Yamaha RX-V2092 AV-receiver

You know you're aging when encountering a still-living tradition gives you a warm fuzzy feeling, like the one I got when I saw Yamaha's "Natural Sound" logo on the RX-V2092. And when I flipped down the hinged door and saw a "Tone Bypass" button and an independent recording selector ("Rec Out"), the feeling got a warmer and fuzzier.

Sadly, such goodies, formerly expected of any receiver that claimed audiophile stature, are now usually sacrificed on the altar of cost saving. Yet it's still desirable to be able to bypass unwanted tone-control circuits and obtain unadulterated (dare I say "Natural"?) sound, or to have an independent recording selector that also ensures unenergized recorders will not affect the sound you're listening to. But enough about tradition; the Yamaha RX-V2092 A/V receiver is as up-to-date as tomorrow's news.

The RX-V2092 replaces the RX-V2090. It costs a hundred bucks more, but the new model's additions and improvements are well worth the money, even in this low-inflation era. While the 2090 was "Dolby Digital Ready" (well, almost-we complained about its LFE-channel signal routing), the RX-V2092 has an internal Dolby Digital decoder (arguably worth more than $100 in its own right), and the routing problem has been solved.

The RX-V2092 also features an updated version of Yamaha's Cinema DSP processing, called Tri-Field, first introduced in the DSP-A3090 seven-channel Home Theater Amplifier a little over a year ago. The updated Cinema DSP claims to take better advantage of Dolby Digital's stereo surround channels to create a more satisfying home cinema experience, i.e., one that more accurately reflects the sound field of a first-run movie theater.

Yamaha also has upped the power rating of its premier receiver from 100 watts x 3 in the main front channels with 35 watts x 4 for the surround and front-effect channels (in the RX-V2090) to 100 watts in all five Dolby Digital channels plus 25 watts x 2 for the front-effect speakers. (The RX-V2092 and RX-V2090 are seven-channel receivers, to take full advantage of Yamaha's Cinema DSP processing.) Finally, toss in a very nifty main remote with programmable macros- and a simpler one for operating from a second room-and I think you'd be hard pressed to begrudge Yamaha an extra C-note for the RX-V2092.

The RX-V2092 uses a Yamaha-developed 20-bit chip (the YSS-243) for Dolby Digital decoding and has dual inputs for AC-3 bitstreams. If you want Dolby Digital sound from laserdiscs, however, you'll need an outboard demodulator to extract the AC-3 bitstream from a laserdisc player's RF signal. (Yamaha offers the APD-1 demodulator, for $100.) That's a nuisance, but I think it's the way things will go in the future. I've never understood why laserdisc players with AC-3 capabilities don't have onboard RF demodulators, because they're the only AC-3 program source that needs them. I guess manufacturers were afraid to up the price of their players when they weren't (and aren't!) sure whether Dolby Digital laserdiscs will take off before DVD kills them.

In any event, the RX-V2092 handles two Dolby Digital audio sources, one tied to the "DVD/LD" video path and the other to the "TV/DBS" video path. The AC-3 signal can come optically or electrically from the "DVD/LD" source, since both Toslink and RCA jacks are provided. The "TV/DBS" AC-3 signal must be via coax. Stereo analog inputs are provided for both these sources as well. Other audio/video connections are provided for two VCRs via rear-panel jacks (with recording outputs for each), a "Video AUX" input behind the front-panel door, and one set of "Monitor Out" jacks. An S-Video connector parallels each composite-video RCA jack.

The Yamaha also has provisions for one audio recorder (with analog, but not digital, connections), a CD player, and a moving-magnet phono cartridge. The FM antenna connects via a 75-ohm jack, the AM antenna via spring-loaded terminals. Reasonably sturdy multiway binding posts on standard 3/4-inch centers are used for each speaker. Two pairs are provided for both the center and the main front speakers, one pair each for rear- and front-effect speakers.

Preamp outputs are available on each channel, including two each for the center and subwoofer signals, but power-amp inputs are furnished only for the main front channels, with external links from the appropriate preamp outputs. (Yamaha presumably supplies these inputs so you could use these 100-watt amps in place of the front-effects channels' 25-watt amps, should you add larger, external amps for the main channels.) Stereo audio and composite video outputs are provided for "Room 2." All rear-panel RCA jacks are nickel-plated; the "Video AUX" and headphone jacks on the front panel are flashed with gold.

The rear panel also carries "Remote Control" input and output jacks for the second room. The input is for use with an infrared signal receiver in that room. The output can feed an infrared emitter to relay commands from the second room to other components in your main room's A/V system.

Also on the rear are four setup switches and three switched convenience outlets (which can handle a total of 100 watts). The setup switches include a button to series-connect the center speakers when two are used, an "Impedance Selector" for the main-front speakers, and two small slide switches: "Front Mix," to mix the front-effects channels into the main front pair where no front-effects speakers are used, and a second to drop the level of the main channels by 10 dB. The manual (which is well written and quite thorough) describes two other switches: one to choose between PAL and NTSC video, the other to change the "Frequency Step" of the tuners. Presumably these are available only on universal models (they'd be useful in Europe); they didn't exist on our sample.

With the door closed, the RX-V2090's front panel is pretty simple. The power switch is, as usual, on the left. For the tuner there are eight station-preset pads below the display and a bank-selector switch that cycles through five memory banks, bringing the total preset count to 40. To the right of the display is a nine-pad source selector for "VCR 2," "VCR 1," "DVD/LD," "Video AUX," "Tape (MD)," "TV/DBS," "Tuner," "Phono," and "CD." Just above are 10 pads that enable you to choose the sound processing mode ("Digital/Pro Logic," "Enhanced," "Movie Theater," "TV Sports," "Stadium," "Disco," "Rock Concert," "Jazz Club," "Church," and "Concert Hall"). At the right above the volume knob is an "Effect" pad that disables the center and effects channels and restores the system to stereo operation.

Opening the front-panel door reveals the "Video AUX" and "Phones" jacks and the "Tone Bypass" and "Rec Out" selector mentioned previously, as well as detented bass, treble, and balance knobs and a "Bass Extension" button. Here, too, are the two speaker-selector buttons for the main front channels, five pads for tuner operation ("FM/AM," tuning down/up, "Memory," "Edit," and "Tuning Mode"), and three for system setup: "Delay/C/R/F/SWFR," "Set Menu," and an up/down rocker.

The RX-V2092 is one of the few home theater receivers that you can set up and operate without having to use the remote control or turn on your TV to get an on-screen menu. Nevertheless, it comes with the two remote controls mentioned above: an unusually versatile programmable remote for the main room and a smaller, more conventional one for Room 2. With its lid closed, the main remote is unimposing-12 buttons along the right, four "Operation Control" pads arranged as the quadrants of a circle, a "Master Volume" semicircles divided into up and down surrounding a central muting button, and to the left, "System Power" and off pads and two additional pads ("TV" and "VCR") that can be programmed with the power-control codes of other products. On the right edge are a "Light" bar to briefly illuminate the 12 buttons and "Operation Control" cluster, a three-position "Macro" switch, and an "A/B/C" switch used to alter other buttons' functions.

The first nine buttons of the main remote are grouped (by markings molded into the remote's side) into three triplets, corresponding to the three positions of the "A/B/C" switch. The top triplet (the "A" group) consists of the "Tape," "CD," and "Tuner" selectors; the next three (the "B" group) contains the "VCR1," "DVD/LD," and "TV/DBS" selectors. The "C" group carries "VCR2" and two undesignated sources, one with a disc-like symbol imprinted on it, the other with a squiggle. The fourth, unmarked, triplet selects "V-AUX" or "Phono" and toggles the "Effect" circuits on and off.

Behind the door are several control areas, three of which are arranged logically to command different types of devices. The top area has pads for tape-deck control (play, fast forward, rewind, and stop arranged in quadrants of a circle, plus buttons for "REC/Pause," direction, etc.), the next group has disc-player controls (play, skip forward, skip back, pause/stop in a circular arrangement, and stop, scan forward, scan back, and disc-change buttons). The next area contains pads to move up and down among the tuner's station presets and select preset banks.

Now the selector arrangement and "A/B/C" slider begin to make sense. The first, fourth, and seventh selector buttons (the first of the "A," "B," and "C" groups, respectively) are for tape recorders or players ("Tape," "VCR1," and "VCR2") and are controlled by the pads in the first control area. The second, fifth, and eighth sources ("CD," "DVD/LD," and the undesignated button with the disc symbol) are for disc players and are controlled by the second group of buttons; the third, sixth and ninth sources ("Tuner," "TV/DBS," and the second undesignated button) are for receiving devices and are operated by the tuner-control buttons.

The setting of the "A/B/C" switch governs which component each set of control buttons operates. For example, the controls in the second, disc, area operate a CD player when that switch is set to "A" and a laserdisc player when the switch is in the "C" position. The remote is preprogrammed with codes for a Yamaha tape deck, CD player, laserdisc player, and, of course, for the RX-V2092's own tuner. The codes for other equipment can be learned in the usual manner via the remote's "Clear" and "Learn" buttons. When the lid is closed, the "Operation Control" cluster substitutes for the similarly shaped groups under the lid. The last two program sources ("V-AUX" and "Phono") can be selected, but not controlled, from the remote.

Behind the lid of the remote, below its control clusters, are buttons to choose the DSP program ("Digital/Pro Logic," "Enhanced," "Movie Theater," "TV Sports," "Stadium," "Disco," "Rock," "Jazz Club," "Church," and "Hall") and to activate the test signal for balancing speaker levels. These buttons double as a keypad for numerical entry of broadcast frequencies. There also are buttons that activate the "A" and "B" speakers and the "Sleep" timer. Finally, there's a setup switch, with one position labeled "Time/Level" and the other labeled "Set Menu."

Want more? You can use the main remote to start 13 macros- sequences of up to seven commands. A macro could, for example, turn on system power, turn on the TV, select a source, and activate playback at the touch of one button. Each of the 11 source-selector buttons is preprogrammed with a macro appropriate for its genre, but it can be reprogrammed as desired. The "Macro" switch on the side selects "Slow" or "Fast" transmission of commands and can also be used to turn the macro function off.

Compared with the main remote, the second-room remote control seems like a toy, but it's competent and arranged sensibly. Tape and CD transport controls are adjacent to their respective selector buttons, and the tuner preset selectors are near the "Tuner" selector. A partial exception to this is that the LD transport controls are arranged across the top above the "V-AUX," "VCR2," "VCR1," "TV/DBS," and "DVD/LD" selectors. "Phono" is at the lower right below "CD." The remote also controls the volume in the second room and can switch the RX-V2092 in and out of standby mode.

Use and Listening Tests

Cinema DSP is Yamaha's proprietary approach to enhancing the movie-theater illusion. Cinema DSP strives to simulate the sound field produced by the array of side and rear speakers used in a theater by adding a pair of "front-effect" speakers to the home system and feeding them and the rear-effect speakers a DSP-generated cocktail of information that synthesizes the sound field created by multiple side and rear speakers. The goal is similar to what Lucasfilm had in mind for THX, but Home THX is technically far less adventurous; it simply alters the frequency response and radiation patterns of the speakers to diffuse surround sound so the viewer cannot locate its source. (For the record, I should mention that, in Yamaha's lexicon, "DSP" means Digital Soundfield Processing rather than Digital Signal Processing, albeit Digital Signal Processing is used to do Digital Soundfield Processing. Got it?)

Because of the way Cinema DSP generates sound fields, both front and rear "effect" speakers should have direct, not dipolar, radiation patterns and be mounted above the viewing position (Yamaha recommends a height of 6 feet), facing each other. The rear speakers should be behind the viewer, with the front effect speakers spaced more widely (and preferably behind) the main front pair. This differs from the sidewall placement across from the listener that is usually recommended for surround speakers but may prove more convenient in many rooms because it enables the effects speakers to be mounted on the room's front and rear walls.

Yamaha has championed seven-channel Cinema DSP for some years; Tri-Field, the version in the RX-V2092, has been updated to recognize the stereo nature of the Dolby Digital surround channels. In the RX-V2092, front-effect signals are generated in every DSP mode other than straight Dolby Digital or Pro Logic. The characteristics of these DSP-based signals (and the sound they create) depends upon the mode chosen. For example, "Enhanced" seeks to simulate the surround sound field of a relatively conventional 35mm theater, while "Movie Theater" aims at reproducing the sonic character of the newest 70mm Dolby Digital theaters. "TV Sports" targets a tight frontal sound field with a wide rear that places you "in the action." "Stadium" goes one further, with long delays between direct and effects sounds to simulate the spacious feel of a huge stadium. The names of the other alternatives-"Disco," "Rock Concert," "Jazz Club," "Church," and "Concert Hall"-describe the effects they seek to create.

In my experience, the plausibility of simulated sound fields is affected in roughly equal portions by the adroitness of the dig-ital-signal-processing algorithm and by the program material. Since Yamaha was first to introduce DSP-based simulation to the consumer market, one can presume that they have more experience in creating such algorithms than anyone else. That shows in the RX-V2092, which can generate some pleasantly realistic effects, given suitable program material and appropriate control settings.

The RX-V2092 doesn't give you control of decay time, liveness, and so forth, as did early Yamaha ambience simulators that were designed primarily for music applications; this makes it far easier to use. Yes, it can produce some pretty garish effects if you go overboard with the delay or effect-level settings, but that's been true of every similar system I've used. The Yamaha RX-V2092 distinguishes itself from the crowd through its use of separate front-effect speakers. The ability to adjust the front-effect level independently of the other channels and having the simulated sound emerge from a physically different location from that of the main-front channels goes a long way toward attaining realism without garishness. To take advantage of this, you will need an extra set of speakers; if you "fold" the front-effects channels into the main-front ones, you lose a lot of what this receiver has to offer.

Overall, I was pleased with the Yamaha RX-V2092. Perfect, it's not; I'd appreciate better DACs-but I'm getting tired of saying that. The DACs in the RX-V2092 are comparable to those in other A/V receivers I've tested and better in some respects. I don't fault them when it comes to reproducing movie sound, which is more bombastic than subtle; for pure music applications, the DACs in the average audiophile CD player are usually superior. That aside, I give the Yamaha RX-V2092 very high marks for user friendliness, for the excellence of its remote control facilities, for its clean, potent power amps, and for its adherence to those Yamaha traditions that have earned the company its fine reputation.

Yamaha RX-V2092 AV-receiver photo