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Friday
May132016

Podcast #739: Yamaha RX-A850 Review

Last October Ara bought a Pioneer Elite VSX-90 7.2 Channel A/V Receiver for his family room. He was looking for something that would allow him to switch 4K content through to his Vizio P-Series 4K UHDTV. The receiver was able to do that and provide good quality sound but he was never happy with the reliability of the receiver. It wouldn’t turn on at times requiring a physical reset and it took as many as 8 seconds for it to switch inputs. One day a few weeks ago Ara had enough and decided to swap it out with a new receiver.

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Yamaha RX-A850 Review


Last October Ara bought a Pioneer Elite VSX-90 7.2 Channel A/V Receiver for his family room. He was looking for something that would allow him to switch 4K content through to his Vizio P-Series 4K UHDTV. The receiver was able to do that and provide good quality sound but he was never happy with the reliability of the receiver. It wouldn’t turn on at times requiring a physical reset and it took as many as 8 seconds for it to switch inputs. One day a few weeks ago Ara had enough and decided to swap it out with a new receiver.

Since he hadn’t bought a Yamaha in quite some time and was really interested in the Aventage line and decided that he RX-A850 had all the features he wanted at a decent price (Buy Now $900). It needed to support HDCP 2.2, 4K, HDR, and sound good! While not needed for Ara’s family room, the 850 does support Atmos as well. If you want DTS:X support you’ll need to move up to the RX-A1050 which will run you $300 more. The full feature list is listed below:


Features:

  • Aluminum front panel and Anti-Resonance Technology Wedge
  • MusicCast wireless multiroom audio support
  • Bluetooth®, built-in Wi-Fi and Wireless Direct for wireless music streaming
  • AirPlay®, Spotify®, Pandora® music streaming service and AV Controller App
  • DSD 2.8 MHz / 5.6 MHz, FLAC / WAV / AIFF 192 kHz / 24-bit, Apple® Lossless 96 kHz / 24-bit playback
  • YPAO™ - R.S.C. with multipoint measurement
  • Dolby Atmos® Support
  • Multi-zone audio support (Zone2)
  • Phono input for vinyl playback
  • Virtual Surround Back Speaker for playing 7.1-channel content with a 5.1-channel system
  • HDMI 2.0a: 4K Ultra HD Full Support with 4K60p, HDCP2.2, HDR Video and BT.2020 pass-through

Setup

Setup was pretty simple. Connect the speakers and components then add power and then kick off the YPAO calibration. The initial pass through the calibration screen checks for phase issues  and in Ara’s case all was good. Then it proceed to measure room acoustics. The results were good but we always like to tweak the sound to our tastes. We raised the level of the surrounds and subwoofer and called it done in about an hour, which included unboxing. The menus are simple to navigate. We did not use wifi as we have an Ethernet connection for our entertainment system.


Performance

This is Ara’s first Aventage receiver so he was expecting some good things in the way of audio performance. According to Yamaha the Aventage uses higher quality parts and design:

AVENTAGE brings studio-grade sound and sophisticated video enhancements to your home with unparalleled attention to detail in design, engineering and fabrication. Every electrical path, every part, every piece, was rethought and redesigned if necessary to achieve total performance excellence throughout the series. Materials were tested thoroughly and the finest were selected to maximize audio / video playback performance.

You do pay a little more for the Aventage. A similar non-Adventage Yamaha receiver (RX-V781) goes for about $100 less. Other than the “Studio-grade” sound, the receivers are nearly identical.


Settings:

  • Decode Mode - Straight (we want it exactly as the mixers intended)
  • YPAO Volume - We set this to off. However, if you are watching at night you may want to turn this on. It will adjust the high and low frequency sounds so the dialog doesn't get washed out. It worked as advertised in our testing.
  • Video Processing - We are not big fans of the scaling on receivers. The 850A can scale to 4K (2160p50/60) if you own a UHD set. But with that said we felt that the picture wasn’t as good as when we let the TV do the scaling.
  • Object Decode Mode - On (see below)

Movies

The RX-850A performed quite well with movies regardless of format. There is enough power to drive extreme action scenes and yet the receiver was easily able to handle the subtleties of ambient sounds like rain or crowd noises.  We did not connect Atmos speakers but we did enable “Object Decode Mode” on our normally configured 7.1 setup. Perhaps we were fooling ourselves but it did seem as though we were enveloped in a bubble of sound giving us an Atmos like experience. For a larger room that may not be the case so you will want to use Atmos speakers if you can. If you do have a bigger media room the RX-850A, with it's 100 watts of power,  will have no issues filling it with sound!


Music

Although music isn’t the primary use for our receiver we did do some critical listening. We found the receiver to be clear and bright regardless of position in the room. We listened to Stereo and and multi-channel tracks. In either case we could notice the placement of the instruments within the soundstage. The A850 behaved nicely never sounding too bright or edgy. We even tried some lower quality rips to check out the compressed music enhancer. It did make it sound better but why would you do that to yourself? Just go with 256Kbps mp3 or AAC or better yet lossless and never speak of the compressed music enhancer again! With CD quality music the RX-A850 really shines.


Odds and Ends

  • There is a smartphone (or tablet) app which makes configuring the unit easier.
  • The remote seems cheap for the Adventage line. The letters are too small and kind of hard to read. And there is no backlight making it hard to use in a darkened room.
  • Only the first three HDMI ports are HDCP 2.2 compliant. Big thanks to Yamaha for clearly marking that on the device itself.
  • Bluetooth and Airplay are supported but we have two set top devices connected so we did not do much with these features other than verify that they work.

 

Conclusion

In a world where you can find good receivers for $500, it's nice to find a receiver built with high quality parts and and purposeful design, meant to enhance your listening experience for not much more. Whether you are watching a movie or listening to music we found the RX-850A to be a capable receiver that is worth it's price tag.



Download Episode #739

Reader Comments (1)

I have the 750 and I have yet to listen to the music. I have to agree with you on the movies. The only problem is that I have not heard a 7.1 movie and I have all my speaker hooked up but the subwoofer. I am going to recheck the hookup on the back surrounds. I may sell mines to go up on 850 since I had mine for 2 months. Just found your podcast and enjoy it very much. Keep up the good work

September 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGralen

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