What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Mon, 8 Dec 2008, 4:00pm

Yamaha RX-V3900

Tested at £1500
80100
4

If you want a rich, full-bodied sound, the Yamaha should top your list, but others are more thrilling

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For

  • Rich, spacious and deep delivery is always enjoyable
  • great surround integration
  • thorough specification

Against

  • Could do with a little more attack and excitement

You could be forgiven for feeling absolutely nothing upon first encounter with Yamaha's RX-V3900. After all, like the other receivers in its range, it's a deeply plain and unexciting-looking unit, even by the standards of AV amplifiers.

Still, the Yamaha lets its specs do the talking. On paper, the 140W per channel rating might not blow you away, but it's competitive, and it does have two extra channels on the Rotel RSX-1500, making this a 7.1 system.

You get four HDMI inputs and two outputs (with a simplified remote for a second room), plus the usual raft of upscaling and upconverting options and full HD audio decoding.

It also has networkability built-in via the Ethernet connection on the back (or the optional YPA-10 wireless adapter).

Audiophile features
pay dividends
Yamaha's also paid great attention to the sound of the RX-V3900 with the presence of audiophile features like Burr-Brown DACs for all channels, and without doubt the investment has not been in vain.

Play John Legend's Live at the House of Blues Blu-ray and the 'V3900 immediately impresses with an extremely large, rich delivery.

Vocals are warm, textured and detailed, individual instruments are clearly placed in the surround field, and the whole presentation benefits from impressive rhythmic integration.

However, it is fair to say that although the Yamaha has weighty bass, it's just a touch on the fat side, and this combines with a tiny bit of thinness in the treble to create an overall balance that's smoother than it is attacking.

When playing something like the Iron Man Blu-ray, most people will long for the extra excitement and sparkle offered by the best receivers in this price bracket.

Switching to Bat for Lashes' Two Suns CD, the Yamaha proves to be as endearing a listen with stereo as it is with surround sound music.

Partner it with care
The album's stand-out track Daniel is superbly enjoyable given the weight and scale of the presentation, and although we could do with a little more top-end sparkle and bottom-end punch, there's enough agility for the song to retain the majority of its inherent bounciness.

The only other thing to note about the Yamaha is that its bias towards bassy richness means it requires more careful partnering than the other receivers in the test.

If you go for speakers with a similar sonic character you're likely to get an overly lethargic delivery.

Opt for a package with greater attack and excitement, though, and you'll find there's a great deal to enjoy with this smooth, refined amplifier.