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Yamaha RX-A2020 Listening Tests and Conclusion

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For movies, I had the receiver hooked up to Definitive Technology BP7006 towers, Pro Center 1000, and BP1.2x surround speakers. For music tests, I hooked up my Martin Logan Theos towers for stereo listening.

(FLAC) HDtracks Ultimate Download Experience
HD TracksThe free sampler of uncompressed FLAC music files provided an excellent opportunity to continue along the line of testing the network features on this receiver. I download the tracks to a flash drive and played them from the USB port on the front of the RX-A2020. The free sampler is a bit of a mixed bag, some of the tracks were a joy to listen to, but I feel that they could have offered some better choices to really show off what uncompressed music can sound like. After playing around with the DSP modes on the Yamaha, I settled on Pure Direct for most of my listening. The track, "Lucia", by Marta Gomez, was one of my favorites. It's a very simple and quiet song, with only a handful of instruments complementing her voice, which is intimate, and floats gently in front of you. This recording makes you feel like you are sitting in a small club listening to a private session. The RX-A2020 did a great job on this recording. The next track I tested out was Mozart’s "Violin Concerto #3 in G major – Allegro". This is a beautiful piece, and the RX-A2020 really did it justice. The Yamaha had plenty of power, and my Martin Logan Theos ate it up. I switched between a number of DSPs and also tried out Yamaha’s compressed music enhancer. Much to the chagrin of Yamaha DSP developers, I again decided to keep the receiver on Pure Direct, overriding any EQ from the receiver. I would suggest listening to your music in either Pure Direct mode or 2 channel stereo, depending on your setup. The other DSPs seemed to clutter the soundstage or make it sound like I was in a large bathroom… I mean… cough... concert hall. The compressed music enhancer has a high resolution mode, which is supposed to improve uncompressed FLAC files, but I didn’t really notice anything different. Again, with any DSP, I would suggest listening and deciding what you personally enjoy.

Blu-ray: Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World
Master CommanderMaster and Commander is a long standing reference disk for demoing a home theater system. Originally released on DVD, the Blu-ray version sports a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, and the movie sounds better than ever. This is one of the few movies that make me feel like I am really part of the action. Set in 1805, the movie opens with the HMS Surprise on a mission to intercept and capture or destroy the Acheron. A few minutes into the opening scene, the Acheron launches a surprise attack on the HMS Surprise (ironic, isn’t it?). The RX-A2020 sprang to action and kept up with the dynamic swings of the soundtrack, and clearly produced every nuance. I tried a few of the DSP modes, and (another surprise) decided to leave it on Straight. Of course, I have never been a big fan of DSP modes, and this receiver hasn’t changed my mind. I will say, however, that having features like Dynamic Range Control or Dialogue Lift can help compensate for inadequacies in your speaker system, and the RX-A2020 has both of these.

Suggestions for Improvements

The RX-A2020 is no doubt a solid receiver, but it isn’t perfect. I don’t have any complaints about sound quality or customizability. Rather, I think that, with a few refinements, Yamaha could have something even greater. First off, they need to fix the quirk where the Main Zone is automatically switched to Airplay when Zones 2 or 3 start Airplay. This one issue could prevent me from recommending this receiver to be the heart of a multi-room system for a family. I can just imagine is the frustration of watching TV and having the receiver suddenly switch to AirPlay because of someone using it in Zone 2. It was also odd to see this $1699.99 receiver ditch direct control over Sirius or Pandora, leaving it to AirPlay. There are currently receivers on the market under $400 that support all three of these technologies. Furthermore, since network features are such an important part of this receiver, Yamaha should consider built-in Wi-Fi - at least for its higher-end Aventage models. As for all of the different DSP modes, Yamaha will never part with them, so I suggest they build on the approach taken by some other manufacturers, such as Onkyo. Allowing different inputs to have a default DSP mode is great, but take that one step further and allow default DSP modes per input per signal. For example, when listening to 2 channel music in AV1 (Blu-ray) I want my receiver to default to Pure Direct. But I want it to default to Straight for 5.1 signal, and maybe Spectacle for a 7.1 signal. If Yamaha allowed for this level of flexibility per input, then I would be more inclined to use the multitude of DSPs available. It would also be nice to see Yamaha rework YPAO to function down to 20Hz, like several other room correction systems. In my opinion, this would add tremendous value to YPAO. Finally, with better set-top box functionality, a tweaked button layout and a backlight, Yamaha's remote could easily act as a universal control solution for all your equipment.

Conclusion

There is a lot to like about the RX-A2020. Among my favorite features are the AV Controller App, Web Control, Airplay, Intelligent Amp Design, and robust Z1123one 2 and 3 controls. With a little refinement, possibly through a firmware update, this receiver could really stand apart from the competition. The receiver market is extremely competitive, and Yamaha has not disappointed with the RX-A2020. If you are on the market for a new receiver with the latest and greatest features, and an emphasis on sound quality, the RX-A2020 should be on your list. Recommended!

yamaha RX-A2020

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
Multi-channel Audio PerformanceStarStarStarStarStar
Two-channel Audio PerformanceStarStarStarStar
Network FeaturesStarStarStarStar
Video ProcessingStarStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStarStar
FeaturesStarStarStarStar
Remote ControlStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarhalf-star
ValueStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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Cliff, like many of us, has always loved home theater equipment. In high school he landed a job at Best Buy that started his path towards actual high quality audio. His first surround sound was a Klipsch 5.1 system. After that he was hooked, moving from Klipsch to Polk to Definitive Technology, and so on. Eventually, Cliff ended up doing custom installation work for Best Buy and then for a "Ma & Pa" shop in Mankato, MN.

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Recent Forum Posts:

ACsGreens posts on October 15, 2012 14:36
BTW- For what it's worth Yamaha, unofficially, is going to release an update that places Pandora and Sirius back onto the receivers. Just thought you all may want to know, unnoficially.
3db posts on July 19, 2012 09:35
Ziontrain, post: 896069
Amplification is already well solved and audibly transparent in any decent, self-respecting product of this price range. As such it's about as commodified as a light bulb.

As for “build quality”, the same is true. Whether built in China, Malaysia or whatever, these things are built to global ISO-based standard. But if you believe that the “fifth foot” has audible benefit, then clearly these facts won't register at all.

You shouldn't assume…. it makes an as? out of you and not me. No where did I state such ridiculous belief about the 5th foot.


Ziontrain, post: 896069
What it comes down to is that most of what constituted “quality” is now actually commodity - it can be delivered cheaply by almost anyone. The brand therefore adds no value if it does not make real progress beyond the things that were problems 20-30 years ago. And no, the brands arent going to make that progress unless the press start being more critical and proactive.

BTW you'll understand how commodified this sector is when shortly the OEMs start buying up these failing brands.

Its very apparent from the various forums I frequent where other AVR manufacturers are suffering from quality control problems regardless of the origin of the country that builds them. Your idea of a universal commody of quality is just so wrong in every aspect. Sorry to derail your train.

Yamaha isn't going anywhere BTW
Ziontrain posts on July 19, 2012 08:44
Amplification is already well solved and audibly transparent in any decent, self-respecting product of this price range. As such it's about as commodified as a light bulb.

As for “build quality”, the same is true. Whether built in China, Malaysia or whatever, these things are built to global ISO-based standard. But if you believe that the “fifth foot” has audible benefit, then clearly these facts won't register at all.
What it comes down to is that most of what constituted “quality” is now actually commodity - it can be delivered cheaply by almost anyone. The brand therefore adds no value if it does not make real progress beyond the things that were problems 20-30 years ago. And no, the brands arent going to make that progress unless the press start being more critical and proactive.

BTW you'll understand how commodified this sector is when shortly the OEMs start buying up these failing brands.
3db posts on July 17, 2012 09:32
Ziontrain, post: 895664
I would again point out that what you pass of here as “a few refinements” are in fact a platform overhaul, as they require a step up: much more computing horsepower and a new OS. Thats why YPAO avoid the sub frequencies - cant handle it. But why would someone in 2012 release a product that claims to do room correction yet it can't even handle the frequencies that really need it the most?

I'm writing this post on a phone that has far more horsepower and 10x better human interface design than the receiver we are discussing. Why is this the case? A receiver is meant to be the heart & soul, the control unit of your home audio visual system. The article talks about zone 2 zone 3 etc. Truth is the thing is not even an up to date device for controlling one zone. Another example of the lipstick on the pig, your “new” or “advanced” eatures“ are the shiny but mostly useless distractions meant to distract from the basic fact that last years' dross has been rehashed and slung out again at or higher pricepoint.

We gotta start calling a spade a spade. This sector is growing stale. And there is no way they will change when the ”journalists" are in on the industry game rather than calling them out on it.

Like i said, get a laptop and mate it to a multichannel poweramp iif GUI, network streaming, and post processing are important to you and you are an apple or android fanboy. I'm in it for the overall build quality that Yamaha comes up without fail and I prefer quality audio amplifiers than bells and whistles.
Send Margaritas posts on July 17, 2012 08:42
I liked the review, thanks.

I've got the 2010, and like it very much. I was surprised they dropped the Pandora config, for I use that a lot and like it.

Like the reviewer, I like the GUI config (and the iPad app) a great deal. I think the comments in that regard are very much overblown, and without merit. I'd certianly not want to pay any more for ROMs/EPROMs necessary to support/store ‘better (read larger) icons and fonts’. I'm not confident that the comments were supported by use of the GUI.

I do concur that the manual parametric EQ 62.5 Hz choice was curious, but that capability to equalize each pair of spears in a 9.2 environment is powerful, and very nice.

Again, the biggest negative I saw in this was dropping Pandora.
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