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.
June 8, 2023
In a word this receiver is just awesome and I simply could not be happier with my purchase! There are so many ways to customize this receiver it can be almost daunting at first but I mean that in a good way. Yes there is a bit of a learning curve even for a geek like me but I have found that to be a pleasant experience because Yamaha has very a very good user manual that goes into great detail on everything. I also love how you get on screen menus that display on your TV or computer monitor via the HDMI out connection on the receiver. Another thing is that this really works in conjunction with XBOX series X. It wasn't that long ago that you simply could NOT find an HDMI audio extractor for the XBOX that would allow you to break out the audio and send it to your surround sound speaker system while also supporting the full 4K @ 120 Hz refresh rate at full resolution. This receiver does all that but you do have to play around just a bit with the XBOX audio settings to make this work. Largely this means disconnecting your headset connected to XBOX so that an additional audio option becomes configurable and allows audio to work with 5.1 surround sound setup. This receiver does a great job of splitting out the audio and sending it directly to my speakers. Finally I don't have to use headsets every time I want to do something on the XBOX! :) I have this receiver connected to Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 System speakers and the sound quality is nothing short of amazing! I thought my old 5.1 surround speakers were good (though they were starting to have problems at 13 years old) but with a combination of this receiver and this new Klipsch speaker set there is NO comparison - it is just so much better now! I did not even realize how much I was missing out on until I had this new surround system connected. And one last note: Yamaha customer support is also really, really good. I did have a few questions and needed assistance on a couple of things and it was quick & painless to get a hold of a live human being unlike many companies that make this really difficult. And the next day Yamaha level 2 support even called me back to make sure I had everything worked out to my satisfaction and I did not even request the call back. Now how is that for a company that goes above and beyond and truly believes in customer service? AMAZING! I very highly recommend this receiver.