Yamaha CX-A5000 MX-A5000 system review

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posted on Sunday, 15th December 2013 by Steve May

home cinema  AWE Europe  Habitech 


It's taken the brand some time, but Yamaha has finally introduced a flagship home cinema system to replace its venerable DSP-Z11 AV receiver. The CX-A5000 processor (pictured above) and MX-A5000 11-channel power amp are the result of an internal drive to leverage the talents of the best audio engineers in the company. With more than five years worth of catch-up to do, there was clearly a lot of ground for Yamaha's finest to cover.

Yamaha CX-A5000 and MX-A5000: Specification
As befits a premium range-topper, this pre-power combo is not short on either features or functionality. The processor boasts seven rear-placed HDMI inputs, four component inputs, three digital optical and three digital coax audio inputs, an Ethernet RJ45, RS232, two 12v triggers (one of which is required to slave the power amp), remote in/out jacks and copious phono analogue inputs.

There are also balanced XLR outputs for all channels. The matching MX-A5000 amp has matching inputs along with unbalanced phonos should they be required. These inputs sit between two banks of gold-plated speaker connections. It's worth noting that the speaker connections are not labeled in a traditional multi-channel configuration; instead channels are assigned via channel numbers. Yamaha suggests this adds additional flexibility during installation. 

Behind the processor drawbridge are supplementary HDMI (with MHL support) and phono AV inputs, plus USB and calibration microphone ports.

Apple AirPlay and Spotify Connect are both supported, but there's no Bluetooth. There is provision for an optional aptX Bluetooth adaptor; this slots into the rear-mounted USB slot and offers a coax output which routes in as a source.

When it comes to multi-room distribution, the A5000 combo can be used to serve four locations, two with 5.1 audio and 1080p video, and the remainder with stereo. There's some flexibility for installers depending on chosen digital or analogue sources. However, there are only two HDMI outputs, which for most theatres and media room installs represent a bare minimum.

The CX-A5000 measures 435 x 192 x 448 mm and tips the scales at 13.6kg. The power amp is chunkier, at 435 x 210 x 463.5 mm, and weighs 25.4kg.

Yamaha CX-A5000 and MX-A5000: Design and Features
Build quality and attention to detail on both components is exquisite. Quite apart form the superior aesthetics, both processor and amplifier sport Yamaha's ART Wedge (a centred fifth foot), used reduce vibration by shortening any flex points in the chassis. Internally, the processor employs a symmetrical layout to separate audio and video, even digital and analogue boards are kept apart. The power amp employs a huge toroidal transformer and two high capacity (27,000uF) block capacitors.

Installers will be encouraged to hear that the combo is Control4 and Crestron certified. It can also be driven by YNC (Yamaha Network Control) and YNCA (YNC Alias), as well as via Ethernet and RS232. The CX-A5000 also has an integrated web browser. Not documented in the manual, this can be accessed via the IP address when the CX-A5000 is networked. Integrators can access all setting from a browser by typing '/Setup' after the IP address. Here you can tweak parameters and then save and back up, for easy restore. You can also quickly rename inputs via the browser. This is particularly useful if you've already squirreled the duo away in racking. The processor offers Yamaha's standard array of Scene macro presets; these allow an assortment of commands to be strung together under a CEC umbrella.

One key feature is HDMI pass-through. Unusually, this allows inputs to switched even when the amp is on Standby. There's also 4K pass-through and upscaling of all sources from 1080p down. Yamaha's own video processor is used to apply edge and detail enhancement. 

The CX-A5000 can stream audio files from both USB and NAS, supporting 24bit up to 192kHz. While FLAC and WAV are welcome, there's no native support for DSD or Apple lossless.

Yamaha CX-A5000 and MX-A5000: Performance
There's no getting away from it, these Aventage heroes sound absolutely superb. But you'll need to invest some time in fine tuning them for best performance. The CX-A5000 processor is a particularly complex piece of kit, albeit one that plays to the strengths of a dealer install. Only the most intrepid enthusiast will want to dig deep and tweak this beast. 

The brand has made some big updates to its signature Cinema DSP processing on this model, with two chipsets dedicated to signal manipulation. There are 33 DSP modes in total, and Yamaha suggests all are based on acoustically measured locations, although for copyright reasons the brand doesn't divulge their locations. Additional processing power has also been used to enhance the auto calibration system. Yamaha's YPAO package can optimise for a single listening position, or can conduct multiple and angled measurements. It transpires the best results come when angled measurements are factored into the mix. That said, we found that we had to make additional minor adjustments after YPAO auto calibration, to really dial the system in. There's a fair amount of level and crossover control available, including the provision of a virtual dialogue lift, helpful if you have a centre speaker located below a flatscreen TV. This can be augmented with dialogue level adjustment.

If you don't have a full complement of height and width speakers installed, the CX-A5000 processor can fill the space with virtual presence speakers (VPS). While useful, hard-wired enclosures are always preferable.

The real joy of this CX-A5000/MX-A5000 twinset is its sheer power and sonic definition. This is a very exciting audio system to listen to. The power amp has more than enough muscle to fill a reasonably sized theatre, without ever feeling stressed. The honking drones of sci-fi actioner Oblivion (one of the best sounding Blu-rays of 2013) prove an almost visceral listening experience. The power amp is rated at 190w per channel into 8ohms. Yamaha offers an eco mode to curtail rampant power consumption by around 20 percent, but at high volume you'll be sacrificing audio fidelity. The processor utilises two ES9016 SABRE (32) Ultra DACs capable of 128dB dynamic range and 0.0003 per cent total harmonic distortion.

Yamaha CX-A5000 and MX-A5000: Verdict
If you're looking to install a crowd-pleasing high-end home cinema, Yamaha's CX-A5000 MX-A5000 Aventage seperates should be high on your list. They deliver a level of performance that belies their price tag, delivering big screen thrills on an epic scale.

Admittedly, it's not an easy proposition to configure, but thankfully Yamaha offers excellent dealer training. The package is also extremely flexible when it comes to configuring a home theatre space. The CX-A5000 and MX-A5000 see Yamaha back at the top of its performance game. This system comes very highly recommended.

Yamaha CI channel distribution is via Habitech and AWE Europe. For more on Habitech's product portfolio and services, visit our partner page here. For more on AWE, visit our partner page here.

Also read:
Yamaha unveils pre-power AV combo, launches new AVRS

Yamaha outs 4K compatible AirPlay AV receiver range

Debate: Is showtime over for home cinema?

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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