By Todd Anderson on Dec 5, 2017 at 7:18 PM
  1. Todd Anderson

    Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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    Yamaha AVENTAGE RX-A870 AV Receiver Review

    Manufacturer & Model:
    Yamaha AVENTAGE RX-A870 AV Receiver
    MSRP:
    $899.95
    Link:
    https://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio_visual/index.html
    Highlights:
    High performance 5.1.2 capability, 100 Watts per channel, fully compatible with 4K requirements, future firmware will unlock HLG and Dolby Vision HDR, multi-channel outputs, loads of wireless connectivity options including MusicCast and Bluetooth, no 4K video handshake issues, excellent sound quality to reasonably loud volume levels.
    Summary:
    The Yamaha RX-A870 is the top AVENTAGE model priced under $1,000. Packed with tantalizing technologies, the RX-A870 can serve as an anchor of a medium sized home theater room (up to 5.1.2 channels) or a family room media center. Its onboard power capabilities are quite impressive while the presence of multi-channel outputs allows for future growth. Audio enhancements include multiple streaming options, onboard music services such as TIDAL, and Yamaha’s proprietary MusicCast system. In the video realm, the RX-A870 can handle all modern 4K requirements, and a future firm update will unlock Dolby Vision and HLG HDR functionality. Considering price, the AVENTAGE RX-A870 represents an excellent value.
    [​IMG]


    Modern flagship AV receivers are loaded to the brim with tempting technologies. Most offer relatively robust power capabilities, up to 11 – sometimes 13 – channels of processing, top-flight digital to analog conversion chips, and modern immersive sound technologies such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. They also ship with current HDMI standards for passthrough of 4K/HDR video and Dolby Vision, along with endless connectivity and streaming options. Often times, reading through flagship specs makes lesser models feel somewhat ill-equipped. But are they?

    In reality, most mid-range AV receiver models are more than capable of orchestrating exciting home theater experiences while keeping money in your pocket. Yes, you might find they deliver slightly less power or support smaller speaker arrays, but nearly all can operate in a 4K world while offering streaming music conveniences and access to immersive sound codecs. Such is the case with Yamaha’s RX-A870, which sits in the middle of the company’s prestigious AVENTAGE line of AV receivers. Priced at $899.95, the RX-A870 costs roughly $1,100 less than the line’s top model, but it’s performance capabilities remain quite impressive.


    The Walk Around
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    The AVENTAGE RX-A870 is one of three sub-$1,000 models in Yamaha’s vaunted top-tier receiver lineup. The other two – RX-A670 and RX-A770 – shave between $250 and $350 off the A870’s price, but offer less power, fewer HDMI inputs, and nix tempting features such as multi-channel pre-outs for external amplification and multipoint measurements for YPAO room optimization.

    Like other AVENTAGE AVRs, the A870’s external build quality features newly designed vibration reducing feet, a noise shielding aluminum front panel, and a centrally mounted anti-resonance wedge or “fifth foot,” all intended to isolate the receiver’s interior from interference and other contaminations. Its rear panel is filled with connectivity options including seven HDMI inputs, two HDMI outputs, nine speaker terminals, and a phono input. Three of the HDMI inputs and both outputs offer full compatibility with HDCP 2.2, HDR in the form of HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision, BT.2020, and 4K video at 60 frames per second (note: Dolby Vision and HLG functionality will be unlocked by a firmware update expected to be released soon). In other words, the A870 is primed to play nicely with all current 4K video requirements, including streaming 4K and UHD sourced from Blu-ray.

    Other handy backside connections include an Ethernet port, RS-232C, dual optical and coaxial inputs, 7.2 channel pre-outs, AM/FM antenna connectivity, and a single set of component video inputs.

    The front of the RX-A870, visually, falls in line with other AVENTAGE receivers, featuring a center mounted dimmable LED display, a variety of functionality buttons, and a small flip-down panel. Behind the panel, you’ll find a single USB port, a headphone jack, a single HDMI input, and several other functional controls. Missing are analog RCA stereo inputs (a small but notable convenience omission).


    [​IMG]


    Internally, the RX-A870 sports a healthy amp section specified to deliver 100 Watts per channel (2 channels driven, 8 ohms). Onboard audio processing includes both Atmos and DTS:X immersive sound, popular legacy codecs, seventeen different DSP modes for enhanced and altered sound, compatibility with a host of Hi-Res audio file types (including DSD up to 5.6 MHz, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, MP3, and Apple Lossless), and a music enhancer to improve the sound quality of compressed music.

    The RX-A870 also carries a wide array of wireless audio options. First and foremost is the company’s proprietary MusicCast, which delivers playback of streaming services (including TIDAL, Pandora, and Spotify) and music stored on smart devices and home computers. In addition, it allows the receiver to stream audio to MusicCast enabled powered speakers and other devices positioned around your home. Other streaming options include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay. Additionally, users can stream audio to Bluetooth enabled headphones and speakers.


    Out Of The Box
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    Much like the RX-A3070 (reviewed here), the RX-A870 ships in robust high quality commercial-grade packaging. To be honest, I’d expect nothing less from a large company such as Yamaha – it certainly passes the test. Additional items in the box include a standard AVENTAGE physical remote control, AM/FM antennas, a YPAO microphone, and various printed materials.

    First impressions of the RX-A870 (when removed from the box) were positive. It looks great to the eye, with the same sleek styling we’ve come to appreciate from the AVENTAGE line. It also sports a sturdy build quality. As compared to the more expensive RX-A3070, the A870 is much lighter (23.1 pounds) and offers lower cost touches such as standard looking red and black speaker terminals. But, for those interested in saving space, the A870 is nearly a full inch shorter than the larger A3070, which may play well to those with space restrictions.

    Click on the video below to view the RX-A870 being unboxed. The video includes up-close images of the receiver and its included accessories.




    Set Up
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    The backside of the RX-A870 is well labeled and – due to its modest selection of inputs/outputs – is easy to navigate. For this review, installation included connecting seven speakers, dual subs (via a single sub output using an RCA Y-split cable), and two HDMI cables for source input and video output.

    Establishing a wireless internet connection was a simple process involving the use of an iPhone. Within seconds, the RX-A870 was online and downloading a firmware update (Version 1.07; released on 10.18.07). And after roughly ten minutes, the A870 was restarted and I began the speaker calibration process.

    YPAO is Yamaha’s proprietary room correction software. In addition to making room specific corrections to audio output, it also sets speaker distances and matches channel levels. Much like past YPAO experiences, the system’s onscreen menu options and instructions were easy to follow and execute. Post calibration, I hand checked channel levels with an SPL meter and found YPAO had set each channel within one dB of reference (which is reasonably accurate). It’s worth noting that YPAO insists on re-setting speaker settings to “Large” even if a subwoofer is detected. This is a usability curiosity, as it forces an owner to re-enter speaker settings (size and crossover) for each channel post calibration – for a tech geek this is a small issue, but it may pose a problem for less experienced users that fail to re-check settings.

    Pre and post YPAO results as measured by Room EQ Wizard (UMIK-1 microphone placed at the MLP) are shown in the figures below. The first illustrates YPAO’s impact when subwoofers were removed from the system, while the second shows measurements with the subs included. It appears YPAO somewhat flattens the response below 1kHz in both measurements, although impact in the bass region is rather negligible. Audibly speaking, my ears (during demo sessions) did detect a more coherent sound with YPAO engaged. Nothing earth-shattering, but definitely worth engaging if you purchase the receiver.

    [​IMG]
    Speakers set to "Large," no subs. Red = Pre YPAO, Gold = Post YPAO

    [​IMG]
    Speakers set to "Small," subs engaged. Lite Purple = Pre YPAO, Dark Purple = Post YPAO

    Before beginning demo sessions, I downloaded Yamaha’s AV Controller and MusicCast apps to an iPhone X. While the A870’s physical remote is sufficiently functional, the app delivers incredibly quick access to sound processing and DSP modes, volume, input selection controls, and other features that come in handy during playback. Its overall design is excellent and fine controls (such as volume) are reasonably responsive during real time use. The MusicCast app is also handy and completely necessary for access to the likes of TIDAL, music servers, Internet Radio, and music on a USB stick. I found its overall functionality to be relatively user friendly (accessing my TIDAL account was quick and painless), but some of the in-app controls (such as leaving a song screen and returning to album searching on TIDAL) can be a tad touch and go.


    Associated Equipment
    The RX-A870 was integrated in a dedicated home theater room with parts of the same SVS Ultra Atmos system featured in a recent AV NIRVANA review. That system includes Ultra Towers for left and right channels, an Ultra Center, side Ultra Surround speakers, two front Prime Elevation height channels, and dual SVS PB16 Ultra Subs. An OPPO UDP-205 4K Blu-ray player (reviewed here) served as the system’s primary source, and a JVC RS520 4K e-shift projector handled the display side of the equation.


    The Sound
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    (Image: Yello, Polydor Records)

    One of the bigger questions about a mid-level receiver is its ability to direct a hard-hitting audio show without detriment to sound quality. The receiver’s job becomes easier when powered subwoofers are involved. So, part of my evaluation isolated the A870 by testing 2.0 (two channels, no subwoofers) and 5.0 speaker configurations. Under those circumstances, I occasionally brought my subwoofers back into the mix to check for coherency of sound. Outside of having an ever-so-slightly bloated low frequency response (as illustrated in the measurements above), the A870 can competently run a show with speakers set to “Small” while crossed over to a sub at 80Hz. Please keep in mind that subwoofer response is room and placement dependent, so your subwoofer’s in-room response might be different.

    Throughout the duration of two-channel listening sessions, I had zero issue with the A870’s fundamental sound at reasonable volume levels. It was exacting and sharp, layered with detail and excellent imaging. As volume levels were increased beyond normal listening levels (roughly 98dB), the A870’s output did tend to lose a bit of its control. The low end would loosen and the top would become somewhat metallic. This is more of an observation than a concern, as volume levels in this range are abnormally loud. For purposes of comparison, I recruited the help of an Emotiva XPA5 amplifier (200 Watts per channel, 8 ohms) fed by the A870’s multi-channel pre-outs and found output levels maintained clarity and cleanliness at significantly louder levels (hitting as high as 110 dB). Again, these kinds of volumes are well outside of the realm of normal, hovering around known discomfort levels for human ears – you typically won’t need to (or want to) approach these regions of sonic output in your home.

    My first demo album was Nora Jones’ Come Away With Me (SACD), which bathed my ears with warm and shimmering sounds. The title track was loaded with all of the little subtleties I’ve come to appreciate in the song, including the faintest of breaths and airy cymbals. And when taken to elevated volume levels, the A870 had zero issue commanding the Ultra Towers to dish lovely rounded bass during “Turn Me On.” Overall, a great presentation of a reference album.

    Moving on, I reached for a nasty bass-heavy disc, Gorillaz’s Gorillaz (CD), to push the A870’s power capabilities. Right off the bat, “Re-Hash” led to deep bass flowing through my body as a massively wide image enveloped the front of the room. The dynamic nature of “Tomorrow Comes Today” was loaded with smile-inducing transients and an overall sharp attack. Similar to my experience with Norah Jones, the cleanliness of the presentation was best when volume levels were left at comfortably loud levels. Following my first listening session, I hit repeat and introduced my system’s dual subs to the mix. That led to a nicely controlled bass presentation as volume levels were pushed to higher levels. The A870 did an admirable job commanding the performance.

    Gorillaz also provided me an opportunity to tinker with some of the A870’s processing modes. Engaging Dolby Surround recruited the entire 5.2.2 speaker array for a wickedly spacious and enveloping effect. And of the proprietary DSP modes, my favorite quickly became “Cellar Club,” which gave the appearance of a shallow room (almost as if my front wall became instantly dead and side walls became livelier). While these modes fall outside of my preferred way of listening to favorite music, they do give old tracks a breath of new life – neat stuff!

    For the final musical act, I recruited Yello’s Touch (CD). The album’s squeaky clean electronic nature literally popped with audible exactness. The soundstage was wonderfully deep and neatly organized during “The Expert.” In fact, it was so expansive that I had to double check my DSP settings to confirm the AVR was in its two-channel mode. Another favorite track, “Bostich (Reflected),” was uber clean with softly flowing bass and a massively sharp upper end. The A870 delivered everything necessary to make Yello sound dynamic and composed, even when driven at reference levels.

    I did test other music sources after my initial round of disc-based listening sessions. AirPlay via an iPhone X had B.o.B.’s “So Good” filling my room with rhythm and rhyme. Toggling the A870’s Music Enhancer allowed for an in-song A-B comparison, and I found differences to be subtle. The Enhancer appeared to add some warmth to the presentation, but I couldn’t detect a difference across the song’s higher frequencies. I also used the MusicCast app to play music stored on my Mac’s Plex server and Hi-Res files stored on a USB stick. All worked quickly and without a hitch.


    [​IMG]
    (Lionsgate Films)

    Next, I moved to movies. Subwoofers were engaged and the A870’s full 5.1.2 capability was put to the test. I watched three films, including two 4K UHD Blu-ray Atmos encoded flicks (3:10 To Yuma and The Expendables) and a standard 7.1 DTS HD-MA Blu-ray (The Last Stand), along with various Atmos and DTS:X clips on demo discs. Video passthrough for both 4K UHD and standard HD was flawless – I didn’t encounter a single handshake issue.

    Schwarzenegger and The Last Stand kicked things off. With the receiver’s processing mode set to straight (5.1), the opening scene of a high-speed car ride laid the ground work for a fun action ride as a dynamic rush of sound blew across my room. Moving ahead to Chapter 12, my theater room was ablaze with chest pounding gunfire that sounded off with maximum impact and precision (even at reference levels). Engaging the A870’s Surround Decoder brought the system’s front height channels into the mix, adding a nice airiness and elevation to the front soundstage. Overall, a fun watch!

    Keeping guns blazing, The Expendables and 3:10 To Yuma were next on the watch list. These films’ Atmos encodes are particularly active and dynamic, with noticeable height channel activity. Dialog was intelligible across the board, and both films sounded exacting at reference levels. My theater room exploded into a sonic dome of sound as Stallone dove onto a water bound getaway plane. Subtleties, such as the dull roar of the plane’s engines as heard in the cockpit, were to perfection. As were the gentle sounds of whipping desert winds – swirling above my head – in 3:10 To Yuma. And of course, both films feature amazing surround activity during gunfights. The action was simply enveloping, with the jaw-dropping expansive echoes of gunshots in Yuma’s various gun battles and the raw power of machine gun fire in The Expendables being particularly fun to experience. Bass was also strong across the board, striking a nice balance with the rest of the films’ auditory assaults.

    My tour through various immersive sound demo discs further confirmed the A870’s ability to deliver a fun immersive experience. In term of array comparisons (7.2.4 versus 5.2.2), the loss of rear surround and height channels is noticeable, but not to the detriment of the overall experience. So, if you’re set on utilizing five multi-channels and two height channels, you can feel confident that your choice is guaranteed to issue a solid immersive experience.


    Conclusion
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    Priced at $899, the RX-A870 offers quite a bit of bang for the buck, making it a great candidate to drive a 7.1 or 5.1.2 system. Its performance characteristics are boosted by an impressive array of connectivity options, including multi-channel pre-outs that allow owners to expand power handling capabilities post-purchase. Buyers looking for a receiver to command a small to medium sized system can confidently call on the A870 to competently drive a dazzling home theater experience. And the A870’s wireless music capabilities (from AirPlay to TIDAL and Bluetooth streaming) only add to its everyday utility and appeal. The RX-A870 gets my stamp of approval and is an easy model to recommend.

    [​IMG]




    AVENTAGE RX-A870 Specifications
    • Rated Output Power: 100 W per channel @ 8 Ohms, 20 Hz to 20 kHz, 0.06% THD, 2-channel driven
    • Maximum Output Power Effective: 160 W per channel @ 8 Ohms, 1 kHz, 10% THD, 1-channel driven
    • Dynamic Power: per Channel 130 W @ 8 Ohms (front L/R)
    • Channels: 7.2
    • Tuner: AM / FM
    • DSP: 17 DSP programs including Cinema DSP
    • Object-Based Audio Support: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X
    • Upscaling: Yes, to near-4K
    • Pass-Through: 4K/60p (4:4:4), HDR, and BT.2020
    • HDCP: Version HDCP 2.2 on both outputs and inputs 1, 2, and 3
    • Bluetooth: Yes (SBC / AAC)
    • Wi-Fi: Yes (802.11b/g/n)
    • AirPlay: Yes
    • DLNA: Certified Yes, version 1.5
    • Inputs: 8 x HDMI (1 front), 2 x optical TOSLINK, 2 x digital coaxial, 1 x component video, 1 x composite video, 3 x stereo RCA audio, 1 x stereo RCA phono, 1 x 1/8" (3.5 mm) analog audio (front), 1 x USB (front)
    • Outputs: 2 x HDMI, 1 x 7-channel RCA pre-out, 1 x stereo Zone 2, 2 x subwoofer pre-out, 1 x 1/4" (6.35 mm) headphone (front)
    • Other Connectors: 1 x FM tuner antenna, 1 x AM tuner antenna, 1 x wireless antenna, 1 x Ethernet, 1 x 1/8" (3.5 mm) setup mic in (front), 1 x phono ground screw, 1 x RS-232C, 1 x 1/8" (3.5 mm) remote in, 1 x 1/8" (3.5 mm) remote out, 1 x 1/8" (3.5 mm) 12 V trigger out, 1 x AC power in
    • Speaker Connectors: 9 x binding post pairs
    • HDMI CEC: Yes
    • Audio Return Channel (ARC): Yes, HDMI out 1
    • Standby Power Consumption HDMI Control Off, Standby Through Mode Off: 0.1 W
    • HDMI Control On, Standby Through On, Network Standby Off: 1.1 W
    • Wireless Network Standby On: 1.6 W
    • Dimensions: (W x H x D) With Antenna Down: 17.125 x 6.75 x 15" (43.5 x 17.15 x 38.1 cm)
    • With Antenna Up: 17.125 x 9.25 x 15" (43.5 x 23.5 x 38.1 cm)
    • Weight: 23.1 lb (10.5 kg)
    • Package Weight: 29.0 lb
    • Box Dimensions (LxWxH): 21.0 x 18.0 x 10.5"
     
    #1 Todd Anderson, Dec 5, 2017
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
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Comments

Discussion in 'AV Equipment Reviews' started by Todd Anderson, Dec 5, 2017.

    1. tripplej

      tripplej Senior AV Addict

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      Thanks for the review and great write-up. Excellent as Mr. Burns would say. :)
       
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    2. Todd Anderson

      Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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      Thanks JJJ! Appreciate the kind remark!
       
    3. Todd Anderson

      Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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      Measurements and video have been added!
       
    4. tripplej

      tripplej Senior AV Addict

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      Cool. Thanks for updating. :)
       
    5. Todd Anderson

      Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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      YouTube review is live:

       
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    6. Matthew J Poes

      Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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      Great Review as usual Todd. I appreciate the YPAO measurements quite a bit, always been a curiosity for me how well it works. It seems to flatten the response quite a bit across the range.

      You like your bass a little hot it seems! +20db's!
       
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    7. Todd Anderson

      Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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      Some like it hot! :hsd:
       

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