Yamaha RX-A820 AV-receiver

Inhabiting the bottom rung of Yamaha's elite 'Aventage' range, the RX-A820 is a versatile creature with DSPs galore (a place where Yamaha has a rich history), a claimed 7 x 130W of amplification at your disposal and no fewer than eight HDMI ports. With its GBP850 price tag it's aimed at those who want something more than just a fundamental AVR.

One of the HDMI outlets is located behind a flap that also conceals various inputs and controls, on the front panel of the unit. With this particular flap in its 'up' position, the overall look of Yamaha's mid-ranger is just one of smartness that is uncluttered. It is available in both silver and black.

The Aventage versions have, according to Yamaha, been bestowed with 'unparalleled focus to detail in fabrication, engineering and design', in a pursuit. Obviously, these basic design philosophies - a chassis built to minimise vibration, optimised internal layout as well as the painstaking choice of parts - are also being implemented, in one form or another, by the competition's designers, but the Yamaha does stand out by virtue of its fifth foot, centrally located on the unit's base.

(Anti-Resonance Technology) Wedge, it damps any vibrations and supplies additional chassis support which could impair performance. A notorious offender here could function as the mains transformer, which can be quite compact to get an element which has to support all that power. Truly, the RX-A820 weighs less than you may anticipate.

Stocked with software

Among the RX-A820's software features are YPAO (Yamaha Parametric Acoustic Optimiser) auto- calibration and Android /iOS control - alternatives to a fairly active handset that, nevertheless, I believe is more friendly than recent Onkyo ones. The abundance of audio functions that are networked includes support, an excellent internet radio client and DLNA audio playback for the Napster subscription music service, that was added at the ending of 2012 to the Aventage lineup via firmware.

It's possible for you to feed the Yamaha sources via composite and component video, optical/coaxial digital and stereo analogue sound in addition to HDMI. 4K upscaling/passthrough and conversion to digital is handled by the latter. There's a brace of HDMI interfaces, permitting a flatscreen and projector TV to be run concurrently. In audio- only terms, Yamaha supported USB sound/iPods and contained an FM/AM radio tuner, has made provision for a turntable. The network connection is Ethernet only; there's no built in Wi Fi.

Regarding speaker setup, serious film fans will most likely want a complete 7.1/7.2 array. You can define front-mounted loudspeakers as opposed to the most common back surrounds; this 'presence' style is a Yamaha DSP specific and has absolutely nothing regarding Dolby Pro-Logic IIz or DTS Neo:X, which are not supported here. You do, nevertheless, get Pro-Logic IIx, collectively with DTS, Dolby Digital, their hidef variants and seventeen more Yamaha- DSP modes that are exclusive.

If a 7.1 configuration is not to your taste, you can beef-up the front-loudspeakers of a 5.1 rig with the RX-A820's bi amping facility. Or use the two remaining amps to drive a pair of Zone 2 loudspeakers.

Having made the connections, it's configuration time - and what might be a frustratingly complicated encounter is actually a clear-cut one. Use of sensibly organised the aforementioned YPAO and onscreen menus is made by the Yamaha. Put the (furnished) mic in a number of places, wait for a sequence of bursts to pour forth from your loudspeakers, along with the RX-A820's digital trickery does the remainder, identifying how and where your speakers are joined before adjusting EQ and levels. It functioned nicely in my room.

Titanic audio

As a film machine, the RX-A820 fulfils Yamaha's usual performance expectations that are high-flown. I span my Clash of the Titans Bluray via a Cambridge Azur 751BD, as well as the very first thing I noticed is the transparency of the video switching - connecting the player directly to my TV exhibited the RX-A820 introduces no subjective lack of quality. A small point, but an important one.

In Chapter 9, the activity heads to Argos (not the store...) to hear Prokopion's address to his fellow citizens: 'Why do they remain silent while we suffer?' Said suffering is expressed as is the dialogue, which can be obviously intelligible. The coughing of children and sharpening of swords is accompanied by an orchestral soundtrack totally balanced within an open soundstage.

Chapter 13 finds Perseus and his falling group about to face off against Medusa. Her laugh and snake-tail rattle wander in and from the soundstage, an evaluation of steering system that the RX-A820 readily passes. However, during occasions when all channels are active, a little strain was evident at high volume levels; I'd be loath to utilize this amplifier in large listening rooms.

For stereo music playback, Yamaha's Pure Direct mode is offered by it to keep the last ounce from your own platters, the 'compressed music enhancer' to enhance radio listening and MP3 tracks, plus its DSP modes. Of the latter, some, such as 7-channel stereo, bring your subwoofer enhancing bass performance from what I believed was a little lacking. Others, such as the place-mimicking Roxy Theatre and Hall In Vienna are truly superb, and augment music that is live well. Ways for movies (including Sci-Fi and the like) are successful.

To sum up, this is a worthy AVR for medium-sized rooms, using a refined character to its audio. Check it out whether you can live without Dolby and DTS stature processing.

Yamaha RX-A820 AV-receiver photo