A project I’m working on for the upcoming Playback issue 19 is a review of Yamaha’s RX-V 3900 7.1-channel A/V receiver, which retails for $1899.95. The RX-V3900 sits in the number three slot in Yamaha’s overall receiver line-up, and is the top model in the RX-V-series lineup. I thought readers might enjoy reading about some initial impressions of the receiver.
Flexibility R Us
It’s not uncommon for A/V receivers in the near-$2k class to be pretty full-featured, but the Yamaha goes above and beyond the call of duty, offering options in places where other receivers don’t even have places. Here are some examples:
Tuner(s): The Yamaha offers AM/FM and HD radio tuners as standard, with jacks that can accommodate XM and Sirius add-on satellite radio tuners. But the RX-V3900 is also internet-enabled, so that straight out of the box it can support Rhapsody and tune in Internet Radio stations. (These options aren’t unique in the strict sense of the term, but they’re uncommon in receivers priced below $2k).
Channel output options: Like many 7.1-channel receivers, the RX-V3900 gives users the option of splitting up channel outputs in several different configurations. For instance, you could devote 5.1-channel to the main listening area while routing outputs for the other two channels to a separate zone. Alternatively, you could use the two spare channels to bi-amp the left/right main speakers in a 5.1-channel system—an option several other manufacturers offer. But one further option Yamaha provides (and I believe they are the only manufacturer to do so) is that of powering a set of so-called “Presence” speakers up front. The concept with Presence speakers is that they are L/R front speakers that are position well above your L/R main speaker, and operate in conjunction with them in order to give you control of—get this—the “height” of the front soundstage image. Indeed, Yamaha offers surround modes that can take advantage of Presence speakers, should you decide to install a set.
Surround modes galore: In addition to providing support for all the latest Dolby/DTS codecs, the RX-V3900 offers a very extensive array of proprietary surround mode options—“sound field programs,” as Yamaha would call them (there are a total of 25 different modes, if I’ve got my count right). What’s interesting is that Yamaha defines each of its sound fields using four parameters:
1. Size of the sound field space
2. Vertical/horizontal balance within the space (vertical captures more ceiling reflections, while horizontal captures more wall reflections)
3. Front/rear balance
4. Sound field atmosphere, ranging from “simple” to “complex”
New, Improved YPAO room EQ system
Without going into too much depth, let me say that Yamaha has improved its YPAO (Yamaha Parametric Acoustic Optimizer) room/speaker EQ system, and in ways that appear to be influenced by Audyssey’s MultEQ XT system. Specifically, the RX-V3900’s next-gen YPAO system lets you optimize EQ for a single, specific listening location, or optimize settings for multiple listening locations on the basis of measurements taken from between 2 – 8 listening locations. Very cool.
How Does It Sound?
I don’t want to get ahead of myself, and I do hope you’ll read the full-length review in the next Playback. But let me give you this hint: After you run the YPAO program the RX-V3900 gives you choice of EQ curves that product either textbook “Flat” or slightly more warmly balanced “Natural” sound.
Let’s just say the “Natural” settings are pretty aptly named. For more details, watch for the full review in Playback 19.