Yamaha RX-A4A Reviewed at $1,399.00
Product Name: Yamaha RX-A4A
Product Description: 7.2 CH 8K AV Receiver
Design - 9.3/10
Audio Quality - 9.3/10
Inputs / Ports - 9.3/10
OS, Apps and Features - 9/10
Price / Quality - 8.9/10
Reviewed at $1,399.00
- Excellent audio output
- Aventage premium quality
- Great DSP capabilities
- All available ports are HDMI 2.1
- Many HDMI features will be unlocked in the future
- The remote could be simpler
- No front HDMI port
- Less legacy ports than the competition
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It seems that Yamaha had decided to refresh their entire AV receiver lineup but rather than changing all their units in one go they split the changes into two parts with the first batch including the more budget friendly RX-V6A and RX-V4A along with the smaller of the Aventage units, the RX-A2A. The second batch came with the refresh of the higher end Aventage receivers that included the RX-A4A, the RX-A6A and the top of the line RX-A8A. And so today in our Yamaha RX-A4A review we will be testing the best 7.2 channels receiver they have in their arsenal at the moment.
The last trio of receivers that Yamaha updated share a lot of common characteristics. Obviously they pack different number of amplifiers, power output and a few more specialized features but the general feature set has more similarities than differences. And as such the RX-A4A offers plenty of options if you are not looking for a receiver that has more than 7 channels of amplification.
So let’s see what the RX-A4A includes in its specs. As we said this is a 7.2 channels AV receiver with 110 watts of power (8 ohms, 0.06% THD, 2 channel driven). We get the usual Dolby Atmos and DTS:X along with Dolby Surround, DTS Neural:X and Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization. We also find Yamaha’s Cinema DSP HD3 and Surround:AI which are only used in the top three Aventage models while it comes packed with specific Aventage enhancements in its hardware for better audio output. As for features we get the YPAO Sound Optimization, high resolution audio, WiFi and Bluetooth streaming, MusicCast, Airplay 2, multiple zone capabilities and most importantly HDMI 2.1 support. But more on these shortly.
The Yamaha RX-A4A seems to be an excellent 7 channels receiver. If previous Aventage releases is anything to go by we expect the RX-A4A to perform admirably but this can only be confirmed when we actually put it to the test. Lets not keep waiting then…
Having recently reviewed the RX-A8A, the RX-A4A sports exactly the same design and the only difference between the two seems to the smaller depth this one has. It measures 17-1/8” x 10-5/8” x 17-3/8” (435 x 270 x 442 mm) but as always you can save a bit of height by turning the antennas in a horizontal position which lowers its height requirements to just 7 1/2” (191 mm). The receiver weights 35.7 lbs (16.2 kg) making it noticeably lighter than Yamaha’s flagship which was to be expected due to the less amplifiers included in the chassis.
Featuring an almost entirely front gloss side, the volume knob has been repositioned in the middle compared to previous years and the display screen got updated as we get an LCD variant that is placed on the right side of the volume knob. On the far right a second smaller knob is used for navigating the display screen and selecting input sources.
Above the smaller knob we find three small indicators for Zone, Pure Direct and Surround:AI (with the last one missing only from the RX-A2A which lacks that feature) while on its right side, under the LCD display, there are some touch controls with four SCENE buttons, Return and Menu.
On the lower part of the front face there is a small part that features a matte surface and this is where we find a circular button on the far left for power along with a single USB port for connecting external storage, the YPAO microphone input port and the usual Headphones jack. There is no analog inputs anymore which we don’t find all that surprising but there is no HDMI input either which we would love to have for easy access. Hopefully in the future manufacturers will make this a standard feature to have across their entire lineup.
No real surprises here. The unit is like for like in design with the rest of the Aventage releases in order to keep parity between their models.
And while in terms of looks the differences between the Aventage units are small the biggest differences are on the inside. First of all as with all Aventage models we find a high slew rate amplifier. The slew rate measures how quickly an amplifier can respond to a rapid change of input level, which contributes to delivering a precise signal transmission and is especially effective with high resolution audio signals.
The difference we find in the RX-A4A compared to the two bigger units is in the DAC being utilized here as this one comes with a single ESS SABRE ES9007S Premier Audio DAC which is a step down from the dual ESS SABRE ES9026PRO Ultra DACs that we found in the RX-A8A. What is the same is the Qualcomm QCS407 high precision DSP that supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive home audio.
One element that seems to be very characteristic in the entire Aventage receivers is the fifth foot that is placed directly in the middle underneath the receiver. The Anti-Resonance Technology (A.R.T.) Wedge, as Yamaha calls it, dampens vibrations from the power transformer, power transistors and heat sinks, as well as vibrations that might be caused by the sound from the speakers providing dynamic sound and focused, accurate reproduction. In the RX-A4A it seems that this foot has been brought towards the front, probably for best results from Yamaha’s testing.
As for the supplied remote the one that comes with this unit is very similar to the one we used with the RX-A8A with a single difference. The Zone switch at the top which now only has a Zone 2 option instead of the multiple ones that were supported in Yamaha’s flagship.
Overall the layout has improved compared to what Yamaha has been offering in their lower tier units but still it’s cluttered with buttons that most of the time you will rarely use. Yamaha gives a lot of attention to its Scenes feature and thus has positioned these buttons in a prominent place.
In general it’s a pretty long remote and it has too many buttons with many of them that will be rarely used. At some point AV receivers have to go the way of TVs with more simple remotes and more advanced user interfaces.
The RX-A4A has the quality you would expect from an Aventage unit. Yamaha’s high standards can be seen both in the interior and also in the new refreshed look of the chassis.
The receiver supports up to 7 channels and this means that if you want to go for an Atmos enabled system the unit can support up to a 5.2.2 channels configuration. As usual we get support for both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and obviously all the older audio mixes like Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital and DTS. Unfortunately no Auro-3D is supported in this one as this is only kept for the two top receivers, the RX-A6A and the RX-A8A.
But except from this omission the receiver seems to come with all of the rest audio features that the two bigger models offer. Up-mixing technologies are as usual included so we do get Dolby Surround and DTS Neural:X that are the standards for most receivers nowadays and can up-convert legacy tracks like stereo mixes into full surround audio.
We also find Yamaha’s top DSP technology, the Cinema DSP HD3 which is also included only in the top 3 Aventage releases in their refreshed lineup.
If you don’t know what Cinema DSP HD3 is, it’s Yamaha’s proprietary sound field creation technology that utilizes multiple CINEMA DSP engines and permits lossless decoding of 192kHz signals, while providing 3D processing that gives the sound field an extra vertical dimension. With Cinema DSP the receiver is capable of recreating various audio spaces like concert halls or sport arenas which can bring a whole different level of immersion.
The unit comes with the maximum number of DSP programs that Yamaha has made available which is 24 which gives you plenty to try out. This stereoscopic sound field technology is a really interesting one and there are cases where it can boost the overall volume and immersion of sound but there are also a lot of cases where the end result can feel very artificial. Keep in mind that a lot of processing is at play here and we are not very fond of processed sound that alters the original mix very much. But it’s nice to have this system as you may find it more to your liking than us.
With the use of Cinema DSP HD3 the receiver is also capable of offering various virtual features. First of all there is Virtual Cinema DSP which can reproduce up to 7 channels of surround sound without the need to have any surround speakers connected. Next we get Virtual Cinema Front which lets you position your surround speakers at the front and still get surround activity at the back of the listening position. This can be very handy in case you are limited by space and you cannot place your surround speakers where they should really be.
Another feature we get is Silent Cinema. With that you can enjoy surround and sound field effects by only using your headphones. There is also Virtual Presence Speaker (VPS) support as these can be created without any actual presence speakers available. With the Virtual Surround Back Speaker (VSBS) feature you can get activity when there are no actual surround back speakers available.
Lastly what was missing in the previous years was Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization. If you don’t have the option to add in-ceiling or upward firing speakers in your system, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization technology can simulate the Atmos experience. Unfortunately what is missing is DTS Virtual:X as Yamaha has not included this one as some other manufacturers do.
A feature that makes a return from the previous models and it was only included in the top tier releases is Surround:AI. Now this technology, that is built-in the DSP, optimizes the surround effects in real time by analyzing each scene and focusing on specific sound elements like ambient effects, music, dialogue and special effects.
This can be a nice feature for those that don’t want to mess around with the individual DSP programs and prefer a more automated system to handle everything but as with all these technologies that are available, the source content will very much determine the actual result. Specific content can benefit from it while that was not always the case with the end result feeling much more altered than what we would like. But it’s good to have it as a feature to try it out.
When it comes to its internal amplifiers the receiver can output 110 watts per channel (8 ohm, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0.06% 2ch drive). Obviously the more channels in use the lower this number goes. Unfortunately all manufacturers keep giving us only 2 channels ratings and it is increasingly hard to find out actual numbers for full surround use.
For our movie testing we opted for a 5.1.2 channels setup with two height speakers placed above the main front channels and a single subwoofer that was placed at the front left corner of our testing room. The film we decided to try out was the 4K UHD version of Godzilla vs Kong with its explosive Dolby Atmos sound mix.
We can argue about the quality of the story but when it comes to its technical merits everyone agrees that this film has surely reference quality sound and is exactly what we needed to test out this new Yamaha.
There was not a single moment where we didn’t feel like we were thrown right into the middle of the action as the RX-A4A did an amazing job at creating a full immersive surround bubble. The material helped a lot and so there was activity in all directions and all axis. In the scene where Godzilla attacks Kong and the naval group, the whole sequence from beginning to end is a testament of how good surround sound can work on a scene.
The front soundstage was obviously the most prevalent one but not the only one. There was excellent depth and nice extension while dialogue was kept isolated in the middle with excellent clarity even during heavy action scenes. Panning effects were impressive with fighter jets flying all over the place, missiles and cannon fire turning our test room into a battleground.
The Yamaha did excellent work on the details and there was so much clarity and resolution to each sound that really elevated each scene. When Godzilla battles with Kong on the aircraft carrier there is so much information that it’s dazzling. Small explosions, metal parts fly all over the place, the water displacing as this huge metal construction is pushed in the water like a toy, everything sounded just right.
Surround activity may be more obvious but we should mention the excellent Atmos performance also. The overhead layer had good height and enough activity and energy to push the boundaries of the immersion bubble above our heads. The Atmos speakers may not have been so obvious as all the other channels but still played their part in upping the overall outcome.
Obviously when one mentions a film like this, it would be a shame not to talk about the explosive bass and the Yamaha did the best out of it in order to provide our subwoofer with all the necessary low end information. Bass was in one word spectacular. Deep bass with shaking explosions and a thunderous LFE that will hit your whole body more than once and you will keep asking for more. We enjoyed the performance of the receiver so much that we kept watching for much more than what our review testing needed us to.
In the end the Yamaha is a receiver that can do it all. It is not afraid of rendering even the tinniest of details, it will provide a grand soundstage when the material asks for it and it can be delicate when a specific scene requires it. The front performance was impressive, the surround activity more active than ever, dialogue was crystal clear, Atmos effects supplemented the action nicely and the bass was kicking us in the butt and we never complained. What else can you ask for?
We also tried to push the volume to more than what we would call acceptable levels and the Yamaha didn’t seem to buckle under the weight. Yes, obviously it doesn’t have unlimited power and certainly doesn’t have as much juice as the flagship RX-A8A we tested recently but no matter how much we pushed it, it never felt like loosing its balance.
As for music the receiver supports not only the usual lower quality audio formats like MP3, WMA and AAC which by the way all of them can go up to 320 kbps but can also playback High Resolution Audio in the likes of FLAC (384/24 bit), ALAC (96/24 bit) and WAV/AIFF (384/32 bit) files. DSD streaming is also available for up to 11.2 MHz. It seems that Yamaha has updated the specs in their newer releases as previous models could support FLAC and WAV files only up to 192kHz.
The receiver also features Yamaha’s Compressed Music Enhancer that is capable of enhancing lower quality audio like MP3 files to near High Resolution Audio quality levels. Compressed Music Enhancer can also work through Bluetooth which usually lowers the audio quality to meet the necessary transmission requirements. This is a feature we have seen in almost all their releases and although you shouldn’t expect a day and night difference in certain cases it can really help with lower quality content.
Next, as we usually do, came our music tests and as such we selected a few favorite tracks in FLAC format that we streamed through the front USB port for the best quality possible. Yamaha receivers are famous for the music reproduction and we were excited to see how the RX-A4A would do here.
The unit was every bit as good as the previous Yamaha releases along with some of the newer models in their refreshed lineup. Excellent attention to details, noteworthy balance and very pleasant tonality. The Yamaha did its magic with the front soundstage with exceptional sound imaging and pinpoint accuracy of all the sound elements.
Although purists will surely will want to keep the pure direct option here we did try the various DSP Yamaha offers and some of them were actually good. Although some of them did feel a bit over-processed Yamaha has done a good job at how much processing these apply to the original mix. So in case you are not bothered in the unit altering the original song a bit you may find them to your liking.
Once again the receiver proved to be very balanced and stable across all frequencies. Nice mids that were accompanied by playful highs and thumping lows across the entire dynamic range. The unit never went overboard and always knew its limits and what it was capable of reproducing.
As we like to do in our reviews we tested the RX-A4A with various genres including heavy metal, jazz, classical music, some electronic and even some opera and we really couldn’t find anything bad to say about it. It sounded great in all kinds of music and it will surely be a feast for your ears if you decide to use this for your music pleasure.
Something that we keep saying in may of our reviews is that when it comes to AV receivers it may not be the preferred way for many audio purists. But having everything in one box is very practical and space saving and in the end if you can have top quality sound being output by a single box then why not, especially if your space does not allow for more flexibility.
The Yamaha RX-A4A may not be the monster of a receiver like the RX-A8A was, but in terms of quality output, attention to details and delicate handling of all sound elements it has nothing to envy compared to its bigger brothers.
Ports and Connectivity
Yamaha is more conservative when it comes to connectivity options and this is very obvious in the RX-A4A. When looking at the ports available you would think this is a lower tier unit or something. But to be honest we do get Yamaha’s thinking. After all the HDMI connection is the prevalent one for many years now. To add a vast array of legacy ports only adds to the overall cost and we think that seeing many top tier units feature excessive amounts of legacy connections is pointless.
But let’s see what is included here. First of all we already mentioned above that at the front we get a headphones jack, the YPAO microphone port and a single USB for connecting external storage. What is missing is any kind of analog ports, which we don’t mind too much, but also there is no HDMI port, which we do mind. It’s a bit unacceptable for such a premium device not to include a single HDMI input at the front which can be so useful in many situations.
Now, as we turn the unit around we find 9 speaker terminals, from which only 7 can be used for the main zone, along with 7 HDMI inputs at the top and 3 HDMI outputs. The impressive thing with these new Yamaha receivers is that they offer more HDMI 2.1 ports than all competing brands in 2020.
Keep in mind that from the refreshed lineup only the RX-A4A, the RX-A6A and the RX-A8A come with all 7 HDMI inputs being 40Gbps and HDMI 2.1 enabled. The next in line, the RX-A2A has only 3 HDMI 2.1 inputs which we still are plenty for any kind of use.
But there is a catch here. It seems that Yamaha has, for the time being, locked HDMI 2.1 functionality from all the available ports. So while these support the full range of HDMI 2.1 features most of them will become available with a firmware update which still has not been released when we published this review.
The HDMI 2.1 ports in the Yamaha unit support up to 40Gbps of bandwidth along with 4K UltraHD Video (include 4K/60, 50Hz 10/12bit), 3D Video, ARC (Audio Return Channel), eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel), HDMI Control (CEC), Auto Lip Sync, Deep Color, “x.v.Color”, HD audio playback, 21:9 Aspect Ratio, BT.2020 Colorimetry, HDR Compatible, Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log-Gamma.
The expected firmware update will unlock the full potential of these ports and will add all HDMI 2.1 centric features including 4K@120Hz, 8K@60Hz, HDR10+, ALLM, VRR, QMS and QFT support. Also keep in mind that the RX-A4A, along with the rest of the new Yamaha lineup, is not plagued by the HDMI 2.1 bug that affected many of the 2020 AV receivers. So when Yamaha unlocks these ports with the update all sources including the PS5, Xbox and any kind of PC rig will be handled as expected…hopefully.
As for the rest of the ports, there are 3 analog stereo inputs with another one dedicated to phono, 1 coaxial and 2 optical digital inputs, 7.2 channels pre-outs, a Zone 2 analogue stereo output, two 12V trigger outputs, two mini jacks for remote input and output, an Ethernet port for wired connection to a local network and the usual FM/AM and WiFi/Bluetooth antenna connectors.
The receiver comes with built-in WiFi that supports both 2.4 and 5 GHz networks while it also comes with Bluetooth v4.2 which supports SBC and AAC codecs.
Having all the HDMI inputs and outputs HDMI 2.1 enabled is the big difference here. Although their full potential is still locked, when Yamaha releases an update to enable HDMI 2.1 functionality the RX-A4A will be among the best options for gamers.
OS, Apps and Features
As far as extra features the RX-A4A is very similar with the RX-A8A we reviewed recently. Actually the entire Aventage series share a lot of similarities in their feature set. The most notable difference is the different YPAO version and the number of Zones supported. So in part this section of our review is similar to what we observed in our RX-A8A review but we will be making necessary changes whenever we deem necessary.
In the RX-A4A we get the YPAO Sound Optimization with R.S.C. (Reflected Sound Control), 3D, 64-bit High Precision EQ Calculation, Low Frequency mode and Angle Measurement…yeah a long name we know! Basically it’s the same version we had seen in the flagship RX-A8A.
YPAO analyzes your room acoustics, measures speaker characteristics and adjusts unwanted reflected sounds to optimize every channel of your home theater. In addition the R.S.C. (Reflected Sound Control) feature is responsible of correcting early reflections and provides DSP Effect Normalization through the Cinema DSP parameters according to these reflected sounds. This results in a more balanced outcome compared to the basic system and it can improve Dolby Atmos and DTS:X performance.
YPAO 3D optimizes the sound parameters automatically in order to provide a much improved 3D soundfield with CINEMA DSP HD3, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X while multi-point and angle measurements correct audio reflections and also achieve the best sound possible by analyzing eight different listening positions. Lastly the 64-bit, high-precision EQ calculation is used in order to achieve the most natural acoustics possible compared to the less capable versions.
By following the on-screen instructions you can finish the whole process relatively easy and the YPAO will even warn you if there is some problem with your setup. In general these calibration systems offer pretty good settings and especially for those that are not used to make manual tuning it can be an excellent helper.
But before you even make this sound calibration you need to follow the initial setup in order to connect everything to the receiver. Things are pretty simple here if you have done some basic connections before and you shouldn’t have any trouble finishing this part very fast.
But even if you have any trouble Yamaha has created the Yamaha AV Receiver Setup Guide App which is a dedicated setup app that you can install to your mobile device, choose the appropriate AV receiver and follow the instructions to make the necessary wire connections. Yamaha is the only manufacturer that offers such an app, as far as we know, for guiding you through the installation process.
This app if free to download and is available for both iOS and Android devices and provide you with very simple visual information on how to connect everything for your specific system. A nice small app and although not many are going to use it, if you are are totally new to all this then you will certainly find this one very handy.
A common feature in most AV receivers is ECO mode that you can enable and let the receiver manage its power output in order to achieve power economy. But if you want the unit to perform at its peak power at all times then we suggest you to better leave this setting turned off. We would only recommend this if your unit becomes really hot due to being in a closed environment and you have no other way of cooling it down, then this could potentially help a little. But for that there are additional cooling solutions to consider also like the AC Infinity AIRCOM T8.
Another standard feature is voice control. Yamaha made sure to add support for both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant but obviously if you want to use these you will need to have an external device like an Echo Dot or Google Home device. You also have the ability to use Apple’s Siri voice control through the Airplay 2 app in your mobile device.
And since we mentioned Airplay 2 we should talk about the streaming and multi-room capabilities of the receiver. As with most Yamaha receivers MusicCast is supported and with it you can connect various MusicCast enabled devices to the receiver. This can be done through the MusicCast Controller mobile app that is available for both Android and iOS devices. If on the other hand you are more of an Apple guy the included Airplay 2 app will do for you and let you connect various Airplay 2 devices to the unit. The Airplay 2 app is available in the Apple store for you to download.
As far as its multi-room capabilities this is where the unit is slightly different than the models above it, as this one is capable of supporting only one more zone. So the best you can do is a 5.1.2 + Zone 2 configuration.
But MusicCast and Airplay 2 are not only capable at creating a multi-room environment as they can also be used to stream music online through various streaming services. Many of the most known names are available like Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, Napster, SiriusXM, Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz to name a few.
But streaming is not restricted only to it’s online services as you can also use the receiver to stream audio from a NAS server or network drive you have connected to your local network. We already mentioned above about it’s USB streaming capabilities so the last thing we need to mention is its Bluetooth support. The unit comes with Bluetooth v4.2 and it can be used to stream music to a Bluetooth enabled speaker or headphones.
But except from the above features there are many more on offer and we will try to include everything here. One is HDMI to HDMI up-scaling to 4K resolution if you prefer this to be done by the receiver instead of your TV. Now if you should use this or not depends on how capable your TV is, so it is our suggestion you try both ways in order to determine which one is better. There is also HDMI-CEC with which you can use the TV’s remote to control the receiver and thus lower the number of remotes you have to use in your home theater.
Bi-amp capability could not be missing obviously from such a premium receiver and you can drive the high and low ranges of the front channels by using independent amplifiers which can improve the acoustic result and performance of the front soundstage.
Lastly there is support for wireless speakers including the MusicCast 20 and MusicCast 50 surround speakers. Also there is the MusicCast SUB 100 subwoofer that you can connect to the unit. This way you are not bound by wires and you can place the speakers wherever you want in your room.
The receiver offers plenty of online and offline features and surely can satisfy even the most demanding of users. It is missing a couple of features found in the higher tier releases but these are minor and in general the RX-A4A can be considered a feature complete model.
The RX-A4A is every bit as good as you would expect from Yamaha and from an Aventage AV receiver in particular. It was about time that we got the new models in our hands and to be honest it was worth the wait. The RX-A4A may not be the best there is but in its respective category it should be high on your list for consideration.
The receiver has enough power for its category while in terms of pure audio output the RX-A4A was no shy of clarity or details. It sounded delicate with music and playful with movies. Its build quality had the usual Aventage standards, its feature set is more than satisfying while the inclusion of 7 HDMI 2.1 inputs will surely will turn many gamers to Yamaha’s camp.
As for the downsides more or less we will repeat what we said in our RX-A8A review. Many of its HDMI 2.1 features are still locked and waiting for a future firmware upgrade that will unlock their full potential which is not exactly ideal when you are ready to pay such a premium price. Also the remote is not the best of designs we have seen while we definitely miss a front HDMI input for easy access.
In the end the Yamaha RX-A4A should be considered one of the best 7.2 channels AV receivers currently available. It has the quality and finesse of Yamaha all over it and there is no better guarantee than this for your purchase decision.