February 24, 2023
UPDATE AFTER TWO MONTHS OWNERSHIP - Please skip to the bottom of this review for the update. The RX-A4A is the present iteration of a prior model that was functionally similar but better in a number of respects. There is now a big volume control at the center, a smaller push/turn control over to the right and supplemented by a couple of touch-sensitive points on the front face close to the small push/turn controller. A display in the upper right so small that it is useless except for when you are not more than a meter distant from the unit. And at the bottom, a fully exposed headphone jack, jack for measurement microphone, and the ugly, rectangular USB physical interface. This is all very ugly, and I am not able to understand why, in a receiver that costs this much, this was not all covered up by a door the way it was in the previous iteration of Yamaha's high end AV receivers. Additionally, the remote control has been changed. Instead of individual buttons that you can navigate by touch, there is an embossed plastic/rubber sheet covering the whole thing. The buttons under the sheet move very slightly with a weak snap, which is nowhere near as desirable as individual buttons that have a stronger, more pronounced click feel. The embossing isn't sufficient to allow your fingers to locate the individual buttons, for example the oft-used volume up/down button. You have to always look down at the remote to visually locate the button you want to press, even the volume button. This remote control is decidedly inferior to what Yamaha was previously supplying with their high-end AV receivers. It is a nuisance and a source of aggravation. The various user interaction functions that were previously behind the front panel that flipped down have all been migrated to the on-screen menus that use the video monitor connected via HDMI. Additionally there is that little display on the front panel and the little push/turn knob, but this is cumbersome and best reserved for minimal tasks that might be encountered at the earliest stage of initial setup. The only real reason I chose a Yamaha AV receiver instead of, say, Denon, is that Yamaha is the only manufacturer that provides parametric equalization. For me personally this is more useful than the automatic setup of the speaker configuration. Yamaha's automatic setup builds on the PEQ capability, however you can also use the PEQ manually. To do this, you should ideally have a calibrated measurement mic and good software to go along with it (REW for example, which is free and which works very well). One of my gripes with the RX-A4A have to do with some very odd characteristics of their implementation of PEQ. This is the feature that distinguishes Yamaha from the others, in my opinion, yet there are some odd behaviors. On the display where you are shown a graphical depiction of the PEQ filters that you define, there are no markings that show frequency. Even more bizarrely, three of the seven individual filters that are available can only be set to frequencies above 500 Hz, which is the upper half of the full audible sound spectrum. There are even a couple of small white tick marks on the display at 500 Hz, which are the only markings that give any indication of frequency. The number of individual filters available, seven, isn't enough, and when the lower half of the spectrum is limited to just four filters, this is nowhere near as great as it needs to be. If I compare this to the similar PEQ capability in my subwoofer, that I control using an app on my phone, there is a world of difference. The subwoofer covers only a small fraction of the frequency range, three octaves at a stretch. With my subwoofer I have ten filters, all of which are useful. Another limitation in Yamaha's PEQ implementation is the Q you can assign to the filter. The Q is the ratio of the peak frequency to the width, where the width is measured at the two frequencies, one low and one high, where the effect of the filter is half as great as it is at the peak. The lowest Q value you can set is .5, which is not as low as it needs to be, in my opinion. For example, suppose you want to apply a very broad shallow filter to suppress a broad rise in your speaker's response throughout the midrange, starting at 200 Hz and continuing to 2000 Hz. The geometric midpoint will be the square root of 200 x 2000, which is 632 Hz. When you divide 632 by the width (2000 - 200), you get .35 for the Q value. But Yamaha's PEQ implementation will not allow you to set a Q value lower than .5. And there isn't really any decent workaround to this limitation. UPDATE: I bought the RX-A4A in mid-February, and it has now been a little more than two months. At this point the question that matters is wether I would buy it if I had it to do over again. The answer is most likely "No", however I haven't had the opportunity to evaluate any Denon A/V receivers, so I can't rule out the possibility that I might decide that the Yamaha is the lesser evil. I just don't know, but I am nevertheless annoyed by the RX-A4A. The front panel layout is atrocious, with the large volume knob in the middle, the tiny knob for the (only) front-panel control of ANY settings, and a front panel display that is too small to be useful except when standing close enough to use that little knob. And the remote control is extremely annoying, due to that plastic sheet covering the whole thing, and the weak buttons. There are also problems with the menus, and with its HDMI control behavior. Even though I tried every possible setting for HDMI control including Auto and including Off, it does not interact properly with my DirecTv streaming device. Even if the HDMI video signal from the DirecTv box is playing through to the TV while listening to FM radio, when I switch back to DirecTv (full with video), the DirecTc box goes through some kind of re-synch with their servers after just a minute or two. This is odd and it did not happen with the older receiver I was using prior to buying this. This problem is likely partly a problem with the implementation in the DirecTv box, but it is also a shared problem, partly the fault of the RX-A4A, which is either doing something it shouldn't be doing or else not doing something that it should be doing. My biggest disappointment is probably the YPAO implementation, which is so crude and limited as to be nearly useless. I can tell that it is the same implementation that I encountered about thirteen years ago with an ancestor of this unit, that I briefly owned back then. I thought about connecting an outboard piece of DSP/PEQ gear, but you can't do this. In the System menu there is an item "Audio In", with description, "Connects the video of the selected input source with the audio of a different input source". I could have worded that a whole lot better, but this is the only setting that would potentially allow a loop-through configuration where the pre-amp level audio for the two main stereo channels (which is output at the back and intended for connecting an external power amp) is passed through an output processor and then returned to the RX-A4A via one of the stereo-audio-only inputs. But it doesn't work. You can select an alternative audio source to combine with the selected (video+audio) input, but this alternate audio input is the audio that the unit sends to the pre-amp outputs. This was potentially useful if they had done it differently, but I can't think of any use for the capability they actually implemented. The menu selections related to HDMI control are mumbo-jumbo. Finally, they did not print a user manual for shipping with the unit, and this is a much bigger problem in practice than you might anticipate, unless you intend to print the whole thing after you download it. Bottom line, the RX-A4A is not what I hoped it would be, and has proved a disappointment. I very much regret that I bought it, and wish that I had it to do over.
May 28, 2018
I just got this thing yesterday on Sunday. I know, I can't believe Amazon ships on Sunday!! Thanks Amazon Prime!!I I seriously hate waiting a week to two weeks for my products when ordering online, so I usually just go to the store and buy my products. Amazon Prime is the best thing since white rice. Amazon prime is like not having to deal with your mother in law, because she lives far away : ) Oh sorry folks, I forgot I was writing a review on a receiver. LOL. When I was looking over the dimension specs I was concerned that the unit would not fit in the opening of my TV stand due to the height. Based upon the specs, the unit looks like it will barely fit in height. The length and depth of the unit was no problem. My TV stand requires 6" of height clearance in the slot where the receiver goes. This is due to a wood trim piece in front, but once that piece is cleared I have 6-1/4" of clearance. The Amazon site says this unit is 6" tall, so I figured I can just angle the receiver into the opening to clear the front wood trim piece. You might be asking why I don't just remove the front wood trim piece and then put it back? Because it's a fancy ornate piece that is glued and mortised into the sliding wood platform, therefore removing and re-installing it would be a bit*h. I decided to take a chance and ordered the receiver. When the unit arrived the retail box was boxed into an Amazon box to avoid damage. I like that they packaged the unit that way, because I like to keep my retail boxes on electronics items. It's easier to pack electronics back into their original boxes to avoid damage when I move. I removed the receiver from the retail box and checked for physical damage and scratches and everything looked kosher. So I tried to angle the receiver into the TV stand opening and it just wouldn't work. I needed 2 mm more of clearance, which I didn't have. Dilemma, dilemma. Do I return the receiver and look for a smaller height receiver? I really wanted this Yamaha receiver, because it has bluetooth, YPAO syncing, USB, and HDMI connectors. Plus all the speakers inputs in the back take banana plug connectors, which I really like for convenience and not having to deal with the cheap spring clip connectors and oxidation of copper wires. Note: Don't use the silver cheap thin sub woofer wire that comes in the box when you buy your self-powered sub woofer. Spend a few $$s and get the Media Bridge or Monster Cable gold plated cable instead. I didn't want to have to downgrade my receiver due to the height issue, so I found an awesome alternative!! Tip the receiver upside down and you will see four black plastic pieces used as the feet for this unit. The feet are secured by some small Phillips screws. I removed the feet, because they were too tall. Then I went to Wal-Mart to their hardware department to look for some alternative feet that were not as tall. I was going to go to Depot, but they close at 8 pm on Sundays. I found a package of clear furniture feet for $1 that are smaller in height, but about the same size in the other dimensions to the original Yamaha feet. I used a 1/8" drill bit to drill a hole in the center of the furniture feet and screwed them into the receiver with the Phillips screws. Then tried to fit the unit in the TV opening and guess what? The receiver fits like a champ!! If you remove the factory feet remember that you need to replace them with something else to elevate the unit. There are vents at the bottom of the receiver and there has to be some clearance, so heat can dissipate from the receiver. Initial impressions are good and everything works so far. I'll update if I run into any issues with this new edition Yamaha receiver. Update Aug 2018: I was listening to this thing after setting up the YPAO and thinking that the sound was not very good or loud. Plus the subwoofer was not putting out bass in sync with the speakers and the bass sounded muddy low. I called Yamaha tech support and they helped me set up the receiver correctly. They had me press and hold the "straight" button, while pressing and holding the power button to re-set the unit back to factory specs. Note: This will erase all your radio presets, so make sure you write them down so you can input them back in again. So forget this YPAO nonsense and go into the receiver settings screen. The standard default is 8 ohms for your speakers, but all my speakers are 6 ohms. So I had to change the on screen setting to 6 ohms, because there is no switch on the back of the unit like on the older Yamaha receivers. Then apparently in the settings menu, you have to change left front, right front, center speaker, and rear speakers to the "small" setting and the sub woofer setting to "Use." Then there are individual speaker volume settings for each speaker that have to be turned up from the factory low settings. Somewhere in the settings I was told to set the cut off point at 80 hz (THX industry standard) and select "Normal Phase." You have to flip the switch on your amp sub woofer box to normal phase also. Also, the -db volume control was so annoying. When I increase the volume the negative db shows up and apparently the numbers head toward zero as you turn the volume knob to the right. So, I changed that setting to increase the numbers instead of the -db. Then I played some Taylor Swift- Style (don't B judging me) and adjusted the amp sub woofer bass volume to equal my two front speakers and set the cut off frequency at 80 hz. Now everything sounds copacetic and my amp sub woofer really kicks!! I have attached a pic of how to get the blue tooth working, because that was a bit*h to set up and not intuitive. March 2019 Update: This thing still works like a champ!! One cool feature I found is that if you get your ipad or ipod, then go to the bluetooth screen and turn on the bluetooth, and then select the Yamaha receiver; that the bluetooth signal will automatic power on your Yamaha receiver. Click that helpful tab if this info was awesome for you : )