almost everything the Yamaha can do is adjustable in some way.

Performance

Just like the A3060 and A3070 that have gone before, the Yamaha RX-A3080 is capable of producing a highly dynamic and assured performance over a wide variety of soundtracks and genres. It didn’t struggle at any point driving our reference MK MP300 system and its 4 Ohm load, retaining a nice headroom at sensible volume levels for fast moving transients.

Diving straight in with Dolby Atmos, the opening number from Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is dealt with easily. There is a nice sense of weight to the surround mix with excellent musicality and bass performance for the ELO track playing, as well as superb effects placement as the fight with an inter-dimensional beast carries on in the background. Dialogue remains tight and intelligible within all the chaos.

Then, sliding swiftly to a more relaxing jazz filled soundscape in La La Land, the Yamaha manages to again produce a fantastically believable sound stage with sweeping strings playing loud, but never sibilant, and brass instruments feel real and lifelike. Obviously, Yamaha makes musical instruments, so it is reassuring that their AVRs can play them back well enough to sound realistic.

The world of Pan is also brought to life with superb sound effects and music panning, while dialogue again remains natural and central. Adding in the various DSP effects for movies did nothing for us at all, we found the original soundmix to be good enough in all cases, but, if you do like the effects of DSP, you will be kept fully entertained by what the Yamaha can offer you.

We found the same to be true with Surround:AI and what it brings to existing soundtracks. It is possible to hear the widening of the soundstage and more obvious placement of effects around the room with AI engaged, and we’re sure some users will really like this effect. For us, we again felt that the filmmakers are best at deciding how a scene is supposed to play out effects wise and as such preferred to bypass the AI, but again this will come down to personal preference.

There is no doubt though that even with all the DSP and AI switched off, the Yamaha was still capable of excellent dynamics, surround effects placement and musicality and, while not a giant leap forward compared to previous years products, it still sounds fantastic.

Verdict

9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality with all sources
  • Superb immersive audio performance
  • Excellent new remote control
  • Superb build quality
  • MusicCast and streaming services

Cons

  • Design starting to look dated
  • No major sound quality leap over previous models
  • YPAO is still not up to the job of a modern Auto-EQ system
  • Starting to look expensive when compared to the 13-channel competition

Yamaha RX-A3080 AV Receiver Review

There is no doubt that the Yamaha RX-A3080 is a great AV Receiver with enough power to drive a large home cinema system to reference levels. It has up to date HDMI inputs that can handle everything currently available (except HDR10+), excellent 11.2 decoding and the ability to expand the system for full 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos as well as some neat DSP effects and the new surround AI. However, much of the DSP and AI is only really worth anything if you the listener will use it. As purists here at AVForums, we didn’t really find anything useful from the DSP effects or the AI features, but of course it comes down to personal preference at the end of the day as you are paying for these features.

The RX-A3080 is really just a slight improvement in features compared to the previous A3060 and A3070 models with an additional XLR pre-out the only other major difference along with AI. If you own one of the previous models we don’t really think it is worth the upsell unless you must have Surround:AI on your next AVR.

It highlights the issues we have had for a number of years with all manufacturers determined to launch a new model every year, but with only token added features for the premium over the outgoing model. Unless you have an AVR that is close to 5 or more years of age, there is little incentive to upgrade unless your existing model is restricted in some way.

Sound quality is just as good as the previous models, which again makes it difficult to recommend for those with slightly older Yamaha models. And as it stands, with a price of £1999 at the time of this review in June 2019, the Marantz SR7013 actually makes a good case for your upgrade money with the addition of Auro 3D and Audyssey MultEQ XT32 along with updated HDMI 4K HDR compatibility and for almost £300 less, compared to the A3080.

However, having said all that, if you do need a new up to date AV Receiver with full 4K HDR pass-through and up to date codec support, the Yamaha A3080 is certainly an excellent AVR with superb sound quality out of the box. We like the new remote control, which was long overdue a refresh, and the new menus look better, but can still be a little daunting for some users. Ultimately, it will be up to you which AVR you finally pick, but the Yamaha is certainly still a flagship model that offers enough to get a Highly Recommended for what it offers in terms of sound quality, build quality and features.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Sound Quality

.
9

Features

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
9

Value For Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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