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Retrofit an Old Flagship A/V Receiver or Upgrade?

by August 12, 2014
Can you breathe new life into an old AVR like the Yamaha DSP-A1?

Can you breathe new life into an old AVR like the Yamaha DSP-A1?

Q: I have a Yamaha DSP A1. It is in perfect working condition and unmarked cosmetically. Is it possible to add a device (a pre-amp perhaps?) that will connect the various HDMI feeds (I have a BluRay player, DVR, Humax Freesat decoder, and Apple TV) and provide additional channels? If possible I want to upgrade the speaker system to 7.2 or 9.2.

Alternatively I could move the Yamaha to another location where 5.1 is adequate but I would still need to manage a similar range of HDMI inputs. In that location the display will be a 4K TV

A: The Yamaha DSP-A1 is a DD/DTS 5.1 receiver only, with an additional two channels for DSP post processing for “front effects” channels. Fortunately, the DSP-A1 does have a 5.1 set of unbalanced inputs labeled “External Decoder Input”. This means that you do have the option of utilizing the Yamaha as a simple power amplifier. As such, it would be possible to add a pre/pro like the Emotiva UMC-200 into the mix. The Emotiva would handle HDMI switching, and bump your system to 7.1 with the addition of a stereo amplifier. A Blu-ray player like the OPPO BDP-105 could also serve in this role as it offers 7.1 channel preamplifier outputs. Unfortunately for this particular application, we would note that the OPPO only boasts a pair of HDMI inputs, versus the three additional sources in the question.

DSP-A1 Internals

Image of the Yamaha DSP-A1 with the cover removed. Note that the DSP-A1 tips the scales at greater than 50 pounds, suggesting some serious amplification under the hood.

That said, to make things simpler, we would probably opt to buy a new A/V receiver for your main system. We would suggest Yamaha’s new RX-A3040 and RX-A2040 Dolby Atmos ready receivers which pack nine channels of amplification on board, preamplifier outputs if you decide you want more power, and all the latest bells and whistles including 8 HDMI 2.0 inputs and YPAO auto-setup/calibration. With the main zone taken care of, you can utilize the DSP-A1 in a second zone. In that scenario, we would suggest using your TV for HDMI switching. If your display doesn’t have the needed number of HDMI inputs, you could also consider getting an outboard HDMI switching box solution. In either case, to get sound to the DSP-A1, you would utilize an optical digital cable from your TV to the receiver.

While not mentioned in the original question, we would also add that an old top of the line receiver like the DSP-A1 would also be well suited for use in a two channel music system. The Yamaha's DACs and amplifier sections are getting up in their years, but still of excellent quality. Moreover, even an older AVR like the DSP-A1 boasts features like bass management which is sorely missing on most two channel equipment.


Long story short: it may be possible to salvage that old A/V receiver by turning it into a glorified power amplifier. However, it’s not necessarily the simplest or most cost effective path. In most cases, we would suggest buying a newer A/V receiver to get the features you need, and reassign the old but still highly capable receiver like the one mentioned here to a setup where its shortcomings are more readily acceptable.



About the author:
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Steve Munz is a “different” addition to Audioholics’ stable of contributors in that he is neither an engineer like Gene, nor has he worked in the industry like Cliff. In fact, Steve’s day job is network administration and accounting.

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