For a few years, I’ve given Yamaha a bad rap. After a pair of reviews that didn’t live up to what I expected, I decided that I wasn’t going to review much from them. That all changed when I reviewed their CX-A5000 processor and found it to be wonderful. Then they impressed me with amazing virtual surround from a sound bar. And finally some wonderful sound from a $400 receiver. Yamaha is still making very good products, I just wasn’t reviewing the right ones. After all these good experiences, I wanted to take a look at their RX-A1040 receiver as it features an ESS Sabre DAC, full 7.1 preouts for use with external amps, along with integrated WiFi and Spotify Connect.
The Yamaha RX-A1040 is quite a receiver for $1,100. The ESS Sabre DAC provides good performance while the amplifier section proves to be powerful for 8 ohm and 4 ohm loads. The sound quality, especially after using the YPAO multi-point calibration, is impressive while the network features make it easy to listen to my music. The past two years of products have made me change my mind about Yamaha, and the RX-A1040 is one of the best receivers I have seen recently.
A Solid Foundation
|Inputs:||8x HDMI Inputs (1 Front), 3x Optical, 3x Coaxial, 10x Analog Audio, 3x Component, 5x Composite, MM Phono, USB, 7.1 Multichannel, Ethernet, WiFi,|
|Outputs:||2x HDMI, 1x Analog Audio, 1x Component, 2x Composite, 7.1 Preout|
|Amplifier Section:||7x 110 Watts|
|Size:||17-1/8” x 7-1/8” x 17”|
|Review Date:||September 1, 2014|
|Price:||Check on Amazon|
As you can see on the bench tests on Page 2, the Sabre DAC has good performance for the price but also a couple issues. Compared to the Onkyo TX-NR636, which I picked as the Best Receiver for most people at The Wirecutter, the RX-A1040 offers better SNR and lower THD+N. This provides greater clarity from all channels regardless of speaker. When I listen to well recorded, detailed music like the SACD of Wish You Were Here it is something I pick up on instantly.
The amplifier section of the Yamaha RX-A1040 also provides plenty of power for even demanding speaker loads. Into a stereo load, you get 132 watts per channel for 8 ohms with only 0.1% THD+N, or 20% higher than it is rated for. Into 4 ohms you get 188 watts per channel. Yamaha is conservative with their power ratings, but the RX-A1040 produces plenty of clean, low distortion power to drive almost any speaker you might have. Even better, if you manage to find a pair of speakers that the Yamaha cannot drive it has 7.1 channel pre-outs to support an external amplifier. You have to spend $1,000 now to find this feature on a receiver so it’s good to see the Yamaha includes it.
To YPAO or not to YPAO
Room correction is a love-hate relationship for me. When done right it provides clarity and resolution by reducing the effects of your room. When not done right, you get a muddled mess from the speakers that reduces the room flaws but also adds a haze to everything you hear. Precision and nuance disappear in an attempt to make every seat sound the same.
The RX-A1040 offers two versions of YPAO, Yamaha’s custom room correction system. There is a single position one, that uses one measurement to make all the settings, and an 8 position one. All use the included microphone and a series of tones and chirps to determine speaker distance, crossover, and a 7-point parametric EQ. I find there is a clear difference between the two, but not in the way I expect it to happen.
Using the single point YPAO measurement, all my numbers are off. My rear channels, which are an equal distance from the microphone, measure in at 5.4’ and 25.5’ away. The front channels, which are Paradigm Millenia One speakers mounted on the wall, measure at full range instead of crossing over to the subwoofer. The most eggregious error is the subwoofer level. My SVS PB-1000 is running many decibels too hot in comparison to the other channels which is clear once I start to listen. Any bass notes fill the room and overwhelm all other sounds. YPAO does not correct the subwoofer frequencies, only the level, but it still is well off. Anything that uses the subwoofer causes the room to overload with bass and renders anything else inaudible.
Using the multi-point YPAO system, almost all these issues go away. My surrounds, also Paradigm Millenia Ones on the wall, measure as large but the front channels have a 100Hz crossover frequency. Distances are correct for all the channels, and levels are more in line. The subwoofer also sounds completely different. I know that YPAO does not EQ it, but it sounds like it does. Bass is tight and at an appropriate level for the rest of the speakers. Just as important the soundstage is not diffuse the lacking detail. Stereo recordings that have pinpoint precision, including Beck’s Sea Change, still have that precision with YPAO enabled. When you set it up, just make sure to use the multi-point over the single point for the most accurate measurements and most balanced sound.
A Joy To Use
With its integrated WiFi and streaming support, the Yamaha RX-A1040 was on almost all the time in my house. Usually I rely on my Sonos system for background music because it is so easy to use. Thanks to the inclusion of Spotify Connect on the Yamaha RX-A1040 I find myself using it for all my regular listening. I can queue up the albums I want to listen to and have them sent direct to the Yamaha and then control it with my phone or the Yamaha remote. No Bluetooth connections that lose signal when I move too far away or any issues like that. Spotify sends the music to the RX-A1040 over Ethernet or WiFi.
Integrated AirPlay let me send radio stations, podcasts and other audio from my laptop or phone to the Yamaha RX-A1040 as well. I know this is an Apple-centric feature but it does work well in the RX-A1040. What is missing, and should not be at $1,100 in my opinion, is Bluetooth support. Yamaha sells an optional adapter, but you can also buy any adapter with analog or digital outputs and connect it yourself. What you’ll lose is the ability to power on the Yamaha RX-A1040 and control its volume that AirPlay and Sonos Connect offer.
Post-YPAO multi-point calibration the Yamaha RX-A1040 sounds wonderful. Listening to Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City, the rear channels may be set a touch low but the front soundstage sounds wonderful. The audio is very clear and very sharp with the front three speakers sounding like a cohesive stage instead of distinct channels. The one flaw is that when I skip tracks on the Blu-ray disc the Yamaha takes a few seconds to lock onto the digital signal. It isn’t a huge deal, but other receivers sync faster.
The soundtrack to Oblivion is well done and really immersive. Here there is no issue with the level of the rear channels as you are fully involved in the movie. As Tom Cruise attempts to outrun and hide from a pack of drones, the surrounds put you inside the cockpit of his ship. When he performs a quick 270-degree turn to hide, the sounds move around your head. An impressive audio demo that the Yamaha RX-A1040 passes with flying colors.
Unlike most devices, playback of files from USB drives can be done through the Yamaha without a display. The front panel makes it possible, though not entirely easy, to navigate through a drive and select what you want to listen to. Most devices, even those with front panel displays, force you to select your audio files on-screen which is not necessary. Running through my usual test tracks the RX-A1040 sounds good. “Lost Cause” from Beck has good detail and clarity, though too much bass when using the original single-point calibration. “Drive” from REM has the same clarity and detail, with the opening countdown easy to hear even at low volume levels.
Not everything is perfect with the Yamaha RX-A1040. The remote can use an update at this point. With lots of small buttons and no backlighting, you will want to replace it with a universal one. I rarely used it, instead relying on the Spotify app on my iPhone to control streaming or my Control4 remote instead. The iOS app that Yamaha offers does a good job but I still prefer using a physical remote.
I also think you should have Bluetooth in a receiver costing $1,100 today. It makes it easy for friends and family to stream their music without having to join your WiFi network and it is a universal platform. AirPlay is more robust, and in iOS 8 will support WiFi Direct playback without joining the network, but leaves Android users out in the cold. Until everything has WiFi Direct support, Bluetooth is going to be important on receivers.
I also wish it was getting an upgrade to Dolby Atmos this fall, but only the higher-end Yamaha products are. I’m not sure how popular Atmos will be at home, I’ll know more once I listen at CEDIA next week, but having the support would help future-proof it. A larger issue is the lack of HDCP 2.2 support. Yamaha says there is HDMI 2.0 support for 4K content, but without HDCP 2.2 that future 4K content likely won’t play due to copy protection. HDMI chipsets with full HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 support are not here yet and vendors have to pick one or the other, which leaves consumers stuck with one of two issues. I would pick HDCP 2.2 over HDMI 2.0, but I’d rather have both.
A Powerful Performer
The Yamaha RX-A1040 makes a convincing case. When I was writing my Wirecutter piece on receivers it received serious consideration for being the Step-Up pick and had I picked it I would not regret it. It has a powerful amplifier section and the ESS DAC does well in testing. Spotify Connect has converted me to using it as I can control it from my phone but not be tied to a certain radius around the receiver.
My only hesitation around the RX-A1040 is about its support for 4K going forward. This hesitation applies to every other receiver on the market as well, so it isn’t a big deal. The Yamaha RX-A1040 is a powerful receiver that performs much better than I expected for its price and one I can really recommend.
|Pros:||Powerful amp, Spotify Connect and WiFi make streaming your content back easy|
|Cons:||No HDCP 2.2, No Bluetooth, some DAC issues|
|Summary:||The Yamaha RX-A1040 offers a powerful package for $1,100. The pure audio performance is very good and the included WiFi and streaming features make it easy to listen to all of your content. Highly recommended.|