Objectivity is certainly the goal of any journalist, but truth be told, we in the consumer electronics industry are a judgmental lot. Chances are, behind the keyboard of every just-the-facts-ma’am news piece you read, there’s a writer thinking, Really? Does the world need this?
Like, really, does the world need a new luxury line of receivers from Yamaha? A line built from the ground up with such lavish touches as double-bottom construction, separate digital and analog power supplies, custom circuitry — as well as slightly dubious additions like a “Anti-Resonance Technology” fifth foot — all wrapped up in an admittedly stunning design?
Granted, at its heart, even with all the meticulous inner wiring and beautiful binding posts, all the precision engineering and emphasis on custom control, the RX-A1000 is still very much a Yamaha. Cinema DSP 3D processing is still central to the RX-A1000’s sound, for example, as are the front presence speakers — designed to be placed half a meter to a meter to the left and right of the main front speakers and 1.8 meters above the floor — that deliver much of Cinema DSP 3D’s extra oomph and add a convincing vertical element to the front soundstage.
While never quite as sensational as Dolby ProLogic IIz’s height channels with carefully selected demo material, Yamaha’s presence effects sound more consistent to me, no matter what I throw at them. The jungles of Avatar’s Pandora seem more expansive, deeper, and — yes — taller with the presence speakers engaged than in straightforward 7.1 mode; the explosive fireworks in V for Vendetta during the destruction of the Old Bailey are more spacious, more convincingly elevated, more distinct from the 1812 Overture, without losing their punch.
Even if you’re not completely sold on the notion of additional ambient audio effects all up in your front soundstage, the presence speakers also enable another of Yamaha’s most enticing tricks: Dialogue Lift. For those without the luxury of microperf screens and perfectly positioned center speakers, what Dialogue Lift does is blend the output of the center channel into the presence speakers, bringing the sonic image up and more in line with the visual image. At the highest settings, it sounds weird, and completely defeats the purpose of a center speaker altogether, but applied judiciously (I found 2 out of 5 to be the perfect mix), it perfectly alleviates the fatiguing audiovisual discombobulation that can result from having a center speaker too far beneath the screen, for whatever reason.
Scene buttons are also another carryover from Yamaha’s recent offerings, and although a glance they seem like another way of describing run-of-the-mill inputs, there’s a little more to it than that. Scenes make it incredibly easier to use the same input for different functions, ensuring that you’ve got the right audio modes and DSPs engaged for different activities like music and movies from the same device—a universal disc player, for example. Granted, it’s the sort of thing you can easily do with macros in a universal remote or advanced control system (which you almost certainly have if you’re considering a receiver like this), but I found it much easier to spend a few seconds setting up a scene via the RX-A1000 and dropping a single command into the programming software for my URC MX-5000 remote than letting the remote do all the heavy lifting. Furthermore, it makes startup times a little quicker, which is a nice bonus.
For those lacking an advanced control system, though, Yamaha has released a handy iPhone/iPod Touch control app specifically designed for AVENTAGE, and you can also take advantage of the receiver’s expansive networking capabilities to enable Web Control, which offers a sort of touchscreen-esque control experience via any networked PC in the home.
As for whether or not AVENTAGE’s other enhancements — the rock solid construction, the attention to detail, the new DACs and power supplies and especially the fifth foot — result in appreciably better sonic performance over previous Yamaha receivers at this price point, it’s hard to quantify (especially given that I don’t have any on hand for direct comparison). Audio quality is notoriously more subjective than video, but I will say it’s been a long time since I heard a receiver that sounded sweeter than the RX-A1000, and its price tag was in another zip code altogether.
What isn’t subjective is an appreciation for just how feature packed this receiver is. It boasts a ludicrous seven HDMI inputs and parallel outputs, as well as any and every control in and out you could ask for. It’s also on the bleeding edge of current codecs, with full support for high-res audio, as well as 3D. The only thing the RX-A1000 really lacks is the high-quality HQV “Vida” video-processing of its two bigger brothers (which cost $400 and $800 more).
My only other significant caveat is that the RX-A1000 is so packed full of goodies and options, its beautiful onscreen menus might be a little daunting for anyone who isn’t a custom installer or hardcore enthusiast. If you’re willing to put in the effort, though, the RX-A1000 is certainly worth a listen. And a look. Seriously, this thing is so sexy, it would be a shame to hide it away in an equipment closet.