Yamaha has enjoyed quite a bit of success with the introduction of its premium Aventage line of AV receivers and separates. While the Aventage line has been available for a while, it remains quite competitive in its performance, features, and connectivity; a recent firmware update added Dolby Atmos and Dolby Surround modes. I'll point you to this refresher on all things Dolby Atmos if you need it.
Sitting at the top of the Aventage receiver lineup is the RX-A3040, priced at $2,199. It is billed as a 9.2-channel receiver, as it provides both control and amplification for nine channels and up to two subwoofers in a variety of configurations. However, it is capable of providing control for two additional channels, as long as you have an external amplifier to power them. The receiver includes two of ESS Technology's high-performance DACs: the 32-bit ESS9016 processes the seven main channels, while the 24-bit ESS9006 processes the front and rear presence (or overhead) speakers and two subwoofer channels.
Features abound with the RX-A3040. This networkable receiver has built-in apps for Internet radio and streaming services such as Rhapsody, Spotify, SiriusXM, Pandora, and others. Built-in WiFi capability allows for a wireless connection to your router, and you can connect to Apple devices via AirPlay or an HTC phone via the HTC Connect app. The Yamaha can decode most music formats, including WAV and FLAC (both up to 24-bit/192-kHz), Apple's ALAC, and others. USB and MHL ports allow for the connection of a wide gamut of devices. Advanced HDMI zone switching allows you to output any source to a second zone through HDMI (analog audio is also available in a third zone). The RX-A3040 can pass through and upscale to 4K/60 Ultra HD; however, it's not HDCP 2.2-compliant, and Yamaha does not plan to offer an upgrade path, so you will need a workaround if you plan to embrace Ultra HD Blu-ray in the near fuure. There is even a phono input (MM cartridges) for connecting a turntable, so there's no need to give up your vinyl.
The RX-A3040 chassis weighs just shy of a hefty 40 pounds and carries a slew of connectivity features, including eight HDMI inputs and two outputs--plenty for all your sources. (Visit Yamaha's website for a full rundown of connection options.) I used the first two HDMI inputs for my AT&T U-Verse box for TV and my Oppo BDP-105 for all spinning-disc sources. With the Yamaha set to handle all video processing and switching, I sent HDMI output to my BenQ W7000 projector, displaying to my Elite Screens Spectrum 128-inch screen. I ran speaker wire to my usual 5.1 speaker configuration with the pair of Salk Soundscape 12 speakers serving as front left and right channels, a Salk Soundscape 7C as center, and the B&W CM6 S2 in the surround role. I connected my SVS PC-13 Ultra subwoofer to one of the two subwoofer outs on the Yamaha.
For the Atmos channels, Atlantic Technology was kind enough to provide two pairs of the 44-DA Atmos-enabled speaker modules (review coming soon) to complete a 5.1.4 Atmos configuration. Since Atmos capability was not enabled out of the box, I downloaded the new firmware to get it. Next, I set up my speakers using Yamaha's proprietary YPAO. The version of YPAO included with the RX-A3040 uniquely includes 3D and Angle measurement, which is not an advancement to be taken lightly. Our Yamaha rep describes these options like this: "The Angle measurement is used to correct for speaker placement that deviates from the commonly used ITU-r placement. Furniture, windows and room layout can prevent many people from placing speakers in the proper location. By knowing where all speakers are placed in relation to the prime listening spot, the DSP processing can image the signal to more closely match ITU suggestions. Meanwhile, the Height Angle measurement is used, among other things, to give the Atmos decoder more accurate data on how to map the individual sound objects within the listening room. If the receiver knows that the front right overhead speaker is 45 degrees to the front instead of 60 degrees, the decoder can more accurately place the sound of a mosquito, for instance, in the three-dimensional confines of the room."
For an Atmos setup, I needed to make a few tweaks before running YPAO. First, I enabled 3D and Angle and multipoint (this makes for a longer setup time, but allows YPAO to take measurements at multiple points and create a smoother soundfield across multiple seating positions, such as an entire couch). Then I set the front height and rear presence speakers to the setting for Atmos-enabled speakers. Running through YPAO took about 20 minutes or so, and YPAO got most things correct. It correctly detected the presence of all speakers, and its distances and levels were accurate. My surround and rear presence speakers were both set to large, however, and crossover points were set a little too low given the speaker sets. I can't really fault YPAO for this, as I happened to place my surrounds in the back corners of the room with the rear Atmos modules on top, and corners are known to reinforce bass. I made a couple of manual adjustments for this, and I was on on my way...although I must note that YPAO did not allow me to set the exact crossover point of 150 Hz that Atlantic Tech recommends for the Atmos modules, but forced me to choose between 120 Hz and 160 Hz. I chose 160 Hz to be closer to the recommended setting.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...