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Yamaha RX-A2040 Dolby Atmos AV Receiver Review

by June 16, 2015
Yamaha RX-A2040 AVR

Yamaha RX-A2040 AVR

  • Product Name: RX-A2040
  • Manufacturer: Yamaha
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Review Date: June 16, 2015 00:00
  • MSRP: $ 1700
  • Buy Now
  • Amplifier Power: 9 x 155 watts (1kHz, 0.9% THD @ 8 ohms, 2-channels driven), 9 x 140 watts (20Hz-20kHz, 0.06% THD @ 8 ohm, 2 channels driven)
  • HDMI 2.0 for 4k Ultra HD 60p with upscaling, 4:4:4 Pure Color
  • Dolby Atmos and Yamaha Presence for a more immersive surround environment
  • 2 HDMI Outputs and configuration up to 4 individual zones 7.1 Pre-amp Inputs and 7.2 Outputs
  • Playback of FLAC/WAV high-resolution audio up to 192 kHz, 24 bit
  • Wireless networking, Airplay and DLNA
  • Pandora, Spotify, Sirius/XM, Rhapsody
  • Auto-EQ and Setup via Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO)
  • Dimensions: 17.1" W x 7.5” H x 18.4" D
  • Weight: 37.5 lbs.
  • Remote Control, AM/FM antenna, YPAO Microphone, Owner’s Manual on CD
  • $1700 MSRP

Pros

  • Good value when comparing features and power to competitors
  • Multiple zones and other whole-house features
  • Atmos and Yamaha Presence mode give you lots of options for height speakers and they actually sound good most of the time
  • Simple to use once setup

Cons

  • Goofy Cinema DSP Sound Fields are too prominent in remote and on-screen menu, crowding my essential functions
  • Smart Phone settings for input names don't carry over to the actual unit display

 

The Yamaha RX-A2040 is a powerful AV receiver that features Dolby Atmos, nine channels of amplification and two HDMI outputs that can be assigned for multiple zones in a whole house audio system, and streaming audio from Pandora, Spotify, or your DLNA Home Network.  We spent several months with the RX-A2040 to see if could transform our home theater with object-oriented audio and high-resolution audio.  We compare Dolby Prologic II with the new Dolby Upsampler and discrete vs Dolby reflection speakers.

 Yamaha RX-A2040 Video Review

Features and First Impressions

Yamaha’s RX-A2040 is a high-end AVR, second only to the top-of-the-line $2,200 RX-3040.  A few prime differentiators between the two include the number of speaker posts (though both are 9-channel amps) and power per channel, which isn’t to say that the RX-A2040 is any kind of slouch.  Featuring nine assignable channels and 155 watts of power with any two channels driven by a 1kHz signal into 8 ohms at 0.9% THD, the RX-A2040 stands toe-to-toe with competing receivers like the Denon AVR-X5200W which retails for $300 more than the Yamaha.

Yamaha RX-A2040

Yamaha RX-A2040

The RX-A2040 supports object-oriented Dolby Atmos, up to a 5.1.4 configuration, as well as Yamaha’s own “presence” speaker technology which incorporates height channels along the front and rear walls, instead of the ceiling, to create a 3-dimensional soundfield.  All of these technologies promise a more immersive experience.  We’ll have more about our listening experience using these playback modes later, and a full impression of Dolby Atmos in a separate article.

Those nine channels of amplification are mated with eight total HDMI 2.0 inputs and more digital audio and analog inputs than should be reasonably necessary in modern society, including 7.1 multichannel inputs and 7.2 outputs.  Two HDMI outputs allow for up to two zones of video, and you can combine the built-in amplifiers with external amplifiers for up to two additional zones of audio only.  Other custom-install features like 12v trigger outputs and RS-232C are included.  In other words, 99% of people will never use all these features, but if you’re in that last 1% looking to use the RX-A2040 as the central brain of an elaborate whole-home audio system, it will likely meet your needs as well.

Yamaha RX-A2040 Back

Yamaha RX-A2040 Rear

The RX-A2040 features the trademark Aventage 5th foot at the center of the chassis to help support the nearly 38lbs of bulk contained in its 17-1/8” x 7-1/2” x 18-3/8” (W x H x D) mass.  Note the depth is over 18”, so if you’re looking to fit the RX-A2040 into an existing entertainment center, you’ll want to make sure you have the space.  A brushed aluminum front panel features an attractive bevel that serves up simple physical controls.  On that front panel, you have a power button, one large knob for selecting the input, one large knob for volume, a small “pure direct” button, and a smooth fold-down aluminum panel covering more advanced controls like four “scene” buttons that save specific inputs and surround modes for quick retrieval.  After a little setup, any member of your family should be able to run the system with very minimal training, which is very welcome.  Importantly, all key remote functions, including menu navigation, are available under the panel.  If the remote is ever damaged or unavailable, you should be able to control every setup function from the unit itself.

RX-A2040 Front Panel

RX-A2040 Front Panel

Speaking of the remote, anyone who's watched my videos knows that I’m a remote-stickler.  The RX-A2040 remote is perfectly on par with most every other remote included with AVRs these days, which is to say, it’s close to terrible.  The Yamaha remote gets a solid “D” for cramming in many identically-sized buttons that will rarely see use.  Even the larger, commonly used buttons like volume and D-pad are molded as separate, smaller buttons instead of a solid, rocker-style button which makes them more difficult to distinguish by touch alone.  Whoever was in charge of the great front panel design should spend a week with the remote control division.  I’m making a solemn vow: the first AVR manufacturer that wows me with their remote design and interface is getting sent homemade chocolate chip cookies.  Good news: the bar is low.

Yamaha also offers a web app that can be accessed through a web browser, and smartphone app that can be used to replace some remote functions.  Here again, for all AVR manufacturers, there is much promise.  There’s no excuse for on-screen keyboards when we all have a touchscreen in our pockets.  It’s also much easier to swipe and touch through setup menus on a phone than navigate through multiple levels in a clunky on-screen menu.

Yamaha Remote App

Yamaha Remote Phone App

Yamaha’s smartphone app is beautifully graphic, had no connection problems, offers simple navigation of inputs and sound modes, allows some control of features like subwoofer trim and dynamic range control, and offers very usable control over the 4 zones.  However, there are still some warts.  Renaming inputs on the smartphone app only impacts the smartphone display, not the display on the AVR itself.  On the Android app, there is a “3-dot” menu key in the lower right that doesn’t do anything.  It’s far too easy to accidentally switch to the internet radio mode, and the “surround decoder” doesn’t let you switch between modes like PLIIx Movie and Music; it only remembers the last surround mode that you selected.  For a free add-on, it’s difficult to fault with Yamaha here, as everything they provide is a value-add.  That said, the first AVR manufacturer that allows me to rename inputs on the AVR, set speaker crossover frequencies, and assign amp channels, all from a smartphone, also gets cookies.

Setup was straightforward with Yamaha’s on-screen menu walkthrough.  I remember the tediousness of setting up my first AVR using only the dot-matrix display on the front of the box.  The first-time I experienced an on-screen GUI, it was a revelation.  Yamaha features a fantastically easy to navigate on-screen menu with common settings at the forefront, and less commonly accessed settings appropriately shelved deep in the GUI.  That said, Yamaha may have taken the on-screen menu to far.  Many times, the built-in display would simply read “View On Screen,” which isn’t particularly helpful when you’re trying to make a quick change without firing up your overhead projector.  Even if navigating via the built-in display wasn’t completely intuitive, I’d like the on-screen menu objects to be mirrored on the front panel.

Other 21st century features include wireless and wired network connections, Apple Airplay, DLNA, and apps from Pandora, Spotify, and more.  Bluetooth is noticeably absent, but is present in Yamaha’s matching BD-A1040 Blu-ray Player, so maybe Yamaha just figured that you wouldn’t need redundant Bluetooth radios.

Yamaha's YPAO auto-setup nailed the proper distance, levels and crossover settings every time.

When it comes to connected apps, my personal opinion is that 99% of folks will be much happier with the broad app support and ease of use in a $50 Roku than with most any configuration of apps built into a smart AVR or TV.  The only exception to this is when an AVR’s apps can be started and easily navigated from a remote or smartphone using the built-in display.  Yamaha’s implementation, after a slight learning curve, might have me forgoing my Roku for something simple like Pandora streaming.  It’s nice to be able to call up some streaming audio without having to turn on a video display, and instead, using a smartphone to navigate.

The included microphone is used to run the YPAO setup that sets distance and crossover for your speakers, as well as Parametric EQ and a “Reflected Sound Control” which is said to reduce unwanted reflections.  The auto-setup utilized up to 8 measurement positions, and in my system as confirmed by my SPL meter and tape measure, with a wide variety of speakers and placement, nailed the levels, distance, and crossover every time.  The EQ offers three target curves to choose from: “Flat” which targets a neutral response for all speakers, “Front” which matches all other speakers to the response of your front speakers, and “Natural” which rolls off high frequencies a little to compensate for smaller rooms in a home that reflects back a lot of high-frequency energy.  The EQ can also be adjusted manually, or disabled altogether.  Generally, I found the resulting auto-EQ to be a matter of taste with no crazy adjustments that I could see or hear.  For my listening, I left it off.

YPAO Volume works as an advanced loudness control, adjusting key frequencies at low volume level to give a perception of even frequency response by matching how our ears perceive the loudness of various frequencies at various volume levels.

The RX-A2040 also includes a total of 22 Stereoscopic Sound Fields delivered via their Cinema DSP 3D chip: 11 for movies/TV and 11 for music.  They are based on models created from famous spaces like a gothic monastery in Royaumont, France and not so famous spaces like “some lofts in Soho” with concrete walls.  I found them to be a lot of fun...for about 5 seconds.  A little more on that in the listening section.

Yamaha leverages some of that processing power to incorporate some of the technology found in their YSP-2500 which I reviewed and found to be very adept at creating a surround field without speakers behind you.  By moving five speakers to the front of the room, the Yamaha RX-A2040 can create a “Virtual Cinema Front”, though I wonder about the type of consumer who buys a $1700, 9-channel AVR, but can only accommodate five speakers in the front of their room.  Still, it’s a nice feature that might find use in some homes.

 

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About the author:

Marshall is an Educator by trade, and currently lives in Oregon. He was lucky enough to grow up in a musical household, and though the AV equipment wasn't the greatest, it was always on. His dad introduced him to Queen, Paul Simon, and Sgt. Pepper's, and his mom played Lionel Richie and Disney Soundtracks. When Marshall was 14, his uncle passed down a pair of JBL towers and Marshall finally had his own system. Having enjoyed podcasting and video production over the past 10 years, Marshall is happy to be contributing at Audioholics.

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Recent Forum Posts:

Dean1219 posts on December 08, 2016 05:51
Why no testing of DTS:X? That is what I am most interested in.
Wellz posts on October 27, 2015 07:41
gene, post: 1101368, member: 4348
That tech gave you the lawyers approved answer. The Yammie will drive your speakers just fine as long as you don't change the impedance switch from its default 8 ohms or more setting.

The Pioneer counterparts have no advantage of driving low impedance loads than the Yamaha. In fact up until recently the Pioneers used ICE Class D amps which did not do well at all with 4 ohm speakers.

Thanks for the swift reply Gene. So judging by your answer would listening at reference level with the Yammie be ok? I have all the speakers set to 80Hz at the amp with the subs set there too (although the yammie's auto setup had the speakers set lower at 40-70HZ and the sub at 120Hz).
Alternatively, would you I be safer with the new Class D3 amps in the Pioneer SC-95? I called Pioneer and the tech said that their MCACC PRO calibration software would calculate all of the specs from the speakers and calibrate the unit so that it would not damage itself nor the speakers..
gene posts on October 27, 2015 07:25
Wellz, post: 1101366, member: 76575
I recent purchased the Yamaha RX-A2050 to drive my full Andrew Jones pioneer elite dolby atmos set up. I have a 5.2.4 set up with the elite atmos towers up front, the elite center channel and the elite atmos bookshelf speakers in the back. The Yamaha seems to drive them well, but after contacting Yamaha, I am now looking at possibly having to change receivers. My speakers are all rated at 4 Ohms, and according to the Yamaha tech, the RX-A2050 can only handle the 4 ohms in the front channels. So even though the amp is currently running all of my speakers, the tech said that it could be a matter of time before the amp gave out due to the extra load that all of the additional 4 ohm speakers place on it. I read the article here about using 4 ohm speakers with an 8 ohm amp as long as it was a high quality amp. I think the Yamaha could fall into that category, but the Yamaha tech's hanswer is not comforting. At this point I'm considering a Pioneer Elite SC-95, which I'm being told can drive all channels at 4 ohms. What do you guys think?

That tech gave you the lawyers approved answer. The Yammie will drive your speakers just fine as long as you don't change the impedance switch from its default 8 ohms or more setting.

The Pioneer counterparts have no advantage of driving low impedance loads than the Yamaha. In fact up until recently the Pioneers used ICE Class D amps which did not do well at all with 4 ohm speakers.
Wellz posts on October 27, 2015 07:02
I recent purchased the Yamaha RX-A2050 to drive my full Andrew Jones pioneer elite dolby atmos set up. I have a 5.2.4 set up with the elite atmos towers up front, the elite center channel and the elite atmos bookshelf speakers in the back. The Yamaha seems to drive them well, but after contacting Yamaha, I am now looking at possibly having to change receivers. My speakers are all rated at 4 Ohms, and according to the Yamaha tech, the RX-A2050 can only handle the 4 ohms in the front channels. So even though the amp is currently running all of my speakers, the tech said that it could be a matter of time before the amp gave out due to the extra load that all of the additional 4 ohm speakers place on it. I read the article here about using 4 ohm speakers with an 8 ohm amp as long as it was a high quality amp. I think the Yamaha could fall into that category, but the Yamaha tech's hanswer is not comforting. At this point I'm considering a Pioneer Elite SC-95, which I'm being told can drive all channels at 4 ohms. What do you guys think?
mhdaniels31 posts on October 19, 2015 15:05
what happened to your detailed receiver reviews such as internal pictures of construction and hardware measurement these are the things that always made audioholics stand out to me over everybody elses presumptious reviews based on this review I didnt really get a sense of the receiver itself just personal feelings and hard to understand opinions I know that this review was done several months ago but was hoping to use it to help base my choice on a new yamaha receiver possibly since the amp and dac overhall from your last detailed flagship yamaha receiver review no hard feelings im a marshall also so we marshall,s have to stick together but would love if you did the comprehensive testing like gene does next time and hopefully you guys will get some flagship receiver reviews this year with it being the first year since my last upgrade 3 years ago that i felt i had to upgrade for my 75inch 4k tv upgrage or hdmi 2.0 and hdcp 2.2 i forced myself to wait all year anyway thanks for the review please keep in mind my request
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