Yamaha BD-A1010 Blu-ray player
Yamaha's new Aventage series is a crop of top-flight AV components that the blurb says is a dramatic and inspired leap forward. They are clearly not talking cosmetically, because the flagship DD-A1010 networked Blu-ray player is a chunky and traditional-looking beast. I quite like it.
Under the hood is where it counts, though, and here Yamaha's engineers have given this player something of an audio-visual design flourish.
3D Blu-ray playback and a pair of simultaneous v1.4 HDMI outputs are the headline video features, but CVD-Audio and SACD playback will appeal to true auciophiles as will the player's 192kHz/24bit DACs and Pure Direct mode.
The BD-A1010 also sports USB inputs front and rear, and Ethernet for full network functionality. Like the growing range of Smart TVs there is a 'home' screen that gives seamless access to your DLNA servers and YouTube. I'm guessing the number of services appearing on this home page will increase as Yamaha does deals with other service providers.
Operation and control are super-slick using the new vamaha GUI. The menus are logical and scroll seamless.y through the pages.
One of the occasional problems with review samples is that you end up being the bug swat. The BD-A1010's power-up routine occasionally took about a minute, other times it would boot up in seconds and the DLNA functionality had issues. The deck found all three DLNA servers on my network and displayed all music titles in each, but simply refused to actually play anything. I am sure these bugs will get squelched in firmware updates, possibly before you read this, but it is something to look out for if you get a demo.
BD playback, straigh: out of the box with no picture modifications, is nicely balanced. The image is not as overtly punchy or dynamic as some but the black levels and shadow details are excellent, while tones are rich and deep. There is very little in the way of processing noise, either, even without the noise filter engaged.
What lets the Yamaha's 2D image down is its less than stellar scrolling ability. Diagonal pans over complex scenes are the most difficult for any player and the BD-A1010 struggles to maintain a smooth scanning image. In the final scene from Star Trek XI, where the camera pans down through the ranks of Star Fleet oficers, the picture stumbles and judders. Straight left-right pans are smoother but a slight judder remains that will be visible on larger screens.
Strangely, the juddering is less noticeable with 3D content played on a 46in TV. The picture maintains its sumptuous film-like dynamic, and the TVs extra brightness over my projector means that none of the Yamaha's deta ling is lost in the glasses. There is not massive user control over 3D imaging built into the BD-A1010, but as I managed to sit through nearly 30 minutes of Avatar I can only salute this player's ability to make 3D highly watchable.