A home theater receiver doesn’t get replaced very often due to its high price tags and versatile capabilities so it is important that you get something more forward-compatible. In previous years, you’d have to spend more than $1,000 to really make sure that newer home theater receivers don’t make your existing one feel obsolete. At present, spending that amount is only useful if you need studio-grade audio quality and plenty of expandability. You can get away with spending a smaller amount of money if you get an entry-level model announced just recently like the Yamaha RX-A840.
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Yamaha didn’t want to fix what wasn’t broken so the design of the RX-A840 isn’t any different from last year’s version. Build quality is true to the AVENTAGE lineup with a brushed aluminum bottom half containing the knobs, scene buttons and a door hiding all of the front connection ports and a few buttons. These ports include the phones jack, USB port, composite video aux ports, an MHL-enabled HDMI input and a jack for the calibration mic.
The glossy black top portion of the receiver features the rest of the buttons and info display. Unlike the previous version, you can now find a “Wi-Fi Certified” logo symbolizing one of the biggest additions to the Yamaha RX-A840. That new addition slightly influenced the layout of connection ports on the back of the receiver. There are still 7 HDMI inputs and 2 HDMI outputs on the back making it a pretty significant leap from the cheaper RX-A740. Also exclusive to the RX-A840 and higher-end receivers is the RS-232c interface for custom installation. This port has been moved slightly to make way for the wireless port where you connect the included antenna.
Yamaha packed its old Anti-Resonance Technology underneath the receiver. It basically takes the form of a wedge placed on the center to make the receiver more stable on a flat surface. Any vibrations normally caused by the power transformer and transistors are dampened and keep the audio quality optimal.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
The RX-A840 offers network capabilities if you connect it to a router using an Ethernet cable. With the added Wi-Fi functionality, you can finally enjoy an easier networking process complete with WPS support. It doesn’t stop there either as the Wi-Fi also opens up a function that you couldn’t do with Ethernet-dependent models. With the Wireless Direct feature, you can turn the Yamaha RX-A840 into a wireless access point which is useful in households that don’t have routers. After turning on the feature, you can connect smartphones and tablets directly to the receiver allowing you to still make use of the AV Controller App. You can obtain this app for free from the Google Play or iOS App Store and use it to control virtually all aspects of the receiver. That same app will also let you stream any music stored in the mobile device to the receiver for immediate playback. The RX-A840 doesn’t have Bluetooth leaving older devices out of the wireless equation but thanks to the Wireless Direct, Bluetooth streaming shouldn’t be necessary for most people.
Having a wireless router still helps though as it grants the Yamaha RX-A840 access to the Internet. It won’t give your old TV “smart” superpowers but it can stream millions of songs through Spotify Connect, Pandora, Rhapsody and a few other online music streaming services. AirPlay and HTC Connect are also onboard opening up easy direct streaming capabilities to Apple products and the latest HTC devices. DLNA certification makes it simple for Windows computers to stream to the receiver too. New to the RX-A840 is support for Apple Lossless audio playback and gapless playback.
Older Yamaha devices like the RX-A830 supported 4K pass-through but the RX-A840 is an even bigger deal for 4K fans. Thanks to the HDMI 2.0 specification all of the HDMI ports of the Yamaha RX-A840 also support 4K 50/60p pass-through making the receiver fully ready for the inevitable Ultra HD revolution. There isn’t much 4K content yet but you can still appreciate today’s 4K displays by letting the receiver upscale all types of lower-resolution media.
If you have a smaller home theater system and you are mainly after the full 4K features and Wi-Fi functionality, you can actually go for the Yamaha RX-A740 and save a little bit. However, the RX-A840 offers more than just slightly better audio quality and additional connectivity options. Party Mode is exclusive to the Yamaha RX-A840 and it is essential to have if you want all Zone playback. The RX-A840 also has a slightly better YPAO calibration system. It still uses R.S.C. or Reflected Sound Control to achieve better sound by correcting early reflections but it does a better job in delivering a solid sound experience to multiple listening positions. Multipoint measurement makes it all possible. You still have the option use YPAO Volume if you need to make the audio sound clearer without the need for increasing the volume.
The audio performance of the Yamaha RX-A840 is very much the same as the RX-A830 but if you didn’t go for A830, you will appreciate the Extra Bass feature which can add some extra power to the low-range even if you don’t have powerful speakers. This new feature works pretty well with the Subwoofer Trim Control. Pricier Yamaha receivers in AVENTAGE lineup are clearly more powerful, but there is still plenty to do with the RX-A840 if you have a 5.1-channel or 7.1-channel setup. You can adjust the DSP parameters to enhance certain types of music or create a virtual surround sound environment Virtual CINEMA FRONT even if you don’t have physical speakers behind you. The Intelligent Amp Design makes it easy to add a 2-channel speaker system to another room.
It is hard to imagine what Yamaha will do with future entry-level products but you shouldn’t have to worry about those. 2015 is finally the year to invest in a home theater receiver even if you are on a fairly tight budget. $900 is just the right price for the Yamaha RX-A840 and will fit right into any 4K setup of the future.
Update: There is a newer model > Yamaha RX-A870