Yamaha has proven with the AVENTAGE series that the Japanese giant is serious in taking on the high-end market of AV receivers. The technologies of home theater systems are accelerating significantly to the point that companies like Yamaha need to release new AV receiver models every year. Although AV receiver models released in 2010 and 2011 may not exactly be considered obsolete, Yamaha is one of the companies that add enough of cool features to their newest models that may convince existing AV receiver owners to upgrade. The Yamaha RX-A820 serves as an attractive path to the AVENTAGE lineup without breaking the bank.
The RX-A820 shares some similarities with the consumer lineup of AV receivers but the front panel is made entirely of aluminum. This choice of material is sufficient for protecting the sensitive circuitry from electronic radiation and noise caused by fluorescent lights, monitors and other devices. With this kind of protection, it is possible to install the Yamaha RX-A820 in various other environments aside from a typical home. The small panel in between the two knobs also protects the front panel inputs including the HDMI and USB ports for portable devices. The rest of the home theater components can simply connect to any of the 7 HDMI inputs available. 2 HDMI outputs can be found on the back as well. The four SCENE buttons can be found just above the ports so you can assign presets containing the DSP mode and input source.
Another design element that has been a staple of the AVENTAGE series is the Anti-Resonance Technology Wedge which is basically a fifth foot located just underneath the center of the AV receiver. This makes the internal components vibration-proof which is good because the large sounds coming from the speakers can cause vibrations and affect the overall sound quality as a result.
The RX-A820 screams futureproof because of the AV receiver’s support for 4K pass-through which is four times the resolution of a standard 1080p display. 4K displays should be within consumer reach this coming 2013 but it is unlikely for the content to follow any time soon. This is why the Yamaha RX-A820 has the ability to upscale 1080p and lower resolution content to 4K resolution if a 4K display is plugged in Of course, the 4K support shouldn’t really matter to most people but the 3D could matter since 3D displays are getting cheaper. Fortunately, the Yamaha RX-A820 can handle this kind of data as well.
Even if you don’t have a 3D or 4K display, getting an AVENTAGE model can still give you major visual improvements. The RX-A820 is capable of processing high quality video with edge adaptive deinterlacing. This processing method does away with the traditional way of deinterlacing which normally involves pixel interpolation by lower and upper ranges to cause jaggies. Instead, the direction of the line is detected so the pixels are optimally interpolated.
The Yamaha RX-A820 offers 110 watts to each of the 7 channels but it is still common for people to have a 5.1-channel speaker system. Although there are more affordable Yamaha AV receivers that still support 5.1 channels, the Zone 2 mode can be enabled so you can install a stereo speaker system in another room and then hook it up to the RX-A820. This setup literally extends whatever audio that is currently playing to another room. Once you set up a 7.2-channel system, all you have to do is switch off the mode. The amplifier channels are assigned automatically so you don’t have to get confused with all the speaker cable switching. You may also enable CINEMA DSP 3D and Virtual Presence Speaker if you want to create a 3D surround sound effect and you don’t have actual presence speakers. Thanks to the second HDMI output, another HDTV can be plugged into the AV receiver and display the exact same content as the main display.
No matter what your speaker setup is, the home theater system will still gain some enhancements like Adaptive Dynamic Range Control which adds more clarity to the vocals and dialog. The vocals and other sound effects will remain at a balanced level even if you change the volume. Any loud audio that may suddenly come out from a different source like a TV commercial can also be automatically toned down to keep the volume level consistent. If you are not contented with the way the Yamaha RX-A820 automatically does things, you can use the Dialogue Level Adjustment feature so music vocals and movie dialogue can be more emphasized. If low frequencies cannot be heard, the Subwoofer Trim can fix things up and improve the bass.
Like other Yamaha AV receivers, the secret behind the AV receiver’s ability to maximize sound potential regardless of the speaker setup and room arrangement is the YPAO Sound Optimization. Some models including the RX-A820 also employ Reflected Sound Control which ups the quality by correcting early reflections. But unlike the cheaper RX-A720 AVENTAGE model, multi-point measurement is also supported which can use 8 positions for calibration. Performing the calibration isn’t very difficult because the graphical user interface presents itself well on high resolution displays and even has a status bar so you can see the things like the DSP mode and current input source.
There are also more ways to control the Yamaha RX-A820 compared to previous generation models. All you need is a device that either has access to the iTunes App Store, Google Play Store or Amazon App Store. That covers a lot of smartphones and tablets in various price points. Then you just download the AV Controller app and you can use the device to use some of the functions of the RX-A820. Even PCs connected to the same network as the Yamaha RX-A820 can operate the AV receiver from the web browser in case you want to do things like listen to Internet radio. The RX-A820 also has AirPlay support so people that have devices running iOS or iTunes can wirelessly stream music to the AV receiver.
At $900, the Yamaha RX-A820 is a great deal for the features that you get. Although the non-AVENTAGE models have lower wattage ratings, the RX-A820 still has the same ECO mode and other power-saving features present in the lower-end models so you can conserve some power in that sense.
Update: There is a newer model > Yamaha RX-A870