Yamaha RX-A2020 review

Rugged build quality and refined multichannel performance make this AVR well worth £1,500

Sitting in the shadow of Yamaha’s flagship Aventage receiver, the £1,500 RX-A2020 is a big and hefty lump of AVR goodness. The range build and cosmetics are superb, even if there is a serious hint of Harman Kardon about that full-width black Perspex screen, and the display is bold, bright and large enough to see from the other side of the room – even if you live in a sports hall. The rest of the fascia is pleasingly minimalistic and the sculptured knobs, different sizes at that, have a cool and solid feel to them.

Behind all this style and bling is a raft of Yamaha’s latest design thinking, including a rigid chassis with the Aventage fifth foot and H-frame bracing, symmetrical amp layout and a host of Anti-Resonance Technologies (ART). It's a nicely manufactured receiver.

Goes all the way to 11

Connectivity is pretty good. As well as eight HDMI inputs and twin outputs, there are 11 sets of speaker terminals allowing you to hookup width, height or second-zone speakers and switch the amplifier outputs between them (although delivery of the first two is via Yamaha's proprietary DSP, rather than DTS Neo:X or Dolby Pro-Logic IIz).

The remote is a large and chunky design with a flip-out bottom panel that exposes more buttons and makes the whole device rather unwieldy. Conversely, the setup mic is a shrunken version of the old one and now works better with true three-dimensional audio setups using height channels. Okay, there is no network switching or MHL HDMI input, as found on Denon’s AVR-4520, but you would have to cobble together at least another £500 for that beast.

These omissions aside, the features count is right up there with the likes of Denon's AVR-3313 and Pioneer’s SC-LX76. You get 4K scaling and HQV video chipsets, Airplay and DLNA compatibility, and even S-video connectivity, which has been ditched by most other AVR manufacturers. The 9 x 140W of power should have most speaker systems rocking with ease, and there is an ‘eco’ mode which claims to use 20 per cent less juice. Although why you would buy a 1,260W amplifier and then worry about electricity consumption is a mystery to us.

The setup process is super-smooth and the RX-A2020 popped up on my PC network as soon as it was powered up. The GUI is not Yamaha’s greatest asset, though. and is a little rough round the edges compared to the HD GUI competition. Text looks a bit chunky and pixelated, menu colours are muted and the loose mix of icons and menus is all a bit primary school reference book. Conversely, Yamaha’s AV Controller app is crisp and colourful and makes the Denon/Marantz app look rather bland.

The auto setup procedure commences with the delightful message ‘Please keep quiet or leave the room’. The editor often says the same thing in magazine meetings. Yet deserting the RX-A2020 while it does its thing isn’t necessary as the YPAO optimiser has to be the fastest setup of any AV receiver to date. Assuming you haven’t cross-wired a speaker and remembered to switch on your sub, the whole process is done and dusted in about two minutes. The rest of the settings are accessed through the ‘on-screen’ and ‘options’ menus that pop up a GUI overlaying the input picture. As the menus are nearly fullscreen, the overlay is a bit pointless and the side and bottom scrolling icons are not exactly intuitive. On the plus side, there is a superb status display that details all your settings and signals, and a compressed music enhancer and Yamaha’s user-defined SCENE modes.

Big, bold and energetic

Like most of the current crop of Yamaha AVRs, the RX-A2020 is a thriller straight off the bat. Its sound is big, bold and energetic with a sumptuous line in physical low-frequency effects. The YPAO EQ system works wonders and remains one of the subtlest EQ systems around. It soothes and injects life into the sound where some other systems can sound like they have been tuned by a hyperactive monkey with a graphic equaliser.

My first music test disc, Legends of Jazz on Blu-ray, hits the room with a smooth and polished presentation that makes you want to wear a smoking jacket and call the music ‘jaaaaaazzzz’. The top-end is sweet and fluid, with female vocals and dialogue free from sharp edges or extra sibilance.

Moving on to movie material, and the opening sequence in Underworld: Awakening is delivered with huge wedges of power. However, I feel it could do with just a bit more sparkle and edge across high-frequency effects. On the other hand, the Yamaha's rather safe balance simply encourages you to go large with the volume knob - and there is plenty of power to back it up. Push your speakers hard and the sound comes at you with visceral impact.

So the RX-A2020 certainly won’t have your teeth on edge or clear you ear wax with its smooth HF, yet I suspect it may be just a bit too laid back if your speakers have a naturally warm and sleepy demeanour. Thankfully, dialogue doesn’t lose anything for this and Ms Beckinsale's voice is bold and well projected into the room.

With YPAO switched off the RX-A2020 gets even more laid back and looses a chunk of its infectious energy and scale, proving once again that the YPAO system is a clever tech. It keeps the Yamaha sounding tight and potent and, backed by those nine channels of power, really delivers movies with passion.

Efficient all-rounder

There's more to like about the RX-A2020, too. Music playback from my network proved über-slick and the compressed audio enhancer works wonders with ropey digital files. In that respect, the RX-A2020 is quite an efficient all-rounder for those who like their movies and music with a polished, refined sound. And be aware that you can probably find it for less that its £1,500 list price.


Yamaha RX-A2020
£1,500 Approx

Highs: Great looks and build quality; potent and energetic sound; YPAO EQ works well; excellent MP3 music enhancer
Lows: Perhaps a little too smooth sounding for its own good; user interface could be improved; no MHL HDMI input

Performance: 4/5
Design: 5/5
Features: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5