The Yamaha MusicCast Aventage RX-A870 multi-channel AV receiver is the Japanese manufacturer’s midrange model. Able to power up to 7 speakers, including systems with 2 speakers dedicated to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X effects, this AV receiver inherits technologies which the brand has been developing for its Aventage series over the past several years.
There aren’t many significant differences between the Aventage series and the brand’s RX-V series: a few extra Watts, a revamped chassis–designed to benefit the electric components inside–and an Anti Resonance Technology (A.R.T.) Wedge to ensure that vibrations do not affect sound quality.
The receiver’s design is in line with the approach Yamaha has adopted for a number of years now, and the brand clearly intends to keep heading in this direction. Yamaha was clear about this from the beginning: if its new AV receivers look a lot like those which preceded them, this is because the latter aren’t meant to become obsolete. As such, if you have already listened to a Yamaha AV receiver, the Aventage RX-A870 will probably sound rather familiar. While the brand’s competitors have all switched to Asahi Kasei DACs, Yamaha has chosen to continue equipping its receivers with one Burr-Brown DAC per channel.
Yamaha RX-A870: MusicCast
To find something which truly sets the Yamaha RX-A870 apart from its predecessor, the RX-A860, you’ll have to consider the additional online music services it supports (including Deezer). These streaming services require the Yamaha MusicCast app (for iOS and Android). This is clearly the receiver’s key advantage, as it allows users to listen to audio files or online music services via a home network. The Yamaha MusicCast app is compatible with a variety of sources: smartphones, local audio servers (DLNA sharing software on a computer, a NAS), online music services including Deezer, Spotify (the Connect protocol is handled), Qobuz and Tidal, and Internet radio. Note that Google Play Music is not handled.
Yamaha RX-A870: multiroom
Yamaha MusicCast technology allows the user to simultaneously manage several different compatible playback devices: Yamaha AV receivers, Yamaha network amplifiers, Yamaha streamers, and Yamaha wireless speakers. The mobile app may be used to group devices together to play the same audio source. In addition to the sources mentioned above, the Yamaha MusicCast RX-A870 can be connected to a variety of other analog and digital sources: an HDMI Blu-ray player or a turntable, for example. What’s important to keep in mind is that the source used for multiroom playback does not necessarily need to be played by the receiver. In short, the system is adaptable.
Yamaha RX-A870: possible sources
The Yamaha MusicCast receiver is equipped with analog line-level and MM phono inputs. Any analog source may thus be connected, including a CD player, a cassette player, an FM tuner, or a turntable with or without an integrated RIAA preamp. The receiver’s analog tuner (FM) and digital tuner (DAB) allow the user to tune into any radio station. The receiver’s particularly sensitive FM antenna ensures excellent reception quality.
The optical and coaxial inputs (4 in all) may be connected to an Ultra HD TV (the TV’s PCM stereo mode must be activated), a set-top box, or any other source equipped with a digital audio output. The integrated ESS Sabre ES9006 DAC handles the digital-to-analog conversion.
The USB port on the receiver’s front panel may be used to listen to audio files stored on a USB drive or an iPhone. All standard USB audio formats are handled, including FLAC (up to 24/192) and DSD (DSF files).
The Yamaha RX-A870’s integrated Bluetooth controller can receive an audio signal from a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer. The aptX codec is not handled. On the other hand, the receiver’s Bluetooth controller is two-way, which means that the user can listen to any source it plays with a pair of Bluetooth headphones. This is very practical when watching TV, for example.
The AirPlay technology integrated into an iPhone, iPad or computer running iOS can also be used to stream audio files. In this case, audio resolution is limited to 16-bit/44.1 kHz (lossless CD quality). Simply tapping the AirPlay icon in any playback app for iOS will allow you to choose the Yamaha MusicCast receiver as a playback device.
Yamaha RX-A870: YPAO autocalibration
The Yamaha MusicCast RX-A870 receiver takes into account the automatic calibration systems of all the speakers connected to it. The YPAO autocalibration system requires the user to connect a microphone (included) to an input on the front of the receiver and follow the indications shown on the receiver’s LCD display. The receiver will then play pink noise recordings of increasing intensity, followed by sinusoidal frequencies from lows to highs, which are picked up by the microphone placed at the sweet spot. The user may then prompt the receiver to save the measurements and apply the appropriate acoustic correction.
Yamaha RX-A870: 4K Ultra HD and Dolby Atmos
The Yamaha RX-A870 receiver’s HDMI ports are compatible with 4K Ultra HD content up to 60 images per second, and the BT-2020 color space and HDR metadata are handled (Dolby Vision included). In other words, the Yamaha RX-A870 is compatible with Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. The video signal is transmitted via the receiver’s HDMI output, and all existing multichannel audio formats are handled. Standard formats, including Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus (DTV, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video), Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio (Blu-ray, UHD Blu-ray), Dolby Atmos and DTS:X (UHD Blu-ray) are handled.
As for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, the receiver handles up to two vertical channels and is thus able to offer impressive surround sound effects when used to play Ultra HD discs. Dolby Atmos spatialization (upmix) for the stereo signal or multichannel signal is also possible.
Yamaha RX-A870: user experience
This is where things get a little tricky. Since the receiver isn’t much different from its predecessor in terms of design and ergonomics, it’s just as much of a challenge to get accustomed to. With a 68-button remote control and 18 more on the receiver’s front panel (plus 4 under the cover), this receiver may seem like an anomaly in an age when simplicity is king. Evidently, since it sounds great, we rolled up our sleeves and made the necessary effort. It is also a shame that the mobile app does not grant full access to the receiver’s settings: we couldn’t use it to program the speakers (LARGE, SMALL, etc.). Even more surprisingly, a second mobile app must be downloaded in order to take advantage of the receiver’s streaming functions (Yamaha MusicCast). Even the receiver’s web server (accessible in a browser at its IP address) only grants access to a few settings.
Yamaha RX-A870: test conditions
A certain amount of time is required to install the Yamaha RX-A870 receiver. Once it has been connected to the network, the receiver proposes installing an update. This takes about 20 minutes, during which time the receiver must not be powered on. Once the update was installed, we connected the receiver’s HDMI output to an LG OLED TV and pulled up its OSD menu. Here again, the menu didn’t exactly impress us, partly because of its low definition and outdated menus. Once the speakers were identified in the receiver’s menu (a Focal Sib Evo Atmos 5.1.2 system with a crossover at 100 Hz with the Focal Cub Evo subwoofer), we used its mobile app (Yamaha Controller) to deactivate the various enhancements (bass boost, sound enhancer, wide surround sound, etc.).
Yamaha RX-A870: listening impressions
We watched a few excerpts from a variety of action films, such as Thor Ragnarok and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, in addition to musical comedies such as West Side Story and TV series including Dark and Stranger Things. We also listened to a few FLAC audio files stored on our smartphone and streamed from Deezer via the MusicCast app.
With identical Focal Sib Evo speakers for the 5 main channels, we were able to confirm that the Yamaha RX-A870 distributed its energy evenly between the front and back surround channels (Atmos included). The receiver immersed us in a wide soundstage, and it was easy to pinpoint the location of each element. The dynamic range was impressive, even at high volume, without any loss in coherence. Mids are meticulously explored, and vocals benefit as a result. The amount of headroom is pleasant.
The listening experience is enjoyable and reminiscent of the Yamaha R-N803D. That being said, the RX-A870 is not meant for stereo playback, but rather for mastering 5 or 7 channels (upmix) in order to incorporate all the speakers in your system. To this end, the DSP works very well, as long as the surround channels are not overly emphasized during the initial calibration process.
Yamaha RX-A870: conclusion
Despite its somewhat outdated design, the Yamaha Aventage MusicCast RX-A870 shines for its impressive sound delivery. Balanced and coherent at all volumes, it offers the listener an immersive experience, whether it be while listening to music or watching movies. This model is a good fit for systems based around compact speakers or small floorstanding speakers, and it is an excellent solution for those wishing to discover Dolby Atmos soundtracks.
- The precise and smooth sound
- The dynamic range
- The multichannel restitution
- The wide variety of streaming services handled
We would have liked:
- A single control app
- More intuitive menus
- A simplified remote control