My 1522k has been giving me some problems for about a year now(HDCP handshake issues, and more frustrating, random reboots), and it has finally gotten to the point where I decided it was time to return it and try something new. Ive always been a fan of Pioneer and this is my second receiver made by them(I also have an older Elite model). One of the major selling points to me was the ability to modify MCACC(Pioneers auto room correction) to suit my personal needs. Unfortunately, this is also the second receiver made by them that has given me problems. My old Elite receiver had the SL channel die 3 years ago(its 7 years old). So, I decided it was time to try something else. These days I no longer rely on an AVRs auto EQ, instead I use a calibrated mic and Room EQ wizard. My buddy recently bought a budget model Yamaha and he was telling me how customizable YPAOs EQ is. Pioneers EQ is limited to 9 fixed Q, fixed frequency filters. YPAO only has 7 filters, BUT, they let you vary the Q and frequency which means you can really target those problem areas a particular room/speaker has. Enter the RX-A740.
I decided to go with the RX-A740 because its part of Yamahas Aventage line, which from what I can tell is like Pioneers Elite line. Manufactures tend to pay closer attention to their top tear products and include components that are beefier than their standard lines. The RX-A740 is the cheapest in the Aventage line.
When it first arrived i was shocked at the size of the box. It was small! Comparing it to the outgoing 1522k confirmed my "concern", it is smaller indeed.
Its the smallest AVR in this price range I've seen in person. Now, I say concerned because in the audio world, bigger and heavier usually correlates with the quality of a product. Speakers require dense, thick cabinets and large motor structors which is why many top dollar towers weigh 100lbs or more a piece. Same thing with amplifiers, they require large power supplies, capacitors, heat sinks etc. More is not always better though, one exception to the rule is class D amps, which are lighter and more efficient than their A/B brothers. So with that said the A740 is dissapointingly light when compared to the 1522k(which happens to be a class D). I got the 1522k for the same price as the A740, $650. However, the MSRP of the 1522k is more than double that of the A740. The 1522k puts out 40wpc more power than the A740 so the power supply is a fair bit larger on the Pioneer, One area i was disappointed in with the A740 was the power supply capacitors. Power supply capacitors(or whatever they are called) are responsible for delivering bursts of power that are needed for some dynamic movie and sound tracks. Ive noticed the "standard" seems to be 2 large 10,000 uF electrolytic capacitors which equal a total of 20,000 uF of reserve power. The 1522k has 30,000 uF and the A740 has "only" 13,600 uF. Im not an electrical engineer and Im not sure how much this actually matters, but I think it would be safe to say that having more reserve power on hand is a good thing. This all may mean very little though without knowing about the rest of the circuitry(which I don't). Either way, i think its worth mentioning. What really matters is, does it sound good?
Ive never really subscribed to the idea that different amps sound warm or harsh or that a $5,000 amp will really sound better than a $500 amp when played at modest listening levels....so I didn't expect to hear much of a difference in sound quality. Lets even mention that it took me 4 hours to set everything up(setup, wiring, R.E.W, etc) and auditory memory is only reliable for a few seconds, so, theres that.
I dusted off my 2 favorite all around reference disks, War Of The Worlds(blu ray) and Master And Commander(DVD). I set the volume to -13dB which for my small room is movie theater loud. I'll admit I was apprehensive that I might actually lose something in terms of sound quality(quantity?)at very loud playback levels with the A740 due to its capacitors being able to hold half as much juice as the 1522k. The 40 watts decrease in power didn't really bug me so much since I know that equates to being able to play only ~2dB louder, which is not something your going to really notice in the real world. To my enjoyment, there was no perceived loss of dynamic punch or anything else for that matter. It sounded really great as it should, I really like my SVS Ultra Towers. To be honest though, theres no way of really being able to tell even if there was some kind of distortion or loss of dynamics without taking the time to measure both amplifiers, which i did not do. So far, Im happy and don't see that changing.
There was in fact a small, noticeable difference in the way the A740 sounded(i think) but I know why - that very flexible EQ i was talking about earlier. I went into REW, took some measurements, went to the EQ tab and manually added filters until I got the room response to fit my house curve(a flat in room response is NOT ideal despite what a lot of people believe, but thats another discussion) and then simply transposed them in YPAO. With the filters in YPAO I was able to precisely tame some peaks and very slightly boost some wide dips. With MCACC you get a filter every octave or so(500hz, 1000hz, 2000hz etc) so if you have a nasty peak at 15khz your stuck because there is only a filter at 10khz and 20khz which means you cant precisely target an offending frequency. I wish YPAO had one or two more filters as I ended up using all 7 on one of my channels. One thing some may miss about MCACC when switching to YPAO is the ability to have a few different EQ profiles, you can have one thats optimized to your main seat, one thats setup for large groups of people, one for music etc. If theres a way to do that with YPAO, i haven't figured it out yet. It seems like you can only have one manual profile which isn't too big of an issue for me since my house curve works well with both music and movies.
As far as the effectiveness of YPAO vs MCACC, I cant be sure since I skipped straight to applying my own settings. However, I was dumbfounded by how simple YPAO is compared to MCACC. During the YPAO setup I heard one or two test tones per channel and it was over in what seemed like 30 seconds. In comparison, MCACC seems to do quite a lot more and take into account factors such as phase delay etc.
A few random notes:
Yamaha's settings menu didn't take long to figure out, I like the way its laid out. Unlike the Pioneer you can access everything via the OSD while stuff is still playing in the background.
I think Pioneer did a better job on their remote. It looks better to me but also has a backlight and can be programed to control other decides. The A740s remote is very bland and featureless although it gets the job done.
I really like Yamaha's DSP modes. I never bothered much with things like "concert hall" modes etc as I always felt they sort of gimmicky but I decided to give them a try. Honestly, I feel they are really believable . They are good enough for me to use them all the time for classical music and some rock. I liked the Hall of Munich and Vienna for Classical.
My first experience with Yamaha has been a positive one. I think this positive experience along with the issues Ive had with Pioneers reliability have made my Yamaha my new go-to AVR company. Im not brand loyal so Im totally open to any other company that offers similar features in the future, Im interested to see how this receiver holds up over the years as I likely wont be replacing it any time soon. I think the SC-1522k is a KILLER deal, its a $1600 receiver that you can get for $650 bucks. I know many people have been happy with theirs. For me though, I prefer Yamaha in this case.