Every manufacturer has a different policy toward versioning. Some manufacturers will wait five or even 10 years before offering the next model, which will offer drastic improvements in quality and/or features. Others will offer a new model every year for marketing purposes, when nearly imperceptible differences between model years make justifying the purchase of a new unit very difficult. It's like when a car manufacturer changes model years. Did they change the engine and drivetrain at all, or did they merely change the shape of the headlights slightly?
Last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing the Yamaha RX-A3040.
Recently, the company sent me the follow-up model, the $2,199.95 Aventage RX-A3050 9.2-channel receiver. So, I now have the opportunity to discover what Yamaha means when they say they've introduced a new model. (Ironically, as I was finishing this review, Yamaha announced an even newer model, the RX-A3060, which carries the same $2,199.95 price tag and may be available by the time you read this. We'll discuss the differences between the 3050 and 3060 at the end.)
I will kill some of the suspense early on by acknowledging that many of the components and features of the RX-A3040 and the RX-A3050 are similar. The sound processing is built on the same ESS SABRE32 Ultra DAC ES9016 and SABRE ES9006A DAC platforms--although careful inspection of the model numbers will note that the RX-A3050 carries the updated version of those chip platforms and, with it, any improvements ESS may have made. Frequency response, power rating, and other specs (including physical dimensions) are virtually unchanged. Rather than rehash the whole laundry list of features, I'm going to highlight the upgrades (and I do mean upgrades, not just changes) that will probably matter the most to readers here.
One of my chief complaints about the RX-A3040 was that the lack of HDCP 2.2 compliance made the unit obsolete in the face of expected future formats at the time, as we knew Ultra HD Blu-ray was just around the corner. The RX-A3050 carries with it two HDCP 2.2-compliant HDMI outputs and seven HDCP 2.2-compliant HDMI inputs on the rear panel, and the receiver supports 4K/60 Ultra HD video with HDR and BT2020 compliance. On the audio side, Yamaha has added DTS:X decoding, on top of the Dolby Atmos that we got with the 3040. That's plenty of upgrades to future-proof the unit.
Yamaha has made wireless audio streaming a central theme for technology development with this model, adding its new MusicCast platform. Competing with similar technologies like Sonos, Denon Heos, and DTS Play-Fi, MusicCast allows you to stream music to a variety of devices over your home network and set up multi-room configurations. The system centers around an app that you can download for your mobile device to stream music through the receiver to MusicCast-enabled speakers in various locations.
Yamaha also brought in Rohm Semiconductors to help redesign the volume control for lower noise, better clarity, and channel separation. The power supply architecture has also been refined for better separation of power for digital and analog audio.
My Playstation 3 gaming console drove most of the physical discs and streaming video that I used for testing. Meanwhile, the receiver's focus on object-based audio meant I needed to add more speakers than my usual complement. PSB graciously provided a full Imagine X system: the Imagine X2T tower speakers served as the front left and right channels, along with the Imagine XC Centre, a pair of Imagine XB bookshelves for surrounds, a Sub 200 subwoofer, and four Imagine XA up-firing Atmos speaker modules (review forthcoming) to round out a full 5.1.4 surround system.
Connections were all from Wireworld, including my trusted Wireworld Silver Eclipse 7 interconnects, Starlight 7 HDMI cables, and Oasis 7/Soltice 7 speaker cables.
Setting up YPAO, Yamaha's automated room correction program, was a breeze using the onscreen menu, just as it was on the previous 3040 model.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...