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Yamaha RX-A850 review

Best home cinema amp £700-£1000, Awards 2015. An entertaining home cinema receiver with a few tricks up its sleeve. Tested at £900

Our Verdict

Power, agility and great features – this new Yamaha is a machine that should be taken very seriously

For

  • Powerful, precise sound
  • Plenty of features
  • Good app
  • Good looks

Against

  • Nothing at this price

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Power, agility and great features – this new Yamaha is a machine that should be taken very seriously

Pros

  • + Powerful, precise sound
  • + Plenty of features
  • + Good app
  • + Good looks

Cons

  • - Nothing at this price

We’ve long admired Yamaha’s Aventage range, and this year it’s five strong with prices ranging from £500 to £2000.

This RX-A850 sits just above the entry-level RX-A550, at the sweet spot of balancing price, features and performance.

Video review

Features

At its most basic level, the Yamaha RX-A850 is the hub for your AV set up. It has plenty of connections, including eight HDMI inputs, three of them HDCP 2.2 (4K) compatible.

As well as 7.2 channels, there's Dolby Atmos, available on all Aventage models from the RX-A850 upwards. Of course, it’s no longer enough for a home cinema receiver just to pump out surround sound – the RX-A850 also has some network-based tricks up its sleeve. Built in wi-fi (or ethernet) lets you stream content around and into your home.

DLNA lets you access compatible networked computers and storage devices.

AirPlay brings along content from Apple devices, the built-in Bluetooth brings in smartphones, tablets and computers, and there’s Spotify Connect too. But the latest trick in the bag is MusicCast, Yamaha’s proprietary multi-room system.

MORE: Dolby Atmos - everything you need to know

Set up is a quick and painless process, thanks to the Yamaha Parametric Acoustic Optimiser (YPAO) system. Plug in a small microphone and the receiver sends out a series of test tones to analyse the room’s acoustics.

It’s pretty accurate but it’s not as comprehensive as the Audyssey system found on Denon, Marantz and Onkyo receivers – it’s always worth checking the settings yourself.

The receiver is a joy to use, especially with the updated AV Controller app, free on Android and iOS.

Pairing up a Bluetooth connection is easy, and we also ran both Spotify Connect and AirPlay without experiencing any dropouts either, although a wired ethernet connection will provide the most stable connection in your home.

Sound

The combination of power and precision makes for a hugely entertaining performance

The combination of power and precision makes for a hugely entertaining performance

In the past, Yamaha’s Aventage amplifiers have thrilled us with their powerful and immersive surround sound, and the RX-A850 continues that fine tradition. If you want it big and loud, this will do that job nicely.

Take a Blu-ray of Edge of Tomorrow and load up the beach invasion scene.

Gunfire and crashing metal gives a convincing account of battle chaos. Even after having watched the scene dozens of times, the initial surprise explosion is dynamic and precise enough to startle us.

MORE: Best home cinema amplifiers 2015

Yamaha has always been strong with its effects placement and panning, and the RX-A850 is no different. The 360-degree effects placement is eerily precise.

Specific and agile, the Yamaha delivers an immersive and highly entertaining experience, but one which is also capable of great subtlety. Atmospheric sounds – the quiet hums of air conditioning and fluorescent lighting, the turning of pages in a book – are all handled with care.

Dolby Atmos works like a charm. The addition of the height element successfully recreates a sensation of space with little sacrifice in the rest of the performance.

There’s a very small dip in dynamism, but in general the sound is as muscular-yet-agile as in non-Atmos mode.

Verdict

This is a nicely priced, sturdy and well-finished box with plenty of features and excellent performance.

If you’re looking for an AV receiver for under £1000, it must be auditioned.

See all our Yamaha news and reviews

See all our home cinema amplifier reviews

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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